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Matt Mullady planning outdoor show on banks of Kankakee River

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Updated: August 24, 2013 1:16AM

KANKAKEE — When an osprey comes hunting the same water you are setting up to fish, you have an inkling it is the right spot.

That’s what happened earlier this month, shortly after veteran Kankakee River guide Matt Mullady launched me and his son Mick out of Bird Park near the Route 17 bridge.

The osprey splashed down and captured a fish in riffles at the end of a break. It was quite the show.

Then it flew past us with a fish in its talons.

‘‘Notice they carry the fish aerodynamically,’’ Mullady said. ‘‘Eagles are stupid. They carry the fish sideways.’’

The funny part is shortly after we caught and released a couple of smallmouth bass, a bald eagle flew upstream without holding anything, aerodynamic or not.

Fishing and wildlife are the essence of why Mullady thinks a family-oriented outdoor show will work along the banks of the Kankakee. I like the idea enough that I have agreed to emcee the morning stage and the segment with high school fishermen.

Our fishing trip was an introduction for the inaugural Ultimate Outdoor Show on
Sept. 7-8 at River Road Park.

Mullady set us up in midstream. We cast up on a shallow flat, then worked baits back and over a limestone shelf drop.

Because it was a cloudy day, even though it was high noon, he handed me a rod with a topwater. He knows my favorite method.

‘‘Notice that Chug Bug has been to my fly-tying device to extend the tail,’’ Mullady said.

There’s something that veteran river fishermen learn, little tweaks such as extending the tail to give it more action and a larger profile.

Mick worked his favorite, a ‘‘peanut butter and jelly’’ craw, on the bottom, while his dad worked the mid-depths with flukes and similar baits.

On my third cast, a nice 151/2-inch smallmouth hammered my Chug Bug hard enough to hook itself, which was a fortunate because I was talking and taking notes. It was a good start to the day. Everybody had hits or fish.

More tidbits of knowledge came naturally from Mullady.

‘‘People don’t understand [that] you have to change the distance of your casts on the river,’’ he said. ‘‘Every different cast distance covers different water.’’

It took me a second to comprehend what he meant. A shorter cast would cover different water on a river than a longer cast.

Then the gray skies lived up to their promise and delivered a rain steady enough to drive us under bridges.

As we fished one bridge, a ‘‘Louisiana green heron,’’ as Mullady dubbed it, hopped around a log jam. A couple of kingfishers blew past.

Mick landed a solid fish. The 14-year-old freshman at Kankakee High follows in a long family tradition of knowing the Kankakee, a tradition going back to his Hall of Fame grandfather Ed Mullady.

Talk came easily of channel catfish, flatheads, walleye, rock bass, freshwater drum and bowfin. Mullady said drum and flatheads have been making a stronger appearance.

As the rain continued, he broke out grilled venison sandwiches. It was time.

We put down our rods and talked. We drifted to a discussion about what bow my daughter should buy. Mick is a beginning bowhunter.

A top attraction at the Ultimate Outdoor Show will be Chief AJ, who has popularized the slingbow. He plans to do a paintball event using slingshots for the kids.

It should be a show. For more information, go to

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