There’s a good chance that on any given day at four in the morning, I’m awake. This started when I was a kid and around 5 decades later, I don’t give it much thought anymore.
This used to be the time I would crawl out of bed and go fishing. Why lay there staring at the ceiling. When my kids were around it was also perfect timing. A morning of fishing and an afternoon with the kids. With the kids gone, there’s no rush to get out running around so early in the morning, even if it is for fishing. Besides, I was always partial to sunsets on the river.
I thought I would give a morning fish a try again recently. Wanted to spend the afternoon with my wife, so perfect timing. The usual fishing routine is to decide on where to go as I’m backing out of my driveway. Each intersection I come to there’s a decision to make on where to go. As I drive along the river there are more decisions being made on where to finally stop.
For those few that have wanted to get together with me to do some fishing, this is why I hesitate, procrastinate and generally blow things off. Even if I made plans with someone there’s a chance I’d change my mind at the last minute. Sorry about that, it is what it is.
This time I finally stopped at an old favorite spot between Batavia and North Aurora. Though it’s right in the middle of an urban area, Kane County and the Fox Valley Park District were smart enough to set aside long stretches of both shores as public property. Once you get near the river, you would never know how close you are to so many people. As close to wild as you can get without having to travel very far.
At 6:30 the gates were open and I had the whole place to myself. At least for fishing. The pleasant morning had quite a few people out already walking, running and biking, but no other anglers around.
In order to get to the section of river where I wanted to fish, I had to cross a backwater area where it begins. The water was just high enough to bring a little bit of current through. If the river was down 2 more inches, there would be no current.
As I crossed through ankle deep water, I cast to a spot on a whim. Got a dink smallie.
For the next 45 minutes I stood in one place and caught 18 smallies, missed many more than that. They were annihilating the jig and twister. Slow, fast, as a topwater, on the bottom… didn’t matter how I fished it they would tear it apart. The biggest three were all 12 inches, the rest were all smaller, but they didn’t know it. Fought like hell.
When the bite finally died I walked through the hole. I already knew how deep it was, just wanted to make sure. It was a pool about 40 feet long by 20 feet wide and barely went over my knees at the deepest spot. I wandered down the backwater a bit to see if the bite would continue, but in a hundred yards not a hit was had. From past experience I knew that the further I went the bottom was made up mostly of silt and was devoid of fish.
I headed for the main river.
When I stepped out into the river there was another angler on the opposite side, out fly fishing. He would be the only other angler seen for the next 4 hours. This was a stretch that on a Saturday morning in the past would be crawling with guys wading. Was nice to share it with only one other.
Along the shore I got 3 fish on in just about as many casts. All ran upstream so fast that I couldn’t reel in fast enough to get a good hookset. Lost all 3 as they went flying by me upstream. I have no doubt there was swearing out loud involved, that happens.
A few minutes later I hear an epithet spewed from the opposite side of the river. I looked over in time to see a fly come launching straight out of the water and back over the anglers head. I suddenly didn’t feel so bad.
As I wandered down the shore, a doe and 2 fawns walked off the island and out into the river.
The only predators left in the area are coyotes so all up and down the river there are deer that bed down on the islands. Coyote must not like getting their feet wet. I knew how deep the water was where these deer wanted to cross the river. The fawns would never make it, the water would be over their heads. The doe must have sensed this, she stuck her neck far out and surveyed the river. Then turned and headed back to the island with the two others close behind.
I saw them again a few minutes later navigating a knee deep stretch of river. Much smarter move on their part.
For the next couple of hours I only had 3 more fish willing to hit a lure. None of these were landed either.
The river is already starting to get it’s fall look. The green of the trees were already starting to fade and there was one that must have thought it was already mid September.
Lots of geese were moving around. I noticed this the other day when fishing downstream of Oswego. There are blinds down that way and September 1st is the beginning of the early goose season. I haven’t done it in a few years and my goose recipes need a dusting off. The only shotgun I have that can take down a goose is a single shot. I’d settle for one goose.
Near this stretch of the river lives a bald eagle. From around a bend it comes floating down the river below tree top level, no more than 50 feet from me. Down where I live in Yorkville, we see them floating around the river all the time. I’ve seen them in Oswego, Montgomery and now Batavia. I never thought that in my life time I would ever see eagles so close to Chicago.
As I rounded another bend to get to a spot I call 5 Fish Tree, my heart sank. 5 Fish Tree was no more.
I had noticed over the last few years that it was gradually deteriorating. It was just a matter of time till it collapsed into the river. I thought of fishing around it’s remains to see if it still held 5 fish, even after death, but me and downed trees in the water don’t seem to get along. They want to keep sucking me under them. Best to leave well enough alone.
As I was getting off the river I heard a racket overhead. A red tail hawk was going by, being pecked at by a peregrine falcon, which was being chased by yet another smaller bird that I couldn’t identify. You would think the chain of command would have been the other way around.
I decided to try one more spot on the way home, a spot I rarely fish anymore. I could hear thunder far off in the distance as I stepped out into the water, but I assumed I had a good half hour before I had to worry.
In two casts I had landed two smallies, but then the lightning started arching over my head. Not good.
It figures that would happen and I didn’t even get to the good spot yet. I made a couple of more casts, but I swear I heard the air over my head sizzling from the lightning. I was over 50 feet from shore with a lightning rod in my hand. I dropped the tip into the river and moved as fast as possible for the shore, which in waist deep water isn’t very fast. Another bolt of lightning sizzled over head. I heard someone saying out loud, not now, not now.
I guess that was me.
I moved the car under a bridge to change out of my waders and to watch the light show. I have no clue whether or not lightning can reach under a bridge, but at least I had a perfect seat to watch the show.
Part of me wished that the initial bite that started the day would have gone on another hour or two. I’ll take a dink fest like that any day over one or two big fish.
Apparently, my thumb liked it too.