Middle River Dispatches is a gumbo of posts about fly-fishing, conservation, politics and days afield.

By the Book – Mentoring

The MSU Fly Gals network is very near and dear to my heart, so when the god father of the group, Bill Taylor, asks for help I happily offer my assistance. In this case Bill asked if I would co-author a chapter in a book about mentoring. Bill wanted to include the Fly Gals program in the book because it has become a rather unique mentoring experience for the participants.

I am a leadership and mentoring geek so this was both and interesting and exciting assignment. I enlisted Kerryann Weaver, one of the early participant in the MSU Fly Gals program, to be the co-author. Kerry and I took a Socratic approach to our chapter and wrote it very conversationally. We hoped it would make for both entertaining and informative reading. Kerry not only contributed to our chapter, she handled all interaction with the editorial team, keeping our contribution to the book on track!

The American Fisheries Society published Future of Fisheries: Perspectives for Emerging Professionals, in July. Our chapter, Fly-Fishing for the Future: How the Michigan State University Fly Gals Are Mentoring Future Conservation Leaders is in the Leadership in Practice section.


Future of Fisheries contain 70 mentoring pieces from a vast array of fisheries professionals. The vignettes as they are called, offer a wide variety of personal “lessons learned” and insights into emerging challenges. The book is a handy reference tool to what has worked, creative problem solving and a look into the future.

From the AFS website:

Future of Fisheries: Perspectives for Emerging Professionals contains more than 70 short mentoring
vignettes on past experiences and visions for the future authored by many notable mentors from the fisheries field. The volume is intended to inspire and empower the next generation of fisheries professionals with advice from seasoned professionals by providing personal “lessons learned” and insights from the topics that most influenced their illustrious careers while also addressing the most urgent issues on the horizon for fisheries.

Like having a mentor on hand at the turn of a page, this book bridges a vital gap in our field by using the unique structure of mentoring vignettes to advise young fisheries professionals on how to achieve success as a fisheries professional and on what concepts will be relevant and important for the future of the fisheries profession.”

I am thrilled to have contributed to this project and look forward to reading and sharing the many other excellent insights in the book. If you are interested in fish, fishing and mentoring I think you will find this book a worthy addition to your bookshelf.

Fishing with the MSU Fly Gals

A couple of weeks ago I was in Michigan teaching fly-fishing to some Michigan State University graduate students, their friends and their colleagues. This is the third year that I have had the pleasure of teaching these ladies the fine art of fly-fishing.

I got this gig because my friend, Bill Taylor, a MSU distinguished professor, asked if I would be interested in expanding the educational horizons of his graduate students. Taylor is not only a firm believer in sound education for our future fish and wildlife managers but thinks they should have a “hands-on” experience in the sports that help fund fish and wildlife habitat conservation.

The first year was a great success and Taylor decided to let the ladies “recruit” the next year’s students. First they decided to name the group the MSU Fly Gals. I am told it is considered a very prestigious thing to be offered an invitation to the two-day school.

The ladies are hosted by Bill Demmer at Big Creek Lodge, a historic private enclave in Lovells, Mich. Demmer, a successful businessman from Lansing and member of the Boone and Crockett Club, is as strongly committed to conservation education through a hands-on experience as Taylor is.

Former students now return to assist me in teaching the class and also to enjoy a float trip on the North Branch of the Au Sable. The float trips are organized by Fuller’s North Branch Outing Club. Over the last three years Fuller’s has become the outfitter of choice for the MSU Fly Gals.

The North Branch Outing Club is rooted in Au Sable River history and has been around since 1916. T.E. Douglas came to the area to make his fortune in the timber business. He opened a store and hotel, The Douglas House, to offer first class food, lodging and access to the outstanding fly-fishing and wing shooting in the area.

The Douglas was the headquarters for the North Branch Outing Club. It was a popular sportsmen’s club in its day with members from the Detroit area automobile industry such as Henry and Edsel Ford, John and Horace Dodge and Charles Nash.

The Douglas House closed in the early sixties. In the fall of 1996 the Fuller family bought the property. They re-opened it as Fuller’s North Branch Outing Club with a bed and breakfast, fly-shop and guide service. It received historic designation by the State of Michigan and is on the Department of Interior’s National Register of Historic Places.

Fuller’s usually sends a couple of guides over to assist me with some of the casting instruction. This year Todd Fuller ably assisted the ladies with the afternoon on-the-water casting and fishing instruction.

This is a wonderful chance for me to visit and fish one of the more storied and historic river system in this country, the Au Sable. It is certainly Michigan’s most famous trout fishery with wonderful brook and brown trout fishing

The Au Sable River has four branches. The East and Middle branches join together just west of Grayling and flows east through town. The Middle branch, commonly referred to as the Mainstem, and the North and South branches all east of Grayling are prime waters for fishing.

On the Mainstem the “go to” fly shop is Gate’s Au Sable Lodge, owned by Rusty Gates a noted conservationist and advocate for the protection of the Au Sable river system.

The Au Sable has legendary hatches, most notable the brown drake and hexagenia or “Hex” hatch. Fishing in the late spring when we are there is usually very good from early evening until dark. After sunset, intrepid anglers fish mouse patterns near the banks to catch large brown trout.

For many years I flew over this part of the country on my way out west. That was a big mistake. There is some truly terrific water to fish in the Au Sable system. If you want to try some new water, enjoy some great northern Michigan hospitality and get in some fabulous brown and brook trout fishing I strongly recommend a trip to the Au Sable.

You can read more of my columns at News Virginian.com