There’s a special joy in realizing a fish is too big for a full selfie.
I let that sink in Thursday as I finagled a way to hold my biggest largemouth bass of the year for a photograph.
It was especially joyful because I would have been happy to catch a bluegill in the post-frontal conditions.
All I really wanted to do was get away for a few hours at my favorite disappearing spot, wandering around the 200-plus lakes at the north unit of Mazonia State Fish and Wildlife Area.
It’s where I go to be alone, to think my thoughts and to rummage through life.
Mazonia closes to fishing for the year Tuesday, except for Monster Lake at Mazonia South, which stays open for fishing year-round.
I didn’t take enough time at Mazonia this year. On Thursday, I made up for it.
I had a few hours between dropping our second son at work and picking up our daughter from college, so I drove to Mazonia, the collection of pits in southwestern Will County.
The reality is that I’m at a point where catching a fish isn’t a necessity anymore — unless I am fishing with my younger brother or a couple of friends, that is. Then I still have to catch one more than they do.
What I really wanted was the joy of isolation in being outside in a wild area.
As it turned out, it was a fishing day, not a navel-staring, soul-searching day.
On my second cast, I caught a largemouth of 12 inches. At that point, I realized the day would be different than I anticipated. Forget sitting, listening, watching and eyeing the scenery of water and shoreline from the small wooden dock at one of my favorite lakes at Mazonia. Instead, I would be focused on fishing.
I had two spinning rods, my basic approach to general fishing. One rod had a spinner on 6-pound line. The other had a tungsten jig on 4-pound line.
To see if fish were active, I started with the spinner. The way the first fish hit, some were active. On my fourth cast, I hooked my biggest largemouth of the year and whispered a prayer as I reeled it in. I also should have whispered a prayer of thanksgiving when I did, but I forgot.
I eventually had cast every angle of the inlet I was fishing, and the bite had slowed. So I switched to the tungsten jig with a red wiggler. At first, I just tried to hook bait-stealing bluegills and green sunfish.
Then I began to catch some small largemouth and some decent crappie. The crappie made me wish I had stashed a float in my camo bag.
Three guys pulled up early in the afternoon and dumped a camouflaged boat in at the dirt ramp I was fishing by. As they did, I caught a decent carp.
They were going to work on a blind. One guy admitted they were cutting the time close. Those who draw a blind must have it in acceptable condition ahead of duck season or lose the blind.
It was time.
In an hour and a half of fishing, I went 8-for-10 on largemouth, 1-for-3 on crappie and 1-for-2 on carp. I didn’t count the bait-stealing panfish. It was a different day than expected, but it was soul-soothing all the same.