TU Founder George Griffith and Michigan’s Au Sable River

IN THE DARK: The headlamp only comes on when you catch a brown trout. (Credit Will Burns)

One of the best fishing times my son and I ever shared together was at the Gates Lodge, fishing the fabled Au Sable River. It was the kind of father-son bonding trip I miss now that Will has a young family of his own. Searching for big browns one evening in an Au Sable river boat, we drifted past the birthplace of Trout Unlimited, the premier conservation organization for protecting cold water trout. Here is an except from its founder, George Griffith, from his memoir, “For the Love of Trout.” (out of print). Gates Lodge is now owned by writer Josh Greenberg. If you are planning a trip to Michigan, be sure to read his excellent book, “Rivers of Sand.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

“Change comes to everything, including the river. Often it is subtle, so subtle that it is difficult for a generation to accept new restrictions, size limits, slotting. Now it’s no-kill, spearheaded by Rusty Gates, second generation owner of Gates AuSable Lodge at Stephan’s Bridge, and the Anglers of the AuSable. Many river residents, and some guides, can’t see the Holy Waters as being off-limits to keeping trout even though statistics in the late ’80s showed 80 percent of the anglers were voluntarily returning their catches to the water by choice, not regulation.

Attitudes change, often with species and availability. Advocates like Gates can help bring about change. By the late ’40s, I already was more interested in the life and hazards of trout than in catching a limit every day, or taking trout home. However, few shared my growing concern for the river. Bob Behnke, who has a clearinghouse for biologists’ findings at the University of Colorado, wrote recently in Trout magazine about the “sportsmen,” who looked down on the “fish hogs,” who would take 100 trout. As Behnke says, they call themselves “conservationists” because they only kept their limits of 25 fish!”

HOLY WATERS: Present owner Josh Greenberg keeps Rusty’s spirit of sport fishing and conservation alive at the Gates Au Sable Lodge in Grayling, Michigan. (Credit Jim Burns)

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