Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Opening Daze 2012

Each year it seems the anticipation for Opening Day of Connecticut's trout season builds for months, yet the weekend celebration passes in the blink of an eye. A camping trip along the Farmington River surrounding the third Saturday in April has been a can't-miss tradition for my uncle, close friends and I for a long time (small sampling: 2010 and 2011).  For three nights and four days, we immerse ourselves in fine food and drink around a campfire and even manage to educate a few trout along the way.

The river and weather conditions this year were unlike any other since my uncle began including me on this sacred weekend.  The region hadn't seen substantial rain for weeks leading up to the trip and our waterways were reflecting that with very low flows. It was strange to see and fish the Farmington in her August-like state in the month of April.  In addition, the weather wasn't what we have come to expect for the usually cold and wet Opening Day weekend.  With the exception of our final day, we remained warm and dry throughout our stay, even fishing comfortably in T-shirts!

During my first few years involved in this tradition, I mistakenly believed the trip was solely about fishing. I used to grow anxious when we weren't beating the water into a froth and other anglers were. Over time, I came to realize that our annual stint in the woods was much more about getting away from the every day grind and enjoying camp life. Now there is no pressure to be on the water by a certain time. Thanks to year-round catch and release areas, we get our fill of trout fishing long before Opening Day comes around. This allows us to focus on the often overlooked things that we don't always get to do back home, like carving walking sticks, flora and fauna identification, learning knots, sharing Native American artifacts, cooking over a Coleman, chopping kindling, and reliving classic stories from years past.

If there is an overarching theme of the weekend, it could be argued that it is food. Each year we try to out-do the previous year's menu. When not on the water or conked out in sleeping bags, almost all hours of the weekend are spent eating or preparing the next meal. Fresh clams from Long Island Sound were a welcomed addition a few years ago; now oysters have been thrown into the mix and I doubt there will another trip without them. Along with the dozens slurped raw, my uncle shared his roasted oyster recipe that was one of the big hits this year. Each shucked oyster received a dollop of butter, cream and garlic then were roasted in a cast iron skillet over the camp fire until the edges of the mollusks began curling away from their shells They were extremely delicious and couldn't have been more fresh.

Shellfish were just the beginning. On our first evening, we enjoyed a fine codfish dinner with asparagus and wild rice. The following night we had our annual fire-cooked steak and potatoes that were baked in deep in the coals. Not to be overlooked were the natural-skin hot dogs that would rival any other I've ever had. Before each dinner was the obligatory cheese platter along with Aaron's addition of presunto, a tasty Portuguese cured ham. Right up there with our excellent dinners were our hungry man's breakfasts, which included egg sandwiches, bowls of cheerios, and, of course, Entenmann's raspberry danish twist. We finally got on the water between our late breakfasts and later dinners and survived off snacks stuffed in our backpacks in between.

Fly fishing for trout is how this tradition began and we make sure to carve out plenty of time for it every year. Overall, the Farmington River fished fairly well during our stay despite the low water. The recent trout stockings kept everyone entertained and the group managed to tangle with a few older resident fish as well. Aiding our cause was the earlier-than-normal onset of the hendrickson hatch. The various life cycles of these mighty mayflies provided consistent action with a good spinner fall on night one, decent dun hatches each afternoon and pretty good nymphing throughout the weekend using pheasant tail patterns. 

It's not always easy finding water that can fit a crew of four, sometimes five, anglers in it, especially on a weekend as crowded as Opening Day. However, every year we manage to get off the beaten path and set up shop in pools where we can relax, take turns fishing and enjoy ourselves. As great as it is fooling and landing trout on a fly rod, it can be just as fun watching my uncle or friends, who I share this passion with, do the same.

After we put our tents away on Sunday, as on cue, the sky opened up and the river began quenching its thirst. Another memorable Opening Day weekend is now in the books and spring trout fishing is starting to lose its prominence in our hectic schedules as other things take over, none more so than the hunt for migrating striped bass. I know,  however, when next fall changes into winter, and a bunch of guys sit around a table to tie flies, talk of a weekend camping trip in April will bring smiles to everyone's faces and the anticipation will again start to build.


  1. Looks like a heck of a time. Beautiful pictures too. Thanks for taking us along.


  2. Great post K.
    Your photos tell how sweet it was.
    I don't know who caught the brook trout, but tell him salute.

  3. AZWanderings: thank you for reading and taking the time to share your thoughts.

  4. Brk Trt: Our food and brookie photos pale in comparison to yours, but we are trying to get there. Thank you for reading!

  5. I've been waiting for this report and it didn't disappoint. You captured truly what this time is about for your crew and it amazingly falls into line what our hunting camps have become. Congrats on truly enjoying your time outdoors.

    Thanks for sharing.

  6. These annual "rituals" are what makes life wonderful. Thanks for taking all of us along.

  7. Jim & Mark: thanks for leaving the great comments. Glad you both enjoyed the post; if these trips were just about fishing we would have stopped going a long time ago.