By Julia Purdy
RUTLAND—Combination Pond, a former farm pond on Moon Brook nestled within a labyrinthine suburban neighborhood on the eastern edge of Rutland City, was the lively scene of the annual fishing derby Saturday, May 5, which draws families and anglers from all over Rutland County and beyond. Colorful bobbers dotted the water as kids and adults watched the water expectantly, hoping to land a prize.
By 9 a.m., the shores of the pond were lined with anglers, families, kids, dogs, tackle boxes and fishing rods of all kinds, down to toddler-sized poles in neon colors. Dads and granddads helped to steady the rods and land fish, serious young boys stood silently in bill caps and high boots, girls fished for the first time and onlookers enjoyed the scene.
Then children carried the slippery, flapping fish to the measuring table by the Rutland Rec. trophy tent, where Bill Dido pronounced the dimensions. Nearby, Kiwanis Club members in tall chefs’ hats served up complimentary hot dogs, and cold drinks, and chips.
The trophies would be given for the first child to catch five fish, the largest fish, and the youngest person to catch a fish.
Chris Barry and daughter Remi Barry from Clarendon and Rutland, respectively, came on a father-daughter fishing trip, their first time at the fishing derby. They arrived a little after the opening time at 8:30 a.m. and had only been fishing for “about five or 10 minutes” near the dam, when Remi caught her first-ever trout, a brookie measuring 11½ inches. It was the prize-winner at that moment, but the day wasn’t over yet.
The extended Hier family, who hailed from Rutland and Castleton, comes every year. Lillian Hier, 6, caught the very first fish of the day, a 5-5/8” perch, which she threw back. “We’re a catch-and-release family,” said her dad, Keith.
A cousin, Chase Hier, also 6, landed a trout.
Claire and her grandson Jack Bartholomew and Raffy, Jack’s black lab service dog, drove over from Benson. They had a bucket full of nine squirming trout. Catches were limited to five per person. Claire said they would give them to Jack’s aunt, who would cook them up.
Don Chioffi, who writes Don’s Reel Sports for Sam’s Good News and was wielding hot dog tongs, said the pond is stocked with brook trout from the state hatchery in Salisbury. This year, he said, he asked them to include a a dozen two-year, 17-to-19-inch trophy trout.
That fact alone should make Combination Pond an even greater attraction for anglers. Neighbor and Combination Pond defender Michel “Mike” Messier said, “For the next two weeks solid there will be 50-100 through here, fishing. There were 92 registered children and probably 200-plus people up here today.”
In October 2016, it looked as if clean water requirements by the state would require the obliteration of Combination Pond and Piedmont Pond downstream of it, as a remedy to too-warm water temperatures in Moon Brook that impaired trout habitat.
There was a public outcry and four public forums followed with consultants and representatives of the Agency of Natural Resources, during which the community was asked: “What do you like about the pond?”
As the forums continued, the tone shifted from contentious to educational to a feeling of stewardship. Measures were then taken to lower the water temperatures to acceptable levels using simple but effective remedies such as adding tall trees on the shore to shade and cool the water, dredging the pond to deepen it, and natural vegetation along the edges to help filter out silt from rain and snow runoff.
A conflict between the city and the state that had gone on for years and was “extremely complicated and quite litigious,” said Jeff Wennberg, commissioner of public works for Rutland, but it was resolved with citizen input at literally the grassroots level.
A path leads from the north end of the pond to the high school, and biology classes come here, as well as some of the grade schools.
“The neighbors are very, very pleased,” said Messier, “the community is pleased. It’s like a park, really, one of Rutland’s most vibrant park areas,” he said.
Photo by Julia Purdy
Remi and dad Chris Barry admire her first fish catch, a prizewinning brookie.