A new (to me) stretch of the Dupage River (west branch)

Fishing has been tough lately.
The past few weeks it’s been hard to get anything to bite; even the local pond has been in a funk. Haven’t gotten a fish out of there in weeks. I suppose this is what happens every year at the end of the summer, before things cool down a bit and the fall bite turns on… But I don’t have experience to tell me that’s the case. I haven’t been on the fishing message boards lately, nor have I been blogging much about fishing. It’s been slow, it’s been tough.
It’s been a little disheartening, to be honest. My enthusiasm for fishing has ever so slightly waned recently, leading me to pursue some of my other hobbies. Which of course isn’t a bad thing- it’s good to spend my free time doing a variety of things.
I’m almost done with a new album of videogame-sounding music; This week I’ve actually written some new music (like, on staff paper and everything); I even started drawing a bit. Before music came along, drawing was my jam. I went through reams and reams of blank 8.5″ x 11″ paper, leaving a trail of black ink behind me. I like a lot of different things- it’s nice to do them.
But today was Saturday, and I hadn’t fished much the whole week, so I decided to head out. I was standing in the Fox River at 5:59am, the sun seemingly nowhere in sight. I wasn’t expecting much, and that was probably a good thing… It was tough.

Not a single bite, anywhere, and I worked every little spot I could find. In the current, off the current, in the eddies, around wood, behind rocks; I found* some deep pools that I’m sure held some fish, but none would oblige. I wonder what it is exactly that is making them so tight-lipped.

* The most exciting way to discover new spots in the river is to walk into them. There’s no mistaking you’ve discovered a nice hole when the water goes from your ankles to your upper chest in a few short steps… And you can’t tell me there weren’t fish there. Maybe a nice flattie was hanging out there before I rolled through like a drunk tourist.

I worked a variety of lures and presentations, moving quickly to try and find active fish. I saw plenty of baitfish swimming around, but it appeared the larger predator fish were leaving them alone. No fish breaking the surface, chasing bait- even though that’s totally what they’re supposed to do when you get up early to go fish for them.
After an hour, I decided to move. Run and gun. Find eating fish. As I was getting into my car to drive to a new spot, a guy pulled up on a baby motorcycle. A moped? I’m not trying to demean his ride, that’s just what it looked like. A motorcycle that would some day grow up and be a big old Harley or something. He had a very long fly rod sticking straight up from the middle of his handlebars. I didn’t notice it at first, I thought it was a tall antennae or something; it appeared to be the only piece of fishing gear he had.
“You’re leaving?!?” he asked incredulously. I didn’t quite understand; obviously I was leaving.
“You’re leaving, and I’m getting here! What were you doing- night fishing?”
I noticed the sun had only recently risen in earnest.
“Nope, I was here at 6,” I said. I told him I didn’t have anything to show for it. He told me that was a great spot, and gave me some hints on finding the fish. I appreciated it greatly, but I had just fished those spots. Him telling me about the muskies that supposedly swam around there didn’t soften the blow of my building skunk, but I do like talking about fish.
“Good luck!” I said, as I drove away.
The second spot was as dead as the first, except for the sound of a bowling ball being dropped in the river every few minutes. It was either a carp or a giant smallie, I don’t know which. A good sized fish either way. I tried to entice whatever it was, but it was too busy frustrating me to go for my lures.
As I waded through the area, taking note of the variety of flows and streams and riffles and pools and rocks and timber, I thought about how much I’ve learned since a year ago, when I stood in the same river completely perplexed by what I saw. I’m still a little perplexed, but sometimes I can find the fish!
After another hour without even so much as a tiny nibble, I hopped back in my car. I figured if the fish weren’t biting, I might as well explore. I decided to head to the Dupage River, which my phone told me was a 15 minute drive to the east.
The spot I hoped to hit was under construction, so I circled back around some parks that didn’t seem to have close river access. At a red light, looking at my map, I found what looked like a short street right by the river. When I got there, it turned out to be a short street with houses on one side and lots of foliage on the other. The river was just beyond the tall tall grass and thorny bushes.
As I parked, half on the grass on this tiny street, I wondered if I would get towed or if the residents would mind. There were no “no parking” signs, but that doesn’t always mean you won’t get towed. I weighed my options, and naturally headed to the water. There was a path through the grass, and some trees had those brace-things on them, as if whatever city I was in was trying to make this area more nature-ey. I figured that meant it was a public space, so it was totally fine I was walking through it.
I found some really nice looking rapids with some awesome looking pools and eddies just downstream- but the huge amounts of weeds and shallow water convinced me to try elsewhere. I took some pictures (that’s the panoramic-type shot at the top of this post) and made a pact with the spot to reunite later when there was more water. I have a feeling it will be dynamite later in the year…

Up there.. under the bridge… there are fish!

I moved upstream toward a pair of bridges, which usually means fish. I saw a flash in the water, in an area with very little current… It was close to the cement column of the bridge, near some submerged stumps, not too far from faster water… I tossed my little white twister tail into the little dark pool and it was immediately slammed by a fish.
Fish on! Fish off.
Green sunfish- or as I like to call them, Illinois trout. Or are smallies Illinois trout? Either way, that’s who was playing with my twister tail. I switched out the 3″ one for a diminutive 1″ tail. That’s the one I use when I’m desperate to catch fish.
Pretty soon I had a beautiful little greenie in hand. I was so happy to shake off the skunk after a couple hours of nothing, so happy to be out exploring new water, and of course I love me some greenies.

I proceeded to catch what felt like twenty but was probably more like eight. Some of them came off the hook immediately, some of them smashed my bait like a torpedo. I saw some other, larger, more streamlined fish swimming in the shadows, and eventually managed to pull one out too.

This was great! I remembered why I love fishing. Exploring the outdoors, a slight sense of danger (possibly towing), catching fish. The brazen ducks apparently eating seaweed looked to me like they were cheering me on.
I moved farther upstream, where it looked like a construction project was underway. I wondered if there was a sign somewhere that said “Under construction: no fishing!” that I missed because I walked through tall grass to get there. It appeared the river had recently been “modified;” Piles of rocks here and there created nice little eddies all over the place. Seemed too precise to be natural, but I certainly appreciated them when I pulled out my first smallie of the day!

I caught a couple more; I was having a great time. It was a very pretty stretch of river, much narrower than the Fox. I could easily cast from one bank to the other. It was close-quarters fishing. After each little spot, I jumped up on the rock piles to get a better look at where my fish were coming from. I was surprised to find at least one of the smallies came from a very shallow and rocky section of water; another one came from just off the bottom sitting on a change from gravel to sand. Just like the internet says.
Heading back to my car, wondering if it would still be there, I thought about what a great time I’d just had after the weeks of less-than-stellar fishing. They were small fish, but they certainly didn’t know it. And I didn’t care.

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