Tag Archives: agitated

Even Zombies Get the Fishing Blues

My daughter and I have a running joke about Zombies and the coming Zombie Apocalypse.

So I shouldn’t have been surprised when she gave me a Christmas gift.

A calendar.

The illustrations remind me of how I used to paint and draw when I abruptly stopped doing both about 25 years ago. Loose, sloppy, paint splattered, only I never got so gory.

I like it.

Each month has a journal entry, the field notes of one Dr. Robert Twombly, whoever that is.

The month of June caught my eye. There was a zombie fisherman, standing in the water, his fishing pole leaning on a branch. A crow intently watching him.

Half reconnaissance and half gathering wood I left the house today. At a good distance I saw a zombie down by the water in fishing gear, just standing there, swaying and staring. Out over the water. Do they think? Then it ripped off part of it’s own arm and gnawed on it like it was beef jerky.

I can relate to that.

I’ve spent numerous days fishing where observation is key. It’s not unusual to stand and stare and sway a bit. Then you fish. And fish some more. And no matter what you do and throw in the water, nothing bites. Not a tap.

No big deal. I’m out there for the beauty of my surroundings. To take in the scenery and become one with all that nature has to offer.

Or so I try to convince myself.

In reality, I want to chew off my own arm, worthless thing that it is. Can’t cast worth a damn with it on most days anyways. There ain’t no fish in this water even if I could cast with it.

Yes, the zombie makes a good point. I suddenly feel a slight twinge of sympathy for his circumstances, an understanding of his frustration.

For one brief moment, we are brothers in fishing.

At Least the Riverbanks are Cleaner

Was out Saturday morning on the Fox River and fished for about 4 hours.

Saw one other angler in those few hours and he was on the other side of the river, fly fishing.

I heard the obligatory epithets from him when he missed a hook up.

That was it, one angler, on a day that in the past would have the river and it’s shores crawling with fishermen.

For me, that’s a good thing. I like my solitude. I need that time in my head with no distractions.

I first noticed the dwindling numbers of fishermen about 4 years ago. Things haven’t improved. Paths to once popular shoreline spots are practically gone.

What I have noticed is that with the absence of anglers, the riverbanks are much cleaner. I see far less garbage now than in years past.

I mentioned this to my wife this morning while we were out sipping our first cups of coffee.

“Fishermen are pigs,” she said, “that will never change.”

This from a woman that comes from a fishing and hunting family, but does neither herself. She’s also hung out around the Fox River her whole life, that’s where she grew up. She may be right.

It’s disheartening to have to admit that in order to reduce the amount of garbage on the riverbanks, the fishermen have to go away.

Twelve years ago I had the head of a Park District along the Fox River tell me that fishermen were part of the problem when it came to river issues. I set out to prove him wrong. I had the opportunity to talk to him last year about all things Fox River and reminded him of that conversation. He no longer feels that way. He had the opportunity to meet and work with a couple of fishing groups that I sent his way and he completely changed his opinion.

I didn’t mention my change of opinion. Maybe someone will someday prove me wrong.

Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way

I have no choice but to go fishing as often as possible. I’ll do whatever I have to do to squeeze in a couple of hours on any given day. If you go through what I’ve written about for the past month, plus go to my original blog and do some reading, the reasons become self evident. Pay attention to some of the things I’ve been saying, sometimes for years. There’s actually science that backs up the benefits received from wading rivers.

You shall see.

My ability to get out as often as I like has just changed, but I’ll find a way.

It’s been over a year since I’ve had regular work in the Graphic Arts Industry, the industry I’ve been working in for 28 years.

In the past year I’ve had numerous people tell me, including a couple of head hunters, that at age 55 I’m too old for the industry and I should find something else to do. They haven’t mentioned it, but I also happen to have the wrong genitals between my legs. A cursory glance around any company that has anything to do with the graphic arts will show that this is no longer an industry for old men, or men in general.

