Saturday, December 29, 2012

home is where the... crappie are?

I lived here going on a decade and with the abundance of waters surrounding my home there is always somewhere new to pioneer. This is Lake County Illinois after all, and home to the Fox Chain of Lakes. It makes it sometimes so easy to bypass some of those small waters right outside your front door.

My neighborhood, just like many others, is speckled with many flood bearing retention ponds. Most of them are tiny but a couple have both the size and depth to support some healthy populations of fish. I've always known that some of the local kids and adults alike have had success with some pretty nice largemouth here. What I never knew that there was such a robust population of crappies. Even more surprising is that those ponds I thought to have no more then a maximum depth of 5 feet were actually closer to 10. Hmm?

This morning I snuck out for 30 mins to test the waters. Two holes were drilled in the basin area of this little pond. The reality is I couldn't get the bait down half way before a flash mob of fish were rising up after it. Half a dozen crappies and nearly a dozen gills came through the ice before deciding to call it quits. Not bad for a short morning. Since there is a solid 3 inches and growing, I plan on taking my son back out here in the next day or so. It will be good to get him on some fish and give some of these larger bodies of water a little extra time to solidify.

ice fishing my subdivision ponds
Sometimes its easy to overlook somethings so obvious.
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Thursday, December 27, 2012

bass through glass

Early ice over a clear northern Illinois lake is almost like looking through a window into the fishes world. A few more inches of thickness and these images will slowly fade to a muted grey. But for now, they offer an almost fish tank perspective into our quarries underwater world. Marked very few today but every one that did come up off bottom ultimately hit. All the ice we found today was in the 1.5 to 2.5 inch range. I'm gonna give it another cold night or two before I try again. Ice isn't being produced at any great rate but at least I got that initial trip in and a few slime-backs on the board.

the fish fighting under the ice
a nice largemouth through the ice
Everyone respect the ice and travel with soft feet. Good luck on the hardwater. Maybe if I get a bit froggy I'll try and punch a hole or two early one morning but my next trip most likely will be an afternoon evening crappie bite.

a wonderful  mixed bag

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

honey, i think the ice machine is broken?

After a lackluster 2011-2012 ice season last year, many hardwater enthusiasts have been left anticipating this season more then others of the past. The unseasonably warm winter last year, wreaked havoc on developing any significant amounts of ice for any significant amount of time. Just when you would think that the ice was solid a new warm front would push through and take it away faster then it had come. This scenario replayed enough times to actually make me ill when thinking about it. Thank God for the Green bay trip we took to fish whites, that trip salvaged the entire season.

The 2012-2013 had started in almost the exact same fashion. An unseasonably warm early December plagued local ice addicts again, and the feeling of deja vu was in the back of the minds of many. Well, I'm ecstatic to report that the cold weather is here and looks like it is sticking around for a little. Local lakes really have just capped over for the first time and some of the ponds have up to 1.5 inches on them, at least in my area. While I won't test the local lakes for thickness just yet, I drove past Fox Lake this morning just to see how it looked. The entire lake was capped and the only thing open was the current area right under the Route 12 bridge. A few more days of this weather and I'll venture out a tad further to get some idea of thickness.

a nice cap on fox chain of lakes
Ice anglers, please exercise extreme caution this year when venturing out on early ice. It's hard to forget the angler who lost his life last year on Pistakee Lake, one of my favorite early season haunts. Failing to plan is planning to fail.

Don't forget these tips for early season-
  • Give it until 3 inches solid
  • Fish in a group, save those more remote spots for later season
  • wear creepers
  • bring ice picks
  • pack a length of rope in your sled
  • avoid springs and current areas

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Monday, December 17, 2012

waterfalls of pisgah national forest

looking glass falls

moore cove falls

moore cove falls

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

bunny strip deceiver

   tail- white hackle
bunny strip deceiver
   wing- magnum cut rabbit strips
   body- white bucktail
   throat- red flash cut inside the hook
   thread- black

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Monday, December 10, 2012

Sunday, December 2, 2012

urban angler

Travel sure has a way of getting to me. It likes to grab a hold and shake me around a bit. It tries to persuade  me every time to fall for that simpler life. Caught somewhere between the rat race and suburbia is all I ever known. You don't just walk outside here and find yourself in the middle of some great and magical forest. Mountains are a pipe dream and an hours drive in any direction won't necessarily find you solitude either. Nope, it's Home depots, Targets, and Starbucks as far as the eye can see. Believe me, I know, we go through much more effort then that sometime just to get sufficiently "lost" around here.

