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About Us

Au Sable River MainstreamThe Anglers of the Au Sable are a 600-member strong, 501(c)(3) environmental conservation organization founded in Grayling, Michigan, on January 18, 1987. There is no paid staff. Our client is the Au Sable River and its natural and recreational environs, including the neighboring Manistee River. We communicate to our membership at an annual meeting held each September at which up to 12 directors are elected. Four officers are then nominated and elected by the directors for one-year terms. We also publish a quarterly newsletter, The Riverwatch, which is distributed to our membership, sister conservation organizations, and members of the media and government.

The Anglers of the Au Sable is much more than a fishing club. Our activities are driven by issues affecting the greater Au Sable ecosystem. To that end, we have and will continue to intervene in: fishing and recreational legislation; National Guard expansion and training activities at Camp Grayling; pollution and other environmental problems; stream improvement programs; fisheries and environmental research; educational programs; and sponsorship of affiliated conservation organizations that further the interests of the Au Sable.

The idea for establishing an organization like the Anglers of the Au Sable was borne out of the need to counter the efforts of individuals and organizations to rescind the 1986 Catch and Release fishing policy implemented by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Catch and Release Regulations, as they were adopted on the upper section of the Au Sable River’s main branch, popularly known as the “Holy Water,” specified that all trout, regardless of size, must be returned to the water unharmed.

Many traditionalists, accustomed to fishing the Au Sable’s main branch and taking home supper, flatly rejected this policy and sought legal action to reverse the policy. The effort was organized and serious and was met with disfavor by many who supported the practice of Catch and Release and applauded the DNR’s new policy for the Holy Water. Supporters of the new policy were spearheaded by Rusty Gates, a fishing lodge and tackle shop owner, whose business abuts the banks of the Au Sable’s main branch ten miles east of Grayling.

Rusty’s efforts to organize fishermen to oppose the efforts of the anti-Catch-and-Release faction were quite successful during the summer months of 1986. In September of that year, Rusty, along with a group of five other sympathizers, met and decided to found a group of fly fishers and conservationists that would promote and support the long term well-being of the Au Sable River watershed.

This decision materialized into a charter meeting of twenty members of the Anglers of the Au Sable on January 18, 1987, in Farmington Hills, Michigan. Interim officers and an interim board of directors were appointed. Rusty Gates, instrumental in beginning the organization, was elected president and still serves in that capacity today. The organization soon after was incorporated and was granted non-profit status. After the initial membership recruitment drive from February to June of 1987, almost 800 people, from twenty one states and four countries, were members in good standing.

The organization published its first newsletter, News & Notes, in May of 1987 and went on to publish three additional issues under that name. In 1988, the Angler’s new and expanded quarterly publication, The Riverwatch, was first published. It has been issued approximately four times per year since.

The Anglers Mission Statement is: To preserve, protect and enhance the Au Sable River System for future generations of fly fishers. 

Presently, the Anglers of the Au Sable has over 600 dues-paying members, over half of which are either founding members or have been members since 1988.

Help us, help you!  The Anglers is an all volunteer organization.  Your support and involvement can help protect this beloved watershed.  Please visit the "Members" area of the website to update your current contact information.