October 18, 2012
My friend Rick Schreiber and I flew into Duluth, Minnesotalast night and today we drove to Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin. We’re staying at the Chippewa Retreat Resort. This is our second annual muskellunge on a fly trip. This fantastic excursion is put together by our great friend George Hillenbrand. Rick once guided George on the Snake River and I took care of all of Georges tackle needs when I ran the fly shop. Over the years we became great friends and George started taking Rick and I and other friends to Northern Wisconsin ice fishing each year. Last year, he changed the trip to fall in hopes we could catch some musky on the fly. The adventure was a great success.
Unfortunately, this year George and his friends were unable to make the open water musky trip. They cancelled three weeks ago. Yet even though they can’t make it, George generously kept everything from flights and guides to accommodations in tact for Rick and me. The trip certainly won’t be the same without the complete gang, but Rick and I intend to catch some musky.
Normally Rick and I fly into Wausau, Wisconsin. This year we decided to go to Duluth a day early and cruise Route 2 along Lake Superior to Ashland, Wisconsin. I spent incredibly fun years in Ashland earning my degree at Northland Collegefrom 1983-1987. Those four years provided me with some of the best fishing of my life. Had I not been offered a fly shop job in Jackson Hole, Wyoming I may have stayed in Ashland.
Although I’ve returned to Northern Wisconsin the last six years, I’ve not been to Ashland since 1988 – hard to believe. So today, for old time’s sake, Rick and I passed through. Like everything does, Ashland has changed. But after my quick observation, Ashland looks great and best of all, Northland Collegeis still thriving. I made a surprise visit on an old pal, Tim Walworth. Tim, an Ashland native, taught me a lot tricks for catching fish out of Lake Superior. He is now the proud owner of the local favorite, The Vintage Platter Restaurant. Tim’s restaurant is a must stop for anyone passing through Ashland.
I probably don’t have to tell you Rick and I wet a line along the drive. We stopped at the famous Brule River. Right now you can fish from Route 2downstream to the mouth by Lake Superior. After a Wisconsin breakfast in Iron River, Rick and I got fishing licenses and drove to the mouth of the Brule.
Although the mouth of the Brule Riveris loaded with Coho salmon, walleye and incoming steelhead, Rick is a fan of moving water. After a look around we drove back upstream a few miles and found some nice turns in the river. The water was slightly off color from the drizzle and rain we were experiencing, perfect for fall run steelhead.
While the locals advised fishing egg patterns Rick and I went with streamers. Neither of us is much into fishing egg patterns. However, after I fished a great looking run without a fish, I put on a favorite Vladi Trzebunia nymph of mine and immediately dredged out a rainbow. This was my first fish on a nymph in a long time and I was delighted. Today is my birthday and I catch a fish every year on my birthday.
After working the run hard with no other trout I went upstream to track down Rick to see how the streamer was doing. When I found him he was fishing hard. He’d had a steelhead chase his streamer and was focused on bringing him up again and catching him. I bummed a stogie and watched.
After Rick worked the pool without another sighting of the fish he turned it over to me and my nymph rig. On my second pass the oversized rainbow (Great Lakes steelhead) nearly ripped the rod from me. It was game on and the thick lake run fish leapt and ripped his way up the pool. After a fantastic fight I tailed the splendid birthday fish.
We are now at Chippewa Retreat in Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin. We just played pool with the owner and good friend, John McGraw. We had a great time catching up over beers and tomorrow it’s time to chase musky on the fly.