20150624-_JAJ0962by John Jonelis

Here’s the right way to treat your old man: For Father’s Day, take him where you’ll boat 437 hard-fighting fish and a trophy of a lifetime in four days. That’s 3.7 minutes per fish – 92% of them Northern Pike. Maybe the Old Man’s memory isn’t showing signs of improvement lately, but he’ll remember this trip the rest of his days.

He knows this lake and longs to go back. With the right encouragement, there’s no way he can turn down your invitation. But what if he can’t bust free? Let’s say he gives the usual objection that he’s too busy. Here’s what you do:

20150623-_JAJ0933Point out that this is still one of Chicago’s hottest startups and qualifies as a business trip.

Sure, it’s way north of the North Side. It’s north of the 55th parallel. That puts it at the northern fringe of the Boreal forest. North of that lies tundra. Last year the ice was still four feet thick in early June. But according to Mark T. Wayne, it qualifies as a Chicago Startup for two good reasons:

  • Most all the patrons either hail from Chicago, once enjoyed that honor, or pass through O’Hare Field on their way.
  • This is only their second season of operation.

They don’t even stock the waters. You cast barbless hooks and release every fish unharmed—except, of course, the fresh walleye you eat for shore lunch. Ever experience waters as virgin as that? Wanna go? I guarantee he’ll say yes.


Shore Lunch


A huge part of the value of this excursion is the solitude of the north woods. Solitude has no price tag, so shoot the works! Surprise the old man! RENT THE WHOLE LODGE! Sure, the facility holds 25 guests. So what? It’s only money!


Think of it—just the two of you. The only habitation on the lake. No civilization for hundreds of miles! No roads. No phones. Nothing but a 45-mile-long stretch of ice-cold drinking water. 150 islands. More shoreline than Lake Michigan. Fir and aspen trees as far as you can see. Beaver, deer, and bear. The bald eagle. The blue heron. The loon. Loads of pike and walleye. A comfortable boat and the best fishing guide in Canada. A top-pro staff that caters to the old fart’s every whim.


Did I remind you to get a big plane? There’ll be 40 empty seats on that turboprop when it whisks the two of you from DuPage Airport to this wilderness paradise.


That empty plane gives a good, strong first impression. Don’t underestimate the value of a first impression. And the stewardess has little to do but serve drink after drink to the old goat! Congratulations on beating the O’Hare rat race!


Your destination is a 4,000 ft. landing strip carved out of the forest and paved with gravel quarried on site. The harvested trees make up the raw material for building such a facility.



You pick this particular outpost because it boasts all the amenities and you know the Old Relic loves the lake with a passion.


An afternoon shower

Suppertime, he sits quietly on the deck, gazing at the magnificent view as if in a trance. You grill up a thick steaks and he tucks his away with obvious relish, then pats his profound middle and pronounces himself satisfied.


Remember how old he really is. Fishing from a plush swivel seat will wear him out, even after that nap at shore lunch. No, he doesn’t have any energy left in him tonight—not even enough for a quiet game of chess. But don’t let that trouble you. At that latitude and time of year, the day peaks at 17 hours and 22 minutes of sunshine. Neither of you will see the dark of night and you’ve got the place to yourselves. So just tell him stories till he happily nods off. Then slip over to the lodge to sharpen your skills at the pool table.



Don’t Laugh

Show the old codger some respect. He doesn’t deserve it and sure doesn’t get any at the office. It will take him off guard and make him happy.

  • Don’t laugh when he dresses in camo from head to foot so the fish don’t see him. He really believes it helps.


  • Don’t chuckle when he flails away with his fly rod while you’re fishing spoons with a fast reel. Sure you cast twice as far as he can. Sure, you boat a pike before he completes his first cast. Sure, you boat another before he strips in six feet of line. He finally hooks a five-pound hammer handle.

Naturally you put away your rod as soon as he hooks that little fish. You stand mum as he plays it for a ridiculously long time. You don’t even snicker when he mentions his light tippet three times. Sure, you could’ve boated five more lunkers in that time span and you’re itching to get back in the game.

You refrain from casting your lure. You praise him effusively. You give him a sense of victory and you’re patient. That pike he just caught has rows of sharp teeth that will destroy his hand-made creation. Eventually he must run out of flies and start fishing your way.


  • Don’t gloat when the Old Reprobate finally switches to conventional tackle. “After all,” he says, “the fish are so aggressive, it’s inefficient to fish a slow retrieve.” But he insists on using a fancy and expensive bait casting setup rather than simple spinning gear. Naturally, he experiences the usual backlash incidents and you boat more pike every time he digs a mess of line out of his reel. At such times you avoid snide remarks that others will thoughtlessly make, such as, “I’ve yet to catch a fish while my lure is in the boat.”


