Category Archives: From the Archives

FTA — 6/20/09 Big Rock Creek

From the Archives – I have 100s of posts that were made on fishing forums starting around 1998. When I have nothing new to say, I thought I would start putting them up on my blog. I hope you like them.
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On Friday at 5PM the river was flowing at 2100 cubic feet per second. That was just good enough to go where I wanted on Saturday morning.

On the way home from work I drove through intense down pours and what seemed like tornado type winds. When the trees along the road are bending over far enough for the branches to touch the road, that tends to be a problem as you drive along.

By Friday at 8 PM the river was flowing at 4900 cfs. Totally screwed up my Saturday river fishing plans. At 2100 cfs wading the shore line up stream of Orchard Road is a piece of cake. Water flows higher than that and I look for something else to do other than fishing.

I was buggy to go out somewhere Saturday morning, but now it hardly seemed worth it.

When kittens are awake they play. With everything. Till they fall asleep again. Kittens tend to wake up when the light outside the window gets a little lighter than night. Which is about 5 AM.

My kitten will come and sit on my chest at that time. If that doesn’t get a response, it will put its face up to mine. If that doesn’t work, it will start rubbing it’s head on my hand. If none of those work, it will start biting and fighting with my hand. That tends to wake me up.

I figured that since I was up I may as well go fish. Big Rock has a pond next to it that I like to stop at now and then. The easy way to get to it is to wander down stream and walk across the creek. The hard way is to walk the shore on the same side as the pond.

I guess you have to see it to appreciate what that means.

I assumed I was going to have to go the hard way, but when I got to the creek I was stunned to see that except for being a little stained, it was like it had never rained. As far as I could tell the creek didn’t come up at all.

This is the stretch that had got blown out by floods at the end of last year and the beginning of this year.

With all the rains we’ve been having, the shores were coming alive with new growth. What had been scoured down to rock was now grass dense and tall enough to make it almost impassable.

The opposite shore is still pretty well cut away and I think it could take a few years for it to start looking like it used to. But even here new growth was beginning to take over.

Except for Mill Creek, the creeks have been surprisingly quiet this year. Hundreds of bass fry along the shore reminded me that even though I haven’t caught them, they were still here. Maybe my timing has just been off. But that doesn’t explain why Mill Creek was as good as it ever was.

Big Rock gave up one smallie on my hike down the shore line. At the pond the fishing was just as sparse. Which again is unusual. One largemouth was all that I could muster.

I shared the shore with a large snapping turtle. I was going to go mess with it a bit, but remembered the speed with which they can move their heads. I decided I valued having my fingers still attached to my hand and left well enough alone.

I finished a leisurely walk along the pond and headed home. At least something was caught.

Come Monday I was still buggy to go fish somewhere. The river had topped out at 5900 cfs some time Saturday and was now flowing just over 5200. That made the river off limits.

I decided to hit Waubonsie Creek on the way home from work. A few miles from the creek I realized I had forgot to put my rod in the car.

Shit. Okay, stop at home, get the rod, go to Big Rock in Plano.

At home as I was going for my rod, my brother-in-law was laughing at what I had done. I told him how one time I drove for an hour out to the river, got all suited up, went to put on my wading boots only to find they weren’t in the car.

I got out to the creek and the conditions were perfect. I got almost all suited up when I noticed, or didn’t notice my wading boots.

Shit. They were at home. If you would have asked I would have swore on a stack of bibles that I had put them in the car.

Fine. Fuck it. Whatever. There’s no damn fish in this fuckin’ creek anyway.

Now that sentence is much more impressive when you picture an SUV parked in the gravel on the side of a road. An obviously pissed off, sweating and animated middle aged gray haired guy is stripping out of breathable waders repeatedly saying that sentence over and over. While standing behind this SUV on the side of this road now in a t-shirt, underwear and socks, the scene is much more impressive as items are being slammed into the back of this SUV.

Across the narrow road is a park, with a ball field, with a little league game going on. The parking lot is full, the stands are filled with beaming parents.

