In Remembrance of PVFF Founding Member Jim Gilford

PVFF founding member Jim Gilford died on Aug. 19. He was 92. In 1964, Gilford proposed Big Hunting Creek become a catch-and-release stream — a first in Maryland — it was Jim Gilford who became the plan’s biggest and most vocal advocate. This radical idea for the time was given the go-ahead from the state fishing commission to make one mile of the trout stream catch-and-release only. Today, all of Big Hunting Creek is a catch-and- release, fly-fishing-only trout fishing stream.

In the 1960’s, Gilford developed a friendship with the Frederick News Post outdoor writer, Lefty Kreh. When Lefty left for Florida in 1965, he recommended Gilford as his replacement as the outdoor writer for the Frederick News Post. Kreh and Gilford were working together at the time at a failed attempt to prevent the state from damming Big Hunting creek to create Cunningham falls Lake. 

When Gilford was hired as the FNP outdoor columnist in 1965, Kreh devoted one of his last columns to the new guy: “You’re going to like Jim. He’s an excellent fly fisherman, loves spin fishing, has trained his setters to a T, is an avid archer, a photographer, is eager to learn and best of all a nice person.”

From 1965 to 2006, Gilford wrote two weekly columns for the FNP — Bassin’ Notes and The Drumming Log. He also compiled the Outdoor Notes each week. Gilford was an outdoorsman’s outdoorsman. He wrote about fishing, hunting, conservation and was not afraid to spar with the state over proposed regulations and conservation efforts that he believed to be, or not be, in the best interest of sportsmen and wildlife.

In one of his first Drumming Log columns, Gilford introduced himself to Frederick County sportsmen. He grew up in Pennsylvania and his father worked for the Game Commission in the “outdoor paradise” section of that state. That’s where he learned to hunt for grouse, fish for trout and grow his skills from bait to fly fishing, learned to train bird dogs, hunt deer and bear, and all about bassin’.

“I tie my own flies and popping bugs, fletch my own arrows, and wrap my own rod guides because I enjoy doing such things,” he wrote. “I feel no need to prove myself the best in any outdoor activity. I like just being where the hard road ends.”

Gilford held the first organized meeting of the Potomac Valley Fly Fishermen in 1967 in his living room. In celebration of the 50th PVFF anniversary in 2017, Gilford was honored along with Walker Zimmerman and Bob Abraham as the only surviving PVFF founding members. Sadly, Zimmerman passed away in 2020.

As a member of the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishing Association, Gilford also duly reported their annual tournament results. His columns often spotlighted a variety of Chesapeake Bay issues such as the changing regulations related to striped bass, oyster and blue crab populations. Gilford was also an advocate of the brook trout, as a contributor to the Maryland Brook Trout Fisheries Management Plan.

Gilford received many honors and state appointments, including chairman of the Maryland Department of Game and Inland Fish Trout Advisory Committee, served three decades on the DNR Sport Fisheries Advisory Commission, was appointed on the federal level to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Striped Bass Advisory Panel, and he received the state’s highest civilian award, Admiral of the Chesapeake, in 2007.  Gilford continued to write his columns until 2006, when he announced his retirement — from writing regular columns after 41 years with the Frederick News Post.

By Dan Neuland