All photos/art by Carl Tremblay
The beauty of the West Branch of the Farmington River as it cuts through the northern Connecticut town of Riverton is enough to bring any angler to its banks–but something deeper than trout and sport entices hundreds of men (and some women) and excited children to the water in the still darkness before dawn on the third Saturday in April.
A fishing derby, now in its 64th year, celebrates the opening day of the season with a tradition that links generations to memories of a cold river and the camaraderie that fishermen have known since birth, it seems. It begins with coffee and pancakes in the firehouse before dawn. Then, when the fire whistle blasts through town at 6 a.m., the game is on and the riverbank springs to life.
There are fish in there for sure, and prizes are won, but what most of those who try their luck remember is sleep dissolving in the daylight, the shining eyes of children, and knowing that on this day a little riverside town welcomes anybody to share its history and the atmosphere of its neat general store, with its good sandwiches, hot coffee, and chatter running like a steady current. The people of Riverton are saying, “Come see what you catch, see what goes home with you, see what will bring you back.”