Category: Flashbacks

Friday Flashback – August 3, 1991

There’s a spot at Snakeden Hollow called “Bearclaw Lake” that was a popular stop for me during the early years after the site opened to the public back in 1990. The trio of Bearclaw bass below come from thirty years ago, and while not trophies, I still consider any bass at two pounds or better to be “a good one.” Each of these three fish made that mark and totaled just over seven pounds.

Bearclaw Lake at 2-12 in the days before “selfies”

Bearclaw Lake at 2-6, not really a keen idea for a photo

Bearclaw Lake at 2-4, my apologies to the bass, I’ve learned a thing or two over the years

According to the back of the pics, they were all fooled by a lure called the “Dying Flutter”, something that I classify as a propbait. These wooden lures were somewhat of the predecessor to today’s popular Whopper Plopper. The Dying Flutter was crafted by Heddon Lures and featured props fore and aft on the lure body. From a brief internet search, it appears that these baits are no longer in production. Strange thing is, I also cannot find any in my tackle collection. Instead, I have several other 80s propbaits called the “Devil’s Horse” that are still made by the Smithwick lure company. Perhaps I made an error in identifying the lure on the picture backs all those years ago. And that’s more or less the last time I threw these particular lures.

I suppose these Devil’s Horse baits from the 80s may be considered antiques by now

Now, there’s nothing wrong with these baits and I had a blast fishing them once upon a time as topwater strikes are about as exciting as it gets. But, like many lures and trends, I shift gears and a presentation gets left behind in one of the multitudes of utility boxes in the garage. Thinking back on my experiences with the Dying Flutter/Devil’s Horse, there’s a tale or two to tell, but those are for another day to keep this post concise.

Just as lure trends change, so has the landscape of Snakeden Hollow. Over the last 30-plus years, Bearclaw Lake has seen significant changes in terms of bank accessibility. A lake that once presented ample bank access to hit all the “good spots” has now become quite a challenge for a bank angler due to vegetation, both terrestrial and aquatic. I have hit it a few times in the last five years along with my brother on at least one occasion. While we’ve posted solid numbers, the quality bass of yesteryear have been lacking. Maybe they’re gone, maybe they’re wiser, tough to say. Perhaps some more sampling is needed.

Bearclaw Lake Top Bass at 3-15 from 20 years ago, better job on the photo, too

I’ll close with the pic above of the Bearclaw Lake Top Bass, landed 20 years ago on August 14, 2001. It was also a topwater catch, coming on the legendary Zara Spook. Good times on a good lake and those topwater strikes sure leave a lasting impression. Talk to you later. Troy

Thoughts at 54

My birthday was yesterday, and typically, my thoughts go on a bit of a random ramble for this annual post. However, things have gotten kind of weird since my last birthday or two and some of those sorts of rambles can either get a guy in trouble or cause some unnecessary unrest these days. In the words of Queen, one mission of my blog is to provide the occasional “escape from reality” that I figure we all can use.

Therefore, just a few pics and words to celebrate another trip around the sun.

In pondering age 54, it came to mind that 54 = 18 x 3. Thus, I am three times as old as I was in the summer of 1985, just after graduating high school. In terms of blogging, I thought it would be fun to grab a fishing picture from each of those eighteen years to see just how things change as the years roll by.

July 1, 1985

August 6, 2003

July 23, 2021

Enough said. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – July 26, 2011

When packing for a wade in the creek, there’s more to it than just some poles and some dew worms.

Gotta have a good pair of “crick” shoes.

Socks are a good idea as a barrier from debris.

Dad prefers a vest to haul tackle and bait while I go for a tacklebag. Both work fine, your choice.

Hats are good, especially if your hairdo has come to resemble the guys on this fishing trip.

You definitely need some pliers as those drum swallow the hook every time. Dad is always armed with his pair in a holster on his hip.

An extra set of clothes is always a good idea as well for a change at the end of the walk back to the truck.

Water and a sandwich are advised, the latter tastes just fine after a morning creek workout; mud, fish slime, worm dirt and all.

And don’t forget your camera to preserve memories such as those in the slideshow below from 10 years ago this week.

