Tag Archives: creeks

New Public Land

Originally published on kengortowski.com on February 25, 2019.


When I hear the phrase New Public Land, my eyebrows arch and my eyes bug out a bit.

If I already know the area and the new public land happens to include virtually never before fished water, my head cocks to the side a bit and my fingers drum on whatever surface they’re sitting on. This means I’ve already figured out how this new water is going to get fished, it’s just a matter of figuring out a few details.

I heard about this new public land over a year ago. Years ago when I was actively involved with more things Fox Valley, heads of forest preserves and park districts knew that I was going to head out to this new property to do some exploring. Especially if water was on the property. There were times when I was actually encouraged to go explore and get back with reports on what was found.

Over the last few years I’ve let my involvement die off. People once known have moved on to other things or have retired.

For this new public land I thought I would reach out to a few people, see if they were in charge or had any say on whether or not I could still go explore even though the new public land wasn’t “officially” open to the public. There are properties I’ve visited years ago and still do that aren’t “officially” open to the public, so I didn’t see this being a problem.

I sent out some email and the response was crickets.

I decided to sit on this for most of last year. I was busy with other things. Let those in charge get things together to make the property more presentable, I guess.

The last two weekends of October were absolutely perfect and I decided I was done waiting. Exploring needed to be done.

Initially I thought I would try something I’ve been thinking about for a few years. The new public land is attached to old public land. I figured it can’t be that hard to walk from one to the other.

I couldn’t be more wrong.

For the most part the hike wasn’t that bad, but I then had to descend into a valley and I knew the creek was still some distance away. I normally look for deer paths and simply follow those. Pacing back and forth on the ridge showed no deer paths. Looking down into the valley showed a massive tangle of everything that possibly grows in the woods. You know you shouldn’t go down into something like this when the deer won’t even do it. So I backed out and took the easy route, which I won’t describe.

I did find some old farm fences and posts. They always seem to be photogenic.

Back at the new public land the hike in and around the property was pretty easy. I was surprised at the descent into the valley. I didn’t expect it to be that deep on this side of the creek. It’s nice when this happens. All sound from what I guess would be ground level seems to disappear or at least becomes muted. I tried to capture that in a few photo’s as well as play around with their overall look.

Around 17 years ago I had waded up into this property while fishing and was impressed with what I had found. The landowner of the property I had to go through to get here was a nice enough guy, but I could tell he really didn’t want anyone wandering through. I decided not to push it and let it drop. I never went back.

I know what lives in this creek from the mouth to at least 10 miles inland. I know how good the fishing can be in that whole length of creek. I think these shots show I have a lot to look forward to come spring.

When out wandering, wading and fishing it’s always best to stay as hydrated as possible. Problem with that as you get older is your runs to find a place to get rid of all that water comes in shorter intervals. I thought initially that this new public land solved that problem.

But after closer inspection, those big old three foot wide oaks are a much better bathroom break option.

After capturing some of the big picture, I thought I would look for some details.

A caveat, there’s always a caveat.

I think it was in 2003 in mid May that I waded far up into the Mooseheart property on Mill Creek. Didn’t bother with mosquito repellant assuming none would be necessary. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I got chewed to pieces. While out there a helicopter hovered overhead at one point spraying something down and along the creek. I assumed it was some kind of mosquito abatement process.

For the next few months I felt under the weather, tired all the time. Some time in the summer I read in the paper that West Nile mosquitoes had been found in Batavia, right where I had been wading and got chewed to pieces. I looked up the symptoms of West Nile. Sure enough, that’s what I had and didn’t even know it.

I’m assuming I can’t get it again, but when I go exploring this new public land come late spring and into summer, you can bet I’m going to be pretty well covered in layers of deet.

I have never seen a swamp like area this big along the Fox River or any of it’s creeks. I can attest that without a big swamp area the mosquitoes can get pretty bad, unbearable at times.

I can only imagine what this huge area is going to produce.

Mosquitoes the size of bats, perhaps?

First You Have to Get There

First you have to get there, that starting point upstream on the creek.

That’s what the picture at the top shows. Sure, there are other ways in, but after years of getting to the starting point, this is the easiest way in. The path is there, right down the middle. See it? If you ever see me put up photo’s like this, I always try to make it easier on people by putting the path dead center.

