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Columnist
Wading the Fox, Kishwaukee rivers is well worth it
By Mike Jackson | Daily Herald Outdoors Writer
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Published: 6/25/2009 12:00 AM

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Palatine angler Joel reminded me of a column I wrote several years ago pertaining to my wading adventures on the upper Fox River. He wants me to revisit the topic and offer some words of encouragement to other fishermen who have yet to test their skills in current areas.

Aside from the Fox, I also like to step in to the Kishwaukee River just west of Woodstock and see if the smallmouth, walleye and pike are available for a little hand-to-hand combat.

The tools I use are rather basic and affordable.

Experience tells me to offer advice regarding one's personal safety.

Wear chest waders, because an angler can step into a deep hole and even go under. Waders also will protect your legs should one have any open sores and cuts.

I know of several instances when fishermen wound up with bacterial infections after a day's wading trip as they moved about in both shorts and long pants.

I used to wear hip boots, but because I'm clumsy I've had too many instances with the boots when I've gone in over the tops of them.

The Kish and Fox Rivers have nice populations of smallmouth bass and pike. I look for sand and gravel areas as a place to start my exploration.

There are plenty of sections on the Fox that one can sight-fish these species, all because of clear water conditions. Similar water clarity occurs on the Kishwaukee near turns in the stream.

A general rod of choice for me is a medium-light spinning rod and reel. I sometimes have a chest pack strapped around me that handles a couple of small, plastic boxes of ultralight jigs and plastic tails, spinners and hooks.

The hooks are intended for those times when I'm dragging a tiny minnow bucket behind me as well as carrying a couple of dozen jumbo night crawlers and leeches.

The big challenge is to tempt a smallmouth to go after a piece of plastic impaled on a 1/16-ounce jig. There are so many different styles of plastic baits on the market that the consumer often relies on local lore to help make buying decisions.

Some plastic grubs (often referred to as Twister Tails) have slightly more action than others. They come in a variety of colors, lengths and thickness.

There are plastic crawfish that sometimes appear lifelike. There are minnow-shaped plastics that imitate live minnows. Plastic eels and leeches are favorites for some river rats.

I've tried them all and managed to scale down my choices to a half-dozen, all because I can't carry everything known to mankind when I wade a stream.

Sometimes smallmouth take up residence behind a large boulder and stay out of the current while eyeballing potential meals as they float by. You can find smallmouth behind and under deadfall trees in a stream or any other place where an obstruction breaks the current flow and creates a slack-water pool or eddy.

A weedless jig and twister tail can be a better choice if there is a lot of grass in the stream, better that over a 1/16th- or 1/8th-ounce spinner. The spinner will sometimes hang up in the grass.

Eight-pound and even 6-pound clear mono are my line choices. I tie the line to the top of a ball-bearing swivel and then tie a 4-foot hunk of flouracarbon line to the bottom of the swivel to give the offering even more invisibility.

Another important tool is a wading staff or stick. I have two. My friend A.J. made a walking stick for me that I'll use, plus I have an old ski pole.

I drilled holes in each and ran Nylon cord through the holes so I don't lose them in the water. The staff goes out in front of me as I slowly inch my way through the water. This is my "depth finder," and it has saved me countless times from going in and over my waders in deep holes.

The trick is to go slowly on your quest and inspect every section of water. Vary your casts in distance and allow the lure and bait to settle down beneath the surface.

And when you finally connect with a fish you'll probably think you've won the lottery.