WILTON — When Lewis Sabins watched two children at Wilson Lake argue over a fishing pole, he asked himself what he could do.
That was five years ago.
Since then he's started collecting poles, fixing them and giving them to children, along with tied flies and ice traps.
The poles are available for free for youngsters under age 12 at the Wilton Police Department, police Chief Heidi Wilcox said.
There's no catch.
"They are a gift, nothing is expected," she said.
Sabins, 60, of Wilton gets some help from his brother Jerry who works at the Sabattus Transfer Station and sometimes finds slightly used fishing rods needing a little repair that have been thrown out, Sabins said. Sometimes, he finds four or five a month, he added.
Other poles Sabins finds at yard sales, fixing them and passing them on to children.
"I love kids and have plenty of time," he said.
Sabins said he wants children to have more chances to fish and spend less time watching videos.
"It'll help keep them out of trouble," he added.
Sabins considered how he could donate them safely to children, so he began leaving poles at the Police Department. When Wilcox started as chief nearly two years ago, she wasn't aware of what had already begun. She would come to work and find a fishing pole leaning by the door.
"I started to wonder if there was a fishing pole fairy," she joked.
There are about a dozen at the department. She gave out four this week, she said. A grandparent came with four young children and was ready to spend some time fishing with them.
Sgt. Chad Abbott often carries some poles in a cruiser. When he sees children around the dam at the head of the lake with nothing to do, he asks them if they want to fish and gives them out, she said.
The poles provide an opportunity for police interaction with kids.
"I like that," Wilcox said. "It's a nice thing to do for kids."
The Police Department is also a safe place where parents can feel good about children coming to get a free pole, she added.
A few years ago, Joe Ross Jr. of Wilton taught Sabins to tie flies. He now spends the winter working on the colorful flies and has brought as many as 200 to the department, along with ice traps in the winter.
"I do what I can for kids," he said.
There are several opportunities for children to fish in Wilton. Along with the lake, Wilson Stream from the dam at the lake to Route 156 is restricted to fishing for children only, he said.
Sabins wants children to keep the poles but if they break, don't throw it away, he said. Bring them back to the department and he'll try to fix them again.