I’ve tried numerous things over the past year. Some not bad if I don’t mind working for under $10 per hour, about a quarter of what I used to make. I don’t need to pay my bills, and I’ve been pretty good at not doing that. I call it trickle down lack of economics. This is what happens when you fuck over old guys in the work force. Everyone below us in the economic food chain suffers. Most of us are now at the point where we simply shrug our shoulders when people start whining at us about money and say “tough shit for you.”

They don’t like it, but it makes us feel just fine.

This week I was finally able to land a full time freelance job that may go on indefinitely. It pays pretty close to what I used to make, which ain’t bad. I may finally be able to start paying some bills, which should stop all that annoying whining.

There are two problems though. I have to drive 50 miles a day one way to get to the job and that severely cuts into my evening fishing ritual.

But I have a solution.

On the way home I have to cross over the Fox River in North Aurora. I’ve timed my arrival to be between 6 and 6:30 PM. For the rest of the summer, that leaves me some decent sunset time to fish that area.

I know the stretch between North Aurora and Aurora like the back of my hand. It’s almost a 3 mile stretch of the river and I’ve waded the whole thing a few hundred times. Since moving to Yorkville 6 years ago, I hardly ever go there any more. Most of it I haven’t fish in over 5 years. This will give me the opportunity to reacquaint myself with the section of the river where I first fell in love with fishing rivers.

It’s not like I haven’t caught fish there in the past.

It will be interesting to see if old familiar holes still hold fish or if it’s all just memories.

Will also be interesting to see if the other species are still around.

To get back to my need to be out fishing…

Years ago I read a number of articles about the effects negative ions can have on us. Particularly the negative ions that come from water. If you’ve followed along with what I’ve been writing for the past 13 years you’ll notice a pattern in the things I write. I’ve recently written about how my brain relaxes in tune with the running water. Another mentioned how relaxed I am during lightning storms. I knew all this, but I found an article that pretty much sums up everything I’ve been saying, only from a more scientific point of view.

Water Generates Negative Ions

Have you ever thought why we feel so good walking in the woods, on a beach or near a river, breathing the fresh air in the mountains, or just breathing the fresh after rain air?

That sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it?

This probably explains why I have this obsessive need to be outdoors in general and near water in particular.

Explains why, to me anyway, why I’m usually in a pretty damn good mood and rarely have any real bouts of depression. I recently wrote about how calm I get during lightning storms and how I love standing out among the flashes as they hit the ground not far away. Didn’t know that besides killing me, it might actually have health benefits.

Real coin toss on that one.

An astute reader and follower may have seen my references in past stories about how I never get sick. I just don’t. It annoys the hell out of some people as they lay there wheezing, hacking and blowing their noses as I shrug and say “that shit don’t happen to me.”

That is the one real benefit of all my fishing, hunting and wandering around, all the money I’ve saved on therapy and doctors visits.

Not that I would have paid them anyway.

(I finished writing this about 10:15 PM and before posting it I went out for my evening ritual of smoking one last cheap shit cigar and a good half mile hike around the neighborhood.

Far off to the west was a light show, lightning was flashing. Since I live on a dead end street I stood out in the middle of it to get away from the trees and to get a better view. A couple of bolts flashed into the clouds over head. I could hear the faint sound of rumbling thunder.

I’m going to sleep like a baby tonight).

The Walleye Ate all of the Smallmouth

My first 3 years of college were spent studying architecture. At the end of the third year I decided I had enough. For the next 3 years I went to DePaul and wound up getting a degree in fine art, painting and sculpture.

I had pretty much fulfilled all of my prerequisite classes the first 3 years. For the next 3 years, in order to reap the benefits of being a full time student, I had a lot of time to fill. So I filled those years with classes in History, Literature, Religious Studies, Sociology, Geology and a number of others I can no longer remember.

One of the underlying threads through a lot of these classes was a focus on water, whether still or flowing. From some of the first cave drawings to the geology of water to the mythology of water to water used in a wide variety of religious rites and ceremonies.

In one health class I learned that physically we can go without food for almost a month, but a week without water will more than likely find us dead.