  • You intend to use just one lure the entire trip. Your tackle box merely carries spares of the same design. His carries every pattern known to man. Don’t criticize him for constantly switching baits. He acquired this habit over decades of fishing unproductive waters close to home and he’s trying to match the hatch. Avoid such comments as, “Fish are not impressed with the time you spend fiddling with your tackle box.” No, let him stalk his prey slowly, in his own way as appropriate to his age.


  • Show an extra measure of kindness. Give him the boat’s casting deck for the whole trip. He’ll appreciate that. Don’t make derisive comments when he asks the guide to mount the swivel seat up front. Remember, his feet are as old as he is.


  • Don’t laugh when his expensive 16-inch-long stainless steel needle nosed pliers goes over the side. That can happen to anybody.


  • Hold your tongue when the Old Geezer methodically de-barbs the hooks on that snazzy new lure, using a special and expensive tool. He then plops the bait into the lake, forgetting to attach the line. It sinks to the bottom before the guide can reach for the net. You’ll be glad your remained silent when the he gives you a wan smile and says, “I forgot to remember.”


  • There are plenty of legitimate ways to lose lures. Like that monster pike that strikes right at the boat, just as the Old Fossil lifts his lure from the water. As you and the guide watch, it shakes its awesome head once, twice, three times, straightens out a new and expensive 50 lb. titanium leader, and then makes wake as it swims away with a precious hand-painted spoon. Naturally you’re thinking, “I hope that thing tastes good,” and “I wonder if that paint job will give the fish indigestion.” But of course, you keep those comments to yourself. Losing a fish that big hurts real bad and you want to treat the Old Man real good.


  • Don’t scoff when he wonders where on the lake you are at any given time. Admit it. You don’t know either.


  • Above all, hide your smirk when, every day, you outfish him almost 2 to 1. He’ll face the numbers when he pays off the bets. He’s not so competitive these days and after such terrific quantities of fish, he really won’t care if you get more than he does. He may even prefer it, and where does that leave you if you crack wise?


I Got the Whole World

You and the guide untangle a small Pike from the net. Eventually, you look up to see the Old Man’s line snagged on another rock. As usual, he keeps his rod bent in an exaggerated manner and his line taught way too long — just to make sure. There’s no movement whatsoever. He’s telling you it’s a big one, but even the guide doesn’t buy it. “You’re towing the boat,” he says softly. Yeah, the Old Fogey’s got bottom. But you humor him and in a couple minutes you’re glad you did because his reel slowly goes click, click, click. That’s life at the end of the line! Something with a lot of weight!

The fish finally swims and peels off line fast and at will, making the reel sing. That happens again and again — every time he works it close. You get several good looks and cry out in awe like any faithful son.

Finally, the monster tires and doesn’t shy from the boat.

Now it’s safe in the enormous net.

The Old Man hoists it and you snap a photo. Have you ever seen a pike so heavy? That fish measures 43 in. and weighs 30 lb. He caught it on a homemade lure and it puts him in the record books a fourth time.

And it’s Father’s Day!


Now you note fresh tooth marks across that lunker’s midriff. That also happened last year when he brought the magazine staff up here. The guide will bring you back to this spot to cast for that bigger one nobody saw—an opportunity of a lifetime!

The Old Man is bending over the side of the boat, gently reviving the fish. Pike are sprinters, not marathon runners, and after the long fight, it’s exhausted. He slowly moves it back and forth, forcing water through the gills. Artificial respiration. It finally requires a rap to the head to wake it from its stupor and the trophy pike slowly, slowly disappears deep into the cold clear lake.

And that’s how to treat the Old Man.


The Numbers

(Because of standard boat bets, you keep an accurate tally. All fish are caught on barbless hooks and released unharmed. 4 days on the water, including boat travel, less shore lunch = 27 hours fishing.)

27 hrs / 437 fish = 3.7 min. per fish by actual count.

402 Northern Pike, 35 Walleye

269 (62%) by Son, 168 (38%) by Old Man


Our Cabin

How do they get a big ornate pool table and all that other stuff to such a remote place? Check out the episode of Ice Road Truckers that involves a winter convoy to this lake over the frozen river system leading to Hudson Bay.



The Hot New Startup

This is North Star Executive Outpost on Knee Lake, Manitoba.

Talk to Hope Levenhagen at 800-563-7151



Personal Notes

This advice is for others, because you, my son, adroitly accomplished it.

Heartfelt thanks to Curry Fequet, Doug Woodland, Lynn Peters, Hope Levenhagan, and the entire North Star crew for giving the Old Man a slice of heaven on earth.





Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press.

Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2015 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

All photos by the author.