 

Oh yeah, make sure to clip your fingernails before you go. You can thank me when your day on the creek is done. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – July 1996

Once upon a time, I lived at Lake Bracken, a country club located south of Galesburg, IL. It was quite the luxury to have a 170-ish acre lake literally in my backyard and The Spillway just a few minutes’ drive down the road.

In the case of today’s flashback, I actually took my shot at both the lake and The Spillway on the same day.

July 1996 – Lake Bracken 3-8 bass on Mann’s Baby 1- crankbait

For the lake portion of the trip, Dad brought out the Bass Tracker to chase some bass. This trip took place during that unexplained period where I seem to have failed to keep a log. Therefore, the only documentation from the outing is the picture above. Apparently, we only landed one quality bass worth a picture although I suspect we caught some other fish. I still hold out hope that there is a missing fishing log tucked away somewhere but the odds are slim.

July 1996 – Lake Bracken Spillway 5-12 Carp

The latter portion of the day consisted of a visit to The Spillway, a location that has already appeared in several Friday Flashbacks. Once again, no log means that the only evidence is a pair of carp pics. I cannot recall who I was fishing with that afternoon, but it seems that my photographer got shut out.

July 1996 – Lake Bracken Spillway 6-9 Carp

In terms of the photos, these were taken with the old Minolta Disk camera meaning there were no do overs. An unfortunate aspect in retrospect. For one, the lighting on the carp shots leave much to be desired, certainly worth a re-shoot in today’s world of instant digital feedback. Regarding the bass photo, perhaps I would’ve considered putting on a shirt for a better shot. Much younger and a less self-conscious back in those days, I guess. While I did slim down a couple years ago, I think my topless pics are a thing of the past. Especially after this whole pandemic thing got me rather lazy and as a result, rather large around the mid-section.

Need to work on that. Perhaps an uptick in strip mine walks and canal bike rides could kill two birds with one stone. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – Summer Float Trips

35 Years Ago This Summer – 1986 Float Trip

(Please note that “creek” rhymes with “stick” as you proceed to read today’s post)

It’s tough to beat a creek, no matter how you navigate those flowing waters.

In the case of today’s flashback, however, we are sticking to what was called a “float trip.” A float trip involved floating a stretch of creek via some sort of watercraft. In our case, this was either a canoe or that old, eight-foot johnboat that is still rowing strong. In most cases, the first stage of a float trip was to leave a vehicle at the takeout point and then drive another vehicle and watercraft to a launching spot. From the launch, we’d float downstream to one vehicle, load up and then drive to pick up the other vehicle.

The pictures above and below are from a 1986 float trip on a portion of Henderson Creek located in, oddly enough, Henderson County, IL. Dad, Brent, and I were involved in this float, and it looks like we borrowed my uncle’s truck as the additional vehicle. I guess he was the odd man out on this trip as Dad had two boys who could drive by that point in time. Our haul appears to be some carp, small channel cats and a drum. No trophies, simply icing on the cake for a fishing adventure.

Summer 1986 Float Trip – a creek, a canoe, a catfish and a big chaw of chew (glad I kicked that habit)

Speaking of fishing adventures, the pic below is one of my favorites. Dad and I hit a Warren County, IL spot that we called “Beefy’s Creek” as that was the fellow’s name who provided access. Well, I don’t think that was his real name but it all makes for a better story anyway. On this float trip, we only took one truck as we were able to dump the boat and gear, drive to a takeout spot and walk the cornfield back to our “launch.” I recall having to drag the boat through some sandbars and over a logjam more than I really remember what we caught.

July 3, 2001 – Dad during the Beefy’s Creek monsoon (good times and kind of dumb)

However, the highlight of the trip was a severe storm that hit the area as we were stuck down in that secluded creek bottom. We even pulled the boat ashore at one point and hid under the bank as the storm raged and we wondered what in the heck we were doing out there on the creek. While the picture of Dad looks like we were night fishing, it was probably taken about 8:00am, that’s how ugly the sky got during the storm. Apparently, Dad was somewhat prepared as he is decked out in raingear. In contrast, the photographer, yours truly, was wearing a garbage bag.

