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22 Dec

Rusty Gates – More Press Releases

Rusty Gates was champion of Au Sable

Dave Spratt / Special to The Detroit News

The famed Au Sable River might have lost a dear friend in Rusty Gates, but his conservationist creed will live on thanks to his dedication and diligence, friends said.

“Luckily he taught a lot of people how to move on without him in his final months,” said Josh Greenberg, who manages the fly shop at Gates Au Sable Lodge in Grayling. “He took care of the future that he wasn’t able to be here for.”

Calvin Hugh “Rusty” Gates, the owner of the Gates Au Sable Lodge and longtime president of the conservation group Anglers of the Au Sable, died Saturday after a lengthy battle with lung cancer. He was 54.

His final months were spent with his family along his beloved Au Sable River, Greenberg said.

Gates Lodge is a place where thousands of anglers gather annually during fly-fishing season from April through autumn. Gates and his wife, Julie, could be found there at all hours, tending to the smallest details of fly-tying and gourmet cooking. With classical music playing in the background, the fly shop buzzed with patrons’ latest stories from the nearby woods and waters.

Greenberg met Gates when he entered the fly shop as a 15-year-old. When Gates asked him if he tied, Greenberg hesitantly replied that yes, he tried.

“I didn’t know who he was at the time, but I noticed that his words carried a lot of weight,” Greenberg said. “That’s the way he was. When he spoke, he immediately had your attention.”

Gates developed a number of fly patterns that became standards, and introduced scores of people to the world of fly-fishing. But it was his tireless defense of his beloved Au Sable River that changed the way many Michiganians see their natural resources.

In 2003, Gates, as president of the Anglers of the Au Sable, challenged a U.S. Forest Service lease that would allow exploratory drilling for gas below the famed Mason Tract section of the South Branch of the Au Sable. With the odds stacked against them, the Anglers prevailed in their case, forever altering how the business of gas and oil exploration would be conducted in the fragile areas of Michigan.

“Rusty was a true treasure,” said Rebecca Humphries, director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “His love of the river lives on in all of us. I have been truly blessed to know Rusty.”

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Calvin ‘Rusty’ Gates Jr., 1955-2009: Lodge owner and ‘guardian’ of Michigan’s Au Sable River

Chicago Tribune, By Trevor Jensen Tribune reporter

Calvin “Rusty” Gates Jr. ran a popular lodge on a stretch of the Au Sable River in northern Michigan known as the “Holy Waters,” and he was the leading guardian of a waterway revered by generations of fly fishermen.

Mr. Gates, 54, died of complications from lung cancer Saturday, Dec. 19, in his home along the Au Sable, east of Grayling, Mich., said Josh Greenberg, manager of Gates Au Sable Lodge.

During the 21 years that he owned the lodge, which his father bought in 1970, Mr. Gates gained a national reputation with both fishermen and conservationists for his work on the river. In 1987, he started Anglers of the Au Sable, dedicated to preserving the wild quality of the river.

Every September, Mr. Gates and his group, which today counts about 800 members, executed a major river cleanup, pulling out many canoe-loads of trash left by careless visitors.

The Anglers of the Au Sable also won several legal battles in defense of the river, notably a ruling that stopped a plan for exploratory drilling for gas below the Mason Tract, a nature preserve next to the river’s South Branch.

His allies in these court battles, many of which dragged on for several years, were avid fly fishermen with law degrees who volunteered their time.

“Rusty could get just about anyone to work for his cause,” Greenberg said. “He just had a way of convincing you that the fight was right and you needed to be a part of it.”

Mr. Gates’ father was a high school music teacher and fanatical fly fisherman. Just a teenager when his dad bought the lodge, Mr. Gates became a top-flight fishing guide and fly fisherman, creating patterns like the Rusty Spinner and the SRB (Secret Rubber Bug) to entice the Au Sable’s finicky trout.

He was the lead author of 2007’s “Seasons on the Au Sable,” a month-by-month document of life on the river he loved.

Mr. Gates is survived by his wife, Julie; two sons, Christopher Burden and Paul; a daughter, Misty Wilson; his mother, Maricele; two brothers, Jim and Tom; three sisters, Jody Hinkle, Gena and Janelle; and five grandchildren.

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