Tag Archives: wading

_IMG2831

Ready To Go

Spent a couple of hours this morning going through all the fishing junk and getting it ready to go.

_IMG2834

Hardest part was finding all of the fly fishing parts. It’s been at least two years since I used any of it and I came up short one fly reel. Was looking forward to putting that one to use since I’ve had it for around 15 years and only used it twice.

It’s in a box somewhere. Or a drawer. Or it’s now a cat toy and in a dark corner of the basement somewhere. It will probably show up the next time I move.

Oiled up the spinning reels and immediately put the heavier one away. Didn’t use it at all last year and unless I destroy the lighter one, I don’t see using it this year. I prefer fishing relatively light using light line and small lures. It’s always worked for me, see no reason to attempt anything else.

I do have quite a few flies.

_IMG2846

Notice the pattern in the next shot? Go crayfish or minnows for smallies or go home.

_IMG2847

Some just stashed in your typical Plano boxes and that took a bit of sorting. I think I came up with the beginning of a lovely selection.

_IMG2842

Yes, I plan on tying on those plastics and using them. Not much of a stickler for tradition or getting any real satisfaction out of catching a fish on something I tied. I’d just as soon buy them.

Like the helgies, from Orvis, they’re killer.

Some of them I think are hand me downs from my friend Bob Long, Jr.

_IMG2840

Others seem to appear out of nowhere. I know guys that tie flies. I admire them. They give me a few.

_IMG2844

_IMG2845

For some reason at the end of last year I came up with the idea to use a fly rod this spring. Dumb logic tells me I can do just as well with a fly rod as I do with my spinning gear. Over a decade ago I proved to myself that I can walk into the Fox or Apple River and do as well as I do with light spinning gear and little lures.

I should have never mentioned this idea in public. Now I feel committed.

We’ll see how it goes. The first time I get into one of my usual tight casting situations on a creek I know I’ll give up.

The car is all cleaned out and organized. I put away the wispy wand and two fly rods are in the trunk. Spinning gear in the car. Lures and flies all ready to go. New waders in the trunk waiting to be baptized.

Now I wait.

Did some scouting today. I probably could have got in the river for a couple of hours, but I think I would have been lucky to catch one fish. And that would have been on spinning gear.

I don’t like that time to fish ratio.

One more week if this weather keeps up.

Maybe two.

I’ll know when I go down to the river or to a creek and smell fish.

Then it will be time.

smile for the camera

Year in Review

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a year in review.

Years ago I ran a fishing guide service out on the Fox River and keeping excruciatingly detailed records, then summarizing them at the end of the year, was pretty much mandatory.

Have to prove your worth.

Now, record keeping is at best sporadic. Probably still better than most, but not like it used to be. If you ever played sports as a kid, keeping stats in your head for whatever game you played was easy. Granted, there was always that game where a brawl ensued because of conflicting stat keeping, but this is just fishing. I still get questioned, criticized is a better word, for the stat keeping in my head, but I have a pretty standard response for that.

Yeah, well, whatever. It’s just fishing.

In the last three years we had near record drought, near record flooding and last winter was one of the coldest on record. Of those three, I’d have to say that the cold had the biggest impact on the fishing. Fish can adjust to high and low water, but freeze everything over and eliminate the oxygen and the fish tend to suffer.

I think that’s what happened and why this was one of the worst years of fishing I’ve had since I started fishing the Fox River in 1996.

I only fish for smallmouth bass, I consider everything else bycatch. Some are entertaining to catch like the gills, crappie, white bass and even creek chubs. The rest are just kind of annoying with carp topping that list.

This year I probably got out fishing 75 times. The wife says more, but I no longer fish the colder months of the year, so I’m not sure. She might be right, but 75 still sounds like a good number to me.

The bulk of the fishing this year was on the Fox River and five of its creeks. I made one trip about 60 miles west to Franklin Creek. Tough access, beautiful surroundings and decent fishing for the second half of July on a creek. I would imagine May could be much better, fishing wise.

I also fish alone. I got out once with a friend in 2014. I tend to go fishing on a whim. If I don’t feel like it, I don’t go. If I decide to turn left at the river rather than the right I had originally planned, then I turn left. If the morning sucks, I go in the afternoon. Hard to make decisions on a whim when plans are made, so I avoid plans. You’ll see the end result of this solitary fishing in the pictures below. No hero shots with fish, no grinning fish holders, no monster bronze bombers, no pictures of me at all. Now and then I’ll do an arms length shot of a fish or a close up, but that’s pretty much it. The rest is just stuff I come across that interested me at the time.

I do a lot of short fishing trips now. An hour or two and at most I’ll go for five hours. Years ago I’d go over a 100 times a year with the average trip being five hours.

