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End of an Era

End of an era, for me any way.

Once upon a time, typesetting the financial sections of company annual reports was a very lucrative business. I had the opportunity to work on a few of the AR’s from some of the top companies here in Illinois. Little companies you may have heard of like Sears, Allstate, Walgreen, Grainger, Morton International, Harris Bank, Motorola and Peoples Energy. Amongst many others. Over the past 25 or so years I typeset the financials on well over 200 AR’s.

As I said, it was once lucrative.

Years ago here in the Chicago area there was an informal group called The Chicago 35. They were the top 35 design firms around here. Over the years I got to work for and with over half of them.

If you ever read any comments I make about how things look… websites, magazines, photos… it stems from the association I had with those designers. I do my best to keep my mouth shut, but now and then I just can’t help myself.

I was very well trained.

Mediocrity is unacceptable.

Question everything.

This also caused big problems for me. I’m never very happy with the things I produce for myself. I have to force myself to accept and put out there things that I feel fall short.

I’ve almost learned to live with it.

Then about 10 years ago, things started changing. Financials were simplified to the point of being the ugliest things in an AR. The typesetting of them was sent out to places like India, China and other countries where English is barely a second language. In order to compete with them, I would have to do the AR’s for free.

For the past few years I’ve only had one AR to do, a little drug company called Abbott Laboratories. Beautiful AR year to year if I can boast a bit, done by a design firm called Hartford Design. The owner Tim says he fly fishes, but I’ve never seen it. If any one reading this has a need for high quality design for damn near anything, give Tim a call.

And if you get him out fly fishing, take a picture of the event and send it to me. I want proof of what he’s told me in the past.

I just sent off an email to Hartford… due to time constraints caused by the first full time job I’ve had in over two decades, I will no longer have the time to work on the Abbott Annual Report.

And with that, another door on the past slams shut.

Now, what’s next.

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End of Day One

The end of day one of the new year had the potential for a beautiful sunset.

Plenty of blue sky. Enough clouds around to add color to the setting sun.

Headed out to an area I like for sunsets and decided to try a different section. There are narrow bands of pine trees divided by prairie and corn fields. I hiked the quarter mile out to the end of one of the tree lines.

With air temps at 29 and winds blowing at 15-20 mph (feels like 18 according to the Weather Channel), I thought the trees would give me a break from the wind.

They didn’t.

I had a good hour and a half to kill and took my time on the hike. Even taking my time I guess I cover a quarter mile relatively quickly.

I stood around watching the sky and the changes from the setting sun. On the horizon where the sun was heading was a low bank of thick clouds while just 50 miles to the north there was plenty of blue sky. The wind was blowing directly out of the west, into my face and the wind had no warmth.

The sun disappeared behind the low clouds. In the distance a bank of trees kept the horizon covered. I couldn’t tell if there was a break in the clouds on the horizon. The sunset was nice, but not what I expected.

After standing around for nearly an hour I was freezing my ass off. No matter how much you layer up for this kind of weather, it really only helps if you’re moving around, even a little. Since I couldn’t feel my fingertips any more and my toes were numb from standing still, I left.

You’d think I’d learn by now.

Fifteen minutes later I look in the rear view mirror while heading east and the horizon is lit up like it’s on fire. Taunted me all the way home. There was no where to stop on the roads and no good vistas anyway.

I had been standing in the perfect spot not 15 minutes earlier.

Did this same thing three times last year.

I must be a slow learner.

Note to self, stay till dark.

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Year in Review

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a year in review.

Years ago I ran a fishing guide service out on the Fox River and keeping excruciatingly detailed records, then summarizing them at the end of the year, was pretty much mandatory.

Have to prove your worth.

Now, record keeping is at best sporadic. Probably still better than most, but not like it used to be. If you ever played sports as a kid, keeping stats in your head for whatever game you played was easy. Granted, there was always that game where a brawl ensued because of conflicting stat keeping, but this is just fishing. I still get questioned, criticized is a better word, for the stat keeping in my head, but I have a pretty standard response for that.

Yeah, well, whatever. It’s just fishing.

In the last three years we had near record drought, near record flooding and last winter was one of the coldest on record. Of those three, I’d have to say that the cold had the biggest impact on the fishing. Fish can adjust to high and low water, but freeze everything over and eliminate the oxygen and the fish tend to suffer.

I think that’s what happened and why this was one of the worst years of fishing I’ve had since I started fishing the Fox River in 1996.

I only fish for smallmouth bass, I consider everything else bycatch. Some are entertaining to catch like the gills, crappie, white bass and even creek chubs. The rest are just kind of annoying with carp topping that list.