Anyway, we weathered the storm, caught some fish, and made it back to the truck. However, the torrential downpour left us wondering if even four-wheel drive was enough to get us back up the saturated, muddy lane to the gravel country road. Dad locked her in, we crossed our fingers and luckily, no problem, we were on our way home.

We no longer have access to these creeks or any others, but we sure made some memories to last a lifetime. Perhaps I should look into some waters to float with my boys one of these days although I wonder at times if I could still hang with such adventures. Then again, Brent and I have pulled off a couple questionable stunts over the last several years so maybe we’re not done quite yet. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – Summer 1986

Time flies when you’re catching bass as do the many other happenings and events over the last 35 years. But since this is generally an outdoor blog, we’ll stick to the “fish stories” behind the pics and the years in between.

Waters – All of the catches in today’s post came from Knox County. Our pair of 2021 catches came from Snakeden Hollow, Brent’s 1986 bass called Lake Storey home, and my 1986 catch came from a pond located southeast of Victoria. The latter was owned by Les Vicary, who passed away in 2019. It was the lone time that I fished the pond after Dad had gained access from Mr. Vicary via a work connection through their employers, Dick Blick and Consolidated Freightways, respectively. That pond is located less than a mile from my strip mine stomping grounds and I occasionally cruise by the property and reminisce.

Wardrobe – The fashion statement of a couple teenage boys in the 80s were what we called baseball “sleeves.” Over the years, we collected quite a rainbow of colors for various local teams. In 2021, we both showed up with Nike t-shirts although I am personally not a fan. I think I found the shirt somewhere over the years and it makes for good fishing attire.

Watercraft – Separated by many years, that is indeed the same boat in the 1986 Lake Storey picture and the 2021 Snakeden photo. We’ve rowed many a mile, caught plenty of fish and made a boatload of memories in that old 8-foot johnboat.

Worms – Two of the four bass in the pictures were caught on plastic worms, my 1986 fish and Brent’s 2021. Mine came on a Mister Twister Curly Tail fished Texas rigged. In fact, it was one of the earliest bass that I ever caught on such a setup. The bass at the pond were quite cooperative so I figured it was an ideal classroom to work on such a presentation. Brent’s bass came on a more modern rage, a wacky rigged Senko, one of our top offerings. Still hard to beat the old plastic worm.

Technology – We’ve come a long way as the 1986 shots were taken with a disc camera while the 2021 pics were taken with a “phone.” Also cool is the fact that there is video of the recent catches courtesy of a GoPro. While these anglers are arguably not as polished as the legendary fishing host, Virgil Ward, the video quality of those little cameras leaves the 80s in the dust.

Each of the topics above could fill a series of blog postings on their own but I try not to get too carried away on the Friday Flashbacks. Perhaps another day. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – June 27, 1996

The evening of June 27, 1996 at the Lake Bracken Spillway was like night and day for a group of carp anglers. The carp that called the spot home were sometimes an odd bunch. Some days, you could see several swimming below the surface from high atop the ridge as you looked down into the pool. And then not even get a bite.

Other times, no fish were to be seen from above, but the bite would be well worth navigating the tricky path down to the promised land. Of course, that was also part of the fun. From the sneak peek from up top to the tentative steps needed to maintain balance when armed with a couple poles and cooler of beer to the slight hop for the last step on the dirt descent to The Spillway, it was always an adventure.

On this trip, the carp chasers consisted of myself, my brother, Brent, and our friends, John and Lisa Junk. Us three guys had established ourselves as some solid carp fishers with a dozen years of experience at The Spillway dating back to high school. As for Lisa, well, she had been designated “The Carp Queen” following an impressive 1994 performance when she outfished the guys.

However, even Lisa’s 1994 success would pale in comparison to Brent’s domination on this trip. All told, he caught over thirty pounds of carp, easily outdistancing the rest of the crew. In fact, neither John, Lisa nor I caught a single carp. I’ve never seen anything like it. Quite odd as we were all using the same bait and fishing The Spillway was akin to the old fishing in a barrel adage.

