Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - October 22, 2021


From Jackson to the Jackson

It will be 35 years ago next August I met husband Art. But our courtship was interrupted just a month after it began. He had bigger fish to fry ... literally. Although he had lived in Kansas for 16 years by then, he returned to his native Wisconsin every year to fish for trout.

I don't fish, but I had seen pictures of men standing in streams and artfully casting - such as scenes sprinkled throughout the movie "A River Runs Through It." Art said he had done that sort of fishing, but was unlikely he would be doing it that trip. That mental picture I had contained something Wisconsin has a scarcity of ... mountains. He explained that without fast-moving, cold mountain water, a stream big enough to support fishing with flies is too warm for trout. Art's efforts, instead, were expended on small, spring-fed streams sheltered by the canopy of a forest or in fields with chest-high grass so thick that the stream's precise location is sometimes hard to ascertain. Some at certain points were less than a yard wide.

During our Wisconsin visits now, Art frequently stops where a brook crosses the road to assess fishing conditions. While the settings often look idyllic, the muddy banks, brambles, occasional mosquito swarms, and presence of ticks instill no desire in me to put on hip boots and join him. However, I never pass on the opportunity to enjoy a meal of those beautiful small-stream trout he brings home.

Art started fishing just after his 9th birthday. He was intrigued by a beautiful brook trout his dad Tom brought home. Tom doubted the youngster would stick with it, but Art was hooked - pun intended. Tom bought him a new rod and reel, hip boots and a creel. Art has gone through many pairs of boots and a few creels since then, but the rod and reel are the ones he still uses today.

Edgar - Tom's dad and Art's grandfather - also loved trout fishing, but only joined them once. He was well into his 80s by then. Edgar was 16 when his dad died and his half-brother Luther Jackson, who was 33, took him under his wing. Art believes Edgar learned from "Lute," who had quite a reputation as a trout fisherman. The following are typical items from the local Manawa Advocate:

- L. M. Jackson and Otto Grier went to the Pigeon Friday and returned with 28 trout. - 21 April 1898

- L M Jackson has the thanks of the editor's family for a nice mess of brook trout. - 14 June 1900

At the end of Tom's and Art's fishing excursions, they met back at the car, hot, sweaty and tired. Tom sometimes commented, "And they call this fun?" ... but with a smile that said he thought it was. Few others felt the same. Over the years, a number of people asked Art or Tom to take them along, but only one person - our "adopted" German son Tim - showed continuing interest.

Art is keenly aware that his days on the stream are numbered. Tom quit at 75. Art passed that milestone, and is taking it year by year now. When the season opening approached in May, Art commented it well could be his last. Son-in-law Matt startled him, saying Art couldn't quit before he showed him the ropes.

Various events kept that from happening until early October. Art had gone several times and had frozen fish so we could have a Friday-night fish fry with daughter Katie and Matt at our cottage. Art and Matt had planned to go fishing the next day, but heavy rains scuttled it. One opportunity remained before the season ended.

Matt is less than half Art's age and, since he's an Eagle Scout, Art knew he would feel comfortable in the woods. But those earlier experiences meant Art was prepared for it being a one-and-done situation. Still, Matt had continued to pepper Art with questions - questions that indicated he was giving it some real thought.

Daybreak revealed a gray sky. It looked like it might rain at any moment. They left about 10. Art headed for a stream with a short section that was pretty easy fishing, where he could show Matt how to handle the pole and line. Art said he was surprised by some of the questions Matt asked enroute - questions even many seasoned small-stream fisherman know nothing about. He had been doing his research!

After he had oriented Matt, Art left for another portion of the stream, fishing toward Matt to make certain they would meet.

Art had a couple of fish by the time they met and Matt had one as well. He had watched Matt at a distance. Brushy situations leave most newbies spending all their time untangling their line from the foliage, but that hadnít defeated Matt. It was time for the real test!

They moved to another stream Art had first fished when he was a teenager. It had less brush, but the banks were mucky and slick. A few weeks before, it had treated Art to an unexpected swim.

The stream was only good to fish one way from the road. Art's plan was to tell Matt a bit about what to expect and then have him go it alone. Art followed for a bit, caught one and then returned to the car.

A heavy overcast makes for good fishing, but also make a person reflect. Art said he thought about the times he and his dad had been there and wondered how many trips there were in his future - not sad thoughts, but thankful ones.

Matt emerged from the wood as the light was fading. He had caught another - a nice one.

Earlier, when they were between streams, Art had mentioned the connection between Lute, his grandfather, his dad and him, adding, "But it ends with me."

Without pausing, Matt said, "No it doesn't. Now you have me!"

And that last stream? It's called the Jackson!


Left: View of Jackson Creek with an inset of Lute Jackson. It is coincidence they share the name; top-middle: Katie, Matt, Art and I in our cottage before partaking of a supper of brook trout Art caught; bottom-middle: Matt with one of his fish. A 9-inch fish is considered a good catch on such a stream; bottom-right: Matt and Art inspecting a stream Art has fished for almost 30 years. Biologists say the area has returned to the condition it was in before white men arrived; top-right: brook trout are the centerpiece of a meal including rice and steamed vegetables.



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