I finally figured out that it’s not the absence of daylight during the winter months that gets to me. The short days aren’t a problem even though I don’t particularly like them. The absence of color seems to affect my mood.
The first day of March, the beginning of meteorological spring, saw the temperature get close to 40 degrees. I thought I would jump the gun and fish the first quarter mile of Mill Creek. Years ago, around the same time of year, I spent 3 hours fishing a part of the Fox and the mouth of the creek. Three hours of fishing got me two fish, both 18 inch smallmouth bass. Warmth gets us out, but the fish aren’t ready yet.
I have a tough time wandering through these woods at the end of winter. Nothing seems to hold my attention. I can appreciate my surroundings up to a point, but the overall gray doesn’t draw my interest. Sky, ground and trees become one and the same.
Old rail bridges take on the patina of the winter surroundings.
They are interesting man made constructs with angles of rusting steel framing the scenes, but adding nothing to the color schemes.
Water seems lifeless with nothing to reflect but more gray. Trees look as lifeless as the water that reflects them. Virtually impossible to tell live trees from dead trees as long as they both have bark. There was no sign of greening buds on the end of spidery branches, yet.
When you could see the bottom of the creek, it’s covered in old dead leaves turned dark brown. Old moss covered rocks have old dead moss covering them. More browns and grays. There were no minnows, no small bug hatches hovering over still water. There was no warmth to air or water to bring these creatures to life.
The air was cold, the water was cold and my feet got pretty cold while standing in the water, even with plenty of layered wool socks. The river was up, but surprisingly clear with well over 2 foot clarity. A big backwater was combed in all directions in the hopes a fish or two came in to get out of the rush of river water. A clear sky may have helped, may have added the warmth needed, but there wasn’t one of those.
Got to the creek and dredged the bottom to see if anything was migrating up stream. Covered a quarter of a mile and spent a fair amount of time at the mouth. The clarity on the creek was a little less than on the river, which surprised me. The creek too was running high.
When you dredge the bottom, bottom feeders will sometimes hit. Hooked a river redhorse in the mouth.
This is a good thing. I’ve always known that they are indicators of a healthy river system. Found this little write up by a guy name Craig Springer:
In Illinois, the river redhorse is protected as a threatened species. Though biologists have found the fish in stretches of the Fox, Des Plaines, DuPage, and Kankakee Rivers, pollution and sedimentation from agriculture and urbanization compromise many of the clean spawning gravels the fish needs and reduce populations of the filter-feeding animals it depends on for food. For these reasons, scientists now treat the sensitive redhorse as an indicator species to show where river conditions have declined or improved.
Based on that, it makes sense to find it where I did. Development planned in this little watershed may someday end their presence. The proposed development is being watched and hopefully it will get rejected.
Since they resemble carp, it makes you wonder how many of these get tossed on shore by those that don’t know any better.
In another month this creek will be filled with river redhorse, quillbacks, carp and other fish with the word carp or sucker in their name. I’ve seen both basses, crappie, bluegill and other sun fishes, walleye and pike all vying for the same cover and spawning grounds in this little creek.
I’ve heard rumors of gar in one creek. I’ve never seen one anywhere in the Fox Valley, but I know how they feed based on what I’ve seen on the Kankakee River and its tributary, Rock Creek. I’m wondering if I’ve been misjudging those surface dimples all these years and attributing them to another fish species.
On the walk back to the car I came across about 30 robins picking apart the last of berries on brush. Bright red breasts against the grays of the day was a nice sight, but still not enough color.
Another month and the layers of green will be here, mingled with the first of the flowers. Then my walk will be more like a saunter instead of the head long rush to get out of the woods.
Long term weather is showing a gradual warm up coming and the brutal cold days are gone. I may have to start my creek adventures as soon as the water levels stabilize.
I would rather be getting skunked far up a creek with the sights and smells of spring around me than jockeying for position along the rivers shore at high water. Too many others are hitting the river looking for bragging rights on landing hawgs, pigs, bronze bombers, monster bronze or whatever nickname an angler can come up with for a simple smallmouth bass.
The creeks should soon be in perfect condition. The sighting of other boot prints along the water should be non-existent. A few miles of fishing with no one around is a definite possibility. The hooking and landing of a hand sized smallmouth bass, another possibility, will be a welcome sight. It’s still a smallmouth bass and it doesn’t know it’s only hand sized.