What I do know is, we have countless opportunities in our area for catching a good bite. My family is here, my job is here, so what if all the big fish hang around the end of a treatment plant discharge pipe. I enjoy fishing breakwalls, dams, and concrete just fine. For me, I will catch anything that swims for a smile and am perfectly content to go on being an urban angler. Time spent in the backwoods will just be that much more special.

the victory spoils for an urban angler sure are nice
Now for a freaking fishing report-

Fished the Milwaukee down low yesterday. Fish were really spread out and I had to really put in a good hike. Funny how easy it is to catch fish once you get further away from parking then anyone else. Once I got away from everyone the fish seemed way more condensed. It wasn't long till I was into some fish. Both hit came from pink glo-bug eggs.

i almost forget where i am
The Milwaukee River, while it flows though the heart of the city, does a great job of hiding the hustle and bustle. Oddly enough the bad neighborhoods have some of the best fishing on the river...
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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

great smoky mountains national park

I realize that it has been just over two weeks since my last post, and while I find serious discomfort in letting my blog go dormant for any length of time over a week, I was on a much needed vacation. And this wasn't a fishing trip but more of a chance to get the family out and explore a landscape that is quite foreign to us flat-landers. For those who visit this blog just for fishing reports, sorry to disappoint, the next few posts are purely about hiking the Smoky Mountain National Park.

This post is dedicated to just some of the sites we found while traveling 441 that runs through the heart of the park connecting Gatlinburg, Tennessee with Cherokee, North Carolina. From the very first mountain sunrise, I knew we were in for something special.

sunrise over the smoky mountains
On the Tennessee side, 441 hwy follows along the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River. In its upper elevations, it’s everything you could expect from a high gradient mountain stream.

west prong of the little pigeon river
As the river approaches Gatlinburg and beyond it flattens and widens dramatically. On our journey up the mountain, the Little Pigeon provided some excellent scenery.

a lower gradient section of the river
Driving through the park, there are so many countless pull-offs and hiking trails to explore. While this post won’t have enough room to go over every place we set foot, the view from Newfound Gap was one of my favorites.

newfound gap
And to give you just a small taste of the wildlife here, I will leave you with these few shots. Coming down from the mountains on the North Carolina side we had the pleasure to come up on a herd of grazing elk. While they weren't so much bothered by our presence we were able to capture a dozen or so excellent photos before the rangers felt it was best we moved on.

a herd of grazing elk in the national park

the largest bull in the bunch
Stay tuned for some of my favorite shots from Cades Cove and the Pisgah National Forest.
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Sunday, November 11, 2012

trout country usa

Iowa's driftless
Fly fishing for bass and even Great Lakes steelhead browns and salmon are some of my favorite things to do where I live. Though, when one receives minimal doses of small stream trout fishing, injected straight into the vein, it leaves you always waiting for that next fix. There is something delicate and soothing about small stream trout. Trout on the fly should never be about sizes and numbers, for me it is more the cleansing of a dirty soul. From the peace received from the beauty of nature, the colors of the fish, and even the delicateness of the casts, I have found no better. All else pales in comparison and feels often crude, even if for only a second.

Real fisherman are opportunistic feeders. They make due with what's available and exploit it for their own selfish gains. My area that I call home sits just far enough away from any real trout water to make it viable for day trips. Usually requiring an overnighter it turns into more of a destination type fishing game. But, when given the chance to get out an explore my brain and my heart always pulls me back to trout country.

