Wisconsin’s most storied fishing river has two new books to tell its story.
“Boys of the Brule, Centuries on Comradery on Wisconsin’s River of Presidents” is the latest effort (227 pages, published late 2018) to chronicle what’s so special about the Bois Brule River.
Author Ross Fruen of Minneapolis tells stories that go back to prehistoric Indians and Daniel Greysolon Sieur Duluth. But the book focuses most on Fruen’s family, friends and fishing history. Fruen’s family has ties to the river going back seven generations and still maintain a cabin on the river — Noyes Camp. Fruen’s great-grandparents were George and Agnes Haskell Noyes, who established a family camp and tradition on the Brule in the late 1800s.
The book is more about people who spent summers along the river than the river itself or the fish that swim in it. But it’s a good read for anyone who keeps the river in a special place in their heart, as does Fruen.
“Boys of the Brule” is available for $18.95 from Cable Publishing in Brule.
“Right Off The Reel: Select Columns From Milwaukee Journal, 1936-1956”
(also “Stories of the Old Duck Hunters”; “More Stories of the Old Duck Hunters”; and “Last Stories of the Old Duck Hunters.”)
Perhaps no one wrote as much or as well about the Brule River as Gordon MacQuarrie.
Born in Superior in 1900, MacQuarrie worked as a newsman at the Superior Daily Telegram from 1925 to 1936. In April 1936, he became outdoors editor at the Milwaukee Daily Journal and held that position until he died in 1956. On many of his trips to the Brule, MacQuarrie was accompanied by a character he referred to as the President of the Old Duck Hunters Association Inc. That man was MacQuarrie’s father-in-law, Al Peck, a Superior car dealer.
About half the stories in the Duck Hunters trilogy are about fishing, and many of them are about MacQuarrie’s beloved Brule. It was published in 1985 in a three-book set from Willow Creek Press in Minocqua, Wis.
“Right off the Reel,” 222 pages and published in 2018 is a collection of 84 of MacQuarrie’s Milwaukee Journal columns written between 1936 and 1956. Again, the Brule is only part of the subject material, but it’s good stuff, including the book’s very first column. The book, edited and compiled by retired DNR biologist Dave Evenson of Cumberland, was published by the Barnes Area Historical Society and all proceeds go to the association which supports a MacQuarrie Museum and library in the area of MacQuarrie’s former cabin on Middle Eau Claire Lake.
Here are some other easy reads about the Brule:
“The Brule River: A Guide’s Story”
After many decades of fishing and guiding trout fisherman in northern Wisconsin, author Lawrence Berube decided to write about his experiences. The book includes 22 illustrations from the famous Brule and other rivers.
The book is only 80 pages but has a lot of interesting anecdotes. Self-published in 1998 by Berube in association with Arrowhead Printing.
“I was a Guide for Three U.S. Presidents”
Steve Weyandt was one of the best-ever guides on the Brule River and these are the stories he told about his times, written and self-published by his wife, Dorothy Weyandt, in 1976.
Wetyandt guided on the Brule for Coolidge, Hoover and Eisenhower. 298 pages.
“The Brule River of Wisconsin: Second Edition”
Published in 1956 then updated in 2011 by Leigh P. Jerrard and Richard Jerrard.
Leigh Jerrard’s concise 1956 history of the famous trout stream has been greatly expanded and updated.
The Brule’s famous trout fishery is traced from the early years of rampant fish stocking and commercial harvesting, through Henry Clay Pierce’s controversial rerouting of the stream around the Cedar Island sloughs in the 1890s. Early conservation laws written specifically for the Brule River fishery are detailed, as are the workings of the charismatic Sid Gordon, who designed and supervised the building of hundreds of “stream improvement” structures on the river during the 1930s Civilian Conservation Corps years. The war against the invasive, parasitic sea lamprey and the lamprey’s damage to the fishery is included in the book, including the history of efforts to keep lamprey from spawning in the Brule.
“Brethren of the Brule: Forty Years Steelheading”
William “Brother Bill” Bauer of Ladysmith. Wis., self published this book in 1984 (updated in 1995) and filled it with stories of fishing for steelhead with his buddies. The surgeon waxes nostalgic of bigger steelhead runs and why fishing numbers declined over his lifetime. He has lots of opinions. There are also tips on how to catch steelhead and some interesting observations about trout habits.
Mostly, of course, it’s about his favorite place in the world — the Brule. Published by Bawden Printing in Iowa. 208 pages.
Brule: The river of presidents
Perhaps no 44-mile stretch of water in the Northland has attracted so much attention over the last 150 years as Wisconsin’s Bois Brule River, and for good reason: It’s always held lots of fish. First, native brook trout and then, when they were depleted, stocked brown and rainbow trout.
The river starts in wetlands near Upper St. Croix Lake near Solon Springs but gets much of its water form coldwater springs, which help keep the river keep a consistent, fish-perfect temperature and flow. It runs through the Brule River State Forest out into Lake Superior.
The river is called Wiisaakode-ziibi — a river through a half-burnt woods — in Anishinaabe which morphed into French and then the English Brule. It was the site of the 1842 Battle of the Brule between the La Pointe Band of Ojibwe and a group of Dakota Sioux.
In 1870, Ulysses S. Grant visited the Brule River and Grover Cleveland in 1880. U.S. Senator and federal judge Irving Lenroot enjoyed his summer home on the Brule for many years.
In 1928, President Calvin Coolidge spent this summer at Cedar Island Lodge on the Brule. Coolidge would pass the summer in northwoods comfort at Cedar Island, the very private estate of the late oil magnate Henry Clay Pierce. Coolidge arrived at Brule in mid-June, accompanied by no less than 60 soldiers, 14 house servants, 10 secret service agents, and about 75 reporters. They set up the summer White House offices in Superior. The President departed northern Wisconsin on Sept. 10, after a brief farewell address in Superior.
Herbert Hoover and Dwight Eisenhower also visited Cedar Island.