Tag Archives: fishing

fox river sunset

Why I Quit Fishing

There are a few reasons why I quit fishing, but the main reason is pictured above.

My favorite time of the day to go out fishing was always the last three hours of the day. Sunsets seem to last longer. Now I still go out for the last three hours of the day, but with a camera rather than a rod.

I didn’t fish much and never a river before I turned 40. After that, fishing the Fox River and the creeks that feed it became an obsession. For 19 years that’s all I really cared about doing.

It was all about the fishing and even though I was out on the water during hundreds of sunsets, there were fish to be caught. If I stopped for a second I might get off a half way decent shot of the sunset, but I had to get back to fishing. I was losing my light.

19 years later and 10,000 smallies caught, give or take a couple of hundred, enough was enough. This would have been my 20th year, but I didn’t see any point and going out to catch one more fish.

Now I go out at those same hours of the day and pace back and forth in one of many areas where I know the sunset could be spectacular. It doesn’t always happen, but the anticipation is worth it. I get to watch the light slowly wane and change and glow and reflect off my surroundings. Something I never did when catching a fish was the point of being out there.

To me, being in the right spot to photograph the sunset pictured above, along with the 70 or so other photo’s taken that evening, was much more important than being on the other side of the river, behind the island, drifting lures in the fast and slow running water. All to catch smallie number 10,000 and one.

Standing and pacing and watching the play of light is much more rewarding.

Over those 19 years I’ve also cruised many, many miles on back roads all along the river and to it’s creeks.

back road

It was rare that I ever stopped very long, maybe long enough to get off a quick shot. I had a fishing spot to get to, fish to be caught.

Now, I cruise those same back roads during those same last 3 hours of daylight. Only now I don’t hesitate in stopping if something catches my eye.

landscape

Now I go out looking for the perfect sunset clouds.

silo

the barn

Or I’ll head out if it looks like a good storm will be passing through.

the barn

I think it’s time better spent than chasing still another fish and letting my surroundings go ignored.

I have no clue if my photo’s are all that great. I don’t know if I care one way or the other. But like fishing once was, I now can’t imagine being out there and not trying to capture something.

For those that have followed along with all that I’ve written over the years, why I quit fishing probably seemed inevitable. My writing and the photo’s that went with them never really had anything to do with fishing. At least I tried to give that impression, but in my head I had to be there for the fish. Now I want to focus on the photo’s and all those spots I walked and drove right by.

If anything comes of that, that would be nice. If not, that would still be nice.

In an effort to take this new direction seriously, I’ve already started a Facebook page for Ken Gortowski Photography where photo’s have been going up.

I also have a website up and running called kengortowski.com that is still under construction as I figure out the design and then populate it with all the photo’s I’ve taken over the years.

I’m looking forward to how this all pans out.

In the mean time, in my spare time, I’ll still be out wandering around those last few hours and minutes of daylight. Revisiting back roads I breezed down in the past, heading out to the river and creeks and concentrating on the details I passed up over the years.

And, just like when I used to fish, I’ll stay out to the very end, for that last little bit of light, for the perfect conditions.

And, just like fishing, you have to stay to the very end.

The very end tends to produce the best results.

sunset

Fishing and Fossil Hunting

The intent wasn’t to go fishing and fossil hunting, just fishing, but the opportunity to fish and fossil hunt arose, so who was I to say no.

When an 8 foot tall dam that has been in place for nearly 200 years is removed, things change. All the work put into trying to make the creek behave like a natural creek is nice, but the creek tends to take on a mind of it’s own.

In this case, the creek likes to move things around.

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This is the second time in the three years since the dam was removed that this gravel bar has appeared. The first time was soon after the dam was removed. It was three times bigger than what you see above.

Humans being what they are couldn’t live with that and by the end of the year the big gravel bar was scraped and moved and everything was just the way the humans wanted it again.

Then it rained, water came up and moved things around and put the gravel bar back where the creek wanted it. The big rains haven’t even started yet this year so I imagine this gravel bar will continue to grow over the next couple of months.

That’s the thing about controlling water, you can’t. Water will do whatever it wants and move things however it wants. Water has all the time in the world. All it has to do is wait and move things and over time it wins.

Water always wins.

I started out scouring the gravel bar to see if any human type remains were washed down. Not bones, but objects left behind. Objects that might have got tossed into the creek over 200 years ago and now have someplace else to go.

That’s when I stumbled upon the first fossil.

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Now I was intrigued. I knew there would be fossils around, why wouldn’t there be, but that was an easy find and now I wanted to actually look. It didn’t take long to gather up what I thought were the best of what was lying around.

I have no clue if these are just a few hundred years old, or 10 thousand years old, or millions of years old. My interest ends with finding them. Identifying them by type and age add nothing to the find.

