Opening morning of fall trout season at Peabody River King Fish and Wildlife Area‘s Willow lake didn’t exactly start out with a big bang. Where are the trout? was a common question as anglers threw a variety of baits and combinations at them in the early post dawn hours. It was so slow initially I began to despair that I might not be able to actually get a photograph of anyone with a fish.
Orion Rutkowski readies his pole in quest for a BIG TROUT
Bob Rutkowski of TEAMSILO said ” I saw lots yesterday evening - some nice palomino ones as well as the rainbows - but they seem to be sleeping in ” Rutkowski and his son Orion had arrived just before daybreak and were still unsuccessful an hour later. “It’s just been slow- slow - and that’s unusual for this lake. Usually it’s just bang, bang, bang.”
Rutkowski’s sentiments were echoed by the larger than average numbers of folks fishing Willow Lake. Everyone seemed to be stymied. Servio Garcia of Smithton, IL lamented that he’d thrown a variety of things with no success and was tempted to try one of the Fruit Loops that his grandson Elijah Garcia of Columbia was snacking on. ” I’ve seen trout bite on crazy things ,” he laughed “We can’t do any worse than we already are”. In spite of the poor fishing during the first few hours Garcia admitted that just spending a beautiful autumn morning with his grandson was reason enough to be lakeside.
Garcia and his grandson Elijah pour over the available items in their tackle collection in search of a lure that would attract the elusive trout.
At last as I strolled the banks of Willow Lake looking for a successful angler I found Jerry Gass of O’Fallon, Illinois.
Jerry Gass, Ofallon - the first successful angler of the morning
“Well I have one, but it’s not a giant” Gass laughed “Maybe I should have gone to the deerstand instead this morning.” Gass reported that he’d netted his trout on a rooster tail. A little further down the shore I encountered Edward Weber of Troy, IL who also had caught a small rainbow on a rooster tail.
Echoing the tale of morning Weber told me that usually this is a great place on opening day - “it’s almost always hit after hit, but that wasn’t the case this morning”
Edward Weber of Troy, IL testing his luck from one of the small docks
Edward Weber’s success with a rooster tail.
Although the fishing wasn’t exactly stellar - the folks that I visited with all along the banks of Willow Lake were still happy they’d made the pre dawn trek to Peabody Fish and Wildlife Area in New Athens, IL . They commented on the beautiful sunrise, the loveliness of the mist rolling off the lake, the good times spent with friends and family. Bob Rutkowski summed it up - “Anytime outdoors with my boys is special - we’ve seen geese, cormorants, lots of wildlife, we’ve enjoyed talking with other anglers.After all,” he smiled, ” That’s why they call it fishing not catching”
Photo taken By Gila Rainey - Todd of Gila’s Place Photography and Design
I received this from friend and fellow photographer Gila Todd just yesterday. It would seem that the subdivision has had a round of burglaries of late and the residents have simply said - enough is enough.
After I had a good laugh - I talked with my friend Gila - to get the whole story. Yes, there had been burglaries and yes most of the residents in the somewhat rural subdivision in Missouri we locked and loaded and just waiting for the burglars to strike again. Not that anyone was advocating armed violence of any sort. But they were sending a clear message. They won’t tolerate this mini crime wave a moment longer. They are exercising their right to keep and bear arms, to defend their property. They own guns, may well be carrying them, know how to use them and are not bound up by a series of gun laws, rules, regulations and FOID cards as we are here where I live in IL.
Illinois - take heed; we’d like to be able to advertise so plainly that we are locked and loaded and intolerant of those who would trespass on property, violate and invade our homes, and threaten our safety and well being.
I’ve always loved the area where my friend Gila lives, and this is just another reason why. Buying a gun is simple, owning a gun is simple. Feeling safe is simple.
Maybe the criminals who have been harassing those in this neighborhood will take heed; then again, maybe they’ll just hop across the river where it’s easier pickings and the residents aren’t always so safely armed.
Saturday morning was the perfect fall hunt test day – the fog across the test field began to burn off and leave the grasses and caterpillars looking like they were dripping diamonds. Youth handlers and first timers anxiously awaited their chance at the started and, youth and puppy stakes. Finished and seasoned handlers and owners milled about catching up and telling tall tales. Peabody Fish and Wildlife area in New Athens was alive with dogs, handlers, and more dogs.
There was though a bittersweet undertone to the weekend. The fine folks involved with the HRC (Hunting Retriever Club ) had recently suffered a huge loss when longtime HRC member, handler, owner, judge and mentor Carol Rombauer passed away in late September.
