Rusty Gates was one of the greatest advocates of the river and a founding member of the Anglers. Rusty served as President of the Anglers from 1987 to 2009, when he died at a early age from a year battle with lung cancer. Rusty was known by many as the man who listened and got things done. He is missed by the Board of Director members, his colleagues and frequent visitors at Gates Lodge. Probably the river misses him even more from his frequent time of solitude, observing and even sometimes fishing and catching fish.
Calvin H. (“Rusty”) Gates Jr., b. 1955, was proprietor of Gates Au Sable Lodge, 8 miles east of Grayling on the Holy Water stretch of the Au Sable’s main branch. He is credited with the original concept of the Anglers of the Au Sable, and recruited the other five anglers who ultimately organized the first kickoff meeting of the organization in January 1987. Rusty has held the office of president since the Angler’s founding in 1987 and has been the driving force behind the long-term, sustained success of the organization. Fly Rod & Reel magazine recognized these efforts. In 1994, the publication named Rusty its Angler of the Year.
Rusty’s accomplishments are many when it comes to the Au Sable’s conservation saga. Beginning with the catch-and-release controversy on the Au Sable’s Holy Water in 1986, Rusty has played a leadership or man-behind-the-scenes role in virtually every major project the Anglers have undertaken, including building a strong bond with the Au Sable-Manistee Action Council and a half-dozen other key organizations; providing constant oversight of numerous Camp Grayling activities; leveraging his numerous contacts in the DNR and the flyfishing industry to launch cooperative conservation efforts, joint funding and brokering of projects. Since the beginning, Rusty has been our liaison with Glen Shepard and The North Woods Call, and consequently the Anglers have received more than its share of press coverage for its causes.
With his wife, Julie, Rusty operated a nationally recognized fly fishing retreat that his mother, Mary, and father, Cal Sr., founded in the early seventies. Gates Au Sable Lodge serves as the unofficial headquarters of the Anglers. All board meetings are held at the Lodge’s Board Room. The Annual River Clean-Up starts and ends at the Lodge each September.
Editor’s Note: We wish to recognize and thank Julie Gates for her many years of service to the Angler in a variety of capacities, including helping with our participation at trade shows, and allowing us to mess up the kitchen at the Lodge several times per year.