At its December meeting, the Taconic Chapter of Trout Unlimited (TU) presented Henry Sweren of Dalton its most prestigious award, the Crooked Staff Award. He was also presented a plaque and, newly instituted this year, the use of the late Mr. Ernest Goodrod’s fly rod for the upcoming year.
Henry is a Life Member of TU. He originally joined the Merrimac River Chapter of TU (New Hampshire) in 2001, but after moving to the Berkshires, he became a valuable member of the Board of Directors of the Taconic Chapter. He has helped in arranging the International Fly Fishing Festivals which have been held locally. He participated in the OLLI (Osher Life Long Institute) program teaching people how to fly cast, tie knots, etc. He is also a life member of the Farmington River Anglers Association.
I first wrote about the Crooked Staff 14 years ago and it occurred to me that some readers were young tykes back then and perhaps know nothing about this rich Taconic TU tradition.
Well, nearly every year since the mid 1980’s the Chapter’s Board of Directors selects one of its members to receive this coveted award. The person is selected as the member who best represents the ideals of T.U. (conserving, protecting and restoring North America’s coldwater fisheries and their watersheds). This member holds the Crooked Staff for the following year until it is either passed on to another deserving member or is held, if none is deemed deserving.
The staff itself was the brain child of Ken Welch, one of the chapter’s past members who has since moved to the New York State Finger Lakes area. He related the following story about the origin of the staff which he claimed was true. However, members wonder if the social hour preceding the meeting when he introduced it affected his veracity. In any event the moral of the story is still solid:
“Many years ago there lived a trout fisherman who was the epitome of the ultimate gentleman angler. He was a man who was honest to a fault, one who needed no guidelines such as game laws by which to live. He was a man who always did the proper thing because it was the right thing to do. Mr. Ernest Goodrod was that man.
He would never wade into another man’s pool, he never kept under-sized fish, nor exceeded the lawful limit. In fact he felt those laws weren’t written for him since he had always practiced Catch and Release. Mr. Goodrod stopped to help young anglers that he felt could use his expertise; he never lied about the quantity or the quality of his catches. He was free with his advice and shared the location of favorite fishing holes with strangers. He was truly a gentleman’s gentleman.
In spite of a heart condition he fished frequently, and often alone. Being of an advanced age he always had his wading staff tied to his belt with a rawhide tether. It was cut from a strong, straight tree and left in its natural state. Straight, strong, and pure, not unlike Mr. Goodrod. But alas, the day came when he didn’t return from his favorite stream; his heart had finally failed him. He was found at the Bridge Pool by the local near-do-well, a despicable man who lied cheated and connived his way through life. He was noted for following the trout stocking trucks to take as many trout as possible. When this awful man found Mr. Goodrod, he stripped him of his rod, vest, waders and wading staff. For most of that summer he used his stuff, including the staff, but every time he broke the law the staff would get shorter due to it taking on a coil and eventually the staff became unusable.
One evening the local game warden arrested the bum, jailed him and confiscated all his fishing tackle, including the crooked staff. Everyone knew that the staff was once the property of Mr. Goodrod and the story spread that if a real gentleman of Mr. Goodrod’s caliber were to handle the staff it would straighten out to its original splendor.
Ken Welch obtained the staff but in spite of him being a fine gentleman the staff remained crooked. Somewhere Ken had a hidden flaw. He was aware of the fine character of the members at the Taconic Chapter of T.U. and figured one of its members could remove the coils. Ken suggested that if the staff was presented to the one who most represented the ideals of T.U., the staff would be restored, but alas after many, many recipients, it remains crooked. Apparently each honoree had a hidden flaw in his or her character. Some day the likes of Mr. Goodrod will be found, so it is hoped.” Let’s see if Henry Sweren can straighten it out.
Recently, charter member Homer Ouellette, himself a Crooked Staff recipient, passed beyond the river bend. Unbeknownst to the TU members, he had gained possession of Mr. Goodrod’s flyrod. Homer’s brother Paul Ouellette, from Lanesborough, brought it to the recent TU meeting hoping that it would be presented to future deserving crooked staff recipients. On it is inscribed, “Property of Mr. Ernest Goodrod”. A new TU tradition has been formed.
The Lee Sportsmen’s Association and the Lenox Sportsmen’s Club are both sponsoring Massachusetts LTC courses. Completion of these courses awards the candidates a MA State Police Certificate which is required to apply for your MA LTC. The Lee course is on January 14 from 9am to 3pm. The cost is $125 per person. Contact Rob M. at 413-232-7700, or e-mail email@example.com to register.
The Lenox course is on January 15, from 10am to 2pm. The cost is $70.00 per person. Contact Tom Nadolny at 413-822-6451 or firstname.lastname@example.org to register.