Tag Archives: creek fishing

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Not Quite What I Wanted

It’s not quite what I wanted, but at least it’s a fish.

The desire to fish the Fox River in the early months of the year disappeared a few years ago.

Now I wait till the conditions are right to fish the creeks that feed the Fox.

A few years ago, by mid March, conditions were perfect with an unusually warm March and the fish cooperated accordingly.

Not so lucky the last couple of years.

Got out today to do some creek hopping. Chose to hold off on baptizing the new waders yet, conditions aren’t right to be combing long stretches of creek. The weather has been a little colder than normal, so I opted to hit a few key spots from shore.

Wound up hitting three spots on two creeks. Both creeks are crystal clear and perfect depth.

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I think that’s a creek chub that I caught, but there’s something out of the ordinary about it, so I may be forced to look it up, some day.

This was nine miles up a creek. I didn’t expect to see anything moving in the water this early and this far up from the river, but minnows were in a few of the deeper pools and the gut on what I caught shows that it’s feeding on them. Plus, it hit the usual small twister tail I use, so that’s a good give away.

The next creek was more of the same. Clear, but only here there were no signs of life in the water. Walking the shore was made easier by the lack of growth. Normally the grass in this stretch is well over waist high and will be in a few weeks. At least now I could see all the ruts in the ground instead of taking a back breaking, bone jarring hike.

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Where the two creeks come together there were more minnows in the slightly deeper pools. With a warmup coming this week, next week may be a good time to baptize the waders and take this all a little more seriously.

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It was nice to see that after nearly 5 months of no fishing, I haven’t lost my casting touch. Forty to fifty foot casts were made with little effort. This called into question whether or not I will bother using a fly rod this spring. Over the winter I looked at a lot of other blogs and all the pictures they put up. The bulk of them are all fly fishing centric. I came to understand why so many fly fish. There was virtually nothing along the shores except rock or grasses. Trees were almost always far back from the shore. There was nothing hanging out over the water.

This is a far cry from the creeks I fish. Trees and high brush line the shores. The arching trees create a cathedral effect over the water with some nearly touching the surface of the water. Today I was standing in and under canopies of leafless trees on the shore. I had just enough room to flick the lure out over the water. The light gear and light lures I use are no different than a 5-6 weight fly rod and clousers. There was simply no way I could have done the same thing with a fly rod. Moving out into the water is not always a better option. Still no room for back casts and going too far over head is a recipe for disaster.

The efficiency expert in me won’t allow me to waste time and expend energy to make a simple cast for the sole purpose of catching a fish. In my eyes, they’re all just tools and the tool lends nothing to the experience of being out, enjoying the surroundings, fishing small water and catching fish. If you have nothing between your ears that will allow you to enjoy the experience of fishing and all that it entails, using an inefficient and clumsy tool isn’t going to fix that for you.

I think I just made a decision about how much I’ll be fly fishing this spring.

Well, anyway..

I’m enjoying taking these shots of light on shallow running water. I may have to play around with this some more. Maybe try a movie, add the sound of water over rock.

If I can find that damn feature in the camera menu somewhere.

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Testing the Water

When I walked out the door I had every intention of going out to a couple of creeks to start testing the water.

Got to the first creek to find a couple of cars parked there. Wandered onto the abandoned bridge to survey the water. Unlike the river it was in perfect condition; crystal clear, excellent level, but devoid of life. Not a thing seen in the water.

One of the anglers came back and we struck up a conversation. He saw and caught nothing and then asked my name. Winds up he reads here and he recognized me, not by my stunning good looks, but the cigar.

Not sure that’s a good thing.

The other angler shows up, more conversation with nothing to show for fishing efforts.

Two other anglers pull up and get out of their car. One looks familiar and I ask his name. Winds up it’s someone I used to run into on the creeks all the time, but it’s been a good decade since I saw him last. I mention that to him and say… “I assumed you got married, had kids or were dead.”

“Got the first two right at least.”

More conversation, then time to move on.

At the next creek I hesitated and went walking around before deciding if I wanted to go fishing. Couple of different bug hatches going on, but like the first creek, not a single thing seen in the water. I stood around mesmerizing myself with flowing water and tried to capture the why of it all.

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Back at the car, still debating, the bugs must have liked the warmth of my car. They were in mating position and covered it pretty well.

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Another angler shows up and a conversation starts. We had met at this same spot a couple of years ago. He was heading where I was thinking of going and he had been out there a couple of times so far this year. Barren water. I decide to wait another week or two and try again. A walk in the woods would be time better spent.

At a nearby big forest preserve, a hike through an area I haven’t done in a few years.

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Sometimes I take pictures of the things that trip me.

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The hike took me to still another creek that as far as I know has no name.

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This is a tiny little creek, shallow enough to walk through in most parts without getting your ankles wet. Neck down stretches that you can jump over and every now and then a deeper pool. Deep being relative and barely knee deep.

And yet, in these little pools, signs of life that weren’t in it’s bigger cousins.

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Since my plans had changed I decided to stay out till sunset to see if it was worth capturing. It was looking like the clouds were getting blown out of the area with nothing but blue skies. Not enough to make for an interesting sunset.

So I went home.

An hour or so later I was proven wrong. Enough clouds had stuck around on the south edge of the sun to make the sky interesting, nothing but blue skies on the north edge of the sun.

No time to hop into the car and go someplace with a vista view. Just enough time to walk down the street in this neighborhood full of light manufacturing and railroad tracks and see if I could get something interesting out of it all.

Not what I prefer, but it will do in a pinch.

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Ready To Go

Spent a couple of hours this morning going through all the fishing junk and getting it ready to go.

