Tag Archives: trout

Trout Is Good With Beer

Trout IS good with beer. I’m sure I can pick a trout species and find the perfect Sam Adams flavor to pair with it.

I have no doubt there are those out there scoffing and have an extensive list of white wines that would be better if only they could actually get themselves to eat one of their precious trout.

But I like beer.

Which is all besides the point. Point being, I thought I made it perfectly clear here back in January 2014 that I no longer wanted to be a Trout Unlimited member.

There are no trout in Illinois and I see no point in traveling to fish for them.

It took a few attempts at unsubscribing from their email to finally get that to work, but apparently nobody at the Oakbrook Chapter of TU seems to understand what unsubscribe means no matter how many of those I send back. I’ll still get an occasional email from them.

The paper mail still remains relentless though.

Seems like every week I get another offer from TU to subscribe. Each time offering still another enticement. Like I need another 10 flies that I can add to the other 100 or so I’ve received from them over the years. All of which go unused.

For some reason though, no matter how junky I think the junk mail is, I’m compelled to open it and look it over before tossing it all in the recycling bin. With the latest enticement from TU was a bumper sticker. It was about to get recycled when I realized that with a little doctoring, it would make a nice addition on the back of the Piece ‘O Shit Mobile.

So, there it now sits.

I think it looks good.

I never did finish my Is Good With Beer™ series to include trout. I do have one for Carp already done and up on my Skreened store and other fish species have long been planned.

carpisgoodwithbeer

I’ll need to get this done soon.

After all, trout is good with beer.

I should know.

Your Membership has Expired

Your Membership has Expired

Did you get my message? It’s time to renew your TU membership. With your support, TU will continue working tirelessly to protect, reconnect, restore and sustain America’s trout and salmon habitat. Make your $35 contribution today and you’ll receive a new TU car decal and $30 off your next purchase of $100 or more at Orvis.com.

Oh, I got the message.

This one along with the other 20 or so I’ve got in the last two months through both snail mail and email.

No, I will not be renewing my membership. The primary reason being that there are no trout in Illinois and I don’t travel to try to catch them. I did make an effort to pursue trout over a decade ago in a couple of trips to Wisconsin. I quickly learned that the pursuit of trout bores me to tears.

But I kept renewing my membership.

Over the years I like to think I’ve done quite a bit to protect, reconnect and restore some of the rivers and creeks here in the northeast corner of Illinois. Why not support a group that is attempting to do that nationwide, if not worldwide.

Then a few years ago my interest in anything outside of my limited world here in the Fox Valley began to wane. I’m now officially not a member of anything. No groups, no clubs, no organizations. No more board seats for local organizations. Over the last two years I’ve let my guiding service die. No more fishing classes and just last year I turned down a handful of opportunities to speak to groups or clubs about fishing.

This self imposed isolation is twofold.

First, my spare time has become very limited and what little I have is extremely precious to me.

Second, I put this at the end of a recent post:

And with this, I am done with my Blackberry Creek Dam Removal Updates.

There will be no more.

I’m sure I will go fishing on the creek come March, I’m sure I’ll catch some fish, I’m sure I’ll take some pictures and I’m sure I’ll write something up about the fishing trip.

But I will no longer mention the creek by name. There will be no recognizable photos of the creek posted. As far as anyone else is concerned, it’s just another one of the seven or so creeks I fish that happen to feed into the Fox River.

This is going to be done for purely selfish reasons.

The interest level in fishing the Fox River and it’s creeks, at least in the areas I like to fish, has dropped off considerably over the past eight years.

I run into practically no one while out there fishing.

And I want to keep it that way.

I was going to expand on this a bit, it’s all in my head, but I’m going to leave it there.

I think that pretty much explains everything.

I will give it to you though TU, you almost had me. You almost had me renew my subscription and it wasn’t anything you did directly.

In a recent issue of Gray’s Sporting Journal, there was a photo essay. A couple of guys in Minnesota that went out trout fishing in the middle of winter on a small stream and they were using light spinning gear.

I don’t recall any derogatory remarks about their choice of equipment. A shot was included of a small floating Rapala. More shots of a beautiful little stream being walked by a couple of guys, with spinning gear. Mention was made of numerous trout caught.

There was even a shot of one of them lighting up what appeared to be a damn fine cigar.

I thought, there’s hope for these trout guys yet!

But it didn’t work. It didn’t win me over.

