Tag Archives: brook trout

Your Membership has Expired

Your Membership has Expired

Did you get my message? It’s time to renew your TU membership. With your support, TU will continue working tirelessly to protect, reconnect, restore and sustain America’s trout and salmon habitat. Make your $35 contribution today and you’ll receive a new TU car decal and $30 off your next purchase of $100 or more at Orvis.com.

Oh, I got the message.

This one along with the other 20 or so I’ve got in the last two months through both snail mail and email.

No, I will not be renewing my membership. The primary reason being that there are no trout in Illinois and I don’t travel to try to catch them. I did make an effort to pursue trout over a decade ago in a couple of trips to Wisconsin. I quickly learned that the pursuit of trout bores me to tears.

But I kept renewing my membership.

Over the years I like to think I’ve done quite a bit to protect, reconnect and restore some of the rivers and creeks here in the northeast corner of Illinois. Why not support a group that is attempting to do that nationwide, if not worldwide.

Then a few years ago my interest in anything outside of my limited world here in the Fox Valley began to wane. I’m now officially not a member of anything. No groups, no clubs, no organizations. No more board seats for local organizations. Over the last two years I’ve let my guiding service die. No more fishing classes and just last year I turned down a handful of opportunities to speak to groups or clubs about fishing.

This self imposed isolation is twofold.

First, my spare time has become very limited and what little I have is extremely precious to me.

Second, I put this at the end of a recent post:

And with this, I am done with my Blackberry Creek Dam Removal Updates.

There will be no more.

I’m sure I will go fishing on the creek come March, I’m sure I’ll catch some fish, I’m sure I’ll take some pictures and I’m sure I’ll write something up about the fishing trip.

But I will no longer mention the creek by name. There will be no recognizable photos of the creek posted. As far as anyone else is concerned, it’s just another one of the seven or so creeks I fish that happen to feed into the Fox River.

This is going to be done for purely selfish reasons.

The interest level in fishing the Fox River and it’s creeks, at least in the areas I like to fish, has dropped off considerably over the past eight years.

I run into practically no one while out there fishing.

And I want to keep it that way.

I was going to expand on this a bit, it’s all in my head, but I’m going to leave it there.

I think that pretty much explains everything.

I will give it to you though TU, you almost had me. You almost had me renew my subscription and it wasn’t anything you did directly.

In a recent issue of Gray’s Sporting Journal, there was a photo essay. A couple of guys in Minnesota that went out trout fishing in the middle of winter on a small stream and they were using light spinning gear.

I don’t recall any derogatory remarks about their choice of equipment. A shot was included of a small floating Rapala. More shots of a beautiful little stream being walked by a couple of guys, with spinning gear. Mention was made of numerous trout caught.

There was even a shot of one of them lighting up what appeared to be a damn fine cigar.

I thought, there’s hope for these trout guys yet!

But it didn’t work. It didn’t win me over.

Instead, this year I’ll be out somewhere in the Fox Valley in pursuit of smallmouth bass during one of my 70 or so fishing trips. With spinning gear. Only, if anyone bothers to read what I’ll be writing, you’ll know I’m in the Fox Valley somewhere, but where?

You won’t even realize I’m out there fishing and observing and extolling the virtues of my surroundings and I don’t even have a fly rod in my hand. It’s an inefficient tool for accomplishing a simple goal, to catch a fish, so why bother with it and why even bother mentioning what’s being used?

As a tip of my hat to the world of trout though, I just might include some shots of me lighting up a…

Who am I kidding, I don’t smoke damn fine cigars.

As the wife calls them… your little shit sticks.

keng_2

Welcome to my world.

The Smallmouth Brook Trout Bass

As far as I can tell, the rivers and streams where trout live flow through all of the states in the U.S. except for Illinois.

Which is where I live.

There are plenty of fish here in our rivers and streams and I’ve selected to focus primarily on the smallmouth bass. This fish lives in waters that easily rival anything I see in photographs of where trout live, with the exception of any state with snow capped mountains looming in the background of a photo. Other than that, the many rivers and especially small creeks that I like to fish can easily have you believe that you are anywhere but the Prairie State.

That nickname alone conjures up images of slow, sluggish, brackish waters that barely flow through endless fields, generally made up of corn and soybean crops. And yet we have plenty of small rivers and creeks that are far from that description. The Apple River comes to mind with its massive bluffs that border one side of the river.

The Mazon River also comes to mind. This river cuts through ancient stone left behind after one of the ice ages. When you tire of fishing, you can always comb its river bed for fossils.

