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20 Years of ISA Memories

Mike Clifford

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As we are upon our 20th Anniversary, it brings with it amazing stories.

We'd love to hear from all of you regarding your favorite memories over the span of your ISA membership, whether you've been with us for many years or just a short time!

Don't be shy. You are all the foundation and the future of our organization.

Let's have it!!


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First ISA cleanup, yea long ago, pair up with a guy named Phil. It turned into a life long friendship and my favorite fishing partner outside of my son. The old Breakfast Club meetings, 4 guys, Phil, Mark Kasick, Jim Alexander and myself, all getting together for cold water river smallmouth fishing. Meeting at Baker's Square because one guy came from Champaign, one from Berwyn, one from Skokie and one from Bourbonnais and it was better than sitting in a parking lot.


The cleanups with grillmaster Mark K, Jim Alexander digging on my wife's homemade chocolate chip cookies, sharing the knowledge of the Kankakee River with others doing seminar/Q and A/ demos, whatever they were with the guys that showed up to help. Craig R catching a Quillback sucker on a fly, think it was at one of those. Then again maybe it was at one of the early K 3 outings. I remember those outings, planning to fish with Phil and so many guys would show up, he would graciously take a group out even though it wasn't his home river. The sharing of knowledge at any fishing outing you went to. on your river or theirs.


Impromptu meetings with other members, I remember one, my wife came out with the dog, found us , and feed us fried chicken and homemade cookies.


The conservation work, cleanups, water willow plantings, stream monitoring demos, help Patty with the Everglades of the North, with my son Zachary, an ISA member, helping out.


At one of the banquets in Wilmington, when we had the panel discussion and following Q and A with 4 or 5 of the members as the panel. That might be something to try again. At Wilmington again, helping out by handling the catering and enjoying the smiles of those enjoying the food. At another banquet up north, being the opening speaker, followed by Steve Quinn of In Fisherman. Then missing Mick Thill speaking because Steve and I were talking cold water , high water river smallmouth which led to contributing to an article in In Fisherman.


Working the ISA booth at the sports shows, getting to meet some big name and not so big name anglers, either working other nearby booths or on the floor. Getting guys to sign up and meeting them again at one ISA function or another.


Representing the ISA at the IDNR Conservation Congress, at groups like the Northern Illinois Anglers association, The Kankakee River Basin Partnership and the Kankakee River Roundtable. Representing the ISA at that trumped up so called conservation meeting called the farmers for a flood free Kankakee River over in Indiana and being followed by the county police who were keeping an eye on us outside agitators. Then stealing a march on the organizers by snagging a seat on the bus next to the Indiana governor's representative I was able to shoot holes in all their arguments as they made them during the tour.


Contributing articles to the Bronzeback Bulletin until I lost the desire to write. Still tossing in a fishing reprt every now and then on the forums, even though they aren't as detailed or long winded, depending on your point of view, as they used to be.


Members meet, good times we had. Even that old fart getting boat butt down in Missouri.

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One of my best memories is fishing the Kankakee River with Norm and a little guy that was a Chef but I can't remember his name. We had a great morning on the water and climbed te hill to the parking lot to find Norm's wife setting there with our lunch. A very fine lunch also. Spending time fishing with Norm and Phil as well as many other ISA members is a time I treasure and will always ave in the back of my mind. Thank you all for being my friend.

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I remember the first meeting I attended as a guest of Ken G down in the Kankakee valley at a VFW hall in the spring.. I didn't even own a pair of waders or hip boots at the time. Mark K, Jim J, Norm M, Mike C, John G, Scott F, Ken G and a few others were there. I was in awe of the river knowledge of these guys. I had no idea of how to fish for smallmouth in rivers. A few months later, I was out fishing and catching some nice fish because of what I had learned at that meeting. I caught an 18 inch smallmouth in the West Branch of the Dupage River in the middle of suburbia and I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I had no idea there were fish like this in Illinois waters. Later there was an ISA outing on the Dupage River that brought so many anglers out that some had to be diverted to the Fox River to prevent overcrowding. It was too large a group to have decent fishing, but it sure was cool seeing a parking lot full of fishermen in their waders and vests comparing reels, rods and lures.

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I learned of the ISA through Mark K., who I had become friends with on CLF. Mark told tales of past breakfast meetings and other, where he'd BS with ISA members for hours after the meeting had officially ended. I'll never forget him saying, "these guys sleep with their marked gazatteers! Real die-hard river fishermen!" I have to admit, I was intimidated.


Most of my fishing experience was with largemouth, but late in my college years I started joining my brother-in-law on his excursions to the Kishwaukee River. He showed me the ropes. Wet wading in summer, tossing a handful of lures with ultralight spinning gear, and busting smallies. I was hooked!


My pops and I used to drive from Darien to Geneva and he'd sit on a bench and watch me wade below the dam. That was my first experience fishing the Fox. Didn't know where else to go, and the much bigger Fox (compared to the Kish) seemed very intimidating! I didn't know anything about gauge height or CFS. Had no clue what "normal" conditions were at any given time.