Things change.

This year I know I caught at least 400 smallmouth bass, that’s about when I quit paying attention. I know I caught more, but I also know it didn’t get close to the 500 mark. With that ability to keep stats in my head, I also know I had at least another 200 smallies on that I got to see, but they were smart enough to spit the hook before I got to touch them. I quit paying attention to those stats when I hit the 200 mark.

Then there’s that small percentage of bycatch. At least I’m saying it’s a small percentage because I really don’t know. A bunch of other fish might be a good way to say it.

So yes, I know some would argue, but this was a bad year. A bad year in the past was a little over 500 smallies caught in about the same time frame.

I’m blaming the winter we had.

In the past when I did a year in review this is where I would go on and on with theories, strategies, equipment and lures used, but those days are over and so is my interest in elaborating.

So far this winter has been relatively normal. That’s a good thing. If normal continues, by mid March the fish will start moving.

Patience is not a virtue I have, but mid March is only 10 weeks away.

Tick, tock, tick, tockā€¦

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

Lost up the Creeks

Since the last week of March I’ve been spending the bulk of my fishing time getting lost up the creeks that feed the Fox River.

I don’t keep detailed fishing records like I did over a decade ago. For the past few years I barely wrote any totals down at all. This year, since I’m trying to send Dale Bowman a fishing report every week, I’ve been putting most of my results up on Facebook. On my personal page I only have 45 friends, I eliminated about 100 others over the past year. Of those 45 only six fish. Of those six, maybe two will get out to the places I fish, but even that I doubt. I already know nobody reads anything I send to Dale, tested that over the past year.

So, all that wonderful information being read by maybe 10 fishermen total did exactly what I planned.

I run into virtually no one out there and it’s extremely rare that I see another set of foot prints where I go.

Best I can tell is that I started fishing this year toward the end of March and have got out on average three times a week. Lately 4, sometimes 5, but we’ll stick with a 3 average. That makes approximately 33 fishing trips which I know is on the low side.

I didn’t bother writing some of it down, but I know I’ve been on the Fox a half dozen times and the rest have all been spread across 5 different creeks. The totals so far this year show 273 fish caught, 98 percent of those are all smallies. I hooked but blew the landing on another 198.

Those numbers do show that I suck at setting the hook.

Treble hooks on some hard lure would probably fix that, but they destroy the mouths on fish and I don’t think I’ve used treble hooks in well over a dozen years because of that. Single hooks on a jig is all I ever use. I catch smallies all the time that have severely damaged mouths from treble hooks. It’s very apparent that the average angler pretty much sucks at extracting treble hooks from the mouth of a fish. One of the other things I don’t like about them is how a smallie will take the front hook, thrash around and get a back hook jammed into it’s gill plate. You’ll see the result of that in the pictures below.

Impressive numbers overall perhaps until I compare it to previous years, at least what my memory allows. This has been the slowest spring of the past three. I did much better the last few years. Last year alone in this same time frame I hit the same amount of water. I only bothered counting the fish caught on one creek and the rest I didn’t bother with, but I remember doing well.

On the one creek alone that I tracked my caught/miss ratio last year, by now I had stopped counting at 300 caught and another 200 that I blew the hook set on.

That was on one creek.

So, what’s this mean? Brutal winter, delayed spring, less than usual rain keeping the fish from running up the creek. I know nowhere near as many carp and suckers came up the creeks, they never materialized like years past. Who knows, rivers and creeks are too hard to judge. Moving water will screw up theories quickly.

I guess I’ve had a good start to the year and should shut up and be happy with what I’ve caught so far, but the half of my brain that is always asking questions is badgering me for answers as to why. Why are things different this year?

No wonder I don’t sleep much.

I recently went through all the photos I’ve taken since the end of March. I haven’t felt much like dealing with them so far. The ones I liked are all below.

Unless I get distracted by fishing, watching the garden grow or sitting and staring off into space, maybe I’ll put another post up in July.

Based on the lip damage this smallie had, I’m certain the gill damage was done by some kind of stick bait with multiple treble hooks.

I thought there were five.

Two weeks later, over a quarter of a mile inland, same fish.

Why there are never any shore fishermen around here.

A gratuitous wild asparagus hunting shot.

This spot on this creek has changed dramatically over the past dozen years. This used to be a braided shallow set of riffles.

I missed the more impressive flower show that goes on here.

Church of the Holy Fish

It was mating with a much bigger one, but the big one got camera shy.

The hike through the woods to fishing spots are always hard, but sometimes I get a bit of a break.

One of the few trips to the Fox was met by a massive bug hatch.

