Tag Archives: fox river fishing

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High Water Dabbling

Years ago I used to do high water dabbling all the time. Now it seems to have lost some of it’s charm. The best place to do it is urban areas, but urban areas mean people which means I can’t relax.

People make me tense.

If I wanted to fish this weekend, I had no choice. The creeks, besides being barren, were all blown out.

The river was just high enough that I didn’t feel like wandering around in 3200 CFS current. I can do it, but why?

So I walked an old familiar wall with 8-10 feet of line out and dabbled a lure vertically along the wall.

There is something to be said for this. Tying into a 16 inch smallie with so little line out gives you one option, lift it out of the water and lip it. This is really why even when casting I keep the casts short. It’s also why I switched to braid years ago.

I don’t play fish to exhaustion and then bring the poor defeated creature to hand.

I get them up next to me as quickly as possible, lip them and let them show all their fury.

These are extremely muscular creatures after all and I want to feel that muscle. Plus, they are pissed and want you to know it.

There’s something about looking a pissed off smallie in the eye. They give it right back. If fish could talk I imagine… okay you sonuvabitch, you won this one, NOW PUT ME BACK IN THE WATER!!!

And I oblige, quickly and efficiently. Kind of. I keep them lipped and put them in the water. What little strength they lost comes back quickly and I release their lip when they’ve had enough of this game.

I usually get a going away bath for my troubles. Which I deserve.

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The edge of a wall, amongst all the garbage, if you have eggs in you that have to come out, I guess that will do. I gave her the distance she deserved.

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I thought this was funny.

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Then, of course, under clear blue skies, the play of light on moving water. This made the wall walking a little precarious. I almost walked off the wall twice after staring at the water too long.

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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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Fox River North Aurora Dam Removal

On January 8th the above article on the Fox River North Aurora dam removal appeared in the Aurora Beacon News. I thought it would show up on their website, but it never did. Rather than leave it on my Waterdog Journal Facebook page, I thought I would put it up here.

The day the article came out, I put up the following:

Two of the best fishing stretches on the Fox River are between Batavia and Aurora. I say two, though it could be one, but it’s split in half by the North Aurora dam.

These are the stretches where I used to spend the bulk of my time fishing and know them well. I’ve canoed the pool above the dam numerous times and years ago when I spent a lot of time and energy on dam removal issues, I dreamed of the day I could wade around in that area. I already know where I want to go.

In today’s Beacon News there is an article by Denise Linke (I’m assuming she’s related to Rob Linke). It’s about the possible removal of the North Aurora dam. If nothing screws up, it can happen in less than two years.

I’m speechless. I would like to see this happen without a single glitch.

Did you know that between the dam and the mouth of Mill Creek, on the west side, there are small limestone bluffs?

Like I said, I already know exactly where I want to go.

A couple of things I find disturbing about the article is that one North Aurora Village Trustee, Laura Curtis, cast the only dissenting vote. I’ve read other articles where she compares the North Aurora dam to the ones in Geneva and St. Charles. They built their downtowns around their dams, so they have some value, don’t they? She failed to mention that those downtown areas evolved around their dams over a period of over 100 years. In all the years that the North Aurora dam has been in place, the Village has done virtually nothing in the area.

You have Harner’s Bakery and Restaurant on one side (worth stopping there if you get a chance), and a dance studio and the police station on the island. That’s it. There’s nothing really to speak of radiating out from the dam. Old strip malls if you can call that a down town.

The other thing I find bothersome is the insistence of keeping the mill race. The article states that the whole project could be benched if the mill race can’t be preserved.

That I don’t understand at all. I’ve walked the whole length of the mill race numerous times. In the water. I like it because it behaves like a small creek for a relatively short length, the whole thing is not that long, and the fishing isn’t bad on a good day.

But if their reason for preserving it is because it may have some kind of historical significance, I just don’t see it. Again, for all the years the mill race has been there, the Village of North Aurora has done practically nothing with it.

One side can’t be accessed at all because of the handful of homes that line the shore. The island side that’s a park isn’t much better. Most of the shore is overgrown to the point of being nearly impenetrable. And if you could get through it, the bank is too steep to do anything with. My suspicious nature tells me there’s more to it than meets the eye. Has me wondering who lives in those handful of homes along one shore.

Hopefully the engineering studies will show that water will still flow through the mill race if the dam is removed. Over a dozen years ago when I was heavily involved with the dam removal studies and issues on the Fox River, I checked out the area where the mill race starts. There’s a good chance the water will still flow.

I hope so. I’d like to see that dam gone. It would be disappointing for something as insignificant as that mill race to end what could be a vast improvement of a nice sized stretch of the Fox River.

But then, who am I to talk. My own desire to see it gone is so I can go wading around in the river between where the dam currently sits and the mouth of Mill Creek.

Did I mention the small bluffs along the west shore?

Really would be nice to find out if the fishing is as good along there as I think it could be.

Doesn’t get any more self serving than that.

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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, tockā€¦

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December