Each May a group of men and boys gather in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains for the annual Campfire of the Brotherhood of the Jungle Cock. Several hundred strong, from all parts of the country, they come to fulfill their pledge to take a boy fishing at least once each year.
The Brotherhood is named after a jungle bird whose neck feathers were once widely used in the tying of trout flies. The tradition of the Brotherhood, now in its fifth decade, is long and proud, but the organization continues to look to the future. The philosophy is summed up best by the last paragraph of the Brotherhood's creed, penned by Clark Venable on a brown paper bag in April 1939:
Holding that moral law transcends the legal statutes, always beyond the needs of any one man, and holding that example alone is the one certain teacher, we pledge always to conduct ourselves in such fashion on the stream as to make safe for others the heritage which is ours and theirs.
Many of the young boys who attended those early campfires are now leaders of the organization. Much of the instruction takes the form of one-on-one coaching along banks of Big Hunting Creek, a lovely trout steam tumbling down the pine-studded slopes of the Catoctins.
Hunting Creek remains one of the best trout steams in Maryland and is open to the public as a fly fishing-only stream. Trout still rise in the sun-dappled pools as they did for the Brotherhood's founders.
Attendance at the Campfire is by invitation only, and no man may come without a boy. An important part of the weekend is the solemn ceremony in which men and boys gather around the fire to recite the creed and initiate new members. Maryland is the site for the Home Campfire but initiation ceremonies have been held in 15 states and eight foreign countries.
In these days of heavy pressure on our natural resources, the creed is more relevant than ever: "Enjoying as we do only a life estate in the out-of-doors, and morally charged in our time with the responsibility of handing it down unspoiled to tomorrow's inheritors, we individually undertake annually to take at least one boy a-fishing, instructing him, as best we know, in the responsibilities that are soon to be wholly his."
Inquiries concerning the Brotherhood should be addressed to Enoch Moore, Box 206, RFD 2, Newville, Pennsylvania 17241.