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“Who wants to go fishing?”
With that question, we would all answer, “ME!” as if we were one kid, and we would pile into the family Model A Ford (remember them?) and off we would go for at least a half of a day fishing with our father.
We had none of the modern equipment available to young fishermen today. Our fishing poles were remnants of old fishing poles that had long gone past their use for an adult fisherman.
Or our fishing rod might be a branch cut from a local bush or even an old broom handle, but to us they were all the equipment we needed to get in some fishing time.
None of them had reels like you see on the fishing rods today. The fishing line was wrapped around the tip of whatever we called a fishing rod and we would have to unwind it to get our bait out into the water.
These fishing trips with our father were among the finest times in my childhood memory. It was time to relax with Dad and even have a man-to-man talk with him if the opportunity arose.
As we grew older we branched out and began fishing trips made up of just local kids. We practically lived on the Quinnipiac River and knew every fishing hole on it. One of our favorite spots was Red Bridge, that beautiful piece of restored history thanks to the Meriden Lions Club.
Back in those days (the 1940s and early 50s) the bridge still got some traffic. Cars would go over it one at a time while we kids kept on fishing. I caught my first trout ever — a small brook trout — while fishing from Red Bridge with a bamboo cane pole.
We had so many hot fishing spots on the Quinnipiac River. Where the grassy Meriden Lions Club Park is now located once was a cove that harbored all kinds of aquatic life. When they ran some kind of a pipeline down along River Road, the cove was filled in and the grass planted. It is now enjoyed by early season fishermen and some picnickers.
Our next stop would be the rock at “Sucker’s Alley.” This is an oblong rock that protrudes into the Quinnipiac River on the curve before the three homes that abut the river. Back then, as young fishermen, any fish was worthy of our endeavors and we would catch some really huge suckers off of that rock.
Thus the name, Sucker’s Alley.
I still call it that. It was there that I saw my first-ever trout jump after a fly, a sight I will never forget even after all of these years. It was a rainbow trout and only enhanced our fishing efforts, even though we did not catch the trout.
Just above that was a favorite spot of some of the elder anglers in the area, “Charlie’s Rock.” I see that some of the area around Charlie’s Rock is now posted “No Trespassing” and this is because of some uncaring people (they are not sportsmen) who either left it a mess or did some other wrongful things.
Back then, we also used what is now the Q-Gorge Trail to traverse the river’s shoreline. At that time it still harbored the remains of the old railroad tracks that once saw train traffic along the river. Opposite where the three homes are located on the river was a spot cut out over the ages by the river that we called “The Beach.” It was very sandy there and on some of the hot days of summer we would wade out into the river to cool off while we were fishing. These past years it is one of the spots stocked by Pete Picone and the QRWA.
A little way above The Beach is the “Broken Down Dam” that was used to power some type of industry way before my time. There is still a head wall that juts out into the river and, at one time, a cove of backwater was formed there, but has long since filled in and grown over.
Just above the Broken Down Dam was a set of cables under the high lines that cross the river. Although I never saw them used by the power company, I would image they were originally used to get from one side of the river to the other without getting wet.
Hah! You just know that as kids we had to test ourselves by trying to cross the river on those cables. I have lost count of the times we failed and took a fall into the Quinnipiac River. Of course, in the heat of the summer, the fall was welcome. This was also an excellent spot to fish back in those days of our youth.
As for going into the water for a cooling dip, this was never a problem because we were unencumbered with all of the electronic gizmos the kids today use. Our fishing gear, a pair of shorts and we were good to go, whether it was fishing or swimming. Almost the whole summer we went barefoot unless we went to the movies or church.
Above the cables was “The Rock Pool,” a favorite spot even today for many trout fishermen because of the easy access and because it too is stocked by the QRWA. (And if it weren’t for the generosity of the L. Suzio Companies, the Meriden Lions Club and the Faith Living Church there would not be any QRWA trout stockings enjoyed so much by both kids and adults.)
Back to a couple of more Q-River hotspots ... Boy Scout Island, a Quinnipiac River landmark, got its name because South Meriden Boy Scouts, including your old writer, would camp out on the island during the summer. At that time there was a small driveway with parking for two vehicles and a log bridge that went out onto the island. We used to catch trout off of the log bridge.
There were two more hotspots: Carpenters Dam (now removed) and The Third Bridge that spanned the river above Carpenter Dam (also now gone). Below the dam, yellow perch would gather and we would catch them and cook them over an open fire. Try that today.
As I write this column, the thought comes to me: Whatever happened to all of the kids when it comes to getting some fishing time, especially with a parent or guardian? Back then, freedom was more than just a word, especially for kids. Today, the newscasts tell of children disappearing, some never to be seen again, making parents fearful for the safety of the kids.
In many parts of the U.S., fishing is a part of the school curriculum and it is usually a part of the gym class. Just a thought, but it does help get kids hooked on fishing, not drugs. See ya’ and God Bless America and watch over our troops wherever they may be serving our great country.