Henry LaMay, born in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, on June 19, 1922,
first started fishing when he was just a boy, teaming up with
his cousin Warren Schreiber to go bank fishing for trout and
bluegill in Half Moon Lake. After Verlin graduated from high
school in 1939, he attended the UW Eau Claire for a while, but
then enlisted in the United States Army-Air Force as soon as he
turned 18. Becoming an instructor in the use of arms and
bombsites such as the Nordan Bombsite, Verlin quickly rose to
the rank of Tech sergeant, supervising all of the instructors
within his division. In 1944, he received his commission as a
second lieutenant at Yale. Shortly after the Japanese surrender,
Verlin was sent to Japan for a few months where he witnessed
first hand the aftermath of the dropping of the atomic bomb on
Upon returning home in 1946, under the
GI Bill, Verlin attended the UW Eau Claire, for three years. It
was at college that he was given the nickname of "Frenchy."
There, he met a fellow student named Bruce Tasker, and the two
became good friends. It was Tasker, already a dedicated muskie
fisherman, who first introduced Frenchy to muskie fishing and
the Chippewa Flowage. It was 1946 when Bruce and Gordy Roholt
took him on his first muskie outing to the Flowage. They trio
fished all day and caught nothing, except for Frenchy
accidentally hooking Bruce’s hat on a backcast. At first,
Frenchy thought, "To hell with muskie fishing," but he stuck
with the sport and he eventually began having action, later
reflecting, "Well, when one ends up throwing a bucket of water
in your face, it gets to you… it really does."
weekends fishing trips up north followed with Bruce and their
other college chums, John and Neil Zeug. Today known for setting
the standard in lure making, Frenchy caught his first muskie (in
1946) on a homemade suick that he had carved out with a knife
and wood rasp. In 1951, Frenchy had on and lost one of his
biggest muskies ever, in a spot where he had seen Louie Spray
fishing on Callahan Lake. By 1952, Frenchy began fishing the
Flowage more, where there was the promise of even larger fish.
That same year, after running into the principal of Gilman High
School out on Cranberry Bar, Frenchy got his first teaching job.
In the fall of 1954, Frenchy began
teaching at Oshkosh High School. After school let out the
following spring, he spent the entire summer in John Kondrasuk’s
cabin, tucked away in the Chippewa Flowage’s Yankee Joe Creek.
Regarding this as the best summer of his life, Frenchy caught
his first big muskie that year, a 26 pounder on Cranberry Bar.
Frenchy would get supplies and register his muskies at Indian
Trail, where the owner, Elsie Hornewer, quickly took a liking to
him and allowed him to bunk in the laundry house with the
choreboy during the coming seasons. With teacher’s salaries as
low as they were back then, Elsie’s accommodations were much
appreciated by Frenchy, who in turn helped out when he could.
Frenchy also did some guiding on occasion during those early
years, once guiding his friend Walt Roman to a 31 pounder in
July of 1956.
Frenchy caught the biggest muskie of his life, a 41 pound, 54
inch long beauty off of Pete’s Bar. That angling feat, along
with his consistent ability to produce good-sized muskies, soon
established Frenchy LaMay as a much revered muskie angling
presence on the Flowage. After Herman’s Landing created a small
trailer court during the late 1950’s, Frenchy put a trailer in
there and made that his fishing base until moving it to Indian
Trail’s new trailer court in 1968.
It was probably around 1967 when
Frenchy began consistently making muskie lures for he and his
muskie fishing buddies at Indian Trail. Frenchy’s lures were
larger and stronger versions of the standard Globes and Toppers
that were so widely popular. They produced a deeper sound and
often had spreaders, for better hooking ability. As the years
progressed, Frenchy’s paint jobs became more elaborate,
eventually getting to the point of becoming works of art.
Frenchy never sold his lures; he only made them for either his
own use or for his fishing friends.
Starting in 1984, Frenchy began
selling some of his lures in the Little Red Bar, in order to
help put his daughter, Annie, through college. After losing the
sight in one eye in 1994, Frenchy sold his trailer at Indian
Trail, quit making lures, and–after nearly 50 years in the
sport–pretty much quit muskie fishing. In 1995, along with
several of his fishing buddies, Frenchy formed the LeLure Tackle
Company, mass producing a variety of surface lures based on his
time proven designs. Frenchy’s LeLures were every bit as good in
quality and fish producing ability as his own lures were. The
LeLure Company continued making lures for about five years,
until costs pretty much shut down production.
Over the years Frenchy has boated some
300 muskies out of the Chippewa Flowage and Callahan Lake, with
his two biggest being in the 40 pound class… a feat which few
anglers can claim. Over the years he has introduced many to both
the sport of muskie fishing and the Flowage, serving as one of
the resort’s most prominent guests and being a large part of why
Indian Trail Resort has become so well established as a muskie
Into his early eighties, Frenchy LaMay
was a visible presence in the muskie world, attending lure swaps
and fishing functions whenever he can, giving sagely advise to
eager anglers and regaling them with his many colorful stories
from his muskie fishing days. He passed away on August 14, 2005.