Arthur Neumann

The Lovells Museum of Trout Fishing 2017 exhibit is featuring Art Neumann

Neumann Exhibit in the Trout Fishing Musem



Neumann Memorial unveiling - Doug Neumann, Gary Neumann,

Linda (Neumann) MacDonald 


Art's Story


Wanigas Rod Company founder ArtNeumann leans on the front counter of his shop as he chats about Trout Unlimited and building rods in the shop behind his house.

The rocks are too slippery now, and the current runs a little too fast for him to cast. But Art Neumann's love for trout fishing is as passionate as ever.

"I had to give up my trout fishing, but age has a lot to do with it. It's not because I don't want to," says Neumann, a longtime Bridgeport resident who turns 92 on Halloween day.

Neumann did plenty of trout fishing during his lifetime, and anglers worldwide owe a great deal of indebtedness to this man for his devotion to the outdoor sport.

That devotion was recognized last weekend when the Catskill (N.Y.) Fly Fishing Center and Museum inducted Neumann into its Hall of Fame.

If you're thinking fish was the main course of the banquet, think again. As usual, hard-core anglers practice catch-and-release even at the dinner table.

"They had a nice prime rib," Neumann explains, "and for those who didn't like meat they had chicken."

Neumann is one of the founding fathers of Trout Unlimited, a conservationist organization formed in September 1959 on the banks of the Au Sable River near Grayling. The group's aim: To form a group like Ducks Unlimited, with a goal of having the state abandon their practice of stocking hatchery trout into the rivers and streams. Instead, the group wanted the focus and funding to preserving the natural habitat so that wild trout fishing would continue to thrive .

Sixteen men gathered that day. Neumann was appointed the group's first vice president. Casey Westell was the original president. Eight board members, a secretary and treasurer also were appointed. Neumann says he and Westell are the only two original members still living.

Neumann became T.U.'s executive director in 1962 when the organization's popularity was just starting to pick up national steam. The "executive branch" at the time consisted of Neumann, a secretary and a co-op student.

"Today, I think we have about 165,000 members, five regional headquarters and 450 chapters, including chapter affiliates in several foreign countries. Our (annual) budget today is close to $16 million and covers the entire world, so it's become quite a success," Neumann says. "I was very fortunate to have become a part of that and am so grateful to have been able to help build it to what it is today -- a wonderful organization."

Neumann also had a day job. He worked as a tool-and-die maker for more than three decades for Eaton Corp. in Saginaw.

When World War II started, Neumann quit his job at Eaton and joined the U.S. Navy, serving on the USS Montpelier in the South Pacific. He returned to Saginaw after the war, and went back to work at Eaton. He also resumed his passion for trout fishing and conservation, traits he picked up from his mother Anna Christina (a naturalist) and his father Herman (a hunter and fisherman).

Neumann also dabbled in making his own fishing tackle, including fly rods.

"There was no fishing tackle available then because everything we manufactured was for the war, so you had to take care of your own," Neumann says. "I took care of my equipment and I thought I did a pretty good job. Then my friends would bring their stuff to me and I would do it for them. Then my friends' friends, and then my friends' friends' friends until I didn't know who I was doing it for anymore."

The price always was the same. Free.

Some of Neumann's fishing buddies finally convinced him to "hang a shingle" and open his own fly rod shop, which he did at his home on Sheridan Road. It started in his kitchen, re-located to a chicken coop given to him that he placed in his backyard, and finally moved again to his garage, where it remained until he closed shop in 1990.

He originally named his rod company "Rod Renew Shop," but later changed it to Wanigas Rod Company -- "Saginaw spelled backwards," Neumann explains. The place was an anglers' hangout for years.

Neumann's custom fly rods now are trout angler keepsakes and are found in a variety of places -- "steals" at garage sales, or through bidding wars on eBay. One recently sold for $500 on the Web site.

Those who know Neumann's history know the value.

Neumann remains active in the local chapter of Trout Unlimited and is an advisor to the Michigan Council of Trout Unlimited. He also is looking forward to going to Traverse City next August to celebrate the 50th anniversary celebration of Trout Unlimited's formation.

Do you suppose that along the way to Traverse City next summer, Neumann will get the urge to grab a fly rod and make a cast into a stream for old time's sake?

Neumann laughs, and tries to discount the idea, citing his age. A few moments later, he reconsiders:
"I suppose I could do that one more time."

By Paul Neumeyer | The Saginaw News The Saginaw News