Category Archives: Virginia

Once Upon a Time, I was going to Disappear

I no longer have a clue how I’m going to get there, but my goal at one time, which was attainable years ago, was to go live on some acreage surrounded by many, many more acres of nothing.

Go completely off grid.

Cut myself off completely from any form of media.

The only thing I would have is a phone so I could keep in touch with my kids.

There were times when I was at that location for a week at a time. No radio, no television. The closest town was 17 miles away and if you had enough food, there was no reason to go there. Since this spot was on some small lakes, there was an endless source of fish and if I was living there, I could grow everything else I needed.

After being out there for a week I would have to head home and, with the radio on, I would hear about all these events that had occurred while I was oblivious to the world.

And I would realize that me knowing about any of it meant absolutely nothing. It didn’t matter. If I had been living out there I would have never known anything about any of these events unless I drove into town and someone started up a conversation…

“Did you know there was a total blackout of a big chunk of the U.S. and Canada?”

“Uhhh, no.”

“It was awful, people were looting, little mini riots were breaking out, others were hunkered down in anticipation of the worst.”

“Hunh, sounds awful. I was out fishing those days. It wasn’t bad. I’ll bet the stargazing was pretty good those days with no lights, ya think? Probably could see the Milky Way.”

And then the conversation would die, I’d pay for whatever it was I came for and leave.

What triggered this train of thought was a little video snippet of Michelle Obama at the inaugural dinner for her husband. The short video showed the President and John Boehner having a conversation, talking to each other while leaning behind Michelle’s back. She rolls her eyes and shakes her head at Boehner over whatever he said and for some reason I was sucked into going to see this.

Apparently I wasn’t alone. In less than 12 hours, over a half million other people had to go look. To top it all off, over a thousand people felt the need to comment on it. I realized at that moment that I was looking at and reading things that simply didn’t matter. And I was doing it on a regular basis. And I couldn’t seem to put the brakes on my behavior.

The internet in general and social media in particular have become like chocolate in my house.

If there is one speck of chocolate in my house, I am going to find it and eat it. If there is none, I’ll lament the fact that there is none, but I won’t go out of my way to get any. Eventually I’ll forget all about it and go out fishing somewhere.

Some day I’ll figure out how to get a chunk of land and go off grid. I might have a computer so I can write things down now and then and play with photographs, but there will be no internet connection.

I’m sure there will be times, due to force of habit, that I’ll wander around lamenting the fact that there is no internet connection. Eventually I’ll forget all about it and go out fishing. Or for a walk, maybe sleep out under the stars and watch the Milky Way do, well, nothing.

And then I’ll go into town for my once a month supplies and someone will probably start up a conversation…

“I really feel sorry for those people out in California.”

“Hmmmm?”

“The earthquake out in California. It’s gotta be tough on the people out there.”

“When was there an earthquake?”

“Two weeks ago. Two thirds of the state pulled away from the rest of the continent. The Gulf of California now stops just south of Sacramento. You didn’t hear about any of this?”

“No, must have been out fishing and missed it. Did tie into an unusually large school of big crappie a couple of weeks ago. Wonder if that earthquake had anything to do with it. So, the Gulf of California goes all the way to Sacramento, eh? You been getting any fishing reports out of Fresno then? Might be good now. Well, gotta go. See ya next month and let me know if you here anything about that fishing in Fresno.”

Lakes and Ponds Love/Hate Relationship

I have a love/hate relationship with lakes and ponds in the greater Chicagoland area. More hate than love.

I fished 2 lakes and 2 ponds on Saturday with nothing to show for my efforts. I know some are thinking that I’m a river fisherman, what would I know about fishing lakes. If I would take the time to learn them, I would come to enjoy fishing them. That’s not it.

Before I was 27, I recall going fishing 3 times. I was young enough for two of them that I have no idea where I was. I know it was around Chicago somewhere. One was a pond where I sat around with my brother and some cousins catching potato chip gills till we got bored and ran off to cause trouble, I’m sure.

I know the second one was a strip mine pit. I distinctly remember the long narrow body of water. Since we were living on the southwest side of Chicago by then, I’m sure we went to some place down past Joliet. I remember mobile homes as vacation homes. People in that neighborhood of Chicago either went to these lakes for cheap vacation property or out to Lake Holiday. I remember catching a bullhead. I was totally unimpressed.

When I was 15 or 16, I went on a wilderness trip to the boundary waters and stayed in Quetico Park. I brought my Zebco 33 (which I still have) that had been used twice in almost 10 years, and a bunch of my dad’s lures that hadn’t seen the water since before I was born. He had a few failed attempts at fishing and gave up long before I was even in the picture. I remember standing in knee deep water off sandbars and catching quite a few northern pike on a red and white DareDevil thrown around the lakes. For whatever reason, I wasn’t impressed, but I did learn that pike are good eating baked over an open fire.