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Hardest part was finding all of the fly fishing parts. It’s been at least two years since I used any of it and I came up short one fly reel. Was looking forward to putting that one to use since I’ve had it for around 15 years and only used it twice.

It’s in a box somewhere. Or a drawer. Or it’s now a cat toy and in a dark corner of the basement somewhere. It will probably show up the next time I move.

Oiled up the spinning reels and immediately put the heavier one away. Didn’t use it at all last year and unless I destroy the lighter one, I don’t see using it this year. I prefer fishing relatively light using light line and small lures. It’s always worked for me, see no reason to attempt anything else.

I do have quite a few flies.

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Notice the pattern in the next shot? Go crayfish or minnows for smallies or go home.

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Some just stashed in your typical Plano boxes and that took a bit of sorting. I think I came up with the beginning of a lovely selection.

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Yes, I plan on tying on those plastics and using them. Not much of a stickler for tradition or getting any real satisfaction out of catching a fish on something I tied. I’d just as soon buy them.

Like the helgies, from Orvis, they’re killer.

Some of them I think are hand me downs from my friend Bob Long, Jr.

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Others seem to appear out of nowhere. I know guys that tie flies. I admire them. They give me a few.

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For some reason at the end of last year I came up with the idea to use a fly rod this spring. Dumb logic tells me I can do just as well with a fly rod as I do with my spinning gear. Over a decade ago I proved to myself that I can walk into the Fox or Apple River and do as well as I do with light spinning gear and little lures.

I should have never mentioned this idea in public. Now I feel committed.

We’ll see how it goes. The first time I get into one of my usual tight casting situations on a creek I know I’ll give up.

The car is all cleaned out and organized. I put away the wispy wand and two fly rods are in the trunk. Spinning gear in the car. Lures and flies all ready to go. New waders in the trunk waiting to be baptized.

Now I wait.

Did some scouting today. I probably could have got in the river for a couple of hours, but I think I would have been lucky to catch one fish. And that would have been on spinning gear.

I don’t like that time to fish ratio.

One more week if this weather keeps up.

Maybe two.

I’ll know when I go down to the river or to a creek and smell fish.

Then it will be time.

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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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Last Weeks Fishing Report

Last weeks fishing report that Dale Bowman of the Chicago Sun Times didn’t include in his weekly summary. I kind of liked it even though I didn’t get out fishing much and didn’t catch much either. Didn’t write much, but I put in a few paragraphs by someone that did. I don’t know, I liked it…
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Not much to report this week, only got out twice and both were short ventures. Two creeks, two smallies caught, two missed. The creeks were high running chocolate. Hit the river once, it was even worse and produced nothing.

The spot on the river I hit is a good spot I used to frequent and while living in Yorkville, I didn’t get to it much. Now it’s just upstream. Nobody goes there cause it’s pretty much a haven for the homeless. They even put a bike path and bridge over the river. Now the homeless don’t have to walk over the rail road bridge to get to the island.

I’ll go back there. Me and the homeless get along well for some reason. I don’t judge them and I’m good for a cheap cigar.

I think that makes the following from Big Two Hearted River a good thing to run, if you feel like it and nobody else sends you anything. Just substitute smallie for trout. Wish I ran into more river anglers that embody this sentiment. They seem to have all disappeared.
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Nick looked at the burned-over stretch of hillside, where he had expected to find the scattered houses of the town and then walked down the railroad track to the bridge over the river. The river was there. It swirled against the log spires of the bridge. Nick looked down into the clear, brown water, colored from the pebbly bottom, and watched the trout keeping themselves steady in the current with wavering fins. As he watched them they changed their again by quick angles, only to hold steady in the fast water again. Nick watched them a long time. 

He watched them holding themselves with their noses into the current, many trout in deep, fast moving water, slightly distorted as he watched far down through the glassy convex surface of the pool its surface pushing and swelling smooth against the resistance of the log-driven piles of the bridge. At the bottom of the pool were the big trout. Nick did not see them at first. Then he saw them at the bottom of the pool, big trout looking to hold themselves on the gravel bottom in a varying mist of gravel and sand, raised in spurts by the current. 

Nick looked down into the pool from the bridge. It was a hot day. A kingfisher flew up the stream. It was a long time since Nick had looked into a stream and seen trout. They were very satisfactory. As the shadow of the kingfisher moved up the stream, a big trout shot upstream in a long angle, only his shadow marking the angle, then lost his shadow as he came through the surface of the water, caught the sun, and then, as he went back into the stream under the surface, his shadow seemed to float down the stream with the current unresisting, to his post under the bridge where he tightened facing up into the current. 

Nick’s heart tightened as the trout moved. He felt all the old feeling. He turned and looked down the stream. It stretched away, pebbly-bottomed with shallows and big boulders and a deep pool as it curved away around the foot of a bluff. 

Nick walked back up the ties to where his pack lay in the cinders beside the railway track. He was happy. He adjusted the pack harness around the bundle, pulling straps tight, slung the pack on his back, got his arms through the shoulder straps and took some of the pull off his shoulders by leaning his forehead against the wide band of the tump-line. Still, it was too heavy. It was much too heavy. He had his leather rod-case in his hand and leaning forward to keep the weight of the pack high on his shoulders he walked along the road that paralleled the railway track, leaving the burned town behind in the heat, and he turned off around a hill with a high, fire-scarred hill on either side onto a road that went back into the country. He walked along the road feeling the ache from the pull of the heavy pack. The road climbed steadily. It was hard work walking up-hill. His muscles ached and the day was hot, but Nick felt happy. He felt he had left everything behind, the need for  thinking, the need to write, other needs. It was all back of him.