Instead, this year I’ll be out somewhere in the Fox Valley in pursuit of smallmouth bass during one of my 70 or so fishing trips. With spinning gear. Only, if anyone bothers to read what I’ll be writing, you’ll know I’m in the Fox Valley somewhere, but where?

You won’t even realize I’m out there fishing and observing and extolling the virtues of my surroundings and I don’t even have a fly rod in my hand. It’s an inefficient tool for accomplishing a simple goal, to catch a fish, so why bother with it and why even bother mentioning what’s being used?

As a tip of my hat to the world of trout though, I just might include some shots of me lighting up a…

Who am I kidding, I don’t smoke damn fine cigars.

As the wife calls them… your little shit sticks.

keng_2

Welcome to my world.

The Smallmouth Brook Trout Bass

As far as I can tell, the rivers and streams where trout live flow through all of the states in the U.S. except for Illinois.

Which is where I live.

There are plenty of fish here in our rivers and streams and I’ve selected to focus primarily on the smallmouth bass. This fish lives in waters that easily rival anything I see in photographs of where trout live, with the exception of any state with snow capped mountains looming in the background of a photo. Other than that, the many rivers and especially small creeks that I like to fish can easily have you believe that you are anywhere but the Prairie State.

That nickname alone conjures up images of slow, sluggish, brackish waters that barely flow through endless fields, generally made up of corn and soybean crops. And yet we have plenty of small rivers and creeks that are far from that description. The Apple River comes to mind with its massive bluffs that border one side of the river.

The Mazon River also comes to mind. This river cuts through ancient stone left behind after one of the ice ages. When you tire of fishing, you can always comb its river bed for fossils.

Those two rivers alone will have you wondering if you really are in Illinois and wondering if in fact there might be trout about. They easily fit the image of the places where trout live, but you’ll have to settle for smallmouth bass.

The one disturbing factor, to me anyway, is now that I’m fishing for smallies, apparently I have to be fishing for bronze bombers, hawgs, pigs or whatever pet name has been attributed to this fish.

It doesn’t matter that the one pictured above was caught far up a spring fed creek in mid March. A creek that is always cool in the summer and never freezes over completely during the winter months. The smallies have to be monsters. Reporting on anything shy of that is a call to be blasted by other bass anglers. It also doesn’t matter that I’ve caught my fair share of these pig smallies.

I apparently fail on two accounts. First, I no longer measure my fish. I give a best guess rounded to the nearest inch of what I think might be the length of the fish. Second, I also never weigh fish.

This opens me up immediately to the “my penis is greater than yours in girth and length” crowd who come crawling out of the woodwork to lambast my meager estimates of the fish I catch. Apparently I’m supposed to be measuring every fish that might look like a hawg and this measurement has to be within 1/32 of an inch. My way of rounding things off to the nearest inch is met with ridicule. Apparently I’m also supposed to walk around with a certified scale to weigh the fish so that I come up with a number like 3.8263 pounds. I’ve been cajoled into making a best guess of a weight…c’mon, what do you think it was? Two pounds? Three pounds? Four pounds? It looks like two and three quarter pounds to me from your photo.

Okay.

Usually, soon after putting up a fishing report where I say I caught a smallie that I thought might have been pushing the 19 inch mark, reports will appear where bronze bombers were caught and measured at 19 and 3/8 inches.

I didn’t know that I had unknowingly entered some kind of strange fishing pissing match. I don’t enter competitions of any kind ever.

Since I have a very minimalistic approach to fishing with a relatively light rod and small lures, that’s generally the next aspect of my fishing that’s attacked. In order to effectively fish for these river monsters, so I’ve been told, I should be using a rod that’s just shy of a broom stick and ripping baits through the water that weigh in at a half ounce or more. My technique of letting small baits hang in the water column in likely fish holding spots isn’t supposed to work very well for these denizens of the deep.

My explanations that I don’t care about fish size and weight fall on deaf ears. It doesn’t matter how much I explain that I’m not out there fishing for those reasons, the big fish are a nice surprise but not the goal. I go to fish and I don’t care what winds up on the end of my line and in my hand.

I tend to read a lot about trout fishing. It seems like that’s what I have to do in order to get away from the more mechanized way bass anglers tend to write with their obsessions over weights and measures. I immerse myself in the words of trout anglers that conjure up pictures in my head of their surroundings. Trout anglers that wander up secluded tree lined narrow streams and brooks. Still others that hike up mountain paths to hidden lakes at what seem like impossible heights, and they take pictures of the little fish they catch and make no apologies for their images.