See that little spot of sunlight back there? Head for it. After that, you’re on your own.

Once in the creek it seems like nothing has ever changed, probably for hundreds of years. Quiet, sound of water over well worn rock, trees that look like they’ve been standing there forever and you wander down without a thought or care in the world.

Till you get to the spot where Mother Nature decided to rearrange the furniture over the last few months.


I’m at the point when I’m confronted with this need to rearrange things, the only thing running through my head is… I’m getting too old for this shit.

Stuff to climb over, all of it dumped in the best spot on the opposite side of the creek. If you look, no point climbing up there to shore fish. Not much of a shore to fish from.

This used to be such an easy wade.


After a couple of hours or so, you’re at the end of your trip. You’ve gone nearly three quarters of a mile down the creek and now it’s time to leave.

Good luck with that.


The path, it’s right there.

Right down the middle.

I’m assuming this explains why I never see anyone where I go on the creeks. I rarely see another set of footprints. It should also explain why I never wet wade. First you have to get there and when you get back, do you really want to be bleeding profusely and be covered in a poison ivy rash?

I didn’t think so.

After all these years I think of these creek adventures as normal. When confronted with a wall of woods when I want to get to a creek, I just look around a little bit and there it is.

The path, it’s right there in front of me.

A Much Needed Walk in the Woods

Took a much needed walk in the woods today. Since I quit fishing I don’t get out for long walks through woods and down creeks. I’m woefully out of shape.

During the winter and early spring I don’t think twice about blundering through the woods that you see at the top. A few feet in reminded me of the stinging nettles that are mixed in with the ever thickening undergrowth. From the knees down my legs quickly felt like they were on fire.

I stuck with the paths this time, for the most part.


The sun cooperated a bit and the new growth this time of year has an intensity that quickly wanes come June.

A feast for the eyes.

If you like lots of green.

No Name Ditches and Creeks

I learned a long time ago that the no name ditches and creeks that feed the Fox are havens for all fish that live in the river. Especially if they have water flowing in them year round. This one is a good mile long before it disappears into a cornfield.

May have to walk the whole thing soon.

Some of these fish are more skittish than others. The bigger they are, the less they stand still. Assumed I was seeing creek chubs up to 6 inches darting around.

Till I got home and took a better look at the pictures.

Caught one off guard, both him and me. Never saw it while taking the shot.

There’s no mistaking that red eye.

Does explain why I’ve always enjoyed fishing inland a bit on these little bodies of water when the river is at flood stage.

That’s when the big boys come in to eat and play.

Click on this if you want to see it a little bigger. Lower left corner.

A Couple of Creek Walks

Went on a couple of creek walks Friday and Saturday. Decided to finally hit the Fox River on Sunday.

I’ll take the creeks.

The fishing in the creeks has been less than spectacular this year, but doing okay is better than doing nothing at all. I still think it’s because we really haven’t had that much rain this spring. Enough to keep things growing, but we’ve had no major high water events on the Fox at all. I think the fish have had no real reason to head up the creeks for their annual spawning run. Why run up a creek if staying in the river is working out just fine.

But, what do I know. I’m no fisheries biologist. I just wander around and observe things, then my brain makes all the connections gathered over the years and draws a conclusion.

The creeks are stunningly beautiful right now. Bright greens of spring, dense under growth, all kinds of flowers and a wide variety of wildlife.

Fishing seems secondary, which it pretty much has become.

My one venture out into the Fox on Sunday resulted in catching one smallie and seeing a gar for the first time ever in this stretch of the river, but not once did I raise my camera to take a picture.

Too wide, too far away, not interesting.

I may have talked myself out of fishing the river much at all this year. The creeks have so much more to offer, at least in terms of sights and sounds.

And if the smallie fishing sucks, so be it. I’ll scale down and play with creek chubs.

The river simply doesn’t provide what I need. The quiet, the closeness, the solitude and the wildlife practically sitting on your shoulder and talking into your ear.

Yup, sounds like I’ve convinced myself.

From Friday’s creek walk:

From Saturday’s creek walk:

From Sunday’s river walk:

I got nuthin’.