 

All these years later, I still don’t have a true explanation for the discrepancy in fish catching. Sure, Brent is a skilled angler, but the rest of us are no slouches. The best I can come up with is that while Brent was more than willing to assist with hauling any of the gear, beverages and supplies down the slope, he always left the beer alone. For the rest of us, I’m not sure that we would have traded in our cold ones for a couple carp back in the day. Speaking for myself, I believe I was simply content to knock back a few and enjoy the show. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – June 21, 2011

An evening walk through Snakeden was my kick off to official summer 10 years ago this week.

Originally Posted 6-24-11

Hello, my name is Troy and it’s been thirty-three days since my last bass.

Life’s busy.
.
My last bass came on May 19. In the meantime my family has enjoyed at least a half dozen doctor visits (all simply checkups), two visits apiece to the eye doctor and dentist, pre-school graduation, a week of Girl Scout day camp, a bridging ceremony for Daisies and Brownies, weekly story time at the local library, three birthday parties, a wiener roast, a tumbling review, a magic show, an afternoon at the pool, an abbreviated camping weekend and I’m sure several other things that I’ve forgotten. In addition, there’s always laundry, meals, dishes, groceries and so on. But it sure beats work and often leaves me wondering how there’s any time left for a job anyway. Somehow, I also manage to find time to blog or at least live vicariously through the fish stories of others on the website.

However, I did manage to kick off our strange early summer with a solo walk-in trip at Snakeden Hollow. Quantity was good as I just wanted to get back on track, but quality wasn’t so great. But as always, I shoot some pictures to accompany the words.

Stats

Date: June 21, 2011
Location: Snakeden Hollow – various lakes
Time: 5:10pm-9:35pm (3.5 hours fishing, the rest walking)
Weather: Partly cloudy to rainy to sunny/very windy
Air Temp: 80-85F
Water Temp: not available
Totals: 24 bass
Lures: 5” Yamasenko (natural shad) wacky rig – 15 bass, Yum Wooly Curltail (green pumpkin) – 5 bass, Zara Spook (black shore minnow) – 3 bass, Mann’s Baby 1- crankbait (autumn sunfish) – 1 bass
Top Bass: 1-15
Weight (only 4 bass > 12”): 5-6 (1-15, 1-4, 1-2, 1-1)

Chronology

4:55pm to 5:10pm – Walking to my first stop

5:38pm – first bass, Mann’s Baby 1- crankbait

5:10pm to 5:55pm – Fished a nameless lake and landed my first fish on my somewhat new Cherrywood rod while tossing a Mann’s Baby 1-crankbait at 5:38pm.

6:00pm to 6:30pm – Tried my luck on a couple other nameless lakes with a Spook and the crankbait but wind and extensive vegetation eventually sent me packing to a more secluded pothole.

6:46pm – Piedmont Lake bass, ten years later the fishing hole is completely dried up

6:35pm to 7:05pm – A small body of water I call Piedmont Lake gives up a trio of bass in the one-pound range on a Yum Wooly Curltail grub.

7:39pm – a good cold water lure, the Wooly Curltail, also fools summer bass 

7:15pm to 7:45pm – The Wooly Curltail produces a pair of short fish in a narrow cut at a spot known as Finger Lake.

8:20pm – Top Bass at 1-15

8:00pm to 8:45pm – Following a weedy walk I arrive at a numbers lake that I call Upper Twin Lake. Right on cue the short bass start nailing my Senko wacky rig as I get a hit on nearly every cast. Some hook up and some don’t but a decent fish eventually beats the little ones to the bait and takes Top Bass at 1-15. It’s the second largest bass ever caught on the lake trailing a mysterious 5-2 from 1995 that keeps me coming back. Before leaving the spot, I try a Spook hoping to fool something a little bigger and get four hits on my first cast without hooking up. Several casts later one of the miniature bass goes airborne on a missed strike and I eventually wind up with one short bass before starting the long trek to the truck.

8:59pm – Zara Spook catch as daylight fades

8:57 pm to 9:05pm – I can’t resist one more stop at the channel on Finger Lake as the daylight fades. It’s perfect for the Spook and I’m instantly rewarded with a pair of fish to end the night.

