"The greatest sign posted at a public fishing access spot in the United States is on the South Branch of the Au Sable River at a place called the Mason Tract. It reads: “Sportsman slow your pace … ahead lies the fabled land of the South Branch. Here generations of fisherman have cast a fly on one of the great trout streams of America. Hunters, too, have roamed these hills in the solitude so bountifully offered. The land is rich in tradition and stands ready to renew your soul. Tread lightly as you pass and leave no mark. Go forth in the spirit of George W. Mason, whose generous gift has made this forever possible.”
George Mason was a Michigan industrialist who upon his death in 1954 donated 1,500 acres along the Au Sable River to the state with the caveat that it never be sold or developed. It was just as he left it: a pristine trout stream flowing 138 miles through the north country woods of the northern Lower Peninsula until it finally dumps into Lake Huron.
My car was parked in front of the sign. I leaned against the hood as I kicked off my wet waders. I had spent a couple of hours fly fishing there and it was a satisfying afternoon, one that thousands of other anglers have experienced on this river. However, there is great worry about the health of the Au Sable, and many people believe the river is threatened by, of all things, more trout."