Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Short Wade in Cold Water

Had some time yesterday, and thanks to Ken G who hipped me to the spot, I headed south to Salt Creek near the Brookfield Zoo.

The creek flows all over the area, but I know it most where it leaves Busse and heads south a few minutes to the east of my house. Eventually it connects with the Desplaines river, then the Illinois River, then the Mississippi. I've become a little obsessed mapping rivers, streams, and creeks in Google Earth. They're all connected!

A 20 minute drive south, the creek has an entirely different feel to it. Less of a creek, more of a river. I expected a small trickle, but encountered a beautiful river with rocks, with much clearer water than I'm used to in Cook County. I rolled up in my car, marveling at the very tall trees, and quickly suited up and got to the water.

I think there's a pool in this picture-
that's where there were a bunch of little fish
First cast (with a 3" white jig'n'twister) I got a hit immediately. At that exact moment my phone rang, I saw who it was and knew I needed to take it; I answered my phone and the fish got off the hook. I could have sworn it looked like a small bass, it's slim profile flashed and disappeared back into the pool. My phone call took a few minutes, all the while I scanned the river, trying to figure out it's secrets. The result of the call was good though, I was headed to Nebraska for some gigs! I wonder if there's any good fishing out there.

I entered the water, and cast, trying to reclaim the little on that got away. Again I got plenty of little hits that felt more like panfish than bass. It occurred to me maybe I should fish with nightcrawlers, I bet I'd catch more fish. Looking at the water, I identified (maybe incorrectly) some riffles, a handful of little pools, and a couple seams. I did my best fishing all the angles of these things, but wasn't able to hook one of the little fish. I tied on a tiny jighead with a tiny pink tube, but they wouldn't go for it. Maybe they liked the color of the white twister?

Wanting to explore more, I proceeded upstream. It was crazy to see to the bottom of the creek; most places I've been fishing lately (the pond, Busse, Beck, Songbird, etc.) are usually very muddy with almost no visibility. Here, a short drive away, I could see the entire composition of the stream bed. Lots and lots of rocks, gravel, and little forests of weeds (algae?) pulsing in the current. It was beautiful. Except there was this weird smell I couldn't identify... kind of a bad smell.

If not for the roar of the nearby expressway and even closer major streets, I felt like I could have been 500 miles away. Maybe in some trout stream in Colorado. Or even better, in Michigan! I liked the variety of stuff happening on this little river- it was flowing pretty quickly, and it was easy to see all the different currents at the surface.

And then I looked to the right, and stood about five feet from a raccoon.

I stopped in my tracks, all I could think of were all those scenes in movies where raccoons jump on the face of an unsuspecting outdoorsman wannabe... But it didn't move. I couldn't quite see it's face... I stood there for a minute, and then I realized it was dead. Upon a more thorough investigation I noticed some bugs and stuff that were doing their job of dismantling the raccoon. I thought of how efficient nature is- the raccoon died, bugs take it apart, it becomes something else. I don't know anything about ecology or biology, so it kind of seems like magic.

I fished for a while more in the ice cold water. Oh, didn't I mention it was ice cold? It was ice cold. Like colder than ice cold. In my thin, non-neoprene and non-breathable waders, only a thin sheet of wader material and some jeans were between my privates and a quickly rushing stream of frigid water. I was very cold. This seemed to be the theme of the week.

Every so often I'd get out the water to warm up a bit, then walk back in and continue. I got a few more small bites, but didn't see any baitfish or especially fishy-looking areas. Cycling through my entire tackle box (divided into a few smaller tackle boxes, packed into my awesome fishing vest) I practiced using all the different kinds of lures I had. Good practice, but no fish. I definitely need to come back and explore when I have more time, this is a great spot.

Thanks Ken!

Looks pristine and far away, right?
Just 5 minutes from 290! Or 355 or 88 or something...


  1. When around in IL, I fish this creek a few times per week - live less than 5mins away. Haven't fished it in a long time, but that stretch in particular is loaded with creek chubs and other panfish species (sunfish, some crappies). Bass very few but they're in there. It's a pretty nice creek to fish but it can get tricky with wading with a lot of obstacles and hidden holes. Seeya out there sometime.

  2. I wonder if what I saw was a chub? Not real familiar with that species. Thanks for reading, tight lines!

  3. You're welcome Chris. Back in the late 90s when they dumped all those smallies in there, it was unreal. From Graue Mill down you should be able to pick up largemouth, pike, walleye, crappie, bluegills, bullheads, green sunfish and there just might be a stray smallie living in there somewhere.

    And don't forget the koi and giant goldfish. That would be funnier than hell.


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