Whatever. Nobody heard or saw anything. I felt better.

I headed home. I thought I would salvage the evening by building a make shift desk needed for an office space. I like to use old unused doors for this. I took my time cutting the door down to the 60 inches I needed. Sanded down all the edges. Polished it up all nice and shiny. It looked beautiful.

I brought it in and placed it gently on the frame I had that would hold the desk. The door was four inches short.

If you would have asked I would have swore on a stack of bibles that I had measured the frame at 60 inches.

Whatever. Piece of shit desk.

I don’t drink much anymore, but my brother-in-law does. He’s staying with us while he helps out getting his mother back on her feet after recent health issues that almost killed her.

I grabbed one of his beers, sat out on the deck with my feet up and smoked a cheap cigar. Bad day, repressive heat, cold beer and a cigar.

At least a couple of things were going right.

FTA – 3/6/04 Montgomery and Oswego

From the Archives – I have 100s of posts that were made on fishing forums starting around 1998. When I have nothing new to say, I thought I would start putting them up on my blog. I hope you like them.
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3/6/04 Montgomery and Oswego

Air temperature 40-45 degrees, forgot to take water temperature, partly cloudy to clear skies, water high, fast and muddy, visibility about 4 inches, 3:00 to 6:30 p.m., jig and twister.

It may have been a little nuts to go out in this high water, but an afternoon in the water is hard to pass up when you can swing it. Besides, it’s March and I have to be out there when things start to turn on, I can’t help myself. Total:

13 smallmouth bass.

Work has slowed down enough that I can get out on weekends without giving a thought to client responsibilities. I took advantage of this by packing in a day of skeet shooting and fishing. I knew I was overdoing it. After weeks of sitting in front of the computer I could tell I was already getting a little soft. A day of shooting and walking 2 or 3 miles while fishing could be painful if rushed. Surprising how quickly muscle tone goes away.

I met up with Marc Horwitz at the Des Plaines Conservation area to shoot some skeet. We were going on a pheasant hunt at Rooster Heaven Hunting Preserve the next day and we wanted to get in a little bit of practice. Marc had a newer shotgun he wanted to get used to shooting and I had an old 20 gauge Remington 870 I wanted to use. Marc was deadeye that morning with solid hits that shattered clays while I struggled a little more. I wanted to get used to the overall feel of the gun since I hardly ever shot it. Normally I shoot an over/under and pulling the trigger twice while keeping a bead on the clay makes hitting them much easier.

By the end of the shooting I wasn’t doing too bad. I was remembering to pump another round into the chamber on about 90 percent of the shots. Still going to take a little getting used to, but I was convinced I was going to be able to go bird hunting with it and not leave a bunch of wounded birds out in the field.

After we wore out the skeet thrower and our shoulders I headed out to the Fox just to see for myself how much the river came up from all the rain we had. I had read the water level gauges before heading out for the day, but they don’t always tell the whole story. A slow steady rain doesn’t seem to put as much dirt and debris in the water. Where a fast moving downpour can wash all kinds of junk into the river. When I drove along the river I didn’t see too many parts of trees and garbage floating by, so I figured I may as well go look for some fish.

When the water is up like this I go looking for where more water is coming into the river. It could be a creek, discharge, culvert or any kind of pipe putting more water in the river. I’m sure there are all kinds of reasons why they are fish attractors, but I’m going to assume its because that’s where food is. I tested this once in Geneva while fishing under a bridge in the rain. I wasn’t catching much of anything. The rain was pouring through the pipes in the underside of the bridge that acted as drains for the road above. I started casting directly on top of where the water was hitting the river, figuring a fish might think it’s a bug being washed into the water. 4 casts later I had caught 2 largemouth bass, a walleye and a bluegill. That was all the proof I needed.

