Monday, July 30, 2012

heading further up river

As I continue to explore the Milwaukee River going further north, my love for this water grows exponentially. Originally last year when I got started hunting smallmouth in this watershed, I was focused on areas just north of the city limits of Milwaukee. Every trip I have taken this year has brought me closer and closer to reaching its headwaters.

working a foam filled pool on the upper Milwaukee River
After exchanging upwards of sixty emails, it was finally nice to meet my new buddy Brian out on the river and to do a little tag team fly fishing. Recent rains have bolstered the flows back up to a moderate level. After such a long and dry summer so far, the fish have responded well to the increased water volume. I will say that the action was fast and constant and the fish were snapping. Catching well over 30 bass in a short morning was a serious confidence boost but our only complaint was the lack of that one big fish we were stalking.

small but average size for the day
As a side note, the pike have been more active recently then I have ever witnessed. Twelve pike in one day as well as a half dozen bite offs make me consider up sizing my leaders (but that probably wont happen). The second part of my day will be up later this week as I ventured even closer to the headwaters of the Milwaukee River.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

apple river smallmouth bass

apple river dragon fly
When people even mention the driftless area, the first thing that comes to mind is the world class trout fishing found throughout Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota. With that being said, the warm water fish of the driftless area sometimes aren’t even considered as an afterthought. But, the locals who pursue the smallies and pike in the driftless area know the potential and are maybe all too happy not to spread the word on this untapped resource.  Spend a few minutes thumbing through one of my new favorite blogs “The Young Man and the Stream” and you will see some seriously awesome driftless trout reports, but also Luke has a knack for sneaking in some total kick ass smallie fishing reports.

apple river canyon state park
Illinois also contains a tiny piece of the driftless area in its far northwest corner. Not as widely talked about or as well know, probably due to the absence of trout, but breathtaking in its own right. Running a stones throw from Galena (a popular tourist destination) flows the Apple River. The vast majority of this watershed is located in Jo Daviess County and eventually the Apple becomes a tributary of the Mississippi just south of the city of Hanford, Illinois. This little river has long time been a favorite of members of the Illinois Smallmouth Alliance and for a good reason. Not only is the some of the most breathtaking scenery in the entire state, but this river is an absolute smallmouth bass factory.

a fishy stretch on the apple river outside galena
The Apple River Canyon State Park is a real gem with nearly 2000 acres for visitors to enjoy camping, fishing, and hunting. Here you can become acquainted with some of the massive limestone cliffs that this area is known for. For anyone who is a resident of Illinois and doesn't do much traveling, this area of the state could look quite alien. Its worth a look for anyone who will be visiting the Galena area but believe me, the Apple river packs enough punch to stand on its own to feet.This should be considered as a top destination for anyone wanting to pursue smallmouth bass in the Prairie State. While a lot of the fish will be on the smallish side, there are some real pigs hidden in its deep blue water pools. The Apple River is also one of the stocking sites where the DNR will plant trout in the spring, but with temps rising well past the 70's in the summer don't expect holdovers.

the smallmouth of the apple river are plentiful
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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

fox river illinois smallmouth

fishing the fox river in Illinois
I remember this boy named Michael from grade school who happened to live in the next sub-divison over. He was never somebody that I was overly friendly with but never a guy who I ever had any trouble with either. To be honest, he was quite the awkward boy. A tad bit more then slightly overweight, with sweaty palms, a noticeable lisp, and a mild odd odor, one couldn’t help feeling bad for the kid. Needless to say, he wasn’t the most popular kid on the block. Quite often he was last on my list of neighborhood kids to hang with after school and it wasn’t until I exhausted the possibilities that Jimmy, Peter, Russell, and Bobby were around that I would finally pick up the phone and dial Michael’s number.

Kids are so superficial, they always want the flashy friends with the newest gear, games or whatever. Really it’s sad because what Michael had was a good natured personality, harmless as a fly, willing to bend over backwards just to have a friend.

One may wonder where exactly I’m heading with this one right now, or exactly how does this relate to fishing the Fox River. Well, for me fishing the Fox River has always been like hanging out with the fat smelly kid down the street. It’s the place or person who doesn’t fit the mold in my brain as ideal, that last resort if you will. The Fox is a tad bit bigger river then I normally like, and it sure has mild odor to say the least. It lacks any sort of clear water and where the hell are the plunge pools that I have grown to love from fishing the rivers and trout streams of Wisconsin.

my boy Matt and his first smallie ever!
Society, television, magazines and the internet are a bitch sometimes. They put these images of what perfect is or should be in your head and sometimes its super hard to look past things that aren’t perfect. The drought of 2012 has basically turned most of the rivers in our area into nothing more then a trickle. Fish are bunched up in deeper water and on these clear water rivers they have been spooky as all get out. So, as I cross out option after option I start to search for some of those last resort places.

Being a larger river with a decent base flow, mostly from treatment discharge, right now there are some excellent spots on the Fox that are producing and in a big way. The reduced visibility here has actually helped the bite in these low water conditions keeping the fish feeling secure and willing to spread out. It doesn’t take a dummy to see that our biggest smallmouth bites this summer have come from the Fox, fishing from Algonquin and south in Illinois and from Burlington and north in Wisconsin. This river has treated us well and has given a big fish opportunity every time out regardless if landed or not.

a nice Fox river smallmouth bass
My point here is, so what if wet wading here kinda creeps me out or if my sneakers smell like death the next day. The Fox River has been kind to me when no others would, so this summer I feel like I've been taken back to my youth and am hanging with Michael.
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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

lake vermilion bass fishing

a nice lake vermilion bass
Lake Vermilion is a 1000 acre reservoir located in Vermilion County. The nearest city is Danville Illinois bordering the lake just to it's east. This lake is an impoundment of the Vermilion river and boasts a healthy population of game fish.

