Fox River Deadfall
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December 30, 2010

Fox River Fishing Report: Wade fished solo at the Fox River mid-afternoon 'till dark. Fished an olive and white float-n-fly at a single eddy. Varied the depth between 16" and 22". Ended up catching three fish: a 15" white bass, a 14.25" smallmouth bass, and a quillback that I didn't measure, but guess it was around 18". Fishing was slow and took a lot of patience. I'll bet I drifted through the eddy four to five dozen times. Was really happy to squeak out a smallmouth bass this trip.

The birds and waterfowl were active as ever. I brought my 55-200 mm zoom lens in hopes of getting some decent shots. It was such a gray afternoon. Saw lots of cool stuff but most were either too far away and/or flying too fast. Spotted my belted kingfisher buddy perched at one of its favorite spots. Saw carp tailing in the shallows and even slurping the surface in a few spots. Some small gnats flying around. Off the water in light drizzle and 43 degrees. I'll take the short reprieve from winter's grasp.

The second to the last pic is bald eagle that has not grown it's adult plumage yet. It's amazing to see an eagle approaching after seeing ducks and geese most of the afternoon. Looks like a flying person coming downriver it's so massive! This one was close to perching on a large tree that was nearby but when it spotted me raising my camera it flew higher and kept going.

The river was amazingly open in most areas. Some ice attached to shore and covering eddies but lots breaking free during the mild temps and washing downriver. I played it safe and stayed near shore -- keeping aware of what was coming downstream at all times. Some of the ice chunks are so large I imagine they could knock you down if you're caught off guard. USGS 11.42' / 933 CFS and rising. Wishing everyone a safe, happy, healthy, and prosperous 2011!

Fox River carp Fox River carp Hawk soaring over the Fox River Belted kingfisher along the Fox River Fox River white bass Fox River white bass Fox River ice flow Fox River clam Fox River in winter Juvenile bald eagle soaring over the Fox River Fox River smallmouth bass caught on the float-n-fly

Creek Chub Pikie
December 19, 2010

River Fishing Report: Wade fished in the afternoon with my friend Jonn Graham. We were dressed for the cold weather and probably looked like a couple of steelhead anglers out stalking the river. Our quarry was river bronze and despite an 18 degree air temp (and most of our eddies frozen over) we caught some fish. It was a fun afternoon chatting and fishing. We capped it off with lunch at a nearby restaurant to recount the day's adventures. Fish catching aside, found a frozen tadpole, worked the float-n-fly around river ice, saw hundreds of Canada geese, and were visited by some very curious muskrats. Always a pleasure hooking up with Jonn and chasing smallmouth bass.

Frozen tadpole Float-n-fly near ice Canada geese huddled along a frozen river Jonn Graham with a wintertime smallmouth bass Jonn Graham stalking the cold water Flock of geese Jonn Graham with a wintertime smallmouth bass Muskrat DuPage River smallmouth bass DuPage River smallmouth bass DuPage River smallmouth bass

Creek Chub Pikie
December 16, 2010

Fox River Fishing Report: Wade-fished solo mid afternoon for a few hours. Beautiful day to be out. Air temp 24.9°F with winds WNW at 3mph. Light snow falling. Waterfowl busy as ever. Lots of ducks and geese, great blue herons, hawks, and of course, the resident belted kingfisher occasionally dropping from its low-hanging perch to dive-bomb an unlucky fish.

Tossed the float-n-fly and worked it around 22" beneath the surface in a slow, deep eddy. Got bit about fifteen minutes into it. Turned out to be a nice-sized white bass. First one I've caught on the float-n-fly. Glad to have some action! Lots of activity in the eddy as my float kept going sideways or swirling as rough fish brushed the hair jig. Set a bit more shallow, around 16" beneath the float. Caught two common carp on the fly, each gave a welcome tussle. No smallies this outing but glad to get out and feel a few tugs on the line.

Gone are the days of easily fishing my go-to eddy with the float-n-fly. It's totally iced over. Ice from shore to about 25 feet out and growing. Could probably auger it and ice fish it (kidding). Fox River is starting to slush and with the cold snap, areas that are slow, deep, AND ice-free are getting harder and harder to come by. USGS 11.33' / 790 CFS

Fox River white bass Fox River white bass Fox River winter panoramic Fox River float-n-fly Field & Stream backpack Fox River carp Team Daiwa Zillion Fox River carp Fox River eddy

Creek Chub Pikie
December 11, 2010

River Fishing Report: I took off mid-morning and drove to another one of our small local rivers. The fog was still evident as the countryside had an eerie haze with around 1/2-mile visibility. Mist covered my windshield and turned to light drizzle just as I reached the river. I waded solo and setup near a slow, deep eddy. As I began to ready my tripod, I completely snapped the top of it off, rendering it useless. It has lasted me a good ten years. I was a bit frustrated by the mishap, but as the drizzle increased in intensity throughout the day, I kept my camera tucked safely away in a ZipLoc bag within my backpack. Just as well. I had a baseball hat on and my hood up. I was warm overall but as the day wore on, my gloves became wet from the drizzle. I went one for five bites on the float-n-fly, landing a chunky 14" smallmouth that I determined wasn't worth the fuss of trying to photograph in the rain.

It's surprising to miss so many bites on the float-n-fly. One for five is pretty pathetic. But it tells me that I'm in the right spot. I switched to a hula grub on a slider head and worked slow along the bottom through the hole. Bites were hard to determine, as I didn't really feel the 'peck' of the fish grabbing the bait, just that there was something causing light resistance. I ended up catching eight smallies on the grub, with a few in the 14"-15.5" range.

