Tag Archives: ken gortowski


A Hike in the Woods

Going out fishing was really an excuse to get out for a hike in the woods.

There was more skim ice on the bird bath Sunday morning, I think that’s 4 days in a row and one of those froze it solid.

This has done a pretty good job of stopping the smallie migration up the creeks in it’s tracks. Water really cooled down fast. I didn’t expect to catch anything inland on one creek and I didn’t.

Saved the day on another creek and fishing closer to the mouth. Wound up going 7/1 with one of those being the smallies sluggish cousin.


I would probably be pretty good at Tenkara fishing. As it is I find myself fishing with 10 to 12 feet of line out and swinging my usual small lure into little pockets of water. One of the nice things about fishing like this is that smallies of all sizes tend to hit with the same amount of power. You don’t know till you set the hook with a sharp snap of the rod what size fish you might have on.

Was doing this in a small spot where I recently pulled out a smallie that was a good 16 inches. With my go to rod still in two pieces, I switched to an older rod that I had retired. This one too once had a fast action tip, but the top six inches was sacrificed to a sliding van door years ago. Now it’s a medium action rod and it’s been a good three years since I’ve bothered using it.

Remember, I also only use braided line, no stretch.

So, with 10 to 12 feet of line out I get a hard smallie hit. I set the hook with a sharp snap of the rod and the next thing I see is a smallie about 6 inches long come sailing out of the water, still hooked, and sails over my head, landing in the water behind me, still hooked.

Oops, sorry about that. You hit bigger than you were.


I went inland on the first creek mainly to see if the big flood plain was filled with flowers like usual. A few more days will have them looking better, but I can’t get there in a few more days. I thought they didn’t look half bad today. Not sure what I’m trying to achieve with the shots in the gallery below, but I’m fascinated by how this flood plain gets covered with these flowers this time of year.

Their presence is fleeting. Barely a two week window of opportunity to see this before the flowers fall off and the plants are eclipsed by the undergrowth.

Came across a lone skunk cabbage plant. I believe it was Mary Anne from Alaska that asked if they smelled like skunk. Since I never bothered finding out all these years, I took off a tip of one of the leaves and inhaled deeply.

Smells like earth, but also has a distinct skunk like smell to it, but without the gagging produced by a hefty whiff of skunk.

Also checked out the one spot where I know morels grow. No morels yet, but all around the same area quite a few other mushrooms were starting to poke their heads out from under the leaf clutter.

Had two more mornings of skim ice and frost since Sunday. Getting a little tired of that. Evenings are supposed to start warming up soon and that’s what will finally get the smallies moving up the creeks.

Guess I’ll have to go Wednesday after work to find out.


There was a Point to This

There was a point to this, all these pictures, but I’ll be damned if I can remember any more.

When I head out fishing, taking pictures is somewhere in the back of my mind, but they happen hopefully between catching fish. Or maybe of the fish if the fish is picture worthy.

When I head out wandering around with my camera, the point is to take pictures. Sometimes that’s a failure and I’m totally uninspired.

Usually I wander around with a running dialogue in my head that gets filled in by pictures. Or maybe the pictures start the running dialogue. Or some combination of both.

This goes back to my painting days 30 odd years ago when I would write on my paintings. A little description or dialogue I guess that I thought went well with the painting.

The problem with walking around taking pictures and having a running dialogue going is that I tend not to retain words very well. It all sounds so good while I’m out wandering around, but by the time I get home and find the time to sit down and do anything with all the pictures, I’ve pretty much forgotten all the words.

Sometimes I can’t remember what I had planned on doing with the pictures.

If I find the time to do something with words or pictures within 24 hours, things seem to go okay. Last week within 24 hours I put together the panorama shots I had intended and put up a post. The other 130 or so pictures sat and languished all week. I had already gone through and picked the ones I wanted to use, no doubt these had words associated with them last week, but this week, I got nuthin’.

Nothing but the pictures.

Best I can come up with for words is that it was sunny out on a weekend, which is rare.

Temperatures were tolerable.

The sunset was better than I expected.

That pretty much sums it up.


Sunset Panorama Test

I’ve played around a little with making panorama’s in Photoshop, but never one of a sunset. So I thought I would do a sunset panorama test.

I already knew the software could handle sharper, brighter images, but I was curious if it could handle the more muted tones and less sharp edges of a sunset. While out Saturday evening watching the sunset at Silver Springs State Park, I took a few shots with making panorama’s out of them in mind.

So far so good and I’m pleased with how they are turning out. Of the six that I tried, only one failed. The software couldn’t find enough of an edge on one I guess in order to merge them correctly.

Once the images are merged and I figure out how to crop them, on three of them I wound up with images that are 13 X 29 inches and 240 ppi. That means I could double it’s size to 26 X 58 inches and still have enough resolution to get a decent print out of it at the bigger size. Only seems appropriate to go bigger on panoramic sunsets, but I could see them working at 6.5 X 14.5 inches or even smaller.

Ideally I want to see them at 26 X 58 feet, but that’s a different story and sunset panorama test.

The three images that wound up at that size were all shot with the lens at 18 mm. It’s an 18-55 mm lens.

The other two shots you’ll see in the gallery below were shot with the lens at around 30 mm. If I try to get as much image as possible out of the merged images, that gave me final sizes of 14 X 24 and 13 X 26. Not enough width to my liking, especially when shooting here in Illinois out over an expansive area of basically prairie. They still look decent, but some of the expansive feel is gone.

I’ve always known that my horizontal peripheral vision goes beyond 180 degrees and I recently heard that peripheral vision can go to almost 210 degrees. I haven’t looked up what it is vertically.

Which will eventually bring me to my next sunset panorama test. I know I’m losing a lot of sky vertically, my vertical peripheral vision is much greater than what the camera can do. So next time I’m going to shoot vertically and pan for 5 shots. I already know the software can merge 5 horizontal shots with pretty good end results. Now to try it with vertical shots. I’m hoping to wind up with final shots that feel like how I see things. I’ll probably have to use a tripod to accomplish this. The times I’ve tried before shows that it’s a bitch to try to pan evenly horizontally over 5 shots.

The math in my head is telling me that shooting vertically and merging five shots will give me a final image of about 20 X 60 inches and 240 ppi. Which means in theory I could do a print of 40 X 120 inches and still get decent results.

Of course, I want to do a print of that at 40 X 120 feet. I have that all figured out with even more details, but that’s a different story I’ll tackle later.


A Rare Sunny Day

Last weekend I was presented with a rare sunny day.

That’s not quite the whole truth.

I’ve noticed during the week there are a number of them, but during the week they don’t matter.

Like many, I’m stuck indoors counting the minutes till the work day ends.

Since we’re in the middle of Daylight Savings Time, by the time I leave work and get far enough west, far enough away from the blandness that is the Chicago western suburbs, the sun is gone.

It’s dark.

If only I had that one extra hour.

So last weekend I had one of those rare sunny weekend days.

Only one and I feel lucky to get that lately.

That one sunny day makes a person manic.

Desperate to get out and soak up some sunshine.

Desperate to catch light and shadow, color and contrast that these gray days destroy.

Quality of image takes a backseat to quantity.

Shoot and shoot and shoot a few more.

Not sure I can say, nice image.

I can say, nice light.


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.