Illinois Wisconsin Fishing

Fly Fish SC

Backwater Angler

Small Stream Reflections

Mysteries Internal

And yet I go out on a recent January day and catch a few fish. The smallest, daintiest of smallmouth bass that you can possibly catch on a hook.

Their colors rival that of any trout, in my eyes, and they have such exquisite details to match.

And yet I have to be immediately told that if I were doing this or doing that I would have caught those monster bronze bombers and my posts and pictures are such a waste since nobody but you will actually admit to targeting dinks when real fishermen want to hear about and catch blah, blah, blah.

So I’ve decided to solve my own little problem by taking matters into my own hands, to perform a little science experiment. I’m going to breed a whole new species of fish which I’ll be calling the Smallmouth Brook Trout Bass. If everything goes as planned, it should wind up looking something like this:

The majority of the coloration will come from a brook trout. The shape will generally be that of a smallmouth bass. Both of these fish have the capabilities of becoming a decent sized fish. They’ll also, hopefully, be able to survive in their individual normal habitats, from cool mountain streams to the warmer rivers and creeks.

Hopefully, someday I’ll be able to go out with my light gear and not give another thought to fish size and weight. Someday I’ll be able to bring a fish to hand and admire not only it’s fighting ability, but the stunning beauty of its coloration…

A Break from the Heat

I’ve always enjoyed the reprieve of a strong summer cold front blowing through. Within 24 hours a string of sweaty, sultry days becomes more reminiscent of early fall. The sky becomes crisp and clear and the heat haze disappears to sharpen the edges and colors of the trees. Sitting outside in the evening after the front goes through will have you thinking about getting a sweatshirt as goosebumps raise the hairs on your arms. But, you remind yourself, it’s still summer and the sweatshirt stays in storage, regardless of the chill. It’s refreshing to feel cold air on bare skin after all.

The high point of this weather shift is the sometimes violent storms that bring in the cooler air. Since I was a kid I’ve tried to be outside as much as possible when this was happening. In the old Chicago neighborhood where I first lived, the first apartment we lived in had a small porch. I would find the one dry spot to stand in and let the storm wash over me. I particularly enjoy those lightning strikes that have no delay in the following ear splitting crack of thunder. You can hear the air sizzle and ears ring afterward.

The next apartment only had a covered doorway and the setback stoop of an empty store. Just enough cover to let me enjoy the show. I would get yelled at for this pastime of mine when caught, but like picking at a scab, I had to do it.

When my parents bought a house near Midway Airport, the big garage door faced west. I’d have the door wide open, a lawn chair to sit in and it was like watching a movie unfold. A couple of times the rotating clouds of a tornado would pass overhead, but since tornados never hit the city there were no worries, except once.

Everyone knows that tornadoes exist solely to rid the earth of trailer parks. I have no clue why tornadoes hate trailers parks so much, but the fury wreaked upon them is devastating. The only tornado I recall ever touching the city limits, the very edge of the city limits, happened to hit the only trailer park I recall being within the city limits.

How’s that for planning.

I think the culmination of why I feel invincible when confronted with storms like this is because of a trip I made to the boundary waters when I was 15. We were camping on a sandbar that nearly split a big lake in two. It was the only place big enough for tents. The temperatures all week were around 90 degrees, supposedly unusual for the area. The biggest, blackest, meanest looking storm I had ever seen in my life blew up out of nowhere. And there was nowhere to go.

There was no point cowering under the few trees on the sandbar, bad choice perhaps, so we just stood around on the beach. One of the guides took an aluminum canoe out on the now raging lake. Winds were making white caps on the water 3 to 4 feet tall. He got out into the middle of the lake, stood on the gunwales and started waving his arms in the air. You could see him laughing but couldn’t hear a thing because of the wind, rain and cracks of thunder from the lightning that was hitting all around us.

Eventually the lake had enough and tossed him high into the air. It seemed like an eternity, but he swam, towing the canoe behind him, within reach of the beach. The last 100 feet or so he was dragging the canoe behind him and laughing. When he got in front of us, wind still howling, rain pelting and lightning flashing everywhere, he stopped, put his hands on his hips and shouted, “Was that fucking great, or what?”

Every storm since then that I’ve been caught up in has paled in comparison. It strikes me as odd on how calm I get while everything around me is going to hell in a hurry.

