“The finest gift you can give to any fisherman is to put a good fish back, and who knows if the fish that you caught isn’t someone else’s gift to you?”
Two years ago, I was asked if I was interested in getting in on the ground floor of “something new”. Some fellow anglers, it seems, were looking to wake a fly-rod wielding caveman who was once seen fishing these parts. The caveman was none other than a Johnny Hart cartoon of a Neanderthal using a fly rod instead of a club. Let’s call him the more genteel type of caveman…
Most people in our country are at least somewhat familiar with the BC cartoon strip, possibly less so of the cartoon’s creator, Johnny Hart. In the Southern Tier, however, Hart is very much a legend. His cartoons have been associated with many activities, including “BC Transit” (the Broome County bus system), Broome County Parks, Broome County Meals on Wheels, Southern Tier Red Cross, the infamous PGA event – the BC Open, the Broome Dusters Hockey team, and the BC Icemen UHL hockey team, to name a few….
Hart was all “Southern Tier”. Born in Endicott, NY (birthplace of Endicott-Johnson shoes, and later, IBM, and still pronounced “endeecott” by locals), Hart attended Union-Endicott schools, and after graduating high school, enlisted in the US Air Force. He sold his first cartoon to the Saturday Evening Post after his discharge from the military in 1954. Though a bit controversial to some in terms of his views on religion, Hart is regarded as one of the best cartoonists of all time.
Hart was kind enough to draw a cartoon of the fly fishing caveman for the first BC Flyfishers fly fishing club. The club promoted both fly fishing and conservation but ended up disbanding.
Step back to late 2013 and a small group of ardent fly fishermen looking to create an active fly fishing chapter of the International Federation of Fly Fishers (IFFF). The original cast consisted of Nick DiNunzio, John Trainor, Gary Romanic, Kurt Nelson, and Bob Bruns (yours truly). The first meeting took place the following spring, on March 15, 2014. And from this formation meeting, a fly fishing caveman was awoken from a deep ice-age sleep…
The board went right to work, creating a website, writing bylaws, and crafting a mission statement to guide it through years to come:
- Promote the sport of fly fishing.
- Teach best methods of fly fishing, fly casting, and fly tying.
- Uphold fly fishing values: respect for the environment, courtesy, patience, and integrity.
- Act as a regional resource for fly fishing in the Southern Tier of NY and surrounding areas.
- Promote resource conservation.
- Leave a legacy of fly fishing to future generations.
Now fast forward to 2016. The BC Flyfishers have over 50 members. It’s a prospering, active chapter, but still a toddler compared to many similar fly fishing organizations. The area’s own Trout Unlimited chapter – the Al Hazzard TU chapter – was founded in 1972, for example. And for comparison, the oldest saltwater fly fishing club in the country is the Rhody Fly Rodders – a club founded in 1963. Look to the east, to the country where fly fishing started, and you’ll find the Darley Dale Fly Fishing Club – formed in Derbyshire in 1862!
The first monthly meeting was very well attended and strong attendance continues to be the theme as membership grows. A great speaker program was put in place, hosting a nice balance of member speakers, speakers from other chapters, and local pros / guides, such as Wayne Aldridge (Catskill guide), Joe Goodspeed (pro, originally with Cortland and now with T&T fly rods), Joe Ackourey (Pennsylvania guide), John Shaner (former guide and pro with Hardy), Joe Cambridge (Finger Lakes trib pro), among many others.
But a great fly fishing chapter is more than it’s monthly chapter meetings. The chapter has initiated many activities over the last two years as part of its mission, such as:
On the water chapter meetings…
Fly tying classes – there have been 2 very successful classes held, one each winter…
Fly rod building – the first class is in process as this is being written…
Fishing trips – Ausable River, Chemung River, West Branch of the Delaware, Tioughnioga River, Chenango River, Susquehanna River, and local ponds.
Fly rod raffles have been a big success for the chapter. These are generally a raffle of a TFO fly rod (of the winner’s choice) that is awarded the chapter for hitting membership levels. However more rods will be in the mix in the future.
A casting clinic – the first being held in 2015 which was another big success.
2016 looks to be another great year for the fledgling IFFF chapter. In the plans are the completion of the fly rod building class, an entomology class (classroom and on the water), continued monthly chapter meetings with great speakers, another casting clinic, and more fishing trips. The chapter’s leadership includes a few of the original cast and some new members: Nick DiNunzio (President), Gary Romanic (VP), Bob Bruns (Secretary), John Trainor (Treasurer), Eric Tomosky (Membership / Events), and Tim Barrett (Education).
Meetings, classes, events, and trips, are activities that give life to a fly fishing club, but these things are not the heart and lifeblood, that will sustain a club for years to come. It is the membership that does that: the people who gather to cherish the sport, enjoy the camaraderie, tell stories, and more so, share hope for a better future. Good members carry a club forward, sustain its traditions, and add to its legacy.
Here’s to another 2, 4, 8, 16, 100…. years!