Celebrating Forty Five Years

I thought I would do a little investigation of the history of the Merrimack River Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited and to my surprise the chapter is celebrating its 45th year as a part of Trout Unlimited.

As president I am able to review the chapter member’s roster which includes each member’s information including the join date. This year I included in our Annual Fundraising Banquets dinner program a page dedicated to the chapters lifetime members and a page with members of 20 years or more. After preparing the program I thought it would be interesting to find out more about the history of the chapter.

As of 2015 the chapter has 457 members, which include 3 youth memberships, 60 lifetime members and 70 members of 20 years or more.

The senior member has been in the chapter 44 years, having joined in 1971.

A little history of Merrimack River Valley Chapter 075.

What we know as the Merrimack River Valley Chapter 075 has not always borne that name.

The Chapter started out being recognized by Trout Unlimited as the Manchester , NH Chapter of Trout Unlimited 075 on April 15, 1970, Prior to this date, 4 members James O’Mahony, Maurice Raiche, Roger Vigneault and Bert Hulslander  did not have a chapter got together and contacted TU National about starting a New Hampshire chapter.  In the meantime the four men rounded up 11 new members to add to the Manchester, NH Chapter roster.

After three meetings the group elected the first board of officers and directors. James O’Mahony President, Maurice Raiche, Vice President, Jon Underwood Sec- Treas. Board of Directors were Nick Lambrou, Peter Panagos and Glen Tatham. On April 10, 1970 James O’Mahony sent a letter to Trout Unlimited Executive Director R.P. Van Gytenbeek in Denver, Colorado with a complete list of names of all 15 members, elected officers and board of directors, the Constitution of the Manchester, NH Chapter of Trout Unlimited along with $110.00 for membership fees and $22.50 for 15 TU arm patches.

James O’Mahony of Francestown, NH was contacted by Executive Director Gytenbeek on April 15, 1970 by US Mail with a very short but to the point message which said, “Everything you sent us is in apple pie order and you may consider yourself an official chapter of TU from this day forward”

List of original members is as follows:

  • * James O’Mahony Pres.
  • * Maurice Raiche  VP
  • * Roger Vigneault
  • * Bert Hulslander
  •   Jon Underwood Treas.
  •   Nicholas Lambrou BOD
  •   Peter Panagos BOD
  •   Gene Tatham BOD
  •   Francis Parker
  •   Ronald Clair
  •   Stephen Fleming
  •   Maurice Daneault
  •   Henry Heath
  •   John Carter
  •   Raymond Bedard

*Designates original member

Ironically I have known some of these members for years. Back in the 50”s and 60’s my dad was a member of the Massabesic Fish and Game Club which was located in Auburn, NH.

My Dad, Maurice Raiche and Nick Lambrou used to teach fishing to the local Boy Scouts and the club used to host a kids fishing derby at Massabesic Lake at the area of Spring Valley Brook near the picnic area. Peter Panagos was my Industrial Arts teacher at Memorial High School back in the 50’s – 60’s.

In 1970 a Junior Membership was $1.50 and a Regular Membership was $10.00

The Constitution of the Manchester, NH Chapter of Trout Unlimited (dated 1970) included Article II which read as follows:

Section 1. The purpose of this Chapter shall be:

  1. To unite in common bond all individuals interested in trout fishing and the preservation of same.
  2. To promote trout angling in a sportsmen like manner.
  3. To encourage practical trout management.
  4. To disseminate to the general public, information relative to this chapters interests.
  5. The aims and activities of this chapter will at all times be in conformity with those of Trout Unlimited.


Times have changed not only has the Trout Unlimited mission changed but also the name of Manchester, NH Chapter of Trout Unlimited 075 as well.

On September 22, 1987 the Chapters Corresponding Secretary S. Franklin Ruhl contacted Susan Graig at National Trout Unlimited in Vienna, VA to confirm their phone conversation by US Mail to change the name of Manchester, NH Chapter of Trout Unlimited 075 to Merrimack River Valley Chapter 075.

Authorization was granted and on December 1, 1987 the name Merrimack River Valley Chapter 075 effect.

  1. Franklin Ruhl is still a member today, having joined the chapter on November 1, 1975, Mr. Ruhl has been an active member for the past 40 years.

The names of our top ten eldest members of the chapter today are:

  • John Karanasios 44 years
  • R Jay Conant 43 years
  • S Franklin Ruhl 40 years
  • Donald Beeckman 39 years
  • George Naum 39 years
  • Gerald Bernier 38 years
  • Rick Hedrick 38 years
  • Timothy A Lott 35 years
  • Tim Stoodley 35 years
  • Thomas McCartney 34 years

Times have changed, missions have changed but the chapter has members that do not change. To have members stay on for 20, 30 or 40 years tells me that these sportsmen believe in what Trout Unlimited stands for and is doing.

The chapter’s first fundraising banquet was held in 1972 and has continued each year after and in the 2016 the chapter will mark its 44th fundraising banquet.

For many years the chapter has been going out to different expos and shows to encourage people to join and to make a difference. Our outreach is to youth, men, women and families in the surrounding area. We offer them Fly Fishing 101 classes, fly tying classes and the NH Kids Trout Camp. These same people can be seen volunteering their time and energy for the chapter. I hope the remaining founders of the chapter realize that there are people who appreciate and thank them for their commitment, time and effort to establish what has become to make a strong chapter.

I personally joined the chapter in 1991 giving me 24 years with Trout Unlimited.

Like many of you, when I first joined I had a growing family with two children, I didn’t  have time to make it to many meetings or to help out at events I couldn’t even find time to do some fishing.  I can understand how difficult it is for today’s younger chapter members considering their responsibilities of work, family, home upkeep and more work. But hopefully you will be able to find some time and be able to volunteer for some chapter work.

For the members who do not have the time to give I would like them to at least stay in touch with us by going to our new website, same address www.merrimacktu.org or to our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pages/Merrimack-River-Valley-Trout-Unlimited/395273780587745

Today the chapter is still going strong with a great membership, a staff of officers and board of directors that enjoy what they do. If you would like to become a member of the board of directors and have an input to the chapter activities please contact one of the officers or a board member. (Contact information can be found on our website)

Ron Sowa, President