Nov 14, 2011

Mud Butt Print and Huge Racks

The Illinois autumn hasn't started until you see antlers peeking over tailgates. And it turns out certain deer hunters will thank a fisherman who kicks up three deer in an afternoon...albeit sarcastically.

The honey-do list had me reorganizing the storage room this weekend, most likely Saturday. With the cold snap ending in time for the weekend, I cautiously pointed out the Sunday forecast included 40mph wind...a perfect day for interior domestic work. It turned into an easy negotiation and the Sunday fishing plan became Saturday fishing.

October and November in Illinois add a curve ball to planning an outing on water. The duck/goose hunting lobby must be strong because some the best public lakes are closed to fishing and all have additional restrictions for anglers. This is when it pays to have an understanding of public access spots to rivers and creeks. Unfortunately, such spots have the added danger of the deer archery season that opened on October first. If a dude is hard up for some fishing the best he can do is wear bright colors, keep his head down and trust fellow outdoorsmen to look closely before shooting.

I found my fall fishing cap and set out with smallies on the mind. I knew the bite would be tough with nightly air temps dipping below the freeze line. I'd be fishing a new spot, but if I could find a wintering hole maybe I would get lucky enough to drop an offering in the tiny strike zone - the stars would align and I'd beat my chest with glory.

It was easy to find the public access point, it was marked by ten other trucks - each with a whitetail sticker in the window - some with camo lettering declaring the importance of "huge racks." I suited up and saw my first dead deer of the year, antlerless and petite.

Me: "Looks like you've already had some luck"
He: "Ahhh, he's just a little skip"
Under the bridge, I missed three strikes before finally landing the first fish. A sign of life: at least the chub are biting.

Three kids showed up to throw rocks with Grandpa. They arrived just in time to see me lose footing and bust ass. Luckily I had the presence of mind to toss the rod far from potential damage...into the frigid knee deep water.
Gramps: "Come over here because he's fishing on that side"
Kid #1: "But I want to talk to him"
Kid #2: "You can't, he's a stranger"
Me (falling): "@#&%!"
Gramps: "You okay?"
I rolled up my sleeve to retrieve the stick and started hoofing downstream away from shame and toward my impending glory.

I spent too much time working a root ball, a couple more chubs came to hand but still no sign of bronze. Three deer sneaked in and settled in a nearby thicket, only to scare the crap out of me when I finally gave up on the the hole. The deer headed off downstream, and I made a mental note to not be a huge sissy when I saw them again.

Where the creek bent, it also entered an unfishable section of ten foot shear walls. From the mouth of the "mini canyon" I could double hall downstream into the deepest water around. Close enough to work a small area of the hole and just far enough to cause a wind knot...or twenty.

If there were still smallies in this creek, that was the spot...I'm sure of it but I wasn't far from where the creek dumped into a river...there may be no smallmouth in the creek at all. This is where the gamble on location would pay and I tried my hardest to cash in. The small section I could reach was worked over with every presentation I could manage: buggers, Clousers, crawdads, meat whistles and mad toms - fast, slow, slower and slowest.

Back at the bridge I saw my butt print in the mud. The kids were gone and the hunters were starting their second shift. I wondered if my rear window was fit for the bass sticker it displays...without it there would be room for a sixteen point silhouette and camo letters.

Me: "I spooked a few downstream, you might want to head north instead"
He: "Thanks"


  1. You better be careful there, Spooker! Your adventures are sounding more like mine! Lol. It didn't sound like a soft impact either...sorry about that!

  2. Clif,
    I'm hoping you'd be willing to join me in my efforts to officially change the name of chubs, well, at least on Illinois blogs. I've been calling them Illinois Creek Chub Trout while out fishing the creeks that feed the Fox River.

    First mention in a write up should include the word Illinois. After that, Creek Chub Trout will do, but make sure the first letters are capitalized. Since we don't have trout, I think it's a nice way to honor these hard fighting, hard hitting denizens of our little creeks. They even slightly resemble the trout we see pictured on the fly guys blogs, if you squint and blur your vision a bit.

    I'm in the process of thinking through an organization for these little guys, Creek Chub Trout Unlimited. A little long, but I haven't given it that much thought.

  3. It's a well known fact that things don't always go well when you're breaking in a new fishing hat. Maybe throw it down in the dirt and step on it a few times. Make it "look" old. Will probably work better.


  4. @RD: I may have fallen, but I didn't have to go to the ER just to have a little trout hook removed.

    @Kenny G: I'll take a smally over an Illinois Creek Chub Trout anyday, but they are a superb understudy.

    @Tubeman: Perhaps that would negate the safety of wearing blaze orange during deer season?

  5. Enjoyable post Clif. One's bottom is made to absorb falls.


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