Around 2:30 PM I realized how hard it was raining and how cold I was getting. I was pretty soaked and called it a day. My inner jackets were dry but my gloves, hat and outer jacket were fairly saturated. It would have been quite a show if all that rain had been snow!

Creek Chub Pikie
December 10, 2010

Fox River Hike: Since the air temperature was above freezing and the sky was sunny, I stopped by the Fox River to checkout conditions. I hiked for about an hour total. The river is very clear and I was surprised that for as cold as it has been over the past few weeks that there wasn't a lot more ice along the banks. The slow deep pool that I had in mind to fish with the float-n-fly was partially iced-over. I gently broke the soft ice near shore with my boot until I had loosened then entire sheet that was covering the hole. I used a large forked branch to give the ice a push and send it out into the current.

As the large one-inch thick sheet moved away from shore, a cornucopia of rough fish were revealed. There were common carp, quillback, and suckers of all sizes. Some drifted along in the shade of the ice, and some grouped up and settled in the sunlight on the bottom of the now exposed hole. The ice sheet spun in the current and drifted downstream toward some shallow riffles with heavy chunk rock and got completely obliterated. That left me to watch the remaining fish in the clear water and try to coax a bite on the float-n-fly with. No bites and no visual evidence of any smallmouth bass. But that doesn't mean they weren't around. They can be extremely hard to see along the bottom and among the rough fish. Even though fishing was a bust, it was an invigorating hike.

The squawking Canada geese seemed almost deafening at times. There were gulls among them and I even saw a bald eagle surveying the entire scene from the tip of a tall tree. All in all, it was a nice walk along the river. USGS 11.23' / 645 CFS, although an accurate reading is difficult due to ice on the gage.

Columbia Bugabootoo Fox River riffles Jonn Graham hand-tied hair jig from Warrior Jigs Team Daiwa Zillion Type R baitcasting reel Mourning dove twig next covered in snow Fox River island with ice and Canada geese Fox River with ice islands and Canada geese Fox River in winter Fox River in winter Canada geese Boot track in the snow G Loomis with float-n-fly attached My long shadow along the Fox River in winter

Creek Chub Pikie
December 2, 2010

Fox River Fishing Report: Another giant Fox River smallmouth bass on the float-n-fly! Wade fished solo for a few hours. Very quiet outing. Overcast skies, no wind, air temp at 30.2°. Not a whole lot of wildlife activity. Saw a HUGE red-tail hawk and two great-blue herons. Other than that, a few finches and black-capped chickadees. Didn't encounter any squirrels, rabbits, or deer out today. I waded my way to a waist-deep eddy and worked the float-n-fly about 24" deep. Got bit about twenty minutes into it. Was surprised how hard the fish fought. I know I shouldn't be -- it was a smallmouth -- but by nature you expect them to go sluggish in the cold water. They really don't. Taped it at 15", took a quick photo, and released the fish.

After ten more minutes or so, the fly snagged on a rock. I waded in and retrieved it, stirring up the hole. I waded to my second area and could see there was skim ice along shore. As I got closer I was disappointed to see the ice was actually from shore to about 12-15' out into the eddy. That really limited where I could stealthily wade to and meant I would have to stay a bit deeper (and get colder). Quillback occasionally surfaced near the edges of the skim ice. Any time I notice rough fish activity I take it as a good sign. The smallies are typically nearby. After working the float-n-fly through every direction within easy reach, I waded towards where the quillback kept surfacing. I cast over near the ice edge and just as the fly settled the float disappeared. I set the hook but there was nothing there. I chalked it up to the fly getting brushed by a rough fish. I worked the area for about five minutes and cast towards the ice edge again. A few jiggles and float down! I set the hook solidly into a nice fish. I could feel the weight of it and saw the water boil from its initial run. It headed toward deeper water and I could feel it head-shaking along the bottom. I honestly thought it was probably a decent-sized carp but there was part of me that was wishing to see a big bronzeback on the end of the line. There was. I had hit pay-dirt once again! I turned the fish towards shore and walked it into the shallows. It tried to make a run right between my legs but after a few anxious moments I was able to lip it. All the thrashing had worked the fly loose and it was barely skin-hooked on the inside of the fish's mouth. This was a very close call and the difference between capturing a nice photo and leaving with the story of the big on that got away.

My tripod and camera were setup and ready to go near shore but I had to hold the fish in the water and one-handedly search my jacket pockets for my wireless remote. Luckily it was in the chest zip of my inside jacket. A few pics and a quick measure and I watched the bronze beauty slide through the cold water back to its winter hangout. This one didn't have the girth of my last hawg, but once again it was about as close to 20" as possible without hitting the 20" mark. It was more than 19-7/8", more like 19-15/16". Let's just call it a hair under twenty!

The rest of the outing was fairly uneventful. I caught one more fish on the float-n-fly, my first common river carp of the coldwater season. Hooked right in the mouth! I waded back and packed up my gear. As I started the drive home I thought about the luck with the fish. It's a bit euphoric every time I manage a few smallies in the cold water. It just doesn't seem right to be able to catch them in such cold weather. It's almost a feeling of cheating Mother Nature, like having your cake and eating it too. It's a neat feeling, and you don't necessarily have to catch big ones to get it! USGS 11.40' / 900 CFS

Fox River smallmouth bass on the float-n-fly

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