The past weekends rains must have been pretty localized. They had no effect on the Fox River and it continues to come down to something that can be waded, almost. But this is the time of year I like to spend wandering the creeks. I decided to do some creek hopping and headed west from my house late afternoon Tuesday.
The first creek I crossed was in good shape. A little high, but it’s clarity was perfect. The next creek I crossed looked a little high and definitely off color. That wasn’t a good sign. When I got to the creek I wanted to fish, it was a disaster, high and muddy. I headed back to the good looking creek, disappointed to be wasting time. Who knew two small watersheds would take the brunt of the weekend rains?
I hiked a half mile up stream through the woods. There were no cars in the area where I parked, so I knew I would have the creek to myself. As I approached the spot where I usually hop in, there was a kid around 12 years old bent over, fussing with a metal stringer. He was trying to put a fish on it. I noticed the smallmouth bass.
I hesitated in saying anything. I detest the law that says catch and release only on smallmouth bass for this time of year. From what I know, it’s based on sentiment and not science. The Fox River used to have a section that was catch and release on smallies year round. It was done away with years ago. A fisheries biologist told me they were finding more bigger smallies outside of the catch and release zone than in it. The catch and release zone no longer made any sense. I think the same could be said for this sentimental short catch and release time frame.
Before the kid got the smallie on the stringer, I spoke up.
“You can’t keep that.”
“They’re catch and release only this time of year.” Luckily he didn’t ask why.
“Oh. I was hoping to take it home for dinner with my dad.”
I felt like an idiot for speaking up. “They’re good eating, aren’t they?”
He nodded in agreement and let the fish go.
I gave him the dates for the catch and release period. I was still glad he never asked why.
I wandered down stream to let him have a good section of the creek to himself. I was impressed he came down here all alone. He was pretty far from just about everything. It was a stunningly beautiful day and he was fishing rather than texting or playing video games. I wondered if he spent time in his head making up stories. That might be an old man’s game.
A huge tree that had been laying across the creek for a few years was gone. In over a half mile of hiking down the creek, I never did find it. I knew that it had created a scour hole in the time it had spent in the creek. I stopped in the fastest of the knee deep water and let a jig and twister swim around in front of me. I was trying to get it down into the wide scour hole. The hit came and a smallie was hooked.
When I lipped it, I turned around. The kid was watching me. I held up the fish. He gave me a thumbs up. I guess I’m cool.
I stood there swimming the jig back and forth, up and down, trying to cover as much of the hole as possible. Wound up with 6 hits and 3 smallies hooked.
When I finally walked through the hole, it was nearly waist deep. The water was also cold. I could tell by the amount of shrinkage that immediately occurred when the water went past the crotch leak.
I kept wandering down stream fishing the same type of water with the same end results all the way down the creek.
It had been almost a year since my last visit here and the creek had changed.
Besides the missing tree, the creek bottom had moved around. Areas where I normally could walk through and barely get my knees wet were now impassable and I was having problems negotiating a way around them.
A pile of small trees completely changed the flow in one small stretch. I gave up trying to get around it completely and hopped up on shore. The brush was dense and a bitch to get through, but it beat getting swept under a pile of trees.
As I walked along the shore I thought I was smelling perfume. A field of pink flowers covered the forest floor.
I used to know what these flowers are, but now I lump all spring flowers into the category of wild flowers. Those things that come up while the sun can still make it down to the ground. A couple of more weeks and the canopy will be so thick that the flowers will all die off.
Bridges of trees blocked the way.
Once upon a time I would have tried walking across, but I think those days are over. No point in tempting the water gods to screw with me.
Pool, fish, pool, fish, it became a rhythm.
Wildlife on and around the water. Bright blues skies and stunningly green shores all made for a nice walk down a creek.
Catching 10 or more smallies, I lost count, in the few hours spent here were an extra added bonus.
Ended the day in a long slow pool that leads to an old railroad bridge. It’s massive arch stands sentinel over the creek.
I never have waded past that bridge. More fish caught in this slow pool.
A young couple with rods in hand appeared. I was impressed again that a couple so young would come down here to fish. I stopped, hopped on shore and gave them the pool.
No point being greedy, I caught enough.
On the short hike back to the car, I kept thinking about that kid and his stringer and his smallmouth bass.
I should have kept my mouth shut.