Iowa rainbow trout
Last winter we found ourselves faced with the warmest winter I can remember. Locally, we were lucky if we had even three weeks of safe ice and depending on who you asked, some said we never got even one. While Wisconsin has a closed winter season on trout, Iowa does not. That was inspiration enough to make the five hour trip to Decorah Iowa. Some would argue that Iowa's fisheries for trout come up short compared to what lies just over the boarder into Wisconsin. I never have cared to feed into any of that. On that unseasonably warm winter day I sat upon the highest hill looking down on those glassy, trout filled pools. No matter Iowa or Wisconsin, everything in my life seemed to just makes sense at that moment. Contained in this post are just a few snapshots of that day, special to me like nobody can understand.

Winter trout stream beauty
This weekend, my family vacation to the Smoky Mountains has been booked and we leave next weekend. My hope is that we all find peace in the beauty of nature and come back to reality better because of it. Our cabins in Gatlinburg, Tennessee and Hendersonville, North Carolina both have wireless so I will be sharing a few posts with everyone next week while on the road in Trout Country USA.

Bring on the winter trout!
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Monday, November 5, 2012

nothing special

Like a moth to flame, I’m once again drawn back to the river. Flows are on the way back down and the crowds are starting to finally dwindle but just a bit. Fished a new section of water on the Milwaukee and have nothing exciting to report. A few salmon still running around and zero trout so far. Looking back at last year, I didn't get on the trout until November was in the double digit days anyways. More to come…

a nice new run on the milwaukee
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Monday, October 29, 2012

now i remember...

Fighting the crowds and peoples blatant disregard for regulations are certainly taxing on one's soul if you have even an ounce of a conservation mentality. But, people are people no matter where you go and one's drive to sustain the most basic of primal needs is ever present. Yes, we all need to eat and some can pallet salmon the consistency of mash potatoes better then others. I think I'll pass. You animals can go on being animals "raking the gravel" for last years spoiled left overs.

a nice fast water chute on the milwaukee
When looking at your stringer full of white and smushy, half rotten, stew meat I smile.

I turn to you and say, "what's the hot color today?"

I say it with such a straight face that even you have to think about that question for an uncomfortable few seconds.

All of a sudden it just falls out of you mouth with no real purpose other the deflecting the awkwardness "rhedd".

We nod, I turn and smile, and we head our separate ways.

Despite my rant, I have rekindled my own flames this past weekend. It's been too long since I felt the shaking throb of a large lake run trout on the end of my line. I didn't even fish the spring run this year due to the utter lack of rain and waiting 12 months is far too long to go without. I'll spare you the "fish that I almost caught story" because we have all been there before. What I will say is that I will no longer again try to beach a trout. And, I will never again enter the water without my net.

fewer and fewer fresh kings to be had
For my report, I will say the deeper fast water is holding fish. A single egg with two or three #9 clam shots depending on depth and speed produced many bites. Two fresh kings and one near trout all fell for the imitation when drifted mended to match the current. Cold water fish weren't the only things munching on eggs and, as a first, I caught 2 nice smallies behind some kings on an egg. I'm sure its not so rare but its still a first for me. I also hooked up with a few other fish that I never did get to see.

even the smallies are in the deep water sippin on eggs
I'm very optimistic for the weeks to come and my confidence is skyrocketing. Yes, now I remember what steelheading is all about. With great disappointments come great rewards. Hope all who visit this site and fish the tribs make the choice to take the high road.
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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

fall bites, illinois bowfins

Fall is typically the time associated with fish putting on the feed bag to store up as much protein before the on set of the winter. While never specifically targeting the Illinois bowfin or even stumbling across one accidentally on my own, my buddy Shawn has been on a pretty reliable bowfin bite.

Soaking some very large live bite just before dark on his local lake has produced some very nice fish and a handful of smalls. We spoke of some of the recent catches and I could tell that he found instant respect for the tremendous power of these fish. Shawn, thanks for the stories and for the photo shares.

For more Illinois bowfin information, be sure to brush up with a few of these links.

Bowfin Are Bad Fish? Please!

