Seeling: A world-class angler, journalist and friend

  • This 145-pound tarpon caught in Costa Rica certainly was a big challenge for Mike Seeling to land and control.

    This 145-pound tarpon caught in Costa Rica certainly was a big challenge for Mike Seeling to land and control. Photo courtesy of Mike Jackson


Wherever we traveled, one of us -- him or me -- would incur some kind of physical injury.

And believe me when I tell you that Mike Seeling and I traveled all across, as well as up and down, Illinois and a host of other states.

In fact, 26 years ago Seeling -- who passed away last week at the age of 67 -- joined me on bass, catfish, striper and crappie trips to southern Illinois and Tennessee.

We chased white crappies on Missouri's Truman Lake, huge lake trout in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and the Northwest Territories. We were lucky to find a pod of 48- to 50-inch northern pike in the sub-Arctic. And I carefully watched him battle a 145-pound tarpon in Costa Rica -- standing behind him, ready to grab him just in case the fish pulled him overboard.

And overboard is exactly what happened to Seeling one sunny afternoon in one of Rend Lake's back bays, when he lost his balance while trying to avoid falling on a bunch of rods belonging to me and mutual friend Todd Gessner. Seeling just missed getting skewered by a deadfall tree sticking up.

We both carefully balanced ourselves on boulders the size of small trucks and made long fly-rod casts with dry flies so we could tangle with world-class grayling.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service

Ice fishing for walleyes on the Fox Chain was always an adventure. We would sit in the two-person ice shelter watching bluegills, crappie, and walleyes chase our tiny jigs. The conversations covered everything from Mike's north country bush cooking to congressional politics.

On one trip, we packed our waders and fly rods and headed for Alaska so we could encounter trophy silver salmon on the Rocky River. Before this trip I'd spent hours at the fly-tying table, creating one-of-kind flashy streamers. During one morning foray on the river I placed the fly box, which had a couple dozen of my specially made Alaskan flies, on a log so I would have enough space in my fly vest. We both caught a lot of big silvers and left the river totally satiated by the phenomenal angling we encountered.

Back in the cabin, I realized I'd left the box on the log. Mike said to relax and we'd get it in the morning. By the time we got back, the fly box was gone. We forgot that the river was tide-dependent on the Gulf of Alaska. The tide grabbed the box, and that was that. Seeling didn't stop ribbing me until the trip was over.

Another time, we decided to do a trail ride in the Shawnee National Forest in downstate Illinois. A lot of Mike's acquaintances didn't know he was an accomplished horseman, but it's true. Usually, anyway.


I watched as Mike went to the corral to get his horse. It was already saddled. He got on, and that very second the animal took off, bucking and running. I watched while Seeling sailed through the air with his two Nikon cameras cracking him in his head. He wound up with a fractured rib when he flew off the horse, and yet we both laughed our way through the very real pain he incurred.

I last saw Seeling two weeks ago when we arrived home after a memorable and productive fishing trip to Venice, La.

I couldn't understand why he never called me back last week, until his son Brett told me how he'd found his dad slumped over the computer.

Seeling gave the Daily Herald 43 years of his professional life before retiring in 2007 from his position as director of photography.

We shared a lifetime of fun in the great outdoors. So, yes, I'm mourning the loss of a great pal. But it's more than that.

He was a world-class human being.

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

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.