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Ramble with Gortowski: Working & water

Ken Gortowski writes about fishing

as it applies to life, which is why I run him here.

This fishing report/rumination centers on end of the winter fishing around the Fox River.

Click here if you want his updated version with photos.

Wednesday had the possibility of turning out to be a good day for fishing the Fox River. Warmer temperatures with cloudier skies, the perfect set up for fishing the clearer water of winter. If it were any month other than February, the conditions would be ideal. After a couple or more months of freezing or below freezing temperatures, these late winter warm ups have anglers biting at the bit to get out, but to the fish, it’s still winter.

I had a second job interview at 1 p.m. this day. In typical old-guy-goes-on-interview fashion, I was early. The interview ended at the time it was supposed to start. My car had been preloaded with all that was necessary for walking in water, down to the double layer of long johns needed to insulate breathable waders against cold river water.

I stopped at a park along the river to get out of interview clothes and into river wading clothes. As I was getting ready to strip down, a beat to crap car pulls up with a couple of kids about 20 years old in the front seat. They park a couple of spots away from me, look me over, nod and proceed to light up and smoke a joint. You’ve got to be kidding. I’m all for legalizing pot once they develop a breathalizer test for it, no different than alcohol. You drive on it you get busted. But to blatantly pull up next to someone like me and light up? I didn’t know if I should consider that a compliment, I look cool, or an insult, I look like a harmless old man.

Should have called the cops, I was feeling crotchety.

Stripping down now was out of the question, I drove up stream to another park. It had about 8 cars in it which is unusual, but no people. Cool, I change fast, no big deal. I no sooner get ready to strip down to my skivvies to put on my long johns and a car pulls up. A woman a little older than me gets out with her rodent dog and stands there. Two more cars, two more older women with two more rodent dogs. They stand around chatting and finally leave.

Ready to strip and another car waddles in. Almost hits my car. In the front seat are two giant gray puff balls attached to what appear old women faces. In each of their laps are rodent dogs. They park in the handicapped spot 5 feet from me. Roll down their windows, shut off the car and sit their. All right ladies, whenever you want to go for your stroll is fine by me. No such luck. They wanted to sit their chatting while their respective rodents lunged and barked out the window at everything that moved.

I considered stripping down anyway, but I’m too much of a gentleman. Besides, I’m finding out that at 55, women over 65 find me attractive and hit on me all the time. My wife thinks this is real funny. I tell her she should shut up, some of these old babes are loaded and willing to “take care of me.”

Instead, I wait what seems like an eternity. Finally the car starts, they almost hit me again as they try to swing their beast of a car out of a space 20 feet wide and they’re gone. I start to unbuckle my belt and another woman with a dog appears. I was impressed, it wasn’t a rodent, but she goes to the car two down from me. Okay, I can wait.

She’s on her cell phone, she gets the dog in the car, she gets in the car, the car doesn’t start. Not that it won’t start, she doesn’t start it. She sits there talking on her phone. Oh please, I recently heard that women multitask better than men, which I believe to be a lie perpetrated by women, and I wind up next to the only one that can’t drive and talk on her phone.

I gave up, I hope she likes men in low cut briefs. She glances over as I get my pants down around my ankles, I wave. Imagine that, now she can multitask. Starts the car and drives away talking on her phone. I can only imagine that conversation.

Is this what it’s going to come down to? As men we bust our asses all our lives to make sure the women and children we have in our lives are taken care of. We even take out life insurance on ourselves in case we die too soon, which we do. Social Security, pensions, life insurance all go to our wives so they can spend the rest of their lives having nonsensical conversations in parking lots while holding rodent dogs.

That’s just not fair. I hear my aunt took out a $2 million life insurance policy on my uncle. He outlived her. That’s the way to do it.

I finally get suited up and head for the water. Took far too long to get this far.

Twenty feet from shore and in a foot of water, I’m reminded I have a slight leak in the booties of both my waders. They seem a little worse than I remember, but at least the water isn’t pouring in. A little cold and damp, but not intolerable.

The warmer weather is busting up all the river ice and sending it down stream in sheets. Trying to get across the river with conditions like this requires timing and eyes in the back of your head. Sheets of ice up to 50 feet long were floating down stream. Some only the size of cars with more even smaller. If you were watching from shore, it must have looked like I was doing the tango while I walked.

I had decided to hit a crap plant discharge in order to increase my odds in catching something. This worked, only I had also decreased my hook size in the hopes of catching anything that bothered hitting. I had threaded a 3 inch black worm onto a 1/16th ounce jig with a #4 hook. Three solid hits later with nothing to show landed, I considered increasing the hook size, but was too lazy to actually do it. The next fish hit hard and I thought I had it solidly hooked. The long back and chunky sides of a smallie that would have easily measured 18 inches broke the surface of the water. Then flipped me off and disappeared.

I changed to something with a bigger hook and the bite died. I knew that would happen.

It was time for a walk.

I wound up graduating from college with a degree in fine art, painting and sculpture. I have this fascination with the sculptural qualities found in nature. I used to try to recreate these sculptural qualities, but the pieces always fell flat. I eventually figured they would always fall flat, so I quit painting and sculpting. Now I take pictures of what I find along the river and in the woods. They have intricacies and a natural balance I could never have hoped to match. Besides, looking for this natural sculpture gave me something to do when the fishing sucked, which it did today.

There were plenty of rolled carp to snap me back to attention. I like to drag my line across them till the jig touches them. They feel that little bit of extra weight and take off like a bat out of hell. You can’t help snagging one now and then and if you get one in the tail, the runs are arm numbing.

After awhile I had pretty much given up and even the rolling of carp had lost it’s appeal. As I headed for shore I found the lost lure of another angler. The way it was rigged was interesting, but not something I would consider. It got me thinking on how I’m stuck in my ways with my methods of fishing. Was it possible to rig something like what I had found and actually catch something? I have plastic that looks like that. Been sitting in a box for 10 years, I never use the things.

I decided to cast a few more times while I mulled this over. I rolled another carp. It was briefly hooked somewhere in its body before the line snapped back and the lure sailed over my head. I thought about the 4 fish I had on earlier with the little black worms I like to use. In this spot a couple of weeks earlier I had landed a pike on one of my favorite twisters. I thought of the thousands of fish I had caught out of rivers since 1996, the first time I ever fished a river. Ninety percent of those were on simple 3 inch twisters.

No point changing now I decided. More junk to carry around that I probably would never tie on. I made another cast, rolled another carp and had it briefly body hooked. The jig popped off as I pulled hard, shot back and careened off the side of my head.

Good enough reason to stick with what I use. Anything bigger and it will kill me some day.