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updated: 5/28/2014 4:26 PM

Angling's steady pull, in the generational sense

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I could tell you about the fabulous bass fishing on Lake Delavan, but I won't.

I could report the excellent walleye and bass fishing on the Fox Chain, but I'd rather you find out for yourself.

And I could easily celebrate the outstanding jumbo bluegill angling on Hooker Lake, just over the Illinois-Wisconsin state line, but so many of you already know the score for that treasure trove.

With all that said, I will share a personal conversation I had shortly before my 95-year-old Uncle Gilbert passed away.

The airlines got to know me fairly well because I was becoming a frequent flier as the result of trips every 10 days to Los Angeles to help take care of my uncle.

In some previous columns, I mentioned an expression "it's all about the tug," referring to when a fish strikes. The thrust was that the fishing experience for kids and adults was universal, and the emotions of a trip were just as important as the actual catching.

I've taken it a bit further, especially how it pertains to my family's life and my own.

I clearly recall that I was standing close to where my uncle was sitting. He reached over and pulled on my pants leg while I was on the cellphone. The pull was similar to a bluegill grabbing a tiny jig.

"Go over to the closet and take the reel home with you," he commanded.

Instead of accepting it graciously, I suggested to my frail family patriarch that he give it to one of his friends.

"They're all gone," he replied. "You're the one who would use it.

"I tried giving your late father some of my gear but he was reluctant to take anything."

Irv, my father, was more of a Mitchell 300 and 308 guy, not someone who could wrestle a giant tuna while holding on to a monster reel packed with 150-pound test line.

So in the end, I acquiesced.

My mother once showed me a picture of Gilbert while he was on a big fishing boat. He stood next to some pretty hefty fish he'd caught. A heavy rod and that huge Penn reel stood next to him.

My late mother proceeded to tell me there wasn't anything her brother Gilbert hadn't done in his lifetime after his Naval stint in World War II. His only regret was he didn't raise a son. That's where I supposedly fit into the West Coast family matrix.

When Uncle Gil and his wife lived in Chicago, he would often take me bowling, and then the routine included a short ride to the lakefront to watch the perch fishermen.

Other times Gilbert would pick me up on his day off and drive to the South Side to get shrimp and fish sandwiches with mugs of root beer.

When I started my West Coast travels, I found a scrapbook my uncle put together about my career in print and broadcast journalism. Plus, he kept every picture of me while I was on assignment stateside and far-off places.

Before all that was a family blowup.

I turned 16, and because my father was working long hours I asked Gilbert to take me to the Secretary of State's driver's office in Chicago so I could take my driver's exam. Once home I waved that newly acquired "official" permission around like a fan.

When Irv found out that Gilbert had usurped his traditional fatherly duty, my father expressed his displeasure in his drill instructor bellowing, which went on for days.

Irv and I didn't fish the Chain that weekend. I learned Gilbert and Irv later shook hands over the issue and nary a word was uttered again.

But the following week my father asked if I wanted to go to Hayward and do some muskie fishing.

"And if all goes well," he said, "maybe you can drive up there part of the way."

It was the tug of life in full form.

• Contact Mike Jackson at, and catch his radio show 6-7 a.m. Sundays on WSBC 1240-AM.

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