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A guide with a few sides

Capt. AustAdduci makes few casts after lunch before resuming drift-bofishing Kankakee River one his two innovative approaches guiding Chicago area.

Capt. Austin Adduci makes a few casts after lunch and before resuming drift-boat fishing on the Kankakee River, one of his two innovative approaches to guiding in the Chicago area. | Dale Bowman~For the Sun-Times

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Updated: November 10, 2011 11:31AM

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. — Even as Capt. Austin Adduci stowed gear and fishing rods in his drift boat, I could see fish action — dimples to full splashes — on the Kankakee River. The morning held both promise and impending bizarreness.

A gray dawn filtered through showers oddly streaming in from the east off Tropical Storm Lee tracking north on the East Coast. Even better, blue herons were on shore and overhead. It was a perfect setting — only different than when I usually ply my favorite river.

Adduci handed me a fly rod with a hand-tied, dark popper on it. Boy, did I botch that for a while. I had a fly rod in hand once this summer, for about half an hour practicing in the backyard.

‘‘Ever had a lesson with Joseph Meyer?’’ Adduci finally asked.

‘‘You’re painting an igloo.’’

I had a lesson with Meyer, Chicago’s fabled teacher, a few
years ago when he had his own shop. He’s back with Orvis downtown. His analogy is that fly casting should look like painting a ceiling, not like painting an igloo. As the day wore on, I painted more ceilings, even if they weren’t the Sistine Chapel.

But my main aim that Friday was figuring out Adduci. He’s doing two of the oddest forms of guiding in Chicago fishing.

He started out to do a different style of guiding on southern Lake Michigan, such as poling a boat around flats for big Lake Michigan carp or catching fall salmon or lake trout with a fly rod.

But he had to cancel so many trips because of weather, he said:
‘‘I had to have a Plan B.’’

That was taking guide trips, primarily with a fly rod, down the Kankakee with a drift boat, a form more common in the West for trout fishing. His ClackaCraft is manufactured out west. Adduci rows the drift boat while the client stands with his or her thigh in the little loop in front and casts.

How did Adduci, a 33-year-old union carpenter from Orland Park, end up with such ideas?

He learned to fly fish when he earned enough points from Marlboro, back in his younger smoking days, to get a fly rod. He tried for steelhead and salmon in the Lake Michigan tributaries.

‘‘I went through the whole season and was skunked,’’ he said. ‘‘But I had that want to do it.’’

Far too many of us think of fly fishing as an elitist, trout-stream endeavor.

‘‘It doesn’t have to be the elitist mind-set,’’ Adduci said. ‘‘I am a carpenter. My old man is a painter. That is the big thing underlying this — it doesn’t have to be an elitist thing.’’

Between talking and note-taking, I managed to miss my first five strikes after Adduci switched me to a weighted white fly. Then I hooked a small smallmouth bass and released it.

Adduci thinks something similar to the model that Tim Landwehr does at Tight Lines Fly Fishing Co. in DePere, Wis., could work on the Kankakee, ‘‘a beautiful river that produces a lot of fish.’’ By next year, Adduci should have a formal connection with Chicago Fly Fishing Outfitters.

Rain thickened enough that Adduci anchored under Warner Bridge for our lunch break. Afterward, we stretched our legs and wet-waded for half an hour.

He uses 7-weight rods spooled with floating line.

‘‘I like 7s because the flies we use are heavier than dry flies,’’ he said. ‘‘And they will handle heavier fish like carp or pike.’’

When we saw a huge carp tailing along the bank, Adduci made several good casts, but without getting the wily carp to strike.

In the heaviest downpour, I hooked and lost two good smallmouth across from the island where I drew a duck blind last year.

It was time.

Adduci rowed into the downstream launch at Kankakee River State Park. After he unpacked and I checked my rain-splattered notes, he handed me the two white flies that hooked fish.

For Adduci, go to or call (630) 886-1964.

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