Category Archives: The Fishing Stories

First You Have to Get There

First you have to get there, that starting point upstream on the creek.

That’s what the picture at the top shows. Sure, there are other ways in, but after years of getting to the starting point, this is the easiest way in. The path is there, right down the middle. See it? If you ever see me put up photo’s like this, I always try to make it easier on people by putting the path dead center.

See that little spot of sunlight back there? Head for it. After that, you’re on your own.

Once in the creek it seems like nothing has ever changed, probably for hundreds of years. Quiet, sound of water over well worn rock, trees that look like they’ve been standing there forever and you wander down without a thought or care in the world.

Till you get to the spot where Mother Nature decided to rearrange the furniture over the last few months.

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I’m at the point when I’m confronted with this need to rearrange things, the only thing running through my head is… I’m getting too old for this shit.

Stuff to climb over, all of it dumped in the best spot on the opposite side of the creek. If you look, no point climbing up there to shore fish. Not much of a shore to fish from.

This used to be such an easy wade.

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After a couple of hours or so, you’re at the end of your trip. You’ve gone nearly three quarters of a mile down the creek and now it’s time to leave.

Good luck with that.

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The path, it’s right there.

Right down the middle.

I’m assuming this explains why I never see anyone where I go on the creeks. I rarely see another set of footprints. It should also explain why I never wet wade. First you have to get there and when you get back, do you really want to be bleeding profusely and be covered in a poison ivy rash?

I didn’t think so.

After all these years I think of these creek adventures as normal. When confronted with a wall of woods when I want to get to a creek, I just look around a little bit and there it is.

The path, it’s right there in front of me.

Fishing and Fossil Hunting

The intent wasn’t to go fishing and fossil hunting, just fishing, but the opportunity to fish and fossil hunt arose, so who was I to say no.

When an 8 foot tall dam that has been in place for nearly 200 years is removed, things change. All the work put into trying to make the creek behave like a natural creek is nice, but the creek tends to take on a mind of it’s own.

In this case, the creek likes to move things around.

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This is the second time in the three years since the dam was removed that this gravel bar has appeared. The first time was soon after the dam was removed. It was three times bigger than what you see above.

Humans being what they are couldn’t live with that and by the end of the year the big gravel bar was scraped and moved and everything was just the way the humans wanted it again.

Then it rained, water came up and moved things around and put the gravel bar back where the creek wanted it. The big rains haven’t even started yet this year so I imagine this gravel bar will continue to grow over the next couple of months.

That’s the thing about controlling water, you can’t. Water will do whatever it wants and move things however it wants. Water has all the time in the world. All it has to do is wait and move things and over time it wins.

Water always wins.

I started out scouring the gravel bar to see if any human type remains were washed down. Not bones, but objects left behind. Objects that might have got tossed into the creek over 200 years ago and now have someplace else to go.

That’s when I stumbled upon the first fossil.

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Now I was intrigued. I knew there would be fossils around, why wouldn’t there be, but that was an easy find and now I wanted to actually look. It didn’t take long to gather up what I thought were the best of what was lying around.

I have no clue if these are just a few hundred years old, or 10 thousand years old, or millions of years old. My interest ends with finding them. Identifying them by type and age add nothing to the find.

I also fished the creek, my second time out this year. The creek was completely devoid of life. Not a minnow, carp, sucker or anything else with fins. It’s early and the water is still cold, but one fish right at the mouth cooperated and I mechanically reeled in a cold water sluggish smallie.

I immediately noticed that the fishing ennui that had settled in last year was still there. Nice fish, that was fun, who am I kidding.

This year marks my 20th year of fishing rivers and creeks for smallmouth bass. Virtually all of that in northern Illinois. In that time I’ve estimated that I’ve caught around 10,000 smallmouth, give or take a few, with 90 percent of those caught in the Fox Valley.

I can continue to kid myself that somehow it’s still exciting, but I’m at the point where it’s barely even interesting.

I’d rather go fossil hunting, wandering around with my camera, even go wading around the river with my camera, but without the nuisance of carrying around all that extra fishing baggage.

I don’t see any of that as a bad thing, just a change.

Change is good, or as B.B. King would say…

The thrill is gone baby…

I Went Fishing

You would think that the simple statement of I went fishing would be a given for me and up until this year, it was.

I went fishing for the past 18 years 3 to 4 times a week, sometimes more, sometimes year round.

The astute reader that also happens to follow along my WDJ Facebook page would have seen this back on August 1st, the last time I went fishing:

Rather than fishing the Fox River this early evening, time better spent would have been sitting on the toilet and picking my nose for two and a half hours.

