I have fishing outings that I refer to as Death Marches and others as Marathons. I actually make a distinction between the two even though when someone tags along, they can't tell the difference.
There are sections of the Fox River that are just tough to wade. Doesn't matter how many times I've wandered down a certain section, there's always something that will catch me by surprise. An unseen boulder that I flipped over was one. Surprisingly deep water that was moving just a little too fast for comfort was another. Then there's the overall make up of the bottom of the river. It all depends on the size of the rocks that are being stepped on.
Throw in a fair amount of distance and there's a good chance by the time you're done with the wade, your legs will be pretty numb from the knees down. The next morning will be even worse. Doesn't matter how much and how often these wades are done, the bottom of your feet will hurt like hell and your calf muscles will be one large cramp. It goes away relatively quickly, till next time.
This outing was a Marathon. Even though I hadn't done it in around 7 years, I knew there would be no real surprises and nothing that would get me in much trouble. It would be a simple 2 mile hike on a bunch of rock and gravel. Granted, the rock ranges from pebble to bowling ball size, but you get used to it. Just don't get too cocky and move too fast.
I parked at a bridge and did a 2 mile hike down railroad tracks to the next bridge. If you've never done this, that in itself is a workout. You just don't saunter along, unless you like winding up face down on rock.
I know walking tracks is technically illegal, but not far from where I started there is a duck blind out on an island. The only way to get to it is to walk down the tracks and drop down into the river. We're given a certain amount of leniency by authorities because of what we're doing. Chances are, they're doing the same thing. There aren't that many middle aged guys out there walking down the middle of railroad tracks dressed in waders and carrying a fishing pole looking to cause trouble. We're just going fishing.
Even though there are homes all along one side of the river, they're spaced out enough to not be annoying. The opposite shore is about as wild looking as it gets out on the river. I tend not to look at the side with the homes much.
At the start of the Marathon I got to walk past the river side of the house where Dick Young lived. He passed away this year and leaves quite a legacy in the Fox River Valley. His house has a green roof, basically, it's grass with some specially selected shallow-root plantings thrown in. There's even some trees growing out of it.
You can go here for an online magazine and a short bio on him. Go to page 11.
For the next 5 hours I took my time picking apart the shore line as I walked. The first half of the walk fish were being caught, but it was relatively slow and steady. A fair amount of hard fighting dinks were being caught. This little guy put up one of hardest battles of the day, I thought he deserved the recognition of a picture.
The occasional bigger fish cooperated with most of those in the 12 to 14 inch range. One that topped 18 inches was the fish of the day for sheer size.
I thought for sure 5 hours was all I needed to cover 2 miles of river. I forget how easily distracted I am.
It was tempting to go wander off into the wilderness of the opposite shore, but I knew how shallow it was and the plague of weeds and algae were creating huge islands on the shallow riffles.
Part of what slowed me down was the weeds, matting up all along the river bottom and building up anywhere the water became shallow.
Because of all the floating weeds/algae, I had to clean off the lure with virtually every cast.
One small stretch wound up producing most of the fish for the day. The things were everywhere. By the time the bite died I had caught 71 smallies and missed another 62. I'm still blaming the weeds for the bulk of the missed fish. It was always in the way.
By the time the bite had died it was also getting a bit dark. The full moon was rising in the east just over the treetops and I was still a good half mile from the car.
My thumb was also pretty much done. For fish with virtually no real visible teeth, they can really do some damage.
There was no point fishing on in the dark. I'm sure more fish would have cooperated, but I didn't feel like stumbling along. I hopped up on shore and finished the last half mile back on the tracks. Because of the glare of the last of the light, all was dark except for the light in the sky and the two sharp lines of the railroad tracks reflecting the colors of the sky.
As I walked I realized my legs were numb from the knees down. The sharp stones of the track bed felt like nails on the bottom of my feet.
I knew getting out of bed was going to be brutal the next morning. The soles of my feet would be tingling in pain and my calves would be hard as rock from cramps. I'd give them a break for about 30 hours and consider heading back out to this same area again to see if the fish were still around.
Which is exactly what I did.