The plan for the day was to go out to Marseilles State Fish and Wildlife Area to do some squirrel hunting. Only I had forgot that it was closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Rather than waste a rare 60 degree November day, I decided to go fishing.
The Fox was flowing at just over 1800 cfs. The two areas I had in mind require wading across the river, but that flow level is just about at my comfort level for wandering across the river. I’ve done it before many times, but it gets a bit tricky. If the water temps had been over 60 degrees, I probably would have gone, but with the water temps in the 40s, even the high 40s, taking a spill would be very unpleasant.
I opted to continue my test of a creek wintering hole theory.
It had been a little over two weeks since my last visit here. When I arrived there was a guy a bit older than me getting ready to take his dog out for a walk in the woods. He had the biggest German Shepherd I had ever seen, pure white. We talked of fishing, which led to deer hunting, which led to squirrel hunting and comparing raccoon recipes. One of those rambling conversations between strangers with similar interests. His dog finally made him shutup and finish the walk.
The trees had given up the last of their leaves and the low sun light left long streaking shadows through the woods. The ribbon of water that was the creek meandered through from the north. It was up a little from some rain, but even from a distance I could tell it was still crystal clear.
The Illinois Creek Chub Trout were everywhere in the creek. The cold water seems to have no effect on them at all. The first fish caught was one of the biggest Creek Chub Trout I’ve ever caught.
According to different Departments of Natural Resources, they tend to be in the 4 to 8 inch range with some getting as big as 12 inches. The one caught was easily 10 inches, possibly bigger.
Every cast had small swarms of Creek Chub Trout attacking the small lure I was using. This supports my wintering hole theory. I already know it doesn’t freeze over, I’ve been there in January, but didn’t fish. If there’s that many Creek Chub Trout around, why would a game fish leave.
I thought for sure the walk down to the hole would produce a couple of smallies. They were there just a couple of weeks ago.
But no matter what I threw or how slow I moved it, nothing showed any interest. Except for the Creek Chub Trout. They were relentless in their attacks.
The last vestiges of green were staying close to the forest floor. Just enough sunlight was now coming through to keep them a bit warm. The bright green was a shock to the eyes, all else had pretty much taken on the browns and grays of late fall.
When I got to the hole, the sun was just leaving the far edge. The sun shines down on this for the better part of the day. With the clear water I would think the sun might heat up the creek bed a bit. The current through here is negligible and every little bit of warmth helps.
I started out with a small lure that looked like a small chub. There were no hits. Then I switched to a 4 inch tan Senko on an unweighted keeper hook. I’d let this sink to the bottom of the hole and let it sit there. Maybe move it a bit, then let it sit some more.
This got me four smallies on, but I didn’t land any of them. I did get to see them before they impolitely spit the hook. Two were small, less than 12 inches, but two were much bigger. Based on what I got to see, and based on how heavy they were, both were over the 16 inch mark.
For the next half hour I knew the bite was dead, but I was reluctant to leave and kept casting into the hole. It was still near 60 degrees. The sun was still a few feet above the high bluff to the west of me. If I moved a bit, the leafless trees would let the sun hit me and warm me a little more. I lit a cigar, it would take about 20 minutes or so to finish it. I cast out into the hole, tucked the rod down into my waders and stood staring off into space.
There’s a road about a half mile away, but nobody uses it much. There are few homes along that road. Down in this little creek valley, even the wind dies down and hushes. The birds were liking the last of the sunlight too. Was surprised at how many were out in the woods calling. I recognized one call as that of some kind of woodpecker. The rest will remain unidentified due to the lack of interest in the need to know those things.
I leaned against a log tucked up against the shore and took long breaks between drags on the cigar in an effort to make it last longer. A perfect way to watch the day end.
I have a feeling these fish aren’t going anywhere. Come January, I’m sure we’ll have a few days that get above freezing. I won’t go out if it’s lower than that. The plan was to bring along a bucket of minnows, but instead I’ll bring the bucket and make sure I have some small hooks. And some beef jerky. Chubs have a thing for jerky. Catch a handful of chubs for the hole, hope the sun is out and the log didn’t move.