On the literature side, hundreds of years of writing by hundreds of writers extoll the beauty, serenity and psychological healing powers of water. For some reason when it comes to writing about angling, the trout anglers are the most prolific in extolling the beauty of their surroundings and the fish they pursue. The writing of bass anglers on the other hand concentrates on fish counts, lengths and weights, and excruciating details about the hardware they use. The rivers and streams are no different from that of trout anglers, but anglers of other fish seem to be blind to their surroundings as well as what may be going in their brains other than counting and competition.

I would love to be able to impress you with specific passages from throughout time of some of these references, but my brain doesn’t retain words and phrases well. I can’t remember the names of books, but if I saw the title I could tell you whether or not I read it. I can’t quote anything, but if a particular phrase sticks in my head, I can find it in the book because I’ll remember generally where in the book it was and on which page I’ll find it, the left or the right.

If I was so inclined, I can draw you pictures of the images I’ve seen. I can hack out in a drawing a half way decent representation of the idea being conveyed by words. I just won’t recall the words. That’s the way my brain works.

At some point we’ve all taken advantage of what water does to us physically and psychologically and we don’t even realize it. We go for walks on beaches and shore lines or follow trails along rivers and creeks. We’re not quite aware of the soothing nature of waves washing up on beaches or the song of water flowing over rocks, but we know when the walk is over we sometimes feel profoundly at ease.

There are times we have the opportunity to take advantage of strategically placed park benches on river walks.

Other times we’ll bring a chair or blanket to the shore of a pond or lake. Maybe we’ll bring a book or something to eat while we sit quietly. And if you’re like me, you’ll just sit staring out into space over the water, not giving much thought to any one thing in particular.

The reason I spend so much time wandering around in rivers and creeks is to get up close and personal with the effect flowing water has on my psyche. To be able to come home relaxed and at ease with the world around me after witnessing a particularly nice sunset. It doesn’t have to be a stunningly beautiful sunset, just something I wouldn’t have seen if I weren’t near water.

Because of my art background I can’t help but scan shore lines for interesting objects and shapes. I photograph them, but I have no idea if the shapes are interesting to any one else. I liked the way they looked at the time and at the time, that was enough.

Then there are times I wander down to the river, hop in and start making my way down stream for only one reason, all I want to do is catch a few damn fish.

Preferably smallmouth bass.

That’s how this day started out. I went to a reliable summer smallmouth bass stretch of water and within the first quarter mile, I only had one dink smallie to show for my efforts.

The next quarter mile produced a hit that I knew was a walleye. It’s a sharp little hit much unlike the thump you get from an aggressive smallie.

The next quarter mile I was expecting to be the best smallie section. First fish landed, a decent sized walleye.

Over the next half hour a half dozen walleye were landed.

Not a single hit from any other type of fish. I walked away shaking my head, walleye in July? That’s unheard of, I thought.

I made my way across a wide shallow set of riffles and hopped up on shore to the bike path that follows the river for miles. It was a mile back to my car and I was in no hurry. I stopped to take a few pictures, to sit on a strategically placed park bench, to look for reflections of a sunset on water.

For the length of the walk I composed what I’ve written here. It was much more extensive, but by the time I sat down to write this 12 hours later, I forgot a few things. I have an open gift request out to my daughters, a digital voice recorder small enough to carry around with me. Maybe it will help me with my inability to retain words.

My venture out turned out to be more than just a need to catch a few damn fish. Maybe it’s the flowing water that does that to me. Gets my brain going in a way unexpected. Or it could simply be the disappointment of hooking into nothing but walleye. At least these fought better than like pulling socks off the bottom of the river, more like one of those plastic grocery bags.

I couldn’t think of a way to elaborate on walleye that fight like plastic bags, so I went with the next best thing.

Go, Get Out, Go Fishing

When I’m anxious and agitated I pace. What’s running around in my head is pretty much undefined and in the long term, irrelevant. Something is bugging me.