The low water last year gave me the opportunity to go look for anything that puts water into the river. One culvert I came across has a hole directly in front of it that is between 3 and 4 feet deep. This type of washout isn’t unusual in front of a culvert, but the hole on this one was not a gradual hole. In one step you would go that deep. It’s not unusual for me to walk in the water along the shore even at flood stage. I know the water will only be about 2 or 3 feet deep. It’s nice to know the location of this hole along the shore so I don’t suddenly find myself in over my head. This stretch had everything I was looking for and I fished down the river, eventually winding up about a mile from my car.

At one point the clouds had all but disappeared and the sun was nice and warm. I had noticed a bug hatch coming up while Marc and I were out shooting. I was walking along some railroad tracks when I noticed thick clouds of bugs hovering above the occasional green patch on the ground. I was watching my feet as I walked on the railroad ties when I stopped just short of stepping on a baby snake.

It was curled into a coil shape with its head sticking out, sunning itself on the wood of the railroad tie. Seems like everything was out in this warmer weather trying to take advantage of it before it went away again.

I decided to stick with jigs and twisters. I catch a lot of fish with them and in water moving this fast, if they get hung up on a rock I don’t feel bad snapping them off. Not worth getting swept down stream for less than a half buck’s worth of lead, steel and plastic. I tried a variety of colors in an effort to determine what the fish wanted. Yellow jig with junebug/chartreuse, yellow jig with pearl twister, pearl jig with pearl twister and my favorite, black jig with smoke twister. The pearl combinations produced nothing, with the black smoke combination being the most successful. I’m out of twisters that have pumpkinseed coloring. This is also usually a good choice.

All the fish were sitting on the distinct edges or in the slower water of eddies. Nothing came out of fast moving water. All but one of the smallies were between 11 and 16 inches.

I also pulled about 25 scales off of carp that were unfortunate enough to drag themselves across my moving jig. Just about 6:30 I picked up a fish I have caught before, I think twice. It’s between 14 and 15 inches and has only one eye. It seems to like to hang out in one area whether the water is high or low. I snagged up soon after that and snapped off the jig. I was tired and there was no way my eyes would let me tie on another jig in this low light. I headed down shore for the almost mile hike back to the car.

Now, I’ve walked this stretch in the dark numerous times without incident, so it came as a complete surprise to me when after going about 100 feet I suddenly found myself with my nose 2 or 3 inches from the ground. It seems that as I get older and possibly a little heavier, I seem to hit the ground faster and harder. I was just barely able to get my hands in front of me, so I landed on my hands, my fishing vest and my camera with a hard thud. At first it seemed like no big deal.Then my rib, which I may have broken a few weeks earlier, reminded me that it still wasn’t healed by giving me a sharp pain in my chest. I laid there looking into the dirt, gasping for air and I heard myself say out loud “that can’t be good.”

I laid there chuckling to myself, thinking about my car almost a mile away and how the heck I was going to get to it. I thought of how Marc had tried to talk me out of going because he said the river was dangerously high and it was nuts. I was starting to think Marc was right but for the wrong reason. Who knew that walking on land would be the hard part.

FTA – 2/22 and 29/04 Fox River WWD and exploring / Part 2

From the Archives – I have 100s of posts that were made on fishing forums starting around 1998. When I have nothing new to say, I thought I would start putting them up on my blog. I hope you like them.
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2/22 and 29/04 Fox River WWD and exploring / Part 2

Air temperature 38 to 50 degrees, water temperature 36 to 40 degrees in the river and 56 in the discharge, clear to partly cloudy skies, water normal, visibility about 3 feet in the river and unlimited in the discharge, split shot with hook and small plastics and jig/twisters.

Too much work, then none. Crappy weather then fine. It all came together for a couple of days a week apart and I was able to get out for awhile each time. Total:

1 smallmouth bass,
1 channel catfish,
1 sucker,
1 walleye,
3 carp.