I’ll probably hit a few creeks that feed the Fox the first week of September to see if the smallies are making their annual fall run.

No doubt come April and May I’ll be fishing those same creeks.

I still enjoy living two blocks from it and walk down to it’s shore every night. I still enjoy my walks along the river and the spots I’ve found where I photograph sunsets over the river.

I’m sure I’ll continue to explore other stretches of the river, but with a camera in hand.

As for fishing the Fox, I’m done. 19 years, over 10,000 smallies, who knows how much bycatch, waded over 20 miles of it over and over again, easily adding up to hundreds of miles, possibly well over a thousand.

There’s nothing more for me to accomplish on that river when it comes to fishing.

Since waking up on Saturday morning I considered going fishing. The final decision to go never happens till the hour arrives when I should leave if I’m going to go. I had a need for solitude, some quiet, to get some exercise, to get out of my head.

The Fox River has been at normal or below normal flow for the whole month. A recent spike from some recent rains had it still below normal, but new water tends to turn on fish. The creeks were low and I don’t like fishing them then. Like fishing in a barrel and I feel like I’m torturing the few fish that will be in the relatively deeper spots.

I got to the river around 4 PM. Weather was absolutely perfect. Temps just right, the right amount of clouds around to cut the glare of the sun off the river, a nice breeze. I did wind up seeing three other anglers out there. One was a shore angler, they’re trapped by their decision to fish from shore so I don’t pay them much attention and the other two came hiking downstream, got to within a couple of hundred yards of me, turned around and went back the way they came.

Had the whole place to myself, like usual.

I went into this expecting nothing but the serenity of being out on the river. I expected no fish, so to catch 10 and and have 7 others self release was a nice bonus. Having two of the 10 being a solid 17 inches was even nicer.

One of the things I wanted to test was my boredom level. It’s been crushing this year while out fishing.

Didn’t get bored for a second.

Maybe I’m on the road to some kind of recovery, but from what?

The first 17 inch smallie.

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Finding things along the river.

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Almost forgot about the drunken flotilla.

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Not quite right. I was about 5 miles downstream from one dam and about the same distance to the next.

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The second 17 inch smallie.

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This is where the second 17 inch smallie was caught. If you can find this spot and duplicate the catch, and here’s a hint, I’ve caught bigger ones here, then more power to you.

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A Couple of Creek Walks

Went on a couple of creek walks Friday and Saturday. Decided to finally hit the Fox River on Sunday.

I’ll take the creeks.

The fishing in the creeks has been less than spectacular this year, but doing okay is better than doing nothing at all. I still think it’s because we really haven’t had that much rain this spring. Enough to keep things growing, but we’ve had no major high water events on the Fox at all. I think the fish have had no real reason to head up the creeks for their annual spawning run. Why run up a creek if staying in the river is working out just fine.

But, what do I know. I’m no fisheries biologist. I just wander around and observe things, then my brain makes all the connections gathered over the years and draws a conclusion.

The creeks are stunningly beautiful right now. Bright greens of spring, dense under growth, all kinds of flowers and a wide variety of wildlife.

Fishing seems secondary, which it pretty much has become.

My one venture out into the Fox on Sunday resulted in catching one smallie and seeing a gar for the first time ever in this stretch of the river, but not once did I raise my camera to take a picture.

Too wide, too far away, not interesting.

I may have talked myself out of fishing the river much at all this year. The creeks have so much more to offer, at least in terms of sights and sounds.

And if the smallie fishing sucks, so be it. I’ll scale down and play with creek chubs.

The river simply doesn’t provide what I need. The quiet, the closeness, the solitude and the wildlife practically sitting on your shoulder and talking into your ear.

Yup, sounds like I’ve convinced myself.

From Friday’s creek walk:

From Saturday’s creek walk:

From Sunday’s river walk:

I got nuthin’.

For the Love of Creeks

For the love of creeks and what they do for me.

Was going to launch into what a beautiful day it turned out to be today.

Was going to talk about the beneficial health affects wandering creeks has on me.

Was going to go on about the 100’s of bullfrog tadpoles.

About the sights and sounds and smells, especially of the honeysuckle.

Was going to mention all of the birds seen, especially the hawks.

Was going to go on and on about how far up the creek the gar have gone this year and how the removal of the 175 year old, eight foot tall dam a couple of years ago has been a raging success.

But the hell with all that, here’s a bunch of pictures instead.

For the love of creeks and what they do for me.