It was at the annual fishing expo held at Elkins High School this past March when I ran into the current president of the Mountaineer Chapter of the Izaak Walton League. All of the officers of the chapter knew that I had let my membership expire a few years ago and had not taken the time to renew. I asked the president, "what would be the possibility of getting back in?" He replied, "No problem at all."
A few days later, I got an application in the mail. In early April, I sent it in for a family membership. About two weeks later, I found out that I had been reinstated.
On May 22, 2012, Ruth and I went to the May dinner meeting they have on the fourth Tuesday of the month at the clubhouse on Files Creek Road. This is probably the first monthly meeting I have attended in over five years. One of the members, whom I have known for several years, was quick to say, "Are you Ken Cobb or Ken Cobb's ghost?'
For me, it was an honor to be back at the monthly meeting. I have always enjoyed the friendship and fellowship shown by the members of this club.
When I was an active member of the "Mountaineer Chapter" in the 90s, there were several people (some local and others out of state) who would ask me, "What is the Izaak Walton League?" I would say in return that the Izaak Walton League is a civic conservation organization. The Izaak Walton League was founded in Chicago in 1922 by a group of sportsmen who wanted to protect fishing opportunities for future generations. They named the league after British fishing enthusiast, Izaak Walton (1593-1683), known as the Father of Flyfishing" and author of "The Compleat Angler."
This year, the Izaak Walton League will celebrate its 90th birthday. There are many reasons for this organization's enduring success. The first and primary one is the fact they do not have the radical attitude of "shut down anything and everyone that may be detrimental to the environment." The national office near Washington, D.C., takes a compromising and practical approach to achieve a solution to any problem. The organization is a strong supporter of hunting and fishing nationwide. The national leadership of this organization relies heavily on the work of unpaid volunteer workers from the individual chapter members.
The Mountaineer Chapter was formed in 1956 and is located five miles east of Beverly on the right hand fork of Files Creek Road in Randolph County. When I first joined the chapter in 1973, the total membership was less than 100. At this time, the Mountaineer Chapter has about 400 members who are dedicated to the wise use of all natural resources. There are many youth activities that are sponsored by this chapter.
On the weekend of May 19, the chapter sponsored a fish catch for youth at the small pond located behind the clubhouse. This pond is stocked each spring with trout and catfish purchased from the private sector for this purpose. The youth fish catch was open to the youth of chapter members and the youth residents of the West Virginia Childrens Home in Elkins.
The chapter also sponsored a hands-on air rifle shoot at its private shooting range. Before a child from the Childrens Home could attend this part of the event, they had to have approval from their parents or guardians and from the Childrens Home administration.
From the reports of the May dinner meeting, the 24 residents of the Childrens Home really enjoyed themselves catching these fish. About half the residents went over to the shooting range to try their luck shooting at a close-range target using an air rifle. This segment of the outing was supervised by a retired West Virginia conservation officer, who is a very active member of the chapter. All the chapter members who helped conduct this event were quick to say, "All the kids were very well-behaved."
In Randolph County, there is a large percentage of the population who like to hunt and fish. Most nimrods know the noble sport of hunting is under attack by a nationwide anti-hunting movement. It is the dedicated work of these unpaid volunteer workers of the Mountaineer Chapter who are helping to counter this movement. All local sportsmen and women should be proud of the members of this Izaak Walton League Chapter for the work they are doing to preserve the hunting and fishing traditions for future generations of West Virginians.