This year I probably got out fishing 75 times. The wife says more, but I no longer fish the colder months of the year, so I’m not sure. She might be right, but 75 still sounds like a good number to me.

The bulk of the fishing this year was on the Fox River and five of its creeks. I made one trip about 60 miles west to Franklin Creek. Tough access, beautiful surroundings and decent fishing for the second half of July on a creek. I would imagine May could be much better, fishing wise.

I also fish alone. I got out once with a friend in 2014. I tend to go fishing on a whim. If I don’t feel like it, I don’t go. If I decide to turn left at the river rather than the right I had originally planned, then I turn left. If the morning sucks, I go in the afternoon. Hard to make decisions on a whim when plans are made, so I avoid plans. You’ll see the end result of this solitary fishing in the pictures below. No hero shots with fish, no grinning fish holders, no monster bronze bombers, no pictures of me at all. Now and then I’ll do an arms length shot of a fish or a close up, but that’s pretty much it. The rest is just stuff I come across that interested me at the time.

I do a lot of short fishing trips now. An hour or two and at most I’ll go for five hours. Years ago I’d go over a 100 times a year with the average trip being five hours.

Things change.

This year I know I caught at least 400 smallmouth bass, that’s about when I quit paying attention. I know I caught more, but I also know it didn’t get close to the 500 mark. With that ability to keep stats in my head, I also know I had at least another 200 smallies on that I got to see, but they were smart enough to spit the hook before I got to touch them. I quit paying attention to those stats when I hit the 200 mark.

Then there’s that small percentage of bycatch. At least I’m saying it’s a small percentage because I really don’t know. A bunch of other fish might be a good way to say it.

So yes, I know some would argue, but this was a bad year. A bad year in the past was a little over 500 smallies caught in about the same time frame.

I’m blaming the winter we had.

In the past when I did a year in review this is where I would go on and on with theories, strategies, equipment and lures used, but those days are over and so is my interest in elaborating.

So far this winter has been relatively normal. That’s a good thing. If normal continues, by mid March the fish will start moving.

Patience is not a virtue I have, but mid March is only 10 weeks away.

Tick, tock, tick, tock…

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

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I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas

Okay, I’m dreaming of a white Christmas is pretty much a line of bullshit.

I can’t recall ever wanting or dreaming about a white Christmas.

Not even as a kid.

I can’t recall ever dreaming of snow.

If snow were ever in a dream, that would be a nightmare.

I guess a nightmare is just a dream with an end result you didn’t like, but now we’re getting into one of those sophomore Liberal Arts semantics games that I always found painful.

Well, anyway…

I like sunshine and rainbows.

Okay, no rainbows. I don’t have any rainbows, or at least none that I could find.

How about cattle. I got cattle.

I like sunshine and cattle.
Sunsets and rivers or sunsets on rivers.
Beautiful spacious skies.
Amber waves of grain.
Corn, I got lots of corn. I like corn. Corn fields at least.

I dream in Technicolor.
Bright colors.
Over saturated colors.
Colors that make your eyes hurt, but they’re so damn beautiful you just have to keep looking at them.

Wizard of OZ color.
Without the little people.
Or witches.
Or evil flying monkeys.

That gets back to that whole nightmare thing again which puts it right up there with snow.

Well, anyway…

I would be perfectly content to never see a white Christmas ever again, except in pictures.

Same goes for snow in general.

Long term plans are being made to accomplish this.

Till then, I’ll at least live in and relive my amazing technicolor dream world.

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The Day Before the Gray Day

The day before the gray day, there was a glimmer of hope for a beautiful sunset.

Blue sky and lots of sunshine.

There was a slight haze creeping upward, thawing ground, some humidity.

Problem was, no clouds.

Sunsets need clouds. It’s what gives them color, shape and form. There was a hint of clouds on the horizon, but possibly just enough to make the sunset, nice. That was a nice sunset.

Without clouds it’s just a bright yellow / orange object in a sea of blue. Nice, but not what I want.

I killed some time, I always do. Waiting for the right time, the right light and that right moment when everything comes together.

As the sun lowered, the haze rose, the clouds crept eastward.

A short window of opportunity before the light changed.

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The haze was rising, on the horizon, thin clouds. Sunset color killers both.

The haze was rising, on the horizon, thin clouds. Sunset color killers both.

By now I knew the sunset was going to be, nice. I poked around, moved around, uninspiring at best.

While waiting, I kill some time by wandering the archery range. I always find at least one. Most of the time, you don't see this much of one sticking out of the ground.

While waiting, I kill some time by wandering the archery range. I always find at least one. Most of the time, you don’t see this much of one sticking out of the ground.

Little Dickie likes his selfies.

Little Dickie likes his selfies.

The moment came, I took a shot, then another.

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Then I left.