Billy & Holly Rosner own and operate Wild Country Guide Service out of Cook, MN, and offer trips on Lake Vermilion, Vermilion River and remote area lakes.

Shore Lunch

“We invite clients to truly ‘unplug’ from the texting, emails and distractions of everyday life for a while. Trade it in for the opportunity to enjoy the glow of a sunrise, watch an eagle or osprey gliding above or listen to a loon call. Enjoy good conversation with family or friends, a crackling fire over a hearty shore lunch, the whirring sound of a fishing line being cast and the excitement of battling a fish on the end of it. Re-connect with nature and create memories for a lifetime.”

Four generations of guides

With over 95 years of documented guiding history in the family, one might say, “it’s in our blood”.

Born in 1880, Billy’s great grand-father, Sylvester Caskey, settled with his parents, in the Eagle River, WI area near Lac Vieux Desert.  The area was historically an ideal hub for travelers and fur traders connecting the Wisconsin River with Indian trails to Lake Superior and Lake Michigan.

After attending school to the 4th grade, Sylvester spent his time hunting and trapping until old enough to work the lumber camps at age 14.

Sylvester married Agnes Lindstrom in 1904 and 2 years later purchased 21 acres with 1320 feet of frontage on Lac Vieux Desert, for $400.

Around 1920, Sylvester began building cabins (eventually seven) and opened Sylvan Rest, the first house-keeping resort on the lake.

Sylvester & Agnes traded furs & meat to the Ojibway Indian who had a trading outpost on Lac Viex Desert

The family’s food stores came in large part from the locally abundant supply of fish and game. Sylvester leased a piece of land near Nipigon, Canada where they went moose hunting for many years.

Family had Canadian land lease on Nipogon River for trapping and hunting which provided moose meat for winter

Billy’s great-uncle, Elmer Caskey, was oldest of Sylvester’s children and the first non-Indian born at the lake. At age six months he was officially adopted into the Lac Vieux Desert Chippewa Indian Tribe. This honor was bestowed mainly in recognition of his father, an intimate friend of the Indians who lived in the village near Indian Bay.

Beginning as a boy, Elmer trapped during the winter months, selling the pelts of beaver, mink, skunk and muskrat.

From spring through fall he offered guide services to fishermen and hunters, a vocation he continued through most of his life. A number of his clients were celebrated, such as President Eisenhower and his brother Milton. Others included the notorious Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb. These highly intelligent teenagers from wealthy Chicago families were convicted in the following year, 1924, for the “joy killing” of young Bobby Franks. Elmer, a teenager then too, had brought the young fishermen back to shore early because of their incessant arguing with each other.  Elmer also guided their famed attorney, Clarence Darrow, better known for his defense in the Scopes trial.

With the onset of depression in the 1930s, tourism in northern Wisconsin slowed and the guiding business suffered severely. On occasion, Elmer said they were forced to make a meal of red squirrels.

Twins with their fish

Resort guests with their fish

Another of Billy’s great uncles, John, joined the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) after high school – fighting forest fires, erecting lookout towers and planting trees. For recreation, he played on the camp basketball team, which competed against other camp and area teams. At the end of the season in April 1934, the team planned a fish fry. No fish fry is complete without a beer, so after “passing the hat,” five of the men went to Little Bohemia, a resort near Manitowish Waters, to purchase the beer. Johnny and the others stayed behind to clean up camp. When the 5 men didn’t return, the other team members thought their friends were having a night out with the beer money. The next day they learned four of the five had been killed in a shootout between the FBI and members of the John Dillinger gang. It was later determined that the FBI operatives had sprayed the CCC men’s car with twenty-one machine gun bullets, thinking they were gangsters attempting to escape a closing trap.

Grandpa Arnie – Guiding

Johnny eventually went on to build and operate the Oak Ridge Resort on the south shore of Lac Vieux Desert, while his brother, Gene, took over operation of Sylvan Rest Resort as Sylvester & Agnes eased into retirement.

Billy’s “grandpa Arnie” Severson, was also a caretaker, trapper, fishing guide and woodsman most of his life.

The Rosner side of the family also comes from a long line of outdoorsmen. Uncle Jack Rosner, owned the historic Holiday Lodge in Phelps, WI on the shores of North Twin Lake, a well-known walleye and muskie destination.

Billy’s father William, and mother Bobbi, managed a large mink and fox farm for many years where Billy and his siblings grew up and helped run. They were all very active in the outdoors – berry picking, fishing, grouse and deer hunting.

Billy spent many hours fishing and hunting as a youth, worked at his family’s resorts and has been guiding fishermen most of his life.

Billy and Holly Rosner

Holly, Billy’s wife, also grew up in an avid outdoor family enjoying fishing, camping, hiking and horseback activities. Her family spent most of their vacations camping & fishing on Lake Vermilion, so the desire to settle in the area was engrained since childhood.  When they met, Holly’s passion for the outdoors and fishing was evident to Billy and as the old saying goes… “The rest is history”.

Billy’s clients have come from all walks of life and parts of the world. Though equipment and technology have evolved, he tries to keep fishing fun, simple and relaxing. He takes great pride in his family’s rich outdoor heritage and strives to provide the best outdoor experience possible for his clients.

“Remember – if you’re too busy to go fishing, you’re too busy!”