Nestled in downtown Grayling on the banks of the Au Sable River, The Old Au Sable Fly Shop enters its eighth season with a fresh new look. MyNorth’s Dani Knoph caught up with Co-Owner and Fly Fishing Operations Manager Andy Partlo to get the inside scoop on the reno.
Dani: Let’s start with the river. Why is the Au Sable a must-fly river?
Andy: The Au Sable is one of the greatest hatch match dry fly rivers anywhere. The fish are wild, highly pressured, and so, super selective. It’s tough and like all things that are difficult, extremely rewarding. The fishing depends on the bugs and the bugs depend on the weather in Northern Michigan. The Au Sable is one of the most beautiful, gentle, and accessible streams in the world.
Dani: When was the original Old Au Sable Fly Shop born and how has the business taken shape over the past several years?
Andy: There’s been a fly fishing outfitter on this property since 1868. This is our eighth season and this remodel was much needed for the building constructed in 1946. There’s a lot of history here and we couldn’t be happier to be part of it.
Dani: Give us the birds-eye view of the reno…
Andy: With the help of the Michigan Mainstream Grant Program, we’ve been able to take the entire building to stud walls and completely remodel and update our space. Everything other than the old bones of the place is new. It’s a complete inside and outside redo. Even our electrical and mechanical has been redone. The floor plan is now open and all the fixtures are new.
Dani: Are there any fun updates or new plans that folks can look forward to?
Andy: I’m most pleased with the 400 square foot Learning Center that is part of the new floor plan. We’ll be able to expand our classroom offerings as well as events. We are already beginning to line up speakers and classes—bamboo rod building for example.
Dani: Traverse Magazine featured Gates Lodge, an iconic place for anglers in the April 2015 issue. Take us back a little, how’d you end up with a mentorship at Gates Au Sable Lodge?
Andy: I started at Gates at the end of my last year of Graduate school as a break. I just intended to catch my breath, but here I am fifteen years later. The Au Sable has a way of making you never want to leave. I was gone for two years working at Dan Bailey’s Fly Shop in Livingston, Montana and though it was one of the greatest times of my life, I always missed the Au Sable.
Dani: What was it like working with Rusty Gates?
Andy: I was fortunate to work with Rusty. There was no better steward of the river.
Dani: Let’s go out with a bang. What’s the wildest thing you’ve ever seen on the river?
Andy: Let’s just say that you can’t believe what canoers will do when they think they’re all alone in the wild. Other than that, like any fisherman, I have a thousand fish stories. An enormous bear I spooked on the South Branch that crashed through the river just a few yards from me. That brown trout that grabbed a brook trout on the end of my line and just wouldn’t let go even though it wasn’t hooked.