Chicago Fishing: Bowfin or Snakehead

Upping The Ante

Why I'm Done Fishing For Anything Else

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

small water and big kings

small water
As I write this, the smaller tribs have already crested and dropped back down to low flow status. But, they provided a short window of some good fishing for some surprisingly fresh and spry king salmon this past weekend. There is an absence of coho in the smaller rivers thus far but this could be due to the fact the first wave of kings have just arrived here. 

female half spawned out
This coming weekend I plan on hitting one of the larger flows to see if the cohos have arrived. The bigger rivers have held salmon longer and in better numbers, there could be the potential for some fish other then just chinooks to be making an appearance. With the weather channel calling for another half inch of precipitation today and a chance of rain later this week, it's safe to say the flows will be padded enough to carry us through the next few weeks. It may have been a slow start but it’s always worth the wait.

Every year its taken me less and less time to become tired of the king salmon and I'm quickly looking forward to the browns and steelies of the later fall. Maybe I'll drag the boy along to see how he reacts to such a fish. That is sure to make for an interesting day!
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Saturday, October 13, 2012

wake up fly anglers

like blood coursing through the veins
Two solid storm fronts made their way across the southern salmon grounds today in the early hours of the morning. They brought with them the good solid soaking we have been sorely lacking here. Some of the rivers are starting to swell and the fish are responding accordingly. Look for the next two storm fronts moving in tonight to add even more volume to our rivers, and the next couple of days could provide some hot fishing for those who don’t mind getting a tad wet.

salmon head anyone?
 My fish came from the back side of the pool on an estaz egg. A fresh runner full of fight took me up stream fifty yards. Despite the shallow runs this fish ran over dry gravel  and just kept on going. After some mild success today my plans are to sleep in and then go back out and poke around the rivers again tomorrow. For all you other fly anglers who have been patiently waiting, I send you a call to action. The harbor crowd isn't the only ones who now have a shot a Lake Michigan's finest.
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Monday, October 8, 2012

another dam monday

another dam monday
Another Monday morning in the books. I'm certainly a tad disgruntled to be sitting behind the computer at work while the family is home today getting ready to enjoy the Columbus Day off from school. Even though I'll be missing out on the pumpkin patch, I'm thankful in this economy to have a place to go everyday to make money. It was an enjoyable and productive weekend and I have another post or two to go up this week. Happy Monday to all and I hope it's quick and painless.
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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

bright fall skies and salmon eyes

Another dry fall is upon us, is it just me or is this deja vu? Its like some sick and twisted dream I can't wake up from. Plenty of rivers that support lake run fish to choose from but not enough water to push them up the river. I've been fly fishing them for just over 3 years now and the most recent year and a half has been under low flow conditions. I now look back and feel I was a tad bit ungrateful for the ideal conditions I experienced when I was a salmon and steelhead rookie, but I didn't know any better.

a very dry but colorful milwaukee river
Very few fish have made it upriver and the number of anglers fishing them is multiplied by 10 fold. The fishing forecast is dismal for the near future and for any chance of improvement we will need a blessing in the form of some rain. King season is slowly passing us by but some miracle precipitation could just save the coho and trout runs in the later fall and early winter.

salmon eye
 Despite the adverse water flows we were still able to hook up on a few fish this weekend. For even the slightest chance of fish, stay on the downstream sections of river. If we don't see rain soon I might just have to re-think my annual fall trip for this year and fish for something completely outside my comfort zone. This kinda uncertainty is one of the things that will always keep fishing interesting for me. Adapt, adapt, adapt or be passed over.

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Saturday, September 29, 2012

smoke on the water

In the fall, night likes to hang on just a little bit longer and just a little bit colder then the previous night. The cold air combined with the warm water is a sure combination for fog and even some of your most traveled beats can become transformed into someplace new.

a foggy fall morning on the fox river (wisconsin)
Now, I wouldn't actually attest that fog can help fishing. To tell the truth, I don't have any memorable fish stories that I can recall while fishing in the clouds. But, it sure does give some other purpose to fishing other than just catching the fish; to be there when the familiar becomes foreign again.

a fox river smallmouth bass, wisconsin style
 It also doesn't hurt the morning either when the fish bite after the fog burns off!

