Tuesday, October 5, 2021


Ever been so consumed by a tradition that you couldn’t imagine going without it? For me that comes in the form of an unmissable camping trip each spring. Most of my life, the third Saturday of April has marked the start of Connecticut’s trout season. Our small group, made up of family and a few like family, have established a four-day holiday around what we call Opening Day, and have been observing it religiously for decades. Even after the official season opener was moved up by a week in 2015, we have stayed true to the traditional weekend. Whether acknowledging it or not, all along the annual trip has been more of a reunion and celebration than it ever was about fishing.

I used to joke that it would take the birth of a child to keep me from Opening Day Weekend. In reality it was a global pandemic that put a temporary pause on our longstanding rituals. A missed camping trip is a grain of salt compared to what many others lost to COVID, yet that didn’t change the fact that it felt damn good to be back together for the first time in two years. It felt like a homecoming.

When you participate in an annual excursion long enough, you are bound to encounter all types of weather, especially in New England. This year was one of those years that our gear and grit were tested right out of the gate. Conditions were cold with downpours—far from ideal for setting camp. Accepting the challenge, we took pride in making camp as comfortable as possible. Pop-up shelters and a borrowed propane heater were the real MVPs of the weekend.

As tends to happen with this crew, food and drink took center stage throughout our stay. The usual staples were there but new to the mix, and highlight by far, was slow-roasting a large piece of beef over the fire. It was my good friend Aaron’s brainchild. He’d done his homework (a.k.a. watching BBQ Pit Boys videos) and with help from my Uncle Derrick, they fashioned a spit with an old motor to rotate a six-pound-plus ribeye roast over hardwood coals for hours. The meat, cooked to perfection, blew our doors off and a new tradition within a tradition was born.

While not practiced as much as it once was, fishing is the common thread that originally tied this crew together. And, by the last full day in camp, a few fish were actually caught. My cousin Max landed the lone holdover—a handsome male brown fooled by a classic Woolly Bugger. I have DEEP fisheries staff to thank for a fresh batch of Survivor strain brown trout that were just stocked the day prior. A handful of the football-shaped thoroughbreds fell to a jig streamer from our pals at Farmington Flies. Though not too bright when I caught them, over time these ‘survivors’ smarten up and start looking and acting like the wild and holdover trout they are the progeny of.

When Sunday rolls around, it’s time to break camp as the reality of things on hold back home inch closer from the periphery. Throwing one last log on the fire helps stave off the feeling, as does downing a final hotdog before hitting the road. Like it or not, it’s back to work on Monday and, God willing, another 361 days until the next homecoming on that cherished patch of land. 

Soak it in, boys.