BY Dan Neuland
The 79th Annual Brotherhood of the Jungle Cock (BOJC) Campfire Weekend was held at Camp Airy in Thurmont on May 17-19, 2019. The camp hosted a total of 365 attendees, which included 179 boys and their adult sponsors from 16 different states. A total of 44 boys were new to the program this year. The camp is located near several excellent local trout streams and has two spring-fed stocked ponds on site that are stocked with trout for the annual event.
Briefly, the BOJC is an organization that was founded in 1940 in the Catoctin Mountains of Frederick County by a group of conservation-minded fly fishermen. The annual campfire weekend is designed to pass on the knowledge, the skills, and the love of the sport of angling and, particularly, fly fishing, to young men. As stated in the BOJC Creed, adult members pledge to “annually take at least one boy a-fishing, instructing him, as best we know, in the responsibilities that are soon to be wholly his.”
The BOJC is an organization that is steeped in tradition. The name chosen to represent the group comes from the waxed neck feather of the male Indian jungle fowl, a chicken-like bird, prized for its beautiful plumage. Feathers from the cape of the jungle cock have been used for salmon flies since the 19th century. A jungle cock cape feather is prominently featured in the BOJC logo worn by its members.
Bob Abraham, Sr. of Thurmont has been a member of BOJC for 61 years. It all began on a rainy spring day in 1958, when Abraham was driving through Catoctin National Park. He saw a fly fisherman walking along the road and stopped to offer the angler a ride to his vehicle that was parked at the Camp Peniel parking lot.
Abraham was working for the Department of Natural resources as a game warden. The angler accepted the ride and introduced himself as Gurney Godfrey from Baltimore. He informed the warden that he was in the area that weekend for the Brotherhood of the Jungle Cock Campfire being held nearby at Camp Airy in Thurmont. “Gurney held his fly rod out of the vehicle window as we traveled down the road and we exchanged conversation,” said Abraham. Godfrey thanked Abraham for the ride and invited him to supper that evening at the camp.
Abraham accepted his invitation and he attended the dinner wearing his uniform. He joined BOJC that same evening sponsored by Godfrey. That chance encounter was the start of a great friendship between the two fly fisherman and the beginning of a close connection between Abraham and the BOJC program.
After joining the BOJC organization in 1958, Abraham became very active in it. He was elected to the board of directors and eventually held the position of president from 1976-77. Abraham has become the friendly and welcoming face of the organization.
Currently, at 86 years young, he is still very active. He attends the annual BOJC weekend and he can be found stationed under a canopy between the two ponds at Camp Airy with hundreds of hand-tied flies displayed on a table for the young anglers to use. At the 2019 BOJC program, Abraham handed-out a total of 21 dozen flies! Young anglers seek out Abraham for his trusted advice on fly selection and Abraham offers his encouragement. When they are successful, they eagerly run to him to show off their prize catch and share their fish story.
Thomas Burrill, an 11-year old who lives in West Virginia, has a fish story that is worth retelling. Thomas was attending the camp for the first time with his uncle, Ron Burrill of Foxville. Using a green streamer fly tied by Abraham, the young angler hooked and landed a rainbow trout that taped out at just under 25 inches and weighed 5.5 pounds!
BOJC volunteers also sponsor an annual Wounded Veteran Fishing Event in partnership with Project Healing Waters. The Thurmont American Legion Post 168, the Taneytown Country Kitchen Restaurant, Roy Rogers, as well as the many BOJC and Project Healing Waters volunteers contributed to the success of this year’s event on May 25, 2019.
These programs at Camp Airy are high-quality experiences, thanks to volunteers who give so much of their time to share their knowledge of fishing.
The seven-year BOJC instructional program is designed for boys eight-years old or older, starting with the basics of beginning angling and taking them toward the opportunity to fish with “the masters.” It is above all, a hands-on, outdoor educational program for young men. Classes are taught by experienced adults and include conservation, fly casting, entomology, equipment maintenance, fishing knots, fly tying, rod building, and net making to name a few.
Thomas Burrill is shown with his 25-inch rainbow trout with Bob Abraham.
2019 Wounded Veteran fisherman and event volunteers are shown on May 25, 2019 at Camp Airy in Thurmont.