If I can’t pace, I weave. Shifting my weight from one foot to the other. If I’m sitting, my leg bounces. First one, then the other. This is something I’ve done all my life. For the most part, I’m unaware it’s happening. Until I hear a voice.

“Will you knock it the hell off, you’re driving me nuts.” The voice of my wife, annoyed and agitated.

“Go, get out, go fishing. I can’t stand when you do this. Fishing’s the only thing that calms you down. You know you need to go, so just go. Where you going and try not to kill yourself, will you.”

Hmm? What? Okay, I’ll be at the creek. She knows where that is and she knows that the information is meaningless. She’ll know where the car will be, it would still take bloodhounds to find me if something goes wrong.

It rarely does.

Fifteen minutes later I’m in a parking spot, hatch open on the back of the car. The road here sees little traffic and there are no homes too near. Wind over restored prairie and through the wall of trees takes on different tones. The sound of wind is only broken by the songs of birds I refuse to learn to identify. Knowing their names wouldn’t make their songs any better.

Brain waves begin to synch to the surroundings and a calmness envelopes me. The preparations of layers of clothes, waders and boots becomes methodical and unhurried. Water, camera, keys, lighter, cheap cigars and a hat, all are done the same way every time. Last is the wading vest, grab the rod from on top of the car, lock the doors and head for the creek.

By now I have no idea what I’m even thinking. There’s a deer path to follow, mosquitoes to swat. Duck under branches a perfect height for a deer, but a bit too low for me.

The sound of the nearby creek, water over rock, I already know how deep the water is, how fast it’s moving and I haven’t seen it yet.

Out from the shadows of the trees into the stark slashing sunlight reflected off water.

The song of the water over rocks and between my legs holds promise of what is further upstream as I cross to the other side and disappear into the woods again. All of this done with no real thought and whatever was bugging me is no longer even a memory.

I hit a wall of green so thick and dense I have no choice but to turn toward the creek and drop into the water.

Wade to the first pool where I know a 16 inch smallie lives. Sit on a log tucked against the shore and enjoy the view of sun streaks through trees for as far up the creek I can see.

On my feet and a few feet out into the water. Casts into the hole go unanswered till the fifth one, then the creek explodes with a fish that has nowhere to go, but goes there in a hurry. In two weeks I can come back and catch this same 16 inch smallie again. In three years of fishing here I’ve never seen another set of foot prints and in two weeks, the smallie will forget it was hooked.

I was a mile up from the car and the hike back was leisurely. Wade down and cast to likely spots, catch a fish now and then. The smallies were sporadic, but the Illinois Creek Chub Trout were impossible to keep off the hook.

There is enough rock on the bottom, with the occasional boulder, to make hurrying an impossibility. There is no choice but to give in to the slow methodical wade and cast routine. All the sounds of the woods and the wind and the water pulse in waves and the brain has no choice but to match those waves. Fighting that seems futile, so why?

The power of the water at high times is evident by log jams at curves in the creek. I keep meaning to come here and stand near but not in the creek when this is happening. I want to know what all this sounds like when massive trees are stacking up like cord wood.

The fear of standing too close to an edge, the possibility of becoming a part of the log jam is the only thing stopping me. I have my limits.

The long wade is finally stopped by a fresh tree fall that blocks more than half the creek. It’s too much effort to go any further, too hard to go around. The tree lies on top of most of a pool, one that’s normally good for a fish or two. Without any hope of setting a hook on such lame casts on the remaining water, an 18 inch smallie cooperates and protests being hooked by almost leaping into the tree.

The walk back to the car is slow and methodical. Walking without watching where feet go is asking for trouble. Too many things to trip over that would result in an unpleasant landing. But then, not watching where feet go would miss the small things you normally wouldn’t see.

The short ride home through endless fields of corn drives away the last of the anxiety and agitation that caused the fishing trip. The wife’s hanging out on the lawn when I pull up and I plop my ass down in the chair next to her.

No twitches and taps or shifting of weight.

“Feel better now?”

“I always do, don’t I?”