I watched Joz assemble the first ISA web site in 2002. That's when I volunteered to help and join the club. It was right after I lost my dad. My first son was only 2 years old and I worked from home. Got a lot done in between his naps! Ah, simpler times!


A few things stand out in my mind when thinking back:


> Our evening meetings at Pal Joey's in West Chicago were great! Pizza and beer, and some smallie talk. What more could you want?

> Joz's bridge-fishing presentation was stellar

> Meeting Jonn Graham for the first time -- I was a bit star-struck!

> Joz taking me to the Dupe and catching my first Dupe smallie on a buzzbait

> Meeting Joz and Scott at Starbucks in Wheaton and planning the Blowout (my first one)

> Randy Dunlap being auctioneer at that Blowout

> Steve Quinn of In-Fisherman as guest speaker at the Blowout

> Winning the 50/50 raffle at the Blowout after having bought the first ticket and only spending $1

> Awesome cast & compare outings

> Amazing water willow plantings with our dedicated members (my hands were shot!)

> Trash cleanups, both solo and as part of the ISA

> Catching my first 20" smallie on the Fox

> Meeting Creekyknees (Norm) and him sending my son some train stuff


Kind of a long story, but involved a trash cleanup the ISA hosted in Batavia. I was wading and picking up trash with Gary Lang. We found a backpack in the water. Had school books in it and some gym clothes. Also had a wallet containing cash and an NIU student ID. We both got a creepy feeling like, "When are we going to find the body?"


I wrote down the woman's name off the ID and when I got home, called the NIU operator and tried to contact her. Turns out, she was listed and lived in an apartment. I phoned the apartment and asked for her. I said I had found her backpack in the Fox River. The voice on the other end of the phone sounded very worried. It was the woman's twin sister! She explained that her sis' car had gotten stolen a few months back, and that the thieves must have just tossed the backpack as they were joy-riding. But she was safe and sound, and ultimately picked up her backpack at the local police office. A few days later she called me back and thanked me for finding it.


Oh yeah, that same trash cleanup we found a XXX magazine and tucked it under the seat of Mark K's truck (he also volunteered at the cleanup). He didn't realize it was there until he was driving some co-workers to lunch and took a turn, and it slid out from under the seat! :lol:

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First member I met from the ISA was Mark K.. Seems like his name has been mentioned a few times on this thread.


I was leaving the K3 and he was arriving and we struck up a conversation and eventually shared that we were both ISA members. We proceeded to have a great talk about his ISA experiences while I watched him practice his fly casting. I had fly fished as a boy and watching him inspired me to move over to the dark side once again. Now I have a 4 weight, a 5, a 6, 2- 7's & and an 8. I'm also broke.


Thanks Mark

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I have to start with my first taste of the ISA. It was at a clean-up on the Kankakee. I was not a member at the time, but I was treated as though I was. Scott provided a tour that transcended cleaning up trash. I learned more about fishing this river in those couple hours than I'd learned in the few years previous.

I really don't know where to go from there, beyond the usual conservation stuff already mentioned.

I can sum it up in two words: VOLUNTEER SPIRIT
You people are nothing short of amazing.
What started as a little 'ol day at Monee Reservoir for a few hours with the kiddies turned into 7 years of Sgt. Tommy's Kids.
I witnessed Hunting and Fishing Days go from a simple casting field to our hosting the complete fishing pond and casting area.

My memories of going to the IL State Fair for several years to host casting with Marc Miller are of the legendary nature. 110 in the shade every year, and more traffic to the station than you can possibly imagine.
Norm's incredible video performance during our biological stream analysis for the movie.

Conservation Congress was beyond words..........


We literally killed a lead ban in fishing tackle in IL.
We had a huge hand in killing a factory farm in Jo Daviess County.


Creating a culture of professionalism in everything conservation.

That's my favorite memory.


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When I joined 14 years ago, my goal was to learn to fish rivers. I figured that the leaders of the club were probably some good fishermen so if I became an active member, I'd get to fish and learn from the best. I was right about one thing, the leaders, guys like Jonn Graham and Pete Plauck were great fishermen. I was also wrong about one thing, it wasn't necessary for me to be active to be able to fish and learn from these guys. Everyone who was in the club at the time was always more than willing to share their knowledge with anyone who showed up at an outing. That attitude continues strongly even today. My first year, the big project was putting up the yellow "Catch & Release" signs. They had been on the drawing board for several years and were finally ready to install. I showed up at the Kankakee, Fox and DuPage install days. I learned so many spots to fish in those 3 days. It was just the accelerated learning program I was looking for. Like I said, it wasn't necessary for me to be active to get that education, but I figure that the work I've done on behalf of the ISA ever since has just been me paying the club back for everything I learned. I was heavily involved in the club during the period of huge growth when we went from 100 members to over 500. It was exciting to be a part of the growth from getting guys from the In-Fishermen to be the speakers at the Blowout to the expansion of the newsletter. I have met and fished with so many guys over the years that I never would have met without the ISA. I look forward to the next 20 years and many more friends.

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