Fly fishing, like diving, takes me to wonderful places. Places minus pretense, long on undisturbed nature. As close as I'm likely to get to a Zen moment I experience while pursuing these two particular sports. Since I am a Type A+ personality finding extended calm is a little like winning the lottery or panning for gold — and finding the stuff.
I cared little whether I caught something or not. It was instant reverie just being on this amazing river where we did not see another human being for eight hours. But we did see a juvenile bald eagle, an osprey, a piliated woodpecker, a family of red-headed Mergansers and a pair of kingfishers. Also, numerous river salmon and brook trout — perhaps a little too close for their immediate comfort but we, in fact, bore them no threat.
Often, when the fishing requires wading, making decisions about flies (about which I know nada), taking the little lovelies off the hook (after suitable apologies), negotiating underwater rocks, moss and silt, it is more stressful than tranquil. But drift fishing, which is how we spent our day today, is pretty close to Nirvana. The key is a quatrain of skills: 1) knowing the river, knowing where the fish are, knowing what flies to use where, being able to handle a boat with finesse — in other words, a guide. And we had a terrific one, Dan Legere, of Maine Guide Fly Shop in Greenville. A man of infinite patience, culinary skills in the outback and superb fishing know-how.
We put in at Big Eddy on the West branch of the Penobscot River, a 1.5 hour journey north of Greenville, mostly on gravel roads. Big Eddy is not named for a fat guy but for a huge river eddy just below a stretch of Class 3 rapids. Eddies are good for fishing. But as Dan remarked off the bat, "These fish have seen it all. They have a PhD in flies." Well, maybe they do. We didn't catch anything here, in spite of concerted effort.
Because we are sporting types (read: hopelessly competitive) Pete and I had a double wager going — most fish caught and largest. For the first time since Steve Spanyer and I caught more than 60 bluegills in an hour, circa 1965, I caught so many fish I lost count. In the end, I caught the largest — a salmon that was almost 18 inches long. But Pete trumped me by catching a massive brook trout. Technically it was smaller than mine but for its species it was gargantuan (16 inches). So, who won? Debatable. But isn't that the essence of a good fish story, anyway?
I should mention that: a) I apologized to every fish I caught (though not out loud, for the men might have mocked me); and 2) it was of course all catch and release. And, as experienced at Big Eddy, the fish know there stuff.
But so did Dan. If there's a PhD in flies, he holds it, not the fish.
Truffle: The absolute best BBQ'ed pork loin I've ever eaten — enjoyed on the bank of the Penobscot River
Quote of the day: "The fish and I were both stunned and disbelieving to find ourselves connected by a line." (William Humphrey, The Armchair Angler)