This lake is a quite a popular destination for the tournament anglers from both the Northern and Southern half of the state. Given its central location, this lake is an easy ride from most anywhere in the state.

Thank you Santa for the reports from the tournament trail.

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Monday, July 16, 2012

trout fishing the kickapoo river valley

For his birthday, Neal and his brother along with their significant others spent a weekend kayaking the Kickapoo River in Vernon County Wisconsin. It just so happened that the camp and their cabin sat on a very nice stretch of private river. The pools and riffles here were stuffed with some eager and willing trout.

kickapoo river valley
flyfishing the kickapoo river, right behind camp
2 brothers with duel driftless browns
I'm sure glad you guys had a wonderful trip. Vernon Counties beauty is worth sharing and thanks for the photos.
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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Dialing In On The Kish

  This past Sunday I was able to get out exploring on the Kish again. This time I had the Fly Rod in hand with a Minnow Streamer tied to the end of my tippet. I started off my search this time in the Rockford area.

  First stop was the Espenscheid Memorial Forest Preserve. Upon arrival I quickly scouted out a couple of bends. They looked fishy, but where empty. With the drought going on the river is about 3 feet low. This has certainly driven fish into deeper pools in which there where none on this stretch of river.

 Next stop was Blackhawk Springs Forest Preserve. This was looking way better than stop one right off the bat. This section was loaded with shade and some deeper pools. I headed toward the bridge to start off. I started swinging my minnow streamer along the bridge piers and stripping 2-3 inches at a time. Second retrieve I felt a tug. Fish on! I knew it wasn't a monster, but it felt great bringing him in on the flyrod.

  It was a nice sized smallie that ran about 13inches. Back to swinging I went, and just couldn't seal the deal. I missed 3 more fish over the course of an hour, with one that was 16+ inches. All in all I call this trip a success due to the fact I found some fish, explored a new stretch, and have a nice new smallie spot to frequent. The exploration will continue, and I feel the success rate should climb from here on out.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Top Water Bass Action

  Well, the dog days of summer have certainly come. The extreme heat and lack of rain has defiantly done a number on the finned species we all seek. I have only hit the water a handful of times, and success has been up and down like a roller coaster ride. Hopefully we will soon get the relief that we need.

  Last night I ventured out as the temps have come down a bit compared to last week. I dropped the old Sylvan in the water at about 6:30 P.M. I started off tossing the twister tail that I have had much success on in the past few weeks, but came up empty handed. So I made a quick switch of hardware to one of my favorite top water baits. The Buzz Bait!

  Tied on a quick knot  on to my Black Buzz bait. Started tossing to shorelines and docks where the Largemouth like to roam and feed in the evenings. Second cast in hooked into a nice 16" Bucket mouth.

 Few more casts and I had another explode on the surface chasing my bait. Hook-set and no gas. I missed him or he missed the bait. This seemed to be the case on and off all night. Either way it is a blast to just sit back and watch these finned fish explode on the surface. I ended up catch 2 more fish throughout the night, but they weren't as big as the first one to the boat. The evening ended with a spectacular sunset over the lake.

  Nothing beats the top water action that comes with the dog days of summer.
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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

the drought of 2012

Well no, I haven’t disappeared. With vacation the entire week of the fourth, my priorities have just been other places. That certainly doesn’t mean that I didn’t fish, in fact it’s quite the opposite. I’ve done a good bit of fishing but just haven’t devoted much time to writing about it. With my laptop in for service and summer vacation with the kiddies my focus has just been enjoying every second I could while not being at the office. We’ve been on a steady diet of trips to the pool, evenings at the arcade, movie nights, and yes even a few fishing outings together.

If you haven’t noticed the overbearing heat and complete and utter lack of rain then you must not be from around here. For almost my entire week off, the temps were in the high 90’s and for a 3 day stretch they were well into the 100’s.  Flows on most of my favorite Wisconsin rivers are approaching and have even fallen below 10 year lows. For the most part, in clear water rivers the fish are congregated in the deepest pools but they are especially spooky right now. Given these series of circumstances I felt the best bet was staying off the local rivers and harassing some local green bass and bluegills in some of the small lakes and ponds might be best.

big brother with a nice green bass
My son at the age of 6 is a proficient caster, knows when to set the hook, and is finally 100% self sufficient barring the unforeseen tangle. My daughter on the other hand is 3 and just starting to show an interest in joining us on out fishing trips. I remember 3 years ago when Lucas had just started fishing, the excitement and curiosity he showed for the outdoors was tremendous. I’m a proud daddy because at this moment in time my daughter seems to share that same excitement and curiosity.

Our trio caught a ton of fish on slip bobbers and live bait. Monster bluegills bigger then daddy’s hands came from the private lake as well as the elusive 5 pound cat we tried twice to land but never could get up and out of the weeds. In the public lake we caught tiny gills, a few nice stripped bass, and one largemouth. From the industrial park the big largemouth finally came out to play and was a nice way to cap off a week of fishing with the kids. With all that done and said, I’m most proud of the way that big brother took the time to help little sister through all those lessons he learned just a few short years ago.

holding little sisters first bass ever, what a nice first bass

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