At the spring meeting of the Slate Run Sportsmen (SRS) in Slate Run, PA, I got
surprised. Just prior to commencement of the business meeting for members of the group dedicated to preservation of the Pine Creek Valley and to fly-fishing on the tributary known as Slate Run, Leighanne slipped her name into a creel of names to be drawn for a prize.
I’d forgotten all about the Founders’ Rod, a Heddon bamboo once owned by Dr. Luther Fetter, one of the founding members of the SRS. Before I knew it, a name was drawn from the creel; my wife’s name was on the slip of paper. I cheered (rather modestly); she rose to accept the fly rod and the accompanying leather-bound journal.
No, Leighanne wasn’t about to start a fly-fishing life with the well-preserved Heddon 35, although I encouraged her. This “Peerless” rod is one of the high-end models built by Heddon, ca. 1940. She wanted it for me, and I was thankful. The Founders’ Rod, which now rotates annually among members of the SRS, was on loan to me for a solid year, on condition that I write of my experiences with the rod, recording highlights in the leather-bound journal, to be shared at the next spring meeting (2015) of the Slate Run Sportsmen.
The first note in the Journal sets the scene: The rod is dedicated to the memory of the founding fathers of the Slate Run Sportsmen (established in 1954). The rod itself was owned and used by Dr. Luther Fetter, one of the founders… It is only fitting that the rod be used the first year, (of the loan) 2012, by Dr. Fetter’s son, Dr. Werner “Dutch” Fetter.
I am honored to be considered a friend of Dutch Fetter, Luther’s son, a life-long Slate Run angler and a fellow trustee of the SRS. He’s the guy who has made it possible to share the bamboo rod and to experience first-hand a bit of the club’s fine heritage. As the third holder of this Heddon 35, I’m looking forward to casting it for the next few seasons and enjoying what it represents.
At mid-point of the twentieth-century, the status of trout fishing and the mountainous environment in and around Slate Run, PA wasn’t looking very good. Decades of relentless timbering had damaged the soil and forests of the Pine Creek/Slate Run area, and unregulated fishing had pretty much decimated the remainder of the wild and native trout. With Slate Run fishing on the skids, a group of six men, including Luther W. Fetter, sat down at the Hotel Manor in Slate Run and hammered out a plan.
The plan to save the unusual environment of Slate and to establish the run as a fly-fishing-only water was presented in Harrisburg and finally became law. The SRS was born in 1954 and continues to be an influential force in state environmental matters today. Slate Run has returned to a state of wildness and natural beauty, with freestone fly-fishing opportunities unparalleled in the region.
Despite protections set by law, the future health of the Slate Run region isn’t guaranteed. The SRS and the citizens of Pennsylvania need to be vigilant of threats from sources such as invasive species, hydro-fracking of gas deposits, and climate change. Life guarantees nothing for anybody, but with environmental groups like the SRS and Trout Unlimited, at least some of us can say we’re doing what we can to stave off major trouble.
To help sustain the memory of the founding fathers of one small conservation group, I’m pleased to cast a wonderful rod for the next 12 months. I’ll load that instrument (a 3-piece, 8.5 foot) with a five or six-weight line and feel a special history vibrate through the “living reed.”