I also fished the creek, my second time out this year. The creek was completely devoid of life. Not a minnow, carp, sucker or anything else with fins. It’s early and the water is still cold, but one fish right at the mouth cooperated and I mechanically reeled in a cold water sluggish smallie.

I immediately noticed that the fishing ennui that had settled in last year was still there. Nice fish, that was fun, who am I kidding.

This year marks my 20th year of fishing rivers and creeks for smallmouth bass. Virtually all of that in northern Illinois. In that time I’ve estimated that I’ve caught around 10,000 smallmouth, give or take a few, with 90 percent of those caught in the Fox Valley.

I can continue to kid myself that somehow it’s still exciting, but I’m at the point where it’s barely even interesting.

I’d rather go fossil hunting, wandering around with my camera, even go wading around the river with my camera, but without the nuisance of carrying around all that extra fishing baggage.

I don’t see any of that as a bad thing, just a change.

Change is good, or as B.B. King would say…

The thrill is gone baby…

I Went Fishing

You would think that the simple statement of I went fishing would be a given for me and up until this year, it was.

I went fishing for the past 18 years 3 to 4 times a week, sometimes more, sometimes year round.

The astute reader that also happens to follow along my WDJ Facebook page would have seen this back on August 1st, the last time I went fishing:

Rather than fishing the Fox River this early evening, time better spent would have been sitting on the toilet and picking my nose for two and a half hours.

I’ll probably hit a few creeks that feed the Fox the first week of September to see if the smallies are making their annual fall run.

No doubt come April and May I’ll be fishing those same creeks.

I still enjoy living two blocks from it and walk down to it’s shore every night. I still enjoy my walks along the river and the spots I’ve found where I photograph sunsets over the river.

I’m sure I’ll continue to explore other stretches of the river, but with a camera in hand.

As for fishing the Fox, I’m done. 19 years, over 10,000 smallies, who knows how much bycatch, waded over 20 miles of it over and over again, easily adding up to hundreds of miles, possibly well over a thousand.

There’s nothing more for me to accomplish on that river when it comes to fishing.

Since waking up on Saturday morning I considered going fishing. The final decision to go never happens till the hour arrives when I should leave if I’m going to go. I had a need for solitude, some quiet, to get some exercise, to get out of my head.

The Fox River has been at normal or below normal flow for the whole month. A recent spike from some recent rains had it still below normal, but new water tends to turn on fish. The creeks were low and I don’t like fishing them then. Like fishing in a barrel and I feel like I’m torturing the few fish that will be in the relatively deeper spots.

I got to the river around 4 PM. Weather was absolutely perfect. Temps just right, the right amount of clouds around to cut the glare of the sun off the river, a nice breeze. I did wind up seeing three other anglers out there. One was a shore angler, they’re trapped by their decision to fish from shore so I don’t pay them much attention and the other two came hiking downstream, got to within a couple of hundred yards of me, turned around and went back the way they came.

Had the whole place to myself, like usual.

I went into this expecting nothing but the serenity of being out on the river. I expected no fish, so to catch 10 and and have 7 others self release was a nice bonus. Having two of the 10 being a solid 17 inches was even nicer.

One of the things I wanted to test was my boredom level. It’s been crushing this year while out fishing.

Didn’t get bored for a second.

Maybe I’m on the road to some kind of recovery, but from what?

The first 17 inch smallie.

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Finding things along the river.

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Almost forgot about the drunken flotilla.

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Not quite right. I was about 5 miles downstream from one dam and about the same distance to the next.

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The second 17 inch smallie.

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This is where the second 17 inch smallie was caught. If you can find this spot and duplicate the catch, and here’s a hint, I’ve caught bigger ones here, then more power to you.

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Walking and Fishing

Got out a couple of times this week walking and fishing.

One evening after work I went out walking with the hopes that the sunset would turn out better than it did.

Another evening after work I went out fishing, which requires walking.

I don’t understand how you can do the former without the latter.

I’ve always been intrigued by the abstract qualities of my surroundings. This goes back to my painting and drawing days 30 odd years ago. I have no clue if I successfully capture what’s in my minds eye, but I keep doing it. That probably accounts for the fact that I never get bored while out and about. Probably also accounts for the fact that others get annoyed with me if they happen to be out and about with me.

I’m easily distracted and tend not to pay attention to company very well.

As I look at the thousands of pictures I have laying around, I have hundreds of ways I want to see them put together. Combinations, associations, computer painted and played with.

I’ll get around to it some day, maybe.

Since I don’t seem to have the interest in reading and writing words lately, here’s a bunch of pictures from my two days of walking and fishing.