As I write this, clean up from the storm that blew through a few days ago is still going on. A chain saw has been running almost continuously for the past two hours. While out fishing the other day, proof of the power of the wind that blew through was seen in the addition of new cover on the river.

With the river at the lowest prolonged level it’s seen since 2005, I was taking advantage of the situation and going to spots I haven’t been able to fish in 5 years. This one particular stretch 4 miles from my house I go to all the time. Combing the south shore is easy and getting across the river downstream is usually not a problem. But one long stretch on the north side of an island is difficult to get to at even slightly higher water levels. Not so much the higher water that’s the problem, it’s the current flow. Not an issue today.

Even at the low water levels a channel I had to cross was pushing pretty hard. On the north side of the island was a slow moving deeper pool. The only two smallies landed, of a few hooked, came at the beginning of the deeper pool.

After that it became a sunset stroll down the river.

Far down stream a deer crossed. Following tentatively were a couple of fawns. I remembered the spot where they crossed, it was the lowest point of the river from the island to the shore.

This stretch of the river, a stretch that can be waded for just over 7 miles, has a number of boulders littered along the way. Leftovers from when the glaciers receded 12,000 or so years ago. I use them as stopping points. Somewhere to sit, take a break and stare blankly up and down the river.

This one boulder is the only one I’ve found that has parallel striations running across the surface. As Wikipedia describes it: Glacial striations usually occur as multiple straight, parallel grooves representing the movement of the sediment-loaded base of the glacier.

And that’s what it looks like.

Trying to get across the deeper pool proved a little more difficult than expected. I apparently had forgot how deep it got. It’s no more than 4 feet, but I’m only 5 foot 9, so even 4 feet pushes my limit. Half way across the pool I could feel that I stepped on something like a sheet of plywood. It must have flexed just enough from my weight to let the light current get under it and flip it over. It followed me down stream for the next 30 or so feet, flipping and bouncing off of me as I tried to maneuver through the pool.

A sheet of plywood being pushed by current weighs considerably more than you might think.

Since it was nearly a full moon, I decided to stay out till dark even if the fishing pretty much sucked. The sunset was much more subtle than the one I watched in this stretch just a couple of days earlier. More of a colorful glow than harsh, bright colors.

As the sun came off the water, the bug hatches started. First were the pecker gnats. Not being of hillbilly stock like my wife, I had never heard that term pecker gnat till we met 6 years ago. Pecker gnats they are till I find a better term, but then I’ll probably stick with pecker gnats. Next came some kind of small mayfly, for lack of a better term. In this stretch I had been seeing them in the evenings for well over a month.

Down stream it looked like fog lifting off the water. It was massive clouds of bugs all heading up stream. Apparently they float down stream with the current, lift and head back up stream. This way they know they’re offspring will stand a better chance of survival by remaining in a sustainable environment. Or so the theory goes.

All I know is that during one of these bug hatches, I try not to take deep open mouthed breaths as I walk, even though I’m sure the extra protein wouldn’t kill me.

I waited till the moon rose over the far shore tree tops and was reflected in the water. It was dark enough that the bug hatches could no longer be seen, but you could feel them running into bare skin. I tried to capture it all with the flash of my camera. They wind up sparkling in front of you briefly before fading back into the dark.

As I walked through the last of the slow moving pools, fish could be seen dimpling the surface coming up for the bugs. I knew they were carp, but for one brief moment I could picture that this was what trout anglers get all excited about. I could see why they get all twitchy about matching hatches and drifting oddly named things with hooks to these rising dimples.

Then reality set in, I live in a state where trout don’t.

They’re just carp.

Illinois Creek Chub Trout Fishing

This had nothing to do with anything, I found it interesting at the time.

I’m a voracious reader, but the caveat is that I can’t read books. I learned a long time ago that I don’t have the attention span required to make it through a book from beginning to end.

Instead, I read articles and short stories. Preferably ones that are 3,000 words or less. More than that and my mind starts to wander. The bulk of the things I read have something to do with the outdoors. Fishing articles and stories are what I read the most with hunting second. I’ll read a good travel article as long as they’re traveling to go fishing or hunting.

The internet has fed this addiction. Blogs and blog posts are perfect for my short attention span. Simple searches on key words like – trout fishing small creeks – will get you a couple of hundred things to read. This is good and bad. It cuts into my fishing time.

The bulk of the articles and stories I read tend to be more about the experience of being outdoors. A good yarn or a little story telling thrown in is even better. Any article about the nuts and bolts of fishing and hunting gets passed over quickly. Any article that starts to refer to hawgs, pigs, beasts, trophies and any number of nick names outdoor writers like to impart, get thrown in the garbage. An appropriate place for that kind of writing.

