Bill Pierce likes his trout wild. While thousands of anglers fill their stringers with stocked hatchery trout every Opening Day, Pierce wades small brooks to fish for native trout that breed on their own.
The spring ritual for most is a shoulder-to-shoulder vigil on a heavily stocked river. Pierce and his daughter, Stacey, had Beaver Brook to themselves Saturday.
``No one wants to work hard like they used to,'' Pierce said. ``No one wants to walk though the woods. I love being outdoors. I love fishing by myself.''
Pierce's favorite fishing hole is another small brook that runs through Bozrah and Norwich. He paid his annual visit there after fishing Beaver Brook. It's not an easy brook to find. Pierce lives in the area, but the brook is so deep in the woods, he didn't even know it was there.
``No one does,'' said Pierce, who lives in Norwich. ``Five years ago I saw an older guy heading into the woods with two fly rods. He taught me how to fish the brook. He said, `Son, there are more native brookies in there than you can shake a stick at.' It's the best brook in the state.
``When you want to learn something about fishing, listen to the old-timers.''
Fishermen of all ages woke up Saturday to new regulations. Eight rivers, including the popular areas of the Farmington River in Riverton and the Salmon River in East Hampton, have been designated trophy trout streams. The waters were stocked with larger trout than normal, and anglers there are limited to two fish daily. There were two-fish limits in place as well at the eight newly designated sea run trout streams and the 11 new trout parks. There are also five new trout management areas in the state, and eight streams like Beaver Brook have been designated Class 1 wild trout management areas. Native trout are so abundant, the waters are not stocked. Anglers who fish there are limited to barbless single-hook flies or artificial lures, and fishing is catch-and-release only.
Michael Hoyt of Plainville spent Saturday morning on the Farmington River and he kept his fish -- a 6-pound, 6-ounce brown trout that was the grand prize winner in the annual derby run by Roberta Petit at the Riverton General Store. Ian Easton of Barkhamsted had the second-largest fish, a 3-pound, 11-ounce brown that was only six ounces heavier than the brown trout weighed in by Michael Hines of Windsor. Sean McPhee of Bristol was the children's winner with a 2-pound, 6-ounce brown trout.
``Most fishermen understood the new two-fish limit in the river,'' Petit said. ``There were lots of people out. The rain held off until late afternoon. It was a great day.''
At Triple T's Tackle in Torrington, Rick Hubbard said he heard mostly positive feedback on the new two-fish limit in the trophy trout streams.
``There were a few complaints but others liked it,'' Hubbard said. ``A lot of them fish catch-and-release anyway.''
The largest trout weighed in at the shop was a 4 1/2-pound brown trout caught in Stillwater Pond. Another angler brought in a 7-pound, 12-ounce largemouth bass, proof that not every one fishes for trout on Opening Day.
No one worked harder than Bill and Stacey Pierce for their reward of wild brook trout.
``It's tough fishing,'' he said. ``There's heavy brush and deep cut banks. In some parts, the only access is to jump in and walk upstream. In some places, it's knee deep. Sometimes, it's chest high.
``It's worth it. Last year I caught 50 fish in one day, all native. I went through five dozen nightcrawlers. I left with five fish, all over 12 inches, all brookies. Every cast, I got a hit. That's the truth, not a fish story.''