I knew I couldn’t get out for another week, but every day I would take a break from work out on my porch to see what was moving around. Flocks of geese were flying high over my house with that determined speed and altitude that tells me they aren’t stopping any time soon. Rabbits, squirrels and a wide variety of small birds were all over my bird feeders. One day there were four doves reestablishing their nests in my yard. Two of them were trying to build a nest in the wood pile. Not a good idea. Besides the fact that I wasn’t done burning the wood this colder season, we use our back door alot and need to walk within inches of the wood pile. When a dove explodes unseen from a wood pile at a level even with your head and only twelve inches away, if you don’t drop dead of a heart attack right there, then there’s a good chance your heart is just fine.

We had 3 days in a row where there weren’t any clouds. The nights would get pretty chilly and the mornings greeted me with thick frost covering everything. With the bright sunshine this would slowly disappear, but the frost in the shadows stuck around for another hour or two. I’ve always loved the patterns this makes on the lawns and the roofs and I’ve paid for it when out walking and slip on an ice covered shadow on a sidewalk.

The koi in my pond would start each day hunkered down on the bottom and by the end of the day, were moving around. Not alot, but at least they weren’t comatose. My wife had unplugged the pond heater a few days earlier and now the pond was reacting only to the swings in the weather. I have yet to see any correlation between the koi activity or inactivity and my ability to catch fish on the river. I’ve paid a little bit of attention to it, but haven’t been consistent in my record keeping. Maybe this year will be different. But then again, these are basically colorful carp and I’m not sure it would make any difference. Unless I start targeting carp. Which is highly unlikely.

I had pretty much the whole weekend free. A rare treat this time of year. The Illinois Smallmouth Alliance was having their big annual fund raiser, so I was committed to working that all day Saturday. If I could behave myself and not have one beer too many, I could get out early on Sunday and spend the whole day fishing.

Behaving myself proved difficult. I seem to be hanging out with too many guys a few too many years younger than me. I didn’t wind up drunk so much as full, and extremely tired. But, like usual, I couldn’t sleep when I got home and eventually got out of bed and hit the road. It was only 5:00 a.m.

This proved difficult for my head. It wanted nothing to do with being out this early, but I forced myself. It was going to be another beautiful day with temperatures over 50 and I wasn’t going to lay in bed moaning about how I shouldn’t hang out with young guys. As it was I couldn’t get any of them to come out and meet me. They were all hunkered down in their beds, the sissies.

I started out in Batavia and checked out a small creek where I like to seine my own minnows. It was completely free of ice, but also completely free of living things. I didn’t really feel like carrying around live bait, so I was actually relieved that there was nothing in the creek. Not going to the bait shop was easy. Instead, I tied on some small plastics and covered a three quarter mile long stretch of the river.

With the water now at 40 degrees, I thought for sure I would get a few hits, at least of walleye. But nothing. Ducks and geese covered the low water areas and the slack water in the eddies. I saw at least 5 different types of ducks, but my brain wasn’t focusing enough to recall their names. I was already feeling a little sore and stiff, the aftermath of being on my feet all day at the fund raiser, but I decided to meet up with Jamie and Rich and continue on with the day.

The next stop was North Aurora. We combed a couple of stretches that are normally good spring spots, but since this wasn’t really spring, not much was happening. Jamie did get a good sized sucker to hit a crankbait and I think we all came up with scales on our hooks after sticking them into the sides of carp. Other than that, not much happening.

We made our way even further down stream and eventually met up with Gary. Along the way fish were being caught and seen, but the bite was extremely slow. Jamie wound up getting an even bigger sucker on a Gulp worm and Gary was the only one to land a couple of smallies. I seemed to do nothing more than snag the occasional carp that bumped into my lure.

As we walked down stream Jamie and Rich, the young guys, were well ahead of me and Gary, the old guys. I wanted to give Rich plenty of room anyway since he was throwing a monster shad for muskie and having it slap the water.

“Dude, you’re scaring away all the fish,” I said.
“It’s just a shad,” Rich said, “they’re used to seeing just a shad.”
“Not dropping out of the sky with a huge thud on the water,” I said.
“It doesn’t bother them,” Rich said, “It’s just a shad.”