The majority of the articles and stories I read tend to center around trout and trout fishing. The bulk of what bass, catfish, bluegill and crappie anglers write are the things I generally toss. That right there is kind of odd considering that I live in Illinois. There are no trout in Illinois and I don’t travel to go looking for them. I obsessively pursue smallmouth bass while wading rivers and creeks. Which makes me a bass angler I guess. But I’m also not that picky. I’ll fish for anything that’s willing to bite. As long as it lives in a river or creek.

A creek I fish quite a bit resembles descriptions and photos I see of trout streams. This one has the miles of lush wooded shore lines and the occasional high embankments that contain the creek as it runs through fields. There are nice runs and riffles, plunge pools and lots of cover and structure. When the canopy is thick, which is often, there’s no need for sunglasses even on a cloudless day. Like the descriptions I read of trout streams, this creek is always cold.

I used to religiously take water temperature readings while out fishing. These would go in the obsessive compulsive logs I kept of my fishing adventures. I have no clue what I was trying to prove by doing that and eventually I quit with the record keeping. Now I put my hand in the water, yep, that’s warm or, yep, that’s cold, is good enough.

I noticed that this creek I like to fish was getting a lot of cold comments. I was surprised that this was happening at the end of August, a time when all the other rivers and creeks in the area were running warm. Old records show near 80 degrees. So one day at the very end of August I dusted off the old thermometer and took a reading in this creek. It was 60 degrees. That I didn’t expect.

Since their are no trout in Illinois, the IDNR stocks them. They stock around 60,000 rainbow trout in 45 different locations around the state. Only 6 of the locations are rivers or creeks, the rest are ponds and lakes. This is a put and take program and I assume those trout that don’t get took, die off in the warm water of summer. There is one river in Illinois’ small driftless area, the Apple River, that stays pretty cold. The trout tend to survive here and I’ve caught them in the late fall, long after all they’re lake bound siblings have died off.

A couple of years ago I took all of the info I’ve outlined above and sent it off to a couple of IDNR fisheries biologists I know. After all that info there was a simple question, is there any chance of stocking trout in this one creek.

I got a simple one word answer.

No.

I’ve noticed that in March, April and May when the creek is much colder than all the other creeks and rivers in the area, the creek chubs become extremely active.

They are next to impossible to keep off a hook. And they fight hard. I also noticed over the years that they are sitting in water that perfectly fits the description of where trout anglers are catching early trout. There diet is also exactly like that of trout. During the spawn, the males will take on a bright orange color.

Which is why I call them Illinois Creek Chub Trout.

Granted, trout are much prettier, but in Illinois, you take what you can get.

What I’ve read of trout anglers, they are perfectly content combing small streams for small trout. I’ve seen hundreds of pictures of anglers proudly holding colorful little trout that barely fill their hand. The commentary that goes with the pictures generally say that they had a good day trout fishing. Maybe they’ll mention a bonus big trout that was pushing the 12 inch mark.

Illinois Creek Chub Trout are supposed to average 4 to 8 inches long. But the ones I’ve been catching have all been in the 10 to 12 inch range. From what I’ve read, trout anglers would kill to have days where they can consistently tie into 10 to 12 inch trout.

Based on all of this, I’ve decided to change the focus of my fishing guide service. I’m going to become probably the only river and creek river wading fishing guide that targets the Illinois Creek Chub Trout. Besides this creek, I know of two other creeks in the area that consistently produce these hawg Illinois Creek Chub Trout. For the real pigs, I’ll take guys out to the Apple River where the trophy Illinois Creek Chub Trout live.

Of course I’ll have to warn them about the by-catch, those pain in the ass smallmouth bass beasts that can run up to 18 inches.

If they’re lucky, I’ll show them one of my favorite by-catch catching methods.

Take a 9 foot, 5 weight fly rod with the appropriately balanced reel, line, leader and tippet.
Catch an Illinois Creek Chub Trout.
Swap out the hook for a wide gap 3/0 Gamakatsu hook.
Hook the Illinois Creek Chub Trout through the tail.
Put a 1/16th ounce piece of split shot on the line about a foot from the hook.
Roll cast this baby into the deepest, darkest pool in the area.

And hold on tight.

Video showing this technique coming soon.

Didn't have anything to say about this other than I liked the way it looks.