9:07pm to 9:35pm – Snakeden Hollow is a sizeable piece of property with only peripheral access so you can wind up a long way from your vehicle. Such was the case on this outing as beyond a few stops to swat mosquitoes or switch hands with some of my gear, it took nearly a half hour to get back to the truck.

Many fish were like this one as a 5″ Senko was a hit with 7″-8″ bass

In the end it was rewarding to land a couple dozen bass although they were vastly outnumbered by mosquito bites. Upon checking last night, I had seventeen welts on my right arm from elbow to wrist and fourteen on the left. I also had about half a dozen good ones on my neck and a real nice one on top of my left ear. I’m not a big fan of bug spray but my stubbornness may likely give way to common sense should I pull this stunt again. I do have a fondness for bugs, but mosquitoes try my patience. Fortunately, the early night fireworks of thousands of lightning bugs eased the constant harassment of the bloodsuckers. On that topic I was also lucky to avoid any ticks despite wading through some serious weeds a few times.

I need to get back out there as my lone Snakeden hike this year was back in March. Maybe one of these days, stay tuned. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – June 19, 2016

Today’s flashback takes me across the river for what was my first ever trip to Lost Grove Lake. Plenty of water, plenty of weeds and plenty of bites on this outing, just couldn’t fool any real quality bass.

Originally Posted 6-29-16

I took the plunge and invested $44.59 (with fees) for an out of state Iowa fishing license to take a shot at some relatively new water in nearby Scott County.

Stats
Date: June 19, 2016
Location: Lost Grove Lake, IA
Time: 4.75 hours
Weather: Sunny/breezy
Air Temp: 72 to 85F
Water Temp: No reading
Totals: 19 bass
Lures: Senko wacky rig (green pumpkin black flake or natural shad) – 17 bass, Booyah Buzz Buzzbait – 1 bass, Strike King Red Eye Shad (sexy shad) – 1 bass
Top Bass: 1-9 (Senko)
Top 5 Weight (only 2 at 12” or better): 2-11 (1-9,1-2)

9:51am Top Bass at 1-9 and 14.5″ on a Senko wacky rig

Notes & Nonsense

Small Bites – In addition to the small bites from the bass, the size of the lake coupled with my modest watercraft setup means that I must chop the lake up into manageable pieces. My plan is to hit five or six different sections of the 390-acre body of water as I rack up visits and eventually get a look at the whole thing.

Topography – I have managed to secure a decent topo map of the lake from somewhere on the internet so it is cool to get look at what is going on below the surface in terms of contours and some manmade structure items. However, there are a few issues with my cut-rate depthfinder setup and GPS from my phone. A work in progress quite unlike my normal stomping grounds that are rather familiar after twenty five or thirty years of acquaintance.

Not Much of a Boat – As I was casting around some flooded bushes near a walk-in access area a couple fellows on the bank looked my way and one of them said, “That ain’t much of a boat” to the other guy. Glancing around the crowded lake that Sunday morning I counted six other watercraft including a couple tricked out bass boats: 250HP, Power Poles and so on. Easily over $100,000 of fishing equipment within view certainly lent credence to his observation. I also got to hear the same guy say, “Hey, he got another one” as I landed a pair of bass while they were watching including the 1-9 pictured above. I’m sure they meant no offense in their evaluation of that old 8’ johnboat and I took none, just got a laugh knowing that you can’t judge a book by the cover.

Several more trips over the years to Lost Grove have been hit or miss for me with most outings taking place in the heat of summer. I’ve found decent numbers but haven’t managed to fool much over two pounds. From internet reports and a couple firsthand observations, I know there are some good bass in there. I guess so far, the Iowa fish have outsmarted this Illinois boy. I haven’t purchased an Iowa fishing license this year and may just stick to some Prairie State waters, old and new. Talk to you later. Troy

Friday Flashback – June 3-5, 2016

Today, I am taking the easy way out and letting the pictures do the talking. The slideshow below looks back at a June 2016 family camping/fishing trip to Little John Conservation Club. We’re hoping to do more of both activities this year as the last few years our outings have been a bit sparse. Stay tuned on that project but for now enjoy some fish, family, and fun from five years ago this week. Talk to you later. Troy