I wasn’t convinced. Gary and I decided to wander across the river to try a point where we’ve successfully taken walleye in the past. The wind was now gusting upstream and casting to a specific spot became guess work. You cast, let the wind take your lure and basically hope it lands somewhere in the proximity of where you wanted it to land. After 5 minutes of this, I gave up and turned around in time to see Gary trying to walk through another hole where we’ve been successful at catching walleye in the past. I was going to warn him about the depth of the hole, but I figured its a rare opportunity to learn everything there is about a hole, at somebody else’s expense. He didn’t fill his waders, but came real close. At least now I know more details about this hole.

Me and Gary, the old guys, decided we had enough. I could barely move my legs and my head was somewhere between throbbing and spinning. We headed back upstream to make a few final casts and sit on the shore to wait for Rich and Jamie. On the way upstream we noticed that all the minnows were back in the shallows, by the hundreds. I remembered back in December when the edges of the river were just turning to ice that I stepped on a sheet of the ice, it went under water and popped back up. The surface was covered with minnows. The minnows were hiding under the ice. Gary and I simultaneously pointed out that the only difference between today and a week ago was that now there was no ice. All those minnows must have been in the shallows under the ice. With the ice gone, they were back. A very good fishing sign for the next few weeks.

When the young guys finally showed up we told them we were done, going home. We had to endure the old fart comments, but Gary is on a diet and slowly trimming down and next time I won’t spend the night before going pint for pint with these young punks. We’ll show them who can out last who.

FTA – 2/22 and 29/04 Fox River WWD and Exploring / Part 1

From the Archives – I have 100s of posts that were made on fishing forums starting around 1998. When I have nothing new to say, I thought I would start putting them up on my blog. I hope you like them.
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2/22 and 29/04 Fox River WWD and Exploring / Part 1

Air temperature 38 to 50 degrees, water temperature 36 to 40 degrees in the river and 56 in the discharge, clear to partly cloudy skies, water normal, visibility about 3 feet in the river and unlimited in the discharge, split shot with hook and small plastics and jig/twisters.

Too much work, then none. Crappy weather than fine. It all came together for a couple of days a week apart and I was able to get out for a while each time. Total:

1 smallmouth bass,
1 channel catfish,
1 sucker,
1 walleye,
3 carp.

What a difference a week can make. Not in the fishing, that stayed slow and you were forced to work for every fish caught. But the river, the skies and the land were all coming alive with this false spring. It’s rare to get weather like this in February and it seems everyone and everything was fooled into coming out and checking out if this was a permanent situation. Long range forecasts say no, but that doesn’t mean you can’t cram as much outdoor activity into one day as possible.

It’s also rare that my work load, which runs seven days a week right now, lightens up enough that I can spend an afternoon on the water. It’s even rarer if I have a whole weekend off. But all these things came together at once and there were times I felt like a hamster on a wheel trying to run around to all the different things I wanted to do.

I met up with Jamie and Gary on both of these outings and Rich came out on the 29th to torture his shoulder muscles casting giant plugs for muskie. On the 22nd, there was still a fair amount of ice covering the river where there is little current. I’m always surprised at how long it takes to make ice and snow go away. Maybe for me its just that I hate both so much that if its around for more than a week, it starts to adversely effect my state of mind. In other words, it depresses the hell out of me.

The benefit of this time of year is that the sun is a little higher in the sky, which results in warmer temperatures and even on days like this when it’s only about 38 degrees, it just feels warmer. I got to the river later than Jamie and Gary and decided to fish a stretch that was difficult, or just down right dangerous and stupid to fish when the river was covered in ice. I knew how deep the holes were and something about dropping off ice into 3 feet of water wasn’t all that appealing. Today I was able to walk on the rocks in the riffles and pretty much avoid walking on the ice altogether.

I did have to break through some thin ice in about a foot of water to get across the river. As I snapped off the last of the connecting layer, the gap got wider, and wider. I looked down stream to see a slab of ice about 100 feet long and 30 feet wide start to drift away. Very cool to watch. Then I realized Gary and Jamie were down stream right where this thing was heading. I reached for the phone in my coat pocket and came up with nothing, it was in the car. I watched the slab of ice slowly pick up speed as it edged out into the faster current. Poor Gary and Jamie, if it didn’t kill them, was I going to hear about this one.

