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Chet Johnstone

The North Jersey Chapter of Trout Unlimited takes credit for getting the first complete and accurate data on the Tocks Project out to the sportsmen of the Tri-State area.  Another group, however, drew the first sword against the Tocks Project.  This group of hikers and nature lovers got word that Sunfish Pond (a glacier lake) was sold by the State of New Jersey to the power companies Jersey Central Power and Light, Public Service Electric, and New Jersey Power and Light.  They then heard that Sunfish Pond would be destroyed by the electric power phase of the Tocks Project.


In 1966 they managed to get several politicians and dignitaries to go on a well publicized hike to Sunfish Pond.  Eventually, this group pressured the state to buy back the pond in 1967.  They then went on to join the battle against the whole Tocks Project.

It was the mid 1960’s.  Chet Johnstone was fishing the Big Flatbrook River. Flower Children were making the country aware of the environment. Earth Day was established. Fly fishermen were few; fly fishing books and media coverage rare. The Corps of Engineers was ready to dig the Tocks Island Dam as the costly Viet Nam war was raging.

Chet started hearing rumors about a government project on the Delaware River. The Flatbrook would be buried by a huge reservoir, the residents evicted. Chet was becoming concerned especially since the local media was down playing coverage.

 Chet joined the Theodore Gordon Fly Fishers Conservation Committee 

The Chairman of the committee arranged for Chet to meet with a Delaware Dam Project Army Corp Colonel.

Chet learned the reservoir would provide a recreation area 37 miles long extending from Delaware Water Gap to Port Jervis. At the time 10 ½ million yearly visitors were expected. {Yellowstone got 3 million.)

Curious since the reservoir would be dropped fifty five feet to generate electricity leaving the touted recreation area a mud flat.


When Chet reported to Theodore Gordon Fly fishers they recommended Chet get something going in New Jersey.Fred Burroughs was forming a Trout Unlimited chapter in North Jersey. The chapter became involved with the “New Jersey Sportsman Federation.” 

The Federation provided an outlet for Chet to publish political cartoons and columns, sent to sports shops all over the state.

As the North Jersey Chapter grew, new chapters were born in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Reinforcements such as The Sierra Club and “The Save The Delaware Coalition. joined the fight resulting in the governors of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York turning down the Tocks Island project.  

Chet is proud to say;

 “Against all odds after 8+ years of dogged persistence, the little people of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York beat “City Hall. 
The Army Corps of Engineers had a very good head start on the environmentalists.  The effects of the proposed dam got out very late in the game, but fortunately, because of the Vietnam War and other National problems, government funding was very slow so we had a chance to “catch up.”  When the word of the dam effects finally started to get out the Corps was just about ready to “dig.”


Chet Johnstone


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