A few years ago I went to a creek to fish about this time in April. I stood on a spit of land created by the creek flowing by to my right and a washout created by an eddy that spun slowly like a plugged toilet directly in front of me.
By the time the bite died, I had caught 17 white bass, a half dozen nice crappie and my feet and legs were numb from not moving for a half hour. I wandered down stream about 150 feet, got the feeling back below my waist and started casting again. By the time the bite died and my feet and legs were numb again, the total for an hour and a half of fishing were 35 white bass, the half dozen crappie and a 16 inch smallie.
I had been fishing this creek off and on for a number of years and this was the first time the fishing had been this good. It was also the last time it happened. A year later I went back and struggled to catch a half dozen white bass. There was one other angler fishing. We struck up the usual conversation. I told him my story. Apparently I missed that exact same scenario by 3 days. He had been coming back every day to see how the creek was reacting. Each day fewer fish. Apparently I’m not the only one a bit OCD about fishing.
I decided to give the creek a try again a few days ago. This spring, things seem delayed a bit. Not many wild flowers covering the forest floor. Not many flowers at all and even the green things are taking their time getting greener.
The creek showed no signs of life. No baitfish cruising the shallows. No carp and suckers migrating up stream. Not a single tap to be had in an hour of casting. Fishing is when you catch fish. I was practicing casting. The whole experience was so mundane, except for some vague thing I might have learned, I didn’t even bother taking any pictures. I remember turning on and raising my camera. Apparently the view in the screen was totally uninteresting and the button never pressed.
Off to another creek.
This is the one where I’ve been going 9 miles inland. It was in excellent shape, but the hike along its shore to the fishing hole revealed that what bait fish had been there a week or so ago had all disappeared. Not a good sign.
Since it was a beautiful day, quiet and I was in no hurry, I picked apart the hole with a few things I knew would get ignored. The fish cooperated in ignoring what I threw. There was nothing under the surface moving.
A couple of wood ducks raced through the trees hanging out over the creek. They make an odd screeching noise as they fly. I assumed they weren’t happy to see me. I decided to head down stream and hit another slow moving pool. The wood ducks swung low over my head, screeching. Not happy with me at all, or so I thought, till the eagle jumped up out of the tree over my head.
I didn’t think I was that intimidating to a couple of ducks.
One deeper set of riffles started producing the tell-tale taps of creek chubs. One hit hard and leapt. A foot long flash of red-orange came flying out of the water. Illinois trout, that’s the best we can do.
The next pool was in ideal shape. Clarity was good, good looking banks, a couple of boulders just down stream and not a single tap, nothing. The water was cold. Colder than I remember from the following week. I’ll blame the cold water.
Along the shore was an old rotting log. For all the high water and floods that have come through here over the years, this old log refuses to move. There was more green things growing on the old log than in big parts of the woods.
Off into the woods I wandered to check out remnants of old farm land. In a few weeks the growth will be too dense to see anything. Walking will be a trick. Came across more sculptural pieces, this time man made and getting slowly ravaged by time.
When I studied and made art in my other life, this degradation of materials was planned into the look of the object years down the line. Degradation became part of the art process. One of the topics of conversation back then was whether or not art like this should ever be restored, or should it be left to simply disappear over time. Some times, a long time.
On the way back, I stopped at the pool where I started. Had still another different thing tied onto the end of my line. A perfect pin point cast into a narrow strip between shore and a big deadfall lying in the water. A tug on the line thought to be an under water branch, until the branch moved off to the right, rolled near the surface and spit out the lure. It was one of the bigger fish that lives here. Figures I would miss my only chance when mistaking a hit for a snagged branch.
There was one more pool I considered going to fish, but it meant crashing through the woods for a good half mile. The sun was below the tree tops and just above land. That told me I had enough time to get there and fish, but I would be walking through the woods in the dark to get back to the car. Considering the punji sticks of beaver chewed saplings lining the creek, tripping and falling on one of these in the dark seemed likely and not very appealing.
I convinced myself that next time would be better. Unless better had already happened 3 days ago. I tried not to think about that as I headed back to my car.