I only find them on the edge of the water lines. Makes me wonder if the bulbs are washing out of yards further upstream.

My Little Dickie is insisting on getting aired out more often this year.

IMG_1278

A Walk in the River

A walk in the river is all I expected. After a few weeks of casting practice in sterile creeks I gave up and hit the Fox River. Levels were abnormally low for spring, perfect wading conditions instead of nearing flood stage.

As I stepped into the river I parted a massive school of bait fish. This told me where to cast when I got around to it. On the opposite side of the river the gravel bars on the upstream side of the islands glowed white. Can’t recall ever seeing that before.

With the winter we had I hear a massive amount of salt was dumped on roads. Along the river it eventually has to wind up in the river. Up close, it sure looked like salt crust. And yes, the next two shots are in color.

I’m used to seeing water lines on rocks with the rock beneath the line a lighter color from being washed by the river. But I’ve never seen this.

If it is salt deposits, I wonder if it will have any affect on the fish. Two fish caught and three fish missed later, I would have to say no so far. They were all hanging around the rocks along with a bunch of jumping carp. Where there’s carp there’s smallies. Maybe they like salt.

Paired up geese were everywhere. The smart ones were already nesting on the islands. Smart move. Fewer ground dwelling predators.

The ones nesting on shore are already regretting that decision.

A mini waterfall was explored. No matter how dry it gets, this always has flowing water. I’ve known of it for 15 years now. I have never looked for it’s source.

The walk was made that much more brutal by the constant rush of wind. I heard later it was over 20 mph with gusts up to 40.

But it’s not so bad inside a duck blind, blocking the wind and a long bench to stretch a back on.

IMG_0899

Last Fishing Trip of the Year

Got out Sunday morning for what will probably be my last fishing trip of the year.

Well, maybe, but all indications are that it will be my last.

The first indication was the night before. I’m still down my car and I didn’t bother loading up the wife’s car with my fishing gear. Very unlike me when I know I’m going to go out fishing. I must have still been thinking about it.

Sunday morning I open an eye, reach over to the clock on the night stand and turn it around toward me, 5:42. I turned it’s hideously glowing red numbers away from me.

What seemed like a few minutes later the wife stirs and gets out of bed.

What the hell ya doin’?

“I gotta pee like a race horse, I’m surprised you’re not out fishing.”

I’m thinkin’ about it.

I reach out and turn the clock toward me, 6:45. I’m obviously sleeping like shit. Maybe I should go fishing.

Somewhere between 2000 and 2005 I fished the Fox River every month of the year determined to catch a smallie each month for as long as possible. Eight months out of the year that’s an easy task. Come January, not so much. One January I almost got skunked, but managed to catch one on the very last day of the month. After four and a half years of doing this, I gave up. I had made my point and proven I could do it, no point beating a dead horse.

I got out of bed and got the coffee going. I could tell by how I was moving that I didn’t care about getting out one way or the other. I knew it was around 26 degrees out there, but it had been in the 50’s on Saturday and it was going to be in the 50’s again today. Maybe there was a creature a stirrin’ out there.

But I was still dawdling.

By the time I got the car loaded up, out to the fishing spot, suited up and in the water it was 8 AM. That all took about 45 minutes longer than it usually did. The picture at the top shows what I was up against. The river was already getting it’s winter level and clarity and it wouldn’t be long before that sun was on the water and the fishing would go to hell in a handbasket.

In a short time I did manage to catch five smallies.

I also foul hooked a couple of carp and one shad. The rolling of lure over carp was endless. In with the countless carp I got two hard, powerful hits and brief fights with heavy fish, but landing them never worked out.

On my way down the river channel three deer on the opposite island decided I was a spectator sport and stood and watched for awhile. I never did find out if the deer on the islands can be hunted. A brother-in-law wants to give this a try too. What makes it so intriguing is that these deer must never see humans come out to their little homes. When I was done fishing for the day I cut across the island and walked right up on the three deer. Every time I do this on every island I cross, the deer just stand there and watch me. I couldn’t get a good shot of the deer, the brush was too thick and the camera wouldn’t focus, but they let me walk within 50 feet of them before they decided to turn and walk away. They don’t even bother running.

Back at home I spent some time winterizing the house. By 1:30 I was done. Sitting down for a few minutes didn’t work. I could feel that flushed feeling coming over me. Crap sleep, cold air, a long walk in cold water apparently wore me out.

It was take a nap or go for a walk.

I opted for the walk.

Came across this little guy, barely six inches long, sitting in the middle of the trail.

He had a little cut in one side, probably from one of the other many hikers using the trail that thought he was just a stick. He was very happy to be relocated to the leaves and quickly disappeared beneath them.