In 1959, 16 trout fishermen gathered at George Griffith's house on the banks of the Au Sable. Concerned about the river's future, and that of its wild trout, they formed a new organization dedicated to sustaining the coldwater ecosystems that support wild salmonid species: Trout Unlimited.

The Au Sable is one of America's quintessential trout streams. At the upper end it's wadeable, and the river is loaded with woody debris and small in-stream islands with soft, foam current seams rolling down the edges. The Au Sable's wild browns are educated, seeing a fair amount of fishing pressure and thus are not always easy to convince t take a fly. Perfect downstream drifts are necessary. Downstream, the river is driftboat water reminiscent of many Western streams as it broadens and picks up speed and depth.

x

x

x

x

x

x

During the 19th century, lumber barons stripped a great forest from this watershed, baring its sandy soil. The consequences of over-cutting, and of the boomtown mentality it generated in the region, still resonate in the Au Sable's current ecology. A notable result was the statewide extinction of grayling, the watershed's native salmonid.

TU and its conservation work has been largely responsible for the Au Sable's status as one of trout fishing's holy waters.

This river is an original. Sandy bottoms, wide meanders, leaning cedars, and lots of woody debris support healthy brook, brown and rainbow populations, and lunkers lurking beneath log-jams are common. Steelhead run the Au Sable, too, and it pays to be prepared for the silver giants.

Public access is adequate along most of the upper river and its tributaries, while boat launches are well marked on the lower river. Dry flies work well during abundant hatches, nymphing is productive, but working streamers beneath and around submerged logs and other woody debris draws the spectacular fish.

If you catch the Hex spinnerfall, be prepared to catch your largest ever trout on a dry fly, as these bat-sized, night-mating mayflies draw the river's biggest browns to the surface.

The Holy Waters