The Old Man and Me; A Fish Story

The Old Man and Me; A Fish Story

So I visited my father the past two days, doing a little better, even gripped my hand this past evening as I spoke to him but he still has a long way to go in recovery, so here is the next in my series of memories with him.

When it was this time of year my father always spoke of “when the weather breaks”, meaning spring. And to him & I that meant one thing, fishing.

We’d go to the RV & Boat Show at McCormick Place In January and look at the latest in fishing gear, boats (dad owned a fishing boat when I was small), and outdoors stuff, the highlight was always seeing the Department of Conservation and getting a copy of the newest fishing rules book and checking on renewing our fishing licenses.

You’ve see those emotional commercials about kids asking an adult to “take me fishing”, well my dad did that, in spades. From the time I was a baby until last summer at his downstate pond, we fished.  Even if it was my brother and I going fishing, dad always made sure we had the right equipment and we stocked with bait and cold drinks. Yes he did this last summer at his downstate pond even though my brother and I were grown men.

Even when I was an angst ridden teenager and I thought dad was dumb, my dad & I fished.

And when he thought I was lazy and not living up to my potential, we still fished.

Until he moved out of the area, we found time to fish, he even once came up to DePaul when I was in college and we fished in the Lincoln Park lagoon right by the Zoo.

In earlier times (before I started high school), we used to fish east of the Bishop Ford expressway adjacent to the Chicago city dump (it’s now blocked off), and that was mandatory catch and release, you didn’t keep those fish, he always joked they would glow or have three eyes. Still it was fishing and quality time together.

I drive past our favorite fishing spot almost every day on my commute to work, its off the Lemont Street Bridge in the Des Plaines River (also now blocked off), just north of downtown Lemont. Really great spot for carp, catfish and bullheads, but it was tough fishing, a lot of debris, often a quick current and an eroding shoreline. Just the way dad liked it, he didn’t like easy fishing, he didn’t like fishing off a boat and he hated fish finders and anything that took away from the natural man vs fish battle. His thing was fishing off the bank into challenging waters with tough scavenger fish.

Every time I pass that fishing site, I smile, memories of the unbeatable fishing with the old man.

When I was little we had a one of those small campers that fit on the bed of a pickup truck and we’d camp at Kankakee State Park and the Kankakee River is one of the fastest currents you will see in a river in northern Illinois. Dad relished the natural challenge of going after the fish. Once he “got a bite” and tried to reel in the fish he’d yell “fish on” and the fight was on.

He also loved the Hennepin Canal and Starved Rock areas, again not easy fishing, and fish that didn’t just jump on a hook.

Two calmer spots he liked was the Cook County Forest Preserves sites at Pampoose Lake off of McCarthy Road (123rd Street), just went of LaGrange Road and Saganashkee Slough near Willow Springs Road off of 107th Street. Those were good bluegill and sunfish spots with a smaller fishing pole (dad called them “ultralights”), and not big night crawlers but red worms or yes maggots. Those were good times in those shaded, peaceful waters going after the smaller yet no more benign fish, they would fight you too, just less mass & splash.

His love of fishing is how he retired to Southern Illinois, we often in the summer would go down to Rend Lake or Wayne Fitgerrell State Park and from those area he discovered the area that he later retired to. Now that was more relaxed fishing for small-mouth and serious crappie fishing.

Every time I have gone fishing my dad has been involved, either checking my equipment, getting me bait or going along with, my father has been there with me when it came to fishing.

Even thought he was my old man, he was the best fishing buddy anyone could ask for.
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    Charles W. Johnson

    I'm a lifelong writer (since I was 8 years old), and have been doing this blog in some form or fashion since 2004. I'm a DePaul University alum, class of 1999 and prior to that Brother Rice class of 1994. . And I appreciate you taking to the time to read what I have to say, feel free to email

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