Stories about Carol and her many contributions were heard throughout the day often followed with a smile and the phrase, “ That’s MY DOG!!!”.
“That’s my dog” was a trademark of Mrs. Rombauer’s – many at the Retrievers Unlimited HRC Fall Hunt test this weekend fondly remembered her exuberant shout when one of her dogs would receive a title or pass.
As the first day wound to a close the hunt test dinner hall filled with folks who continued to share stories of the wonderful lady that had taught them, inspired them, and made their days in the retriever community that much the better.
Although I don’t run dogs at the hunt tests, even I had story to share. I had the good fortune of being able to shoot photographs under the most gracious and helpful Rombauer. It was my first time photographing a hunt test and I was a basket of nerves, but good fortune paired me with Mrs. Rombauer and she took the time to help me understand everything. I learned how the tests work, where I should stand, what the rules were. I often wonder if I would have developed such a love for the sport and photographing the dogs if my first trip out had been with a different and perhaps less willing to teach judge.
As the dinner following the hunt progressed, Deb West, another favorite hunt test mentor of mine, and Vice President of Retrievers Unlimited HRC , presented a lifetime achievement award to Mr. Rod Rombauer – not only for his outstanding years of service to HRC but also those of Mrs. Rombauer’s. It was noted that that pair had accrued over 4,500 combined hours of judging hunt tests; those hours are a mere fraction of the time that Mr. and Mrs. Rombauer have devoted over the years to the retriever community.
Fighting back tears, West went on to announce that a memorial scholarship fund had been created through The HRC Foundation in memory of Carol Rombauer. With a huge smile West reminded the audience of Mrs. Rombauer’s trademark exclamation of “That’s My DOG!” and asked that those receiving ribbons, passes, or titles Saturday night let out their own exuberant version of “That’s My DOG!” when they came forward – just another small way to honor the memory of a woman who gave so much to so many in the retriever and gun dog community.
West followed this up with an announcement that a challenge was on the table for all the owners and handlers that were present, and for those who were not as well. It seems that during the course of the day at the hunt test Mr. Bill Amelung, another well respected judge at HRC, had conceived of a challenge to help build the scholarship fund.
“When you make that yell – and shout “That’s my dog!!” please consider donating ten dollars to Carol’s memorial scholarship fund – tell all the handlers and owners you know – spread the word to all the clubs - and lets fill the fund in honor of Carol!” said West
Missy Heard of Downtown Retrievers was one of the first to shout ” That’s my dog!” and contribute to the fund
It seemed only mere minutes passed before the first cry of “That’s my Dog!!” was filling the meeting hall and cash was tumbling into the jar.
So today – I’m issuing that same challenge to all of my friends in the retriever and gun dog world; next title, next ribbon, shout with joy – “That’s my dog!!” tip your hat to a wonderful woman who did so much for the retriever community, and drop ten bucks in the kitty .
Here’s the specific information about the scholarship fund:
To make a contribution to the HRC Foundation designated to the Carol Rombauer Scholarship Fund.
The address for those contributions would be:
HRC Foundation, Inc.
PO Box 632
Big Spring, TX 79721
A card will be sent announcing the contribution to Rod Rombauer and you will receive a receipt / thank you letter for the tax deductible contribution.
The guidelines for scholarship applicants are:
The applicant must be a citizen of the United States or Canada.
The applicant must be an HRC member, or the legal dependent of an HRC member on a family membership, and that membership must have been in place for a minimum of one year (12 months) at the time of application.
The applicant must be a high school senior, or graduate, with a minimum of a 3.0 Grade Point Average on a four (4) point system, or the equivalent on a five (5) or six (6) point system. College students must meet the same requirements.
The applicant must be ranked in the upper one-third (1/3) of his/her class.
SCHOLARSHIP APPLICATIONS are published in the December/January issues of the Hunting Retriever Club magazine.
Just writing this piece this morning reminds me of a favorite quote that always makes me think of my many female friends and colleagues in the retriever, hunt test, and gun dog communities.
“Any woman who does not thoroughly enjoy tramping across the country on a clear, frosty morning with a good gun and a pair of dogs does not know how to enjoy life.” ~ Annie Oakley
Hey Ms. Carol – “THAT’S MY DOG!” – I just know you are setting up a hunt test in heaven and keeping watch over my four footed pals who are waiting for me there.