One of the things I inherited from my dad is the inability to sit still. When kids, he had us doing something all the time. We spent a lot of time down along the lake front. That’s when Lake Michigan was the color of pea soup. I remember walking from Meigs Field north for as far as we felt like walking. We would come across old guys, disheveled, unshaven, chain smoking, (I think I just described myself), sitting in beat to hell lawn chairs with 5 gallon paint buckets at their sides. They would sit staring at a bobber sitting in the pea soup.

We would walk up and stand next to them, waiting to get their attention. Then we would say “wow, looks like fun” then go running laughing down the long expanse of concrete.

Later I spent 6 years in the Boy Scouts. My dad was in charge. We went camping at least once a month every month of the year. And we hiked, everywhere. I have a vest full of patches showing the amount of miles I covered over those 6 years. Then there’s the ones where you don’t get a patch. I remember walking around lakes. I remember walking past more disheveled guys sitting around with buckets. I remember thinking what a stupid way to pass the time.

I got married for the first time when I was 27. My then father-in-law was a member of a private rod and gun club in Virginia. He got me involved and I eventually became a member. There was 440 acres of land and three 30 acre lakes.

The only way they could be fished was by canoe. You could put an electric trolling motor on the canoe, but that was it.

For the next 13 years I went out to Virginia for about 10 days each year and fished.

I like to think I was learning to do it well and I loved every minute of it.

When I turned 40, I started fishing rivers. That became an obsession that carried over to the lake fishing out in Virginia. I started spending 30 to 45 days a year out in Virginia and all I did was fish while out there.

The perfect fish cleaning station.

My personal record was 17 hours on the water in one day. Fished 2 of the lakes with my daughter and my dad. They didn’t want to be part of my marathon. I remember doing well.

Hooked, fought and landed all by herself.

I believe he said "it wasn't like this when I tried fishing years ago."

I went out there for another 10 years before divorce ended my affiliation with the club. I was being a gentleman by bowing out in deference to my now ex-father-in-law. I should have never done that.

And that’s where the problem lies. No, not the divorce. I got spoiled. Attached to the club land there was a hunting club where I knew most of the members. They had another 600 acres that they gave me access to for hunting. Around all that land there was, well, not much of anything.

I got spoiled fishing pristine waters where only 35 other members were allowed to fish. There were no shore access spots. There was nowhere to walk if you had the foolish idea that you wanted to walk around the lakes and fish.

You had to be fishing from a canoe, or you were delegated to a 30 foot wide beach used for the canoes.

I mastered fishing from a canoe. Standing on the seats or the gunwales and paddling through a massive lily pad field with one hand. Balancing the paddle against me so I could cast to an opening in the pads no bigger than a bath tub. In the spring, I taught myself to locate spawning fish by smell. Eventually I learned the difference between the smell of bass and bluegills. I do give credit to my ex-father-in-law, he was a finesse fisherman and taught me skills at catching big lake bass that also benefited me on the rivers and creeks.

And for all those years, when I was writing endlessly about my river fishing trips here in Illinois, I’ve written virtually nothing about the lake fishing in Virginia.

That was on purpose.

Back here in Illinois, you walk well worn banks. There are approximately 9.5 million people in the Chicago Metropolitan Area, out of a state with a population of 12.9 million. There are 500,000 Illinois fishing licenses bought every year. Break it down and that means there’s a chance that over 300,000 anglers live in the Chicago Metropolitan Area. Based on how few people I see out walking around in the rivers and creeks, that means most of them are looking for lakes and ponds to fish. Based on the beaten paths around the lakes and ponds, they’ve all been found and the waters get beat to hell.

Personally, I have an affinity for the natural surroundings of hidden lakes. Around here, they’re man-made bowls of water and few can be said to have natural surroundings. Since I no longer have a canoe, I’m stuck to walking these beaten paths like everyone else. As for Lake Michigan, I feel about as stupid as a human being can get standing on the shore and casting into all that water.

The trip I took on Saturday will be the last time I walk the shores of a lake or pond, except for one. It’s next to a creek I like to fish. It’s surrounded by woods. It’s a bitch to get to and worth the effort.

But then, I hear that some new public land has been purchased near me. I’ve done some initial scouting. There’s a small creek. Lots of woods. I hear there are a couple of ponds buried out there somewhere. I can’t find a road or a path. I’ll have to make a path of my own.

I may have to make one more exception to my new rule, if I could ever find the damn things.