Trout Season’s Spring Traditions
With the upcoming opening days of Trout Season, Kierran Broatch, a year-round angler and writer at The Connecticut Yankee, writes about his cherished spring traditions which always start with trout seasons. His work has also appeared in publications such as On The Water, The Fisherman, Surfcaster’s Journal, and Connecticut Wildlife.
Some of the best memories of my youth were trout fishing trips with family. I can recall April mornings with my father and brothers digging up worms in the yard before walking to the town duckpond with our push-button Zebcos. On one special Saturday each spring was the children’s trout derby, the type of event that started at 6 a.m. with the sound of an airhorn that unleashed an army of simultaneous casts. If not instantly tangled in the melee, you stood a good chance of catching one of the thousands hatchery-raised trout that were stocked just the day before.
The jubilation from seeing a plastic red and white bobber sink below the surface before coming tight to a hefty trout has been hard to replicate outside of fishing. It was those kinds of moments that hooked me on this pastime for life. Now, more than three decades later, I’m still drawn to trout each spring like a moth to a flame. Whether it is native brookies in small streams, holdover brown trout in cold tailwaters, or acrobatic rainbows fresh from a stocking truck, I am into it all!
Trout are gorgeous creatures, each one like a Bob Ross painting with fins. They live in pristine and beautiful places. They can grow quite large and, in waters with high angling pressure, are rather challenging to catch. There is a lot to like about these fish, but it is the whole scene that appeals me. Especially after a long winter, a trout stream in spring is like a celebration for the senses—the chilly water against waders, the chorus of songbirds and peepers, the aroma of skunk cabbage, and the thrilling sight of hungry trout sipping mayflies. It reminds me of an old saying, “If it was just about catching fish, I would have stopped fishing a long time ago.”
Another classic thing about trout is the wide array of techniques used to pursue them. From the simple approach that most kids learned with a worm and bobber to more technical methods involving artificial flies made of fur and feathers that mimic fish or aquatic insects. There is no wrong way to catch a trout—to me it’s all about finding the angling style that gives you the most satisfaction.
Those early days at the children’s trout derby were the point of no return for me. When I was around 12, my uncle, a dyed-in-the-wool outdoorsman, taught me how to cast a fly rod in my backyard. When he felt I was ready, he introduced me to a camping trip to mark opening day of Connecticut’s trout season. For decades, my uncle had been observing the same weekend in April, with the same group of friends, on the same plot of land nestled along the blue-ribbon Farmington River. It felt like being brought into a secret society of trout anglers—I loved everything about the tradition.
As tends to happen, things changed over time. Some of the original group members faded away while new ones came into play. The public land we originally stayed on became off-limits to camping, so we sought permission to spend the weekend on private land a few miles upstream. Even the date of the trout opener was moved up by a week to give anglers a longer fishing season. Despite these changes and ever-growing responsibilities at home and work, we still return on that sacred weekend to celebrate spring—we eat and drink well, whittle sticks and retell stories around the fire, and maybe even catch a few trout.
Trout fishing has brought me to spectacular locations all around the Northeast. The idyllic places these rivers and streams flow through, however, are also home to other things—some not so admired—like ticks, mosquitoes, and no-see-ums. I know from experience that tying knots with fine tippet in low light is much harder with the buzzing of a skeeter in your ear. And a sight I don’t care much for when waking up while camping is a tick crawling on the wall of my tent looking for its next target.
Now that I am introducing my young daughters to the great outdoors, I’m more aware than ever before about the impacts of ticks and mosquitoes and what I’m putting on our skin, clothes, and gear to protect us. Over the last few years, I’ve switched from DEET products to Ranger Ready with Picardin 20%, which can be safely applied to skin. And before my annual camping trip, I treat all my gear—tents, sleeping bags, backpacks, boots, clothes—with Ranger Ready Permethrin 0.5%. These are simple steps that give me peace of mind and allow me to focus on the things that matter—like teaching my girls about fishing like my dad and uncle taught me, and keeping our spring traditions alive.
This year, like last, Governor Ned Lamont signed an executive order to open Connecticut’s fishing season more than a month earlier than the traditional date. The governor said that opening the season early permits anglers to enjoy additional access to outdoor recreation, which has been a help to residents’ mental and physical health. Since the pandemic began, fishing has been and will continue to be a wonderful way to practice social distancing while soaking in sun and fresh air. Whether you are a seasoned angler or looking to try something new this spring, get outdoors, be safe and have fun!