TRIP ONE: MENOMINEE RIVER
Lombard friend and neighbor Jeff Berg and I drove to the Four Seasons Resort in Pembine, Wisconsin on the banks of the Menominee River on Wednesday, August 5 2009. The Four Seasons was renovated into a luxury golf resort by Cicero town president Betty Loren Maltese. She and other town fathers used five million of the nineteen million they stole from the town health insurance fund for the renovation. One of the next owners invested an additional five or six million. It was my sixth trip to the Menominee in four years. Jeff is the retired owner of a large industrial piping and boiler company. Jeff is a great outdoorsman, fishing or hunting over one hundred days each year in Alaska, Canada, South America, Mexico, and the Midwest. He was the longtime editor of the Illinois Steelheader’s newsletter and is also active in the Des Plaines Lunkerbusters. We have shared some great days on the water. We stopped on the way in De Pere, outside of Green Bay, at the Tight Lines Fly Shop to pick up some flies. Tight Lines furnished our guides for the Menominee and furnished most of the flies for the trip. I also wanted to make sure they would have the whole wheat bread and diet soda I requested for lunches each day which is better for my diabetes. My friend of over twenty-five years, Paul Melchior of Angling Escapes Travel, who organized the trip, was home suffering from a kidney stone attack which eventually required hospitalization and an operation. I called him when we returned and he was back home and on the mend. We each caught seven or eight smallies up to eighteen inches the first day. The next two days it was only a couple apiece each day. The fourth day, fishing improved as the day went on and we again got seven or eight nice fish each. The abnormally cool weather has resulted in a poor top water bite for much of August and Popper Fishing was different than in years past. We fished our poppers somewhat like dry flies, with only occasional subtle pulls, due to low, clear water and spooky fish. We also fished size1/0 Murdich Minnow and Bartow Minnow streamers and some lead headed, rubber legged flies.I added a new fly to my arsenal this trip. It’s a combination Dhalberg Diver tied on a bend-back style hook. I was able to cast it fearlessly into stream side weeds and over shallow weeds without hanging up. All the guides were impressed by this fly and asked if I could spare one. It was developed by Bob Davenport who works at Joseph Meyers One More Cast Fly Shop. Bob is a really good fly tier and designer who also ties several other innovative patterns. This summer was cool and dry and the various dams on the Menominee had been holding back water. We talked to the site manager at one dam who said they were going to change to "Run of the River" operation in the future under orders from their regulators. This will assure that any rainfall will be let through the dams right away which may help future fishing.The last day we fished backup spinning tackle the last half of the day which accounted for our better catch. Jeff got most of his on expensive Lucky Craft articulated minnow bait with a feathered treble tail. It was fished with a series of "slashing pulls" this caused reaction strikes from the smallies. I used a suspending Rapala fished with jerks and slashes and did almost as well. Tightlines was scheduled to guide fly fishing guru Dave Whitlock later in the week. He also fishes the Menominee each year and says it's the best smallmouth river in the country. We didn’t get many small fish on this trip which makes me wonder about future big fish recruitment. All the fish seemed healthy with some exhibiting the deep bodies of lake fish and others the more streamlined shape of river fish.The smallmouth density is not huge but the driftboats allow you to cover many miles of water, casting to the best spots, and catching active fish. Wade fishing would be tough due to limited access. The power company owns many miles of the land bordering the river. Boat fishing would be chancy without a jet drive due to the many shallow rocky stretches.