Cold water fishing can be torturous. The presentation has to be even slower than what I’m accustomed to doing. Getting lures in just the right spot is difficult on a good day. In cold water, inches count. Fish won’t chase things very far with this water temperature. A short stretch of river that had the right combination of current, still water and depth produced nothing. Every few casts my line would slowly head off in one direction or another, the sign of fishing line and lure being dragged over a carp or sucker. Otherwise, their were no takers.

When I got up to Gary and Jamie, Gary mentioned a huge chunk of ice that slid past. I remember saying something like “Yeah, you really gotta keep an eye out for ice floes.” Or something like that. I figured that since they were still alive, no point telling them the details.

Gary had a mixed bag of fish much like mine and Jamie was picking off some smaller smallmouth bass and green sunfish. Even the little fish were being a little picky and none of the action was hot and heavy. Jamie was obviously tired and eventually gave up a little early. Gary and I wandered down stream and got hit by some fairly big feeling fish, but landing them seemed to be out of the question. We wandered back upstream marveling at the fact that all of the minnows were gone. It had been at least December since Gary or I had seen the usual schools of minnows that are normally in this area. It’s no exaggeration to chase hundreds of minnows upstream through the shallow water. Now their were none. Gary lasted a little longer, but eventually headed home to his lovely wife.

There was one other angler sticking it out, but he was fishing from shore, which limited him to one area. We talked back and forth as we fished. About work, fishing, where we fish and more fishing. It was getting near sunset and I noticed a racket coming from the sky. The unmistakable incessant honking of geese. Every few minutes a flock of geese could be heard approaching. By the time they were overhead the honking was overwhelming. Hundreds at a time were going over. The lines of the “V’s” they create stretched out by 30 or more geese on each side. Well over a thousand went by in those last couple of hours I was on the water. The opening water was already bringing the geese back north. Between the layers of geese were ducks with their more erratic back and forth search for some place to spend the night.

The sun was gone and so was the angler on the shore. The geese continued to fly overhead only now they were more heard than seen, but the racket told me that they were still there in huge flocks. I sat on the shore as I fished since I was in no hurry to go anywhere. Last year at this time there were schools of shad and minnows all over. So far this winter the minnows had disappeared and I had yet to see any of the shad. But as I sat there fishing, the shallower water came alive with silvery sparkles of bait fish popping all over the surface. I saw this a year ago when the shad were in so I assumed that’s what they were. Still another sign that things were going to pick up dramatically in the next few weeks.

FTA – 2/8/04 Fox River

From the Archives – I have 100’s of posts that were made on fishing forums starting around 1998. When I have nothing new to say, I thought I would start putting them up on my blog. I hope you like them.
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2/8/04 Fox River Warm Water Discharge

Air temperature 28 degrees, water temperature 34 degrees in the river and 56 in the discharge, cloudy, water normal, visibility unlimited in the river and unlimited in the discharge, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., split shot with hook and small plastic trout worms.

All the signs were there telling me to stay home, but I didn’t listen. Total:

1 smallmouth bass.

A few weeks ago we had an ice storm. Left a nice layer of ice on the trees, bushes, lawn and the stairs leading to my house. Been here before. A few years earlier I almost knocked myself out cold during a similar situation. My last footstep came off the last stair and my legs shot out from under me. The back of my head missed the edge of the bottom stair by an inch and instead slammed onto the sidewalk. Stars are a good way to describe what you see after a blow to the head, but more like shooting stars for me. They’re always moving.

So, I was all prepared to walk down the stairs on this day. I grabbed onto the rail with my left hand, took one step down only to have my feet go out from under me. I landed sprawled on the stairs, at least I missed my head this time. I felt an ache along my whole left side. My ligaments and muscles were all yelling “let go of the fence rail stupid.” I think the delayed reaction did me no good. Three weeks later and I still have a dull ache running the length of my ribs. This was sign number one.