Those two rivers alone will have you wondering if you really are in Illinois and wondering if in fact there might be trout about. They easily fit the image of the places where trout live, but you’ll have to settle for smallmouth bass.

The one disturbing factor, to me anyway, is now that I’m fishing for smallies, apparently I have to be fishing for bronze bombers, hawgs, pigs or whatever pet name has been attributed to this fish.

It doesn’t matter that the one pictured above was caught far up a spring fed creek in mid March. A creek that is always cool in the summer and never freezes over completely during the winter months. The smallies have to be monsters. Reporting on anything shy of that is a call to be blasted by other bass anglers. It also doesn’t matter that I’ve caught my fair share of these pig smallies.

I apparently fail on two accounts. First, I no longer measure my fish. I give a best guess rounded to the nearest inch of what I think might be the length of the fish. Second, I also never weigh fish.

This opens me up immediately to the “my penis is greater than yours in girth and length” crowd who come crawling out of the woodwork to lambast my meager estimates of the fish I catch. Apparently I’m supposed to be measuring every fish that might look like a hawg and this measurement has to be within 1/32 of an inch. My way of rounding things off to the nearest inch is met with ridicule. Apparently I’m also supposed to walk around with a certified scale to weigh the fish so that I come up with a number like 3.8263 pounds. I’ve been cajoled into making a best guess of a weight…c’mon, what do you think it was? Two pounds? Three pounds? Four pounds? It looks like two and three quarter pounds to me from your photo.

Okay.

Usually, soon after putting up a fishing report where I say I caught a smallie that I thought might have been pushing the 19 inch mark, reports will appear where bronze bombers were caught and measured at 19 and 3/8 inches.

I didn’t know that I had unknowingly entered some kind of strange fishing pissing match. I don’t enter competitions of any kind ever.

Since I have a very minimalistic approach to fishing with a relatively light rod and small lures, that’s generally the next aspect of my fishing that’s attacked. In order to effectively fish for these river monsters, so I’ve been told, I should be using a rod that’s just shy of a broom stick and ripping baits through the water that weigh in at a half ounce or more. My technique of letting small baits hang in the water column in likely fish holding spots isn’t supposed to work very well for these denizens of the deep.

My explanations that I don’t care about fish size and weight fall on deaf ears. It doesn’t matter how much I explain that I’m not out there fishing for those reasons, the big fish are a nice surprise but not the goal. I go to fish and I don’t care what winds up on the end of my line and in my hand.

I tend to read a lot about trout fishing. It seems like that’s what I have to do in order to get away from the more mechanized way bass anglers tend to write with their obsessions over weights and measures. I immerse myself in the words of trout anglers that conjure up pictures in my head of their surroundings. Trout anglers that wander up secluded tree lined narrow streams and brooks. Still others that hike up mountain paths to hidden lakes at what seem like impossible heights, and they take pictures of the little fish they catch and make no apologies for their images.

Illinois Wisconsin Fishing

Fly Fish SC

Backwater Angler

Small Stream Reflections

Mysteries Internal

And yet I go out on a recent January day and catch a few fish. The smallest, daintiest of smallmouth bass that you can possibly catch on a hook.

Their colors rival that of any trout, in my eyes, and they have such exquisite details to match.

And yet I have to be immediately told that if I were doing this or doing that I would have caught those monster bronze bombers and my posts and pictures are such a waste since nobody but you will actually admit to targeting dinks when real fishermen want to hear about and catch blah, blah, blah.

So I’ve decided to solve my own little problem by taking matters into my own hands, to perform a little science experiment. I’m going to breed a whole new species of fish which I’ll be calling the Smallmouth Brook Trout Bass. If everything goes as planned, it should wind up looking something like this:

The majority of the coloration will come from a brook trout. The shape will generally be that of a smallmouth bass. Both of these fish have the capabilities of becoming a decent sized fish. They’ll also, hopefully, be able to survive in their individual normal habitats, from cool mountain streams to the warmer rivers and creeks.

Hopefully, someday I’ll be able to go out with my light gear and not give another thought to fish size and weight. Someday I’ll be able to bring a fish to hand and admire not only it’s fighting ability, but the stunning beauty of its coloration…

Illinois Creek Chub Trout Fishing

This had nothing to do with anything, I found it interesting at the time.

I’m a voracious reader, but the caveat is that I can’t read books. I learned a long time ago that I don’t have the attention span required to make it through a book from beginning to end.

