Serving dinner entrees like Trout Hemingway—or Trout Creole—a short roll cast from one of the most famous catch-and-release trout streams in North America seems incongruous. It would be, if the trout on your plate was from the river. Fortunately, it isn’t at Gates Au Sable Lodge, arguably the most unique place in Northern Michigan to enjoy riverside views with your meal.

Mary and Cal Gates, Sr. founded the landmark hostelry, fly shop and restaurant on the Au Sable’s banks east of Grayling in the early ’70s. Following the untimely death of their son Calvin H. “Rusty” Gates, current caretaker Josh Greenberg decided to add a bit of flair.

Enter Matt Haley, who left his Florida hotel chef job, called by the river’s watery whispers, enticing bends and trout. He got a taste of that song on guided trips with Greenberg, whose first and only choice of chef was Haley, and Haley’s wife, Emily Waldron-Haley, who is a pastry chef.

Early summer dining, Haley says, is dictated by the river. Here, anglers don’t eat after 8 p.m. at fishing season’s height, so it’s easy to get a table in the intimate, outdoorsy dining room. Regulars are hooked on late-riser breakfasts for anglers that are sometimes out until 3 a.m., as well as shore lunches and the like.

Core menu favorites include Trout Creole, topped with shrimp, greens and rice etouffee. The biggest sellers are perch and whitefish. Besides desserts, Waldron-Haley makes some dream-worthy sandwiches, including a Reuben that her husband describes is “about as good as a Rueben gets.” The tender corned beef is made in-house, and everything else is sourced within 60 miles of the eatery.

Oh, and save room for her pies, especially the lemon meringue. And hot chocolate cake. They’re enough to bring any dedicated fly fisher out of the river early.

Photo: Gates Au Sable Lodge


For more than 40 years, Bill Semion has been bringing Michigan to life for readers through his stories and photos in newspapers, magazines and the internet.

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