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

beach fly

Thread- hot orange
Tail- orange hackle fibers
Body- orange floss
Hackle- brown or natural red
Wing- white bucktail

A Les Johnson fly used both in saltwater inshore as well as for Pacific salmon. I have plans for throwing this fly at some of the Great Lakes king salmon.
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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

MN Giant Harvested Opening Weekend Of Archery Season

  The itch and jealousy is defiantly in the air for IL. archers. This past weekend there where a few archery seasons that opened in the surrounding states. Minnesota was one of those states that opened on September 15th. After a long anticipated opening day arrived, MN archer Jeff Iverson was in the right spot at the right time to harvest this monster buck with his bow.
Photo Taken By: Shane Indrebo

   The buck scored 234 5/8" Gross,  227 1/8" Net, and 196" Typical score as a 8 x 7.  This could possibly be the number 2 biggest buck ever harvested in the state of Minnesota. This is certainly a deer of a lifetime, and a big congrats to Jeff Iverson on his 2012 Buck harvest. Opening day in IL. is Monday Oct.1st. I cant wait! Good Luck to all you hunters out there!
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Thursday, September 13, 2012

smallmouth retrospective

down the road i go
Shorter days certainly signify a change in season but it's also a harsh reminder of the empty fly boxes that need filling before fall. Gear needs to be grouped and cycled and standards must be maintaned.

My reflections on my passing smallmouth season this year have been mixed. On the positive, my first year fishing river smallies by fly has been a blast. Spring in the Rhinelander area was super productive and the upper Wisconsin River is certainly world class. Many new miles of river have been scoured and plenty of picture worthy fish have been landed. My confidence in my streamers and ability to land bass on the fly is higher then its ever been. The Fox river in both Illinois and Wisconsin really shined when other rivers barely had a flow. The Fox River also produced some big healthy river smallies.

river smallies
On another hand, I have lacked the ability to see a few of the bigger bites through to the end. Loosing the three best bites in the late summer sucks. For me, the memories of the spit flies, broken leaders, and slipped knots seem to stand out more then the countless fish that have come to hand. The upper reaches of the Milwaukee produced higher numbers of fish but the average sized seemed to suffer. Scenic as all get out, don't get me wrong, but smaller fish indeed.

As the 5wt relinquishes the passenger seat in my car to the beefier 8, I already make mental plans for 2013. New waters, different flies, and a steady diet of palomar knots all season long seem appropriate. For some reason the clinch knot doesn't seem as sturdy with flouro as with some other lines. I want to spend more time on the Kishwaukee and the Fox in hopes to understand them better. Here come the salmon, hold on tight.
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Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Up until yesterday the salmon shore fishing reports have been a tad spotty at best. It does seem like yesterday morning though, quite a few anglers got into some fish and some of the reports are starting to hit the forums. By no means am I a harbor master like a few others I know. In fact, last year was the first time that I landed salmon in the harbors. If you have ever read this blog in the fall you know my comfort zone hasn't expanded much outside of the rivers but this year I have some serious plans to tackle a few fish from the rocks.

I've spent some money on some new cranks and spoons and my equipment is in tip-top shape. Now, its all about investing the time chucking hardware. I hope to have something to report after this weekend...
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Monday, September 3, 2012


The whistler has been a very effective streamer for fooling plenty of smallmouth bass but has been an especially effective fly for catching northern pike.

Thread- Red
Tail- Silver Flash and grizzle hackle
Wing- White Bucktail
Collar- Red Saddle Hackle
Eyes- Beadchain
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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

hidden gems

Illinois does have some real hidden gems. Cold water creeks with deep blue pools do exist here!

This certainly isn’t my spot. More a spot from a friend of a friend. I’m content just being allowed to capture some of it on film, but that’s all your getting from me.

If I ever go back to smallie fishing on spinning gear I’ll have to make a mental note to buy some chigger craws. Damien put on a show worthy of an T.V. advertisement with them.

Stay tuned as we wrap up our warm water wading season and stat to transition to our fall fishing haunts.
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