25 Apr

A Celebration of the Life of Rusty Gates

Sunday, April 25, 2010, 11:00 AM, Gates Lodge



Lessons from the Gator

The passing of Rusty has brought back many memories for me. Rusty gave me a job at the fly-shop when Iwas 15. I lived in East Lansing at the time and without a driver’s license it made it hard to get to the Au Sable and Rusty knew that. The job was a dream job.

I spent my first year up there living at the Gates’ house, catching a ride with Rusty to the shop when I could; usually he got up early and left me to fend for myself. I learned the secret route through the woods to Stephan Bridge Road or I took the river, fly rod in hand and work shoes in my vest. I would fish down from his house to the lodge – imagine fishing your way to work! I remember the look he used to give me when I walked in the door and it was always followed by, “Well, how was it?” I usually didn’t have much to report: a couple small ones if anything at all.

When I was lucky he’d be up for an evening fish. The first of which I will never forget. It was early in June, the 8th or 9th I believe. He had gotten the word first thing that morning, before I had made it to the shop, that Hex were on the south. After we closed up that evening we loaded everything in his suburban and I couldn’t believe I was going fishing with Rusty.

We got to our spot and sat. It was still early when the first fish rose. I couldn’t believe he wasn’t going to fish for it. I could barely contain myself and wanted to jump up and start fishing. He said “No, no, no,you’ve got to wait for them.” Them being the big fish. So we sat. We talked about everything: he was my employer and mentor but he was also the father I always wanted.

He talked to me about women, drinking and fishing; three things I had no idea about at the time and I’m pretty sure I still don’t. As the witching hour approached he told me to scoot down river to the pinch, still within sight of him. Moment’s  later fish were rising. I caught three and called them eighteen, nineteen and twenty-one (in retrospect, I think they were all 15 to 18).

Very confident in how I had done I asked him how he had faired. I never heard him make a noise upstream from me while fishing and didn’t even know if he had fish rising by him. He quietly responded, “I got four,” then an extended pause “…over twenty.”

Fishing wasn’t the only thing I learned about from him. He taught me how the river heals the brain and the heart. The importance of sitting on the bank and watching the river pass by as it cleanses our souls. And why sometimes a game of nods with a close friend is more important than the size of our quarry.

Because of Rusty, my life is now intertwined with fly-fishing and the Au Sable and for that I will forever be grateful.

– Alex Lafkas, Member of  The Anglers of the AuSable


Anglers of the AuSable

A celebration of the life of our friend, founder and president, Rusty Gates,will be held at Gates Au Sable Lodge on April 25 at 11 a.m. We’ll have a large tent and a number of chairs for folks to be comfortable in, but good outdoor clothing is recommended. This will likely be a huge event so patience and goodwill is a must!  The formal remembrance will take around an hour. Food and drinks will be served sometime around noon. The food and drink are complimentary, and further food donations will be unnecessary.

After that: relax, converse, go fishing, celebrate the river and Rusty in whatever way seems appropriate.


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I cannot go to the celebration but this woman who does not fish celebrates the life of this great environmentalist. All who walk the banks of the Au Sable or wade its beautiful waters, or catch and release the fortunate fish who swim this holy stream are indebted to Rusty Gates who kept it safe for all of us. He will be remembered and blessed by all of us.

Barbara Brown

I did not know Rusty. Only someone who loved him. I am always saddened by the loss of someone who has made a difference in the lives of the folks he has known.


We join in the celebration of this wonderful life. Rusty, the AuSable, and our family memories are so intertwined such that one cannot exist without the other.

Brian McGlinn

As someone whose life has been greatly influenced by my experiences on the AuSable, I give thanks and praise to people like Rusty who dedicate their lives to preserving our great natural treasures. I had the pleasure of meeting Rusty a handful of times and was always struck by his gentle demeanor and, of course, amazing fly-tying abilities. I’ll make sure that I wet a few lines in his memeory this summer.

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