Instead, I read articles and short stories. Preferably ones that are 3,000 words or less. More than that and my mind starts to wander. The bulk of the things I read have something to do with the outdoors. Fishing articles and stories are what I read the most with hunting second. I’ll read a good travel article as long as they’re traveling to go fishing or hunting.

The internet has fed this addiction. Blogs and blog posts are perfect for my short attention span. Simple searches on key words like – trout fishing small creeks – will get you a couple of hundred things to read. This is good and bad. It cuts into my fishing time.

The bulk of the articles and stories I read tend to be more about the experience of being outdoors. A good yarn or a little story telling thrown in is even better. Any article about the nuts and bolts of fishing and hunting gets passed over quickly. Any article that starts to refer to hawgs, pigs, beasts, trophies and any number of nick names outdoor writers like to impart, get thrown in the garbage. An appropriate place for that kind of writing.

The majority of the articles and stories I read tend to center around trout and trout fishing. The bulk of what bass, catfish, bluegill and crappie anglers write are the things I generally toss. That right there is kind of odd considering that I live in Illinois. There are no trout in Illinois and I don’t travel to go looking for them. I obsessively pursue smallmouth bass while wading rivers and creeks. Which makes me a bass angler I guess. But I’m also not that picky. I’ll fish for anything that’s willing to bite. As long as it lives in a river or creek.

A creek I fish quite a bit resembles descriptions and photos I see of trout streams. This one has the miles of lush wooded shore lines and the occasional high embankments that contain the creek as it runs through fields. There are nice runs and riffles, plunge pools and lots of cover and structure. When the canopy is thick, which is often, there’s no need for sunglasses even on a cloudless day. Like the descriptions I read of trout streams, this creek is always cold.

I used to religiously take water temperature readings while out fishing. These would go in the obsessive compulsive logs I kept of my fishing adventures. I have no clue what I was trying to prove by doing that and eventually I quit with the record keeping. Now I put my hand in the water, yep, that’s warm or, yep, that’s cold, is good enough.

I noticed that this creek I like to fish was getting a lot of cold comments. I was surprised that this was happening at the end of August, a time when all the other rivers and creeks in the area were running warm. Old records show near 80 degrees. So one day at the very end of August I dusted off the old thermometer and took a reading in this creek. It was 60 degrees. That I didn’t expect.

Since their are no trout in Illinois, the IDNR stocks them. They stock around 60,000 rainbow trout in 45 different locations around the state. Only 6 of the locations are rivers or creeks, the rest are ponds and lakes. This is a put and take program and I assume those trout that don’t get took, die off in the warm water of summer. There is one river in Illinois’ small driftless area, the Apple River, that stays pretty cold. The trout tend to survive here and I’ve caught them in the late fall, long after all they’re lake bound siblings have died off.

A couple of years ago I took all of the info I’ve outlined above and sent it off to a couple of IDNR fisheries biologists I know. After all that info there was a simple question, is there any chance of stocking trout in this one creek.

I got a simple one word answer.

No.

I’ve noticed that in March, April and May when the creek is much colder than all the other creeks and rivers in the area, the creek chubs become extremely active.

They are next to impossible to keep off a hook. And they fight hard. I also noticed over the years that they are sitting in water that perfectly fits the description of where trout anglers are catching early trout. There diet is also exactly like that of trout. During the spawn, the males will take on a bright orange color.

Which is why I call them Illinois Creek Chub Trout.

Granted, trout are much prettier, but in Illinois, you take what you can get.

What I’ve read of trout anglers, they are perfectly content combing small streams for small trout. I’ve seen hundreds of pictures of anglers proudly holding colorful little trout that barely fill their hand. The commentary that goes with the pictures generally say that they had a good day trout fishing. Maybe they’ll mention a bonus big trout that was pushing the 12 inch mark.

Illinois Creek Chub Trout are supposed to average 4 to 8 inches long. But the ones I’ve been catching have all been in the 10 to 12 inch range. From what I’ve read, trout anglers would kill to have days where they can consistently tie into 10 to 12 inch trout.

Based on all of this, I’ve decided to change the focus of my fishing guide service. I’m going to become probably the only river and creek river wading fishing guide that targets the Illinois Creek Chub Trout. Besides this creek, I know of two other creeks in the area that consistently produce these hawg Illinois Creek Chub Trout. For the real pigs, I’ll take guys out to the Apple River where the trophy Illinois Creek Chub Trout live.

Of course I’ll have to warn them about the by-catch, those pain in the ass smallmouth bass beasts that can run up to 18 inches.

