Most of my trips to the Fox River have been in the morning. Last night I wanted to try some evening fishing, hoping the water would be warmer and there would be some more active fish.

A rare photo of me not holding a fish
I have so many layers on! Many of them are camo

Having learned my lesson on being super cold the day before, I was prepared this time. I had two pair of pants under my waders, two pair of socks, two sweatshirts (both were camo sweatshirts, helping my angling and outdoorsman credibility I think), and a warm winter hat. I started with my favorite fishing hat, my Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale trout hat, but quickly put on the much warmer knit hat.

It was still windy, and the water was still super cold, but I wasn’t nearly as freezing as I was the other day. I tried to think of what the fish wanted… In the cold water, I bet they weren’t too active- I had a hunch they’d be holding in warmer water, not moving much. I also guessed they wouldn’t be willing to travel much for a meal, so I’d have to get my lures right in front of them to elicit strikes. I’m still new to all this, so perhaps my guesses were wrong… But hey, you gotta start somewhere.

Sunset through the trees
Herons

I stuck with jigs, tubes, and some cranks I worked slowly, hoping to find some lethargic fish not too lethargic to take my lures. As I worked a variety of fishy-looking areas, I could have sworn I was getting some very light and tentative hits. I couldn’t be sure, because I was fishing a lot of downed timber. It could have been tree branches. At one point I thought I had a solid hit, but when I retrieved my jig there was no fish on it- just a little bit of red (fish blood?) and a super little tiny maggot-looking bug. What the..? Should have taken a picture.

As the sun set, I was lucky enough to be on the river to watch the changing colors. I saw some very pretty ducks, hanging out in the same spot from yesterday; I saw three herons flying together, slowly and gracefully; and I saw some very interesting footprints. Some I thought were raccoon, some were definitely goose, but some made me wonder what they were.. Bobcat? Coyote? Don’t tell my wife!

Using some brand new tubes from Cabela’s, I was working a seam about 20′ from shore. I cast downstream and slowly bounced the tube back toward me. And then there was a fish on! This one swam right toward me, and I had a hard time keeping the tension on the line- smallies can be fast. But I prevailed, and had yet another photo of me and a smallmouth bass to post.

Success! A small fish, but a fighter.
I always appreciate the underdogs.
I love the colors of these fish

This was it for the day- but as always, I was satisfied with one fish. I would have liked more, but the cold water apparently gave the fish other ideas. Perhaps someday I’ll know what to present to the fish in these conditions, but for today I’m happy to land even one scrappy smallie.

Sunset on 355

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