Sign number two happened a few days ago when I went down a snow hill on a sled with my daughter ONE LAST TIME only to wipe out half way down the hill. I turned to keep from landing on top of her and crushing her, put my arm to my side and landed on it. My elbow drove itself into my ribs and I could hear a crunching noise. I laid on my back in the snow gasping for air as the pain shot through my chest. This can’t be good. My daughter and a kids voice behind me somewhere were both asking if I were alright. “Just let me lay here for a minute, just don’t touch me,” I said. I started laughing. I always seem to laugh when I get hurt. I almost never get hurt due to accidents. I don’t recall having accidents. I usually get hurt doing something stupid. At least that’s what I always hear, “that was pretty stupid.” I always think of it as fun and daring and sometimes just down right brave. Maybe that’s what they are when you’re under 25 years old. After that, it’s just stupid.

So at this point I have pains going all around my rib cage. I had to cancel speaking at an outdoors show out of fear of being bumped while squeezing through tight aisles. As it was, just about all I was saying while laying around the house for two days was “don’t touch me, don’t make me laugh, ooohhh this hurts.” So of course I was bored. I can’t just lay around, I have to get out, move around a little, work out the stiffness. In other words, I had to get out to do a little fishing, something deemed stupid by the other members of my household. Like my wife.

But the last sign telling me to stay home was the complete lack of activity outside my windows. No rabbits, squirrels or birds could be seen anywhere. A week earlier there was wildlife everywhere, even some hold over robins. This time, nothing. I went out to the river in spite of all the bad signs.

The river was still half frozen. No tire tracks in the parking spot and no foot prints in the snow leading to the best fishing area meant nobody had bothered coming here in the past week. That is normally a good thing, but there was still no activity along the shores. Nothing was moving around. I didn’t even hear any birds. I still had to give fishing a try.

You don’t realize how much you use your rib cage for as simple a thing as walking until you’re walking with sore ribs and every step feels like someone is punching you. The occasional slip up sends shooting pains radiating all the way around. Simple little slips, like slipping on small rocks on the bottom of the river, may as well be steep falls from boulders for all the pain they cause. I was breathing heavily when I made my first few casts, worn out from the effort of getting here. Luckily the smallie decided to take the worm on the third or fourth cast. That was the only hit for the day.

A week earlier, even though the fishing had been slow, at least I had a good dozen tugs on the line to keep me interested. Also a week earlier you could see fish activity all over the river. Carp and suckers were jumping out of the water and as you walked, their huge wakes would be radiating out in front to get out of the way. Today there was none of that. I went looking for the fish and found them all tucked up tight to the shoreline or sitting almost motionless by the downed trees. Still another sign telling me I should go home.

Which I basically did, only slowly. By now all the muscles around my rib cage, front and back and sides, were all in one big cramp. Slow was the way to go. Besides, even with the pain, I was in no real hurry to go home. It was a nice day to just wander. With the water crystal clear, I started looking for fish hunkered down on the bottom. I noticed that if you walk slow enough, catfish won’t bother moving out of the way. I came across what looked to be an albino catfish. At first I thought it was a sucker, but when I got closer it had the distinct flattened head of a catfish. It drifted very slowly backwards to a downed tree and tucked itself under a branch. Nothing I cast to it could get it even remotely interested.

A little further upstream I practically stepped on a flathead catfish. I nudged it with my foot and it just slid over an inch to get out of the way. I dropped a worm in front of its face and it basically just laid there staring at it.

My arms were now starting to go numb. The pain was getting a little out of hand. I waddled down the shore line, it was easier than lifting my feet, got across the river and dragged myself up onto the ice. A couple of hundred yards and I’m back at the car. I could make that without fainting. By the time I was sitting behind the steering wheel I was dripping in sweat from the exertion of trying to do things as painless as possible. I put the car in reverse, backed up and hit the brakes.

Did you know that you use your chest muscles to hit the brakes?