If they’re lucky, I’ll show them one of my favorite by-catch catching methods.

Take a 9 foot, 5 weight fly rod with the appropriately balanced reel, line, leader and tippet.
Catch an Illinois Creek Chub Trout.
Swap out the hook for a wide gap 3/0 Gamakatsu hook.
Hook the Illinois Creek Chub Trout through the tail.
Put a 1/16th ounce piece of split shot on the line about a foot from the hook.
Roll cast this baby into the deepest, darkest pool in the area.

And hold on tight.

Video showing this technique coming soon.

Didn't have anything to say about this other than I liked the way it looks.

The Speckled Brook Trout

While on the way to looking up other things, I found a book published in 1902. It’s primarily about fishing for Brook Trout. I’ve been skimming it for anything that looks interesting and it winds up pretty much the whole book is interesting. Some things sounded vaguely familiar to what I’ve been saying for years. Funny how things don’t change and the reasons we do them don’t change much either. I bet I can find some passages in what I’ve written that are almost a match to what I’ve been reading in this book. Kind of creepy that way.

I think that’s why I’m an anomaly of sorts in the bass fishing world, which is dominant here in Illinois since we have no natural trout streams. Bob Long, Jr. tells me I’m a bass angler with a trout anglers sensibilities.

When I started writing things down years ago, I assumed bass anglers thought like me. There are some that do, but we’re a minority.

Numerous times I’ve considered sending in a short story to different magazines I like to read or entering writing contests in other magazines. I’m generally cut out of the equation immediately. Fly fishing topics only while pursuing trout on streams, with introspection and a conservation ethic thrown in to round out the story.

I fit the bill except for the fly and trout requirements.

I recently read that bass anglers are assumed to be in constant pursuit of hawgs, the latest fishing gimmick, cheap beer and women with large breasts.

I’ll admit to one of those, but the other assumptions immediately reject the small minority of bass anglers that like to think of themselves as a little more refined. The thinking man’s bass angler I guess. We all can’t live in a land of streams teeming with trout. We have no choice but to make do with what we’ve been given.

I love the way this book is written. It’s a collection of a few things by a few people, or as they say it “By Various Experts with Rod and Reel.” The phrasing of sentences has an elegance now lost. That’s neither good nor bad, just the way it is.

A couple of things I found while skimming:

Nothing can be more enjoyable than to wade a stream, to feel the rush of water about you, the constant excitement, the forgetting of all other affairs, the out-door life, the health and appetite, the meeting with other anglers and the telling over of the day’s sport. Here is a fascination that will last you all your life, and be a delight to you in extreme old age. Let me warn you, my reader, if you are not a lover of Nature and out-door life you are missing one of the greatest blessings this world affords.

Many say the same thing, including me, but not quite so well.

I remember writing about this once, I actually recall hearing almost voices.

Old anglers have ears trained to nicest sense of sound in the music of running water, and will know the physical conditions, even when unseen, which cause many of the notes of sound in a trout brook.

I recall the musical notes and the sound of breathing from the slight rise and fall of even a river as it flows. I distinctly recall mentioning this one day while far up Mill Creek. Kind of like this:

Unobstructed on inclines, rapidly flowing water in small volume has the inimitable purl, so exquisite that even in music the sweetest sounds are called liquid, like a tinkling rill.

This is a common problem that drives some that I know absolutely crazy.

The true angler sees much, but will realize that as compared with what is about him, he sees very little.

I remember recently mentioning getting the colors out of the gray of the shadows.

The stones and gravel of the banks catch green reflections from the boughs above. The bushes receive grays and yellows from the ground. Every hair-breadth of polished surface gives back a little bit of blue of the sky or gold of sun. This local color is again disguised and modified by the hue of the light, or quenched in the gray of the shadows.

Not sure if the following is a lament or is supposed to be hopeful.

The result is inevitable. With bowed and reverent head the angler hopes that when he has crossed the Delectable Mountains, and, one poor thread in the web of universal history, has waved back in his mute farewells to his favorite trout stream before he enters the Unknown and is swallowed by Oblivion, a merciful and loving Heaven may furnish to him the counterpart of this brook. Will he not find a heavenly stream on that Other Side? Will not its waters sing as with a new song, its forests whisper, its flowers enchant? Yes, for there stands the message of Holy Writ, the last words of John, Seer and Prophet — words of inspiration and promise: “And he showed me a pure river of water of life.

There was so much more. I hate reading on screen. I’ll have to print this out.

Just goes to show that nothing is really ever new. Just new for the time we’re in.