The Battenkill River first crossed my consciousness in 1976 while a new student at Stratton Mountain School. I thought its name oddly redundant as “kill” is an archaic English word for “river”, though the Battenkill River certainly possessed a doubly strong magnetism for several of my classmates. Each spring, they traded their ski poles for fishing poles, ahem, fly rods, and frequently disappeared to this local waterway after class. On my weekly forays to Manchester to sip strawberry Fribbles at Friendly’s, I noticed many retail establishments incorporated Battenkill into their names. I was vaguely aware that the river rolled past the Orvis store, in which I was more likely to purchase a “fisherman sweater” than anything directly related to fishing.
A decade later, I discovered fly fishing, and the Battenkill flowed more significantly into my world. My first fly reel was an Orvis Battenkill reel, a birthday present when I turned 29. The first time I used it was on Lake Mitchell, a small lake owned by a private trout club in central Vermont. I cast 20 yards of dark brown line toward a rock bulging from the calm surface of the water then watched the black woolly bugger at the end of my tippet sink out of sight. I counted to five then retrieved the line with short, decisive tugs toward the small aluminum rowboat in which I sat. On my fifth pull, the line tugged back. I had hooked a respectable 12-inch rainbow trout on the first cast.
“Well done,” said my boat-mate, as I proudly netted the rambunctious trout, “You gotta love this hero fishing.”
“Hero fishing?” I replied, “What do you mean?”
“These are stocked fish,” he said, “It’s pretty easy fishing here. You should try a wild trout stream.”