In the 15 years I've been fishing the Fox River and it's creeks, I can't recall a time when they've both behaved the way they have for the past few weeks.
At the end of May it rained hard and the river came up fast. The current flow jumped from around 2500 cubic feet per second to 7000 in a few hours. The 7000 cfs mark really is not that big of a deal on a mid sized river like the Fox. It happens pretty much every year. But what the rain did was blow out the creeks I like to fish.
Somewhere in this post are a couple of pictures that show the comparison between normal creek levels and what happened after this rain. I've only seen the creek do this one other time. It's been high in the past, but not like this.
On June 10th it rained hard again and the river went from 1000 cfs to just over 3500 in a couple of hours. The creeks, though not as high as the previous time, were once again a mess.
What I've come to rely on over the past 15 years is that when it rains, the river floods and takes its time coming down. The creeks on the other hand are back to normal and clear within a week. I go fish the creeks. This hasn't happened throughout all of June.
I drive over the creeks all the time. They've been running high, fast and muddy ever since that first heavy rain. The river has been the one that has been coming down quickly and trying to get down to normal levels. I've been out wading the river a few times with no problems.
The other day I fished a stretch of the river and described how the fast spikes in water had pushed around some trees that were good fish holding spots, and had made one long standing landmark disappear completely. The same has happened on the creeks.
On the first creek I went to there is only one way in and out. It was nice to see no other foot prints any where. As I walked along the creek it was high and muddy with barely a foot of clarity. I know this stretch too well and knew to stay out of the water. When I got to the first reliable fish holding spot, the trees that created the spot were gone. They had been laying in the water for at least 3 years. Now the trees were pushed tight along the shore.
Apparently when they started moving, they took a couple of other trees with them. The perfect place to stand and fish this hole was now covered by more trees.
This continued around the bend as still another spot to stand was now buried under still more trees.
For years a tree had been half in and half out of the water. I've caught numerous big smallies from the eddy that used to be behind the tree. Past tense is a necessity here. The tree doesn't even touch the water any more.
After an hour of fishing and not a single hit from a smallie, I gave up. At least I was getting a lot of taps from Illinois Creek Chub Trout. Shows that they weren't blown out by the flooding.
As I headed out across the flood plain to get back to my car, I kept running into flood debris. It was filled with the corn stubble from the previous years' corn harvest.
The corn fields were a pretty good distance from where I was, so this stuff traveled pretty far. I was also over 100 feet from the edge of the creek and on a part of the flood plain that was easily 5 feet above the surface of the water. And that was part of the problem why the creeks won't come down.
I came across what is normally a nearly dry ditch. It had a fair amount of water flowing through it and draining directly into the creek.
This was probably happening all up and down the creeks. Driving down the narrow 2 lane roads around my house, passing the massive fields of corn and soybeans, I've been seeing large new ponds where there are supposed to be the corn and soybeans. They formed after the first bout of rain we had and have been slow in draining. They've been around long enough now that the herons, geese and ducks are starting to treat them as permanent fixtures.
All this water has to go somewhere and it's taking all the dirt with it back to the creeks.
I hit one more creek on the way home. Same condition as the other. This one was nice enough to give up one dink smallie on the first cast.
I noticed an old guy walking across the bridge. This road doesn't get a lot of traffic so there's no worries about cars. He had to be pushing 80. Stopped to talk fishing. He tells me he lives at the house down the road, I know the house. He tells me he just walked from town, his wife drives him there on her way to work and he walks back for the exercise. I size up the distance in my head. A good 3 miles and it's not flat around here. I was impressed, I can only hope to do that some day.
He used to fish a lot, loved going to Wolf Lake in the city. Now he doesn't even fish. Doesn't even own a fishing pole, but he's been meaning to get one. He's never fished this creek even though he lives a short walk away. I showed him how to get down to the creek shore. Showed him where to walk the shore for the next half mile.
"On a good day, you'll catch smallies and gills. On a bad day you'll get catfish," I told him.
He got that look of just-bit-into-a-lime on his face. "I hate those slimy bastards."
I was impressed again. I hate those slimy bastards too.
A few more fishing notes and stories and he headed home. At the end of the bridge he turned, flashed me a peace sign and said, "God be with you."
One last impressive parting shot.