Thursday, February 7, 2008

Rockwell Springs Trout Club: A Fisherman's Paradise

Two miles south of Castalia, near the Sandusky Erie County line, lies Rockwell Springs Trout Club. For more than a century, the club has been a fly fisherman's paradise and a place of respite for members, their families and guests. Organized in 1900, the club acquired title to property on Little Pickeral Creek previously owned by the Bellevue Trout Club. They named the club after the natural sink that feeds the stream with cold, clear waters.
Within a few short years, the organization erected a clubhouse and recreation building that included a fish hatchery in its basement. Speckled trout eggs shipped from Michigan were gently turned with feathers until they hatched. Fed a diet of ground liver, the hatchlings were released into ponds when they reached the fingerling stage. Members used metal plates pulled by mules to dig the original streambed. To maximize fishing habitat, the club developed channels that coil snakelike throughout the property.

Rockwell Springs ca. 1950

[from the Charles E. Frohman Collection]

Families came by train from Columbus, Cleveland, Akron, and Toledo. Met by the caretaker, they were transported to the grounds by horse and buggy. While the men fished, the women sewed, played cards, and chatted at the clubhouse. The children enjoyed croquet and swung from the big cottonwood tree out over the pond.

Rockwell Springs ca. 1950

[from the Charles E. Frohman Collection]

The Depression, declining membership, and the threat of development forced Rockwell Springs to re-organize several times. By 1940, George Ball of the Ball Mason Jar Company had taken title to the property in exchange for paying the club’s debts.

Inspired by the possibilities of reviving Rockwell Springs as a for profit Club, Sandusky’s former city manager Webb Sadler bought the property from Ball. Sadler was no stranger to establishing successful recreation areas. He was the driving force behind Sandusky’s Battery Park and later helped develop the Castalia Blue Hole and managed the Castalia Trout Club.

With Sadler at the helm, the club quickly grew to more than a thousand members. Critical to Sadler’s success was his relationship with neighboring trout clubs and his friendship with William Levis of Owens Illinois, owner of Castalia Farms. Levis shared his resources and exchanged information with Sadler. Through his influence wealthy executives, politicians, celebrities, and professional athletes found their way to Rockwell Springs.

Sadler transformed the property, renovating buildings, improving streambeds, and increasing water flow. After Sadler’s death in 1953, members purchased shares held by his estate and Rockwell Springs Trout Club became member owned and operated.

Rockwell Springs ca. 1950

[from the Charles E. Frohman Collection]

During the 50s and 60s, the club flourished. Its 600 members devoted themselves to creating the ultimate experience in fly fishing - whether expert or novice. They gradually purchased adjacent lands, more than doubling the size of the property. Streams, wells, and accommodations were added.

Today, more than 20,000 brook, brown, and rainbow trout swim the two and a half mile stream that wends its way through the 125-acre oasis of wildflowers, willow, honey locust, and tulip trees. Members, many from third generation families, come to test their skills against the skittish fish, enjoy Rockwell Springs' social life, and find peace and serenity in this trout paradise.


Martha Reckless said...

I believe my grandfather belonged to this club, but I always thought it was called "Castalia Trout Club." I remember it being beautiful and my mother telling me it was an extremely exclusive club. Is this the right one?

Tim May said...

Castalia Trout Club has a small private membership on Rte 269 in Castalia. They are two different clubs.