27 Apr

Calvin (Rusty) Gates eulogized by trout anglers

Pictures from Various Sources

The McGlynn: Above Headline is dead wrong. Correct Headline should read : “eulogized by Environmentalists, Anglers and Friends”


GRAYLING — As many as 1,000 people gathered under a huge, rain-drenched tent within a long cast of the Au Sable River on Sunday to celebrate the life of Calvin (Rusty) Gates, who for nearly 30 years had been the voice and chief guardian of one of America’s most storied trout streams.

Gates, who owned the Au Sable Lodge with his wife, Julie, died last December of lung cancer at 54, the victim of his admitted “bad lifestyle choice” as a three-pack-a-day smoker. The ceremony coincided with the opening of trout season.

Gates founded the Anglers of the Au Sable in 1987 and led numerous battles, many successful, against oil and gas drillers and other potential polluters, including the military, that he believed would have despoiled the river and its banks.

Men and women, many wearing their fly fishing khakis and caps with a fishing fly or two attached, packed the tent. Cars, SUVs and pickups parked up to a half mile away, with license plates from as far off as Montana and Minnesota.

Speakers who eulogized Gates, whom most friends called the Gator, often used the same words — “Stubborn, uncompromising, smart, relentless, pigheaded” — to describe his dedication to the river.

Charles (Skip) Gibson, 85, of Grosse Pointe Farms, started fishing the Au Sable in the 1950s and had known Gates “since Rusty was a kid, just after his dad (Calvin Sr.) and mother (Mary) bought the lodge” in 1970.

“It’s hard to overemphasize the good he did,” Gibson said. “His commitment and devotion to the Au Sable belied the fact that he could be an irascible SOB.”

Dave Smethurst of Gaylord said, “He understood the scientific and legal issues as well as the scientists and lawyers” — even though his formal education ended with high school.

As the standing-room-only crowd listened, kilted bagpipers and a drummer played a lament called “The Green Hills of Tyrol” and “We’re Not Away to Stay Away.”

Jeff Moss, 53, of Lake Orion, was spending his 43rd straight opening weekend at Gates’ Lodge.

“Rusty once pulled my father out of the Whirlpool,” a big eddy on the Au Sable, “after dad stepped into deep water in waders. Rusty spent three weeks diving the river trying to find my dad’s (very expensive) Paul Young rod.”

Gates’ sister, Gena Gates, a Bay City attorney, said he “was among the few who can say, ‘I landed on this spot on this Earth that suited me perfectly, and I made the most of it.’ “

As the stories of Gates’ life wound down, the crowd was urged to do what Gates would have wanted.


A new season for the AuSable

Info Northeast



It was a memorial service fitting for trout season’s opening weekend. Not a single necktie was to be seen. Guests dressed in waders, fly-fishing vests, rain slickers and baseball caps.

Gathering under a tent, set along the AuSable River’s “Holy Waters,” nearly 1,500 fisher men and ladies from throughout the country came to memorialize the passing of Calvin “Rusty” Gates, founding President of the Anglers of the AuSable and perhaps the greatest friend to Michigan’s trout streams that will ever live.

They also came to celebrate life.

The legacy that Rusty Gates worked so hard to build will continue on.

“He was the initiator of river conservation and the protector of the river,” said John Wylie, who joined the Anglers of the AuSable Board in its second year of operation. “While he will be greatly missed the efforts he started with the Anglers will continue. We already have plans in partnership with Huron Pines, for a large woody debris project on the South Branch of the AuSable for this summer. The organization and his legacy will continue despite the fact we don’t have Rusty to lead us.”

Against the quiet whisper of rain on canvas, with a fly rod held at half-mast, bagpipes and drums proclaimed the start of the memorial service. Cars filled the parking lot and lined both sides of Stephan Bridge Road for two miles. Even the side roads were pressed into service for parking as shuttles helped visitors get back and forth.

The service opened with memories from Julies Gates, Rusty’s wife.

She closed her thoughts with “We lived through our seasons on the AuSable.”

The next hour was filled with words and memories from some of Rusty’s dearest friends and closest relatives.

But the most memorable words spoken were those philosophies of Rusty’s that were remembered; thoughts like “Fishing is about relationships about friends, not just catching fish,” or “The River is a frame work for thinking about life.”

Eric Sharp, long time outdoor writer for the Detroit Free Press, remembers Rusty from decades ago when Gates first made his start as the “voice and conscience of the AuSable River, not just the AuSable but the whole river system.

“That voice is still heard forty years later” and probably will be for years to come, Sharp said.

In his passing, Rusty Gates, a man known as “Gator” to his closest friends, has probably attained a status that most of us can only dream of: that our lives will make a difference. Yet Rusty’s dreams live on in the work of the Anglers of the AuSable; his life has and will continue to make a difference.

As the bagpipes droned out the notes of “Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot” the closing comment could be heard, “A new season of life for Gator and all of us.”

“Go get wet.”

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Thanks Dick. I wish I could have been there…Cid

Mark Vice

I love it!

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