Monday, September 27, 2010

A Fish, Some Mushrooms And A Late-September Day

Wild Plants And Wooly Bears

The last week of September means much to me. Trout and salmon fishing on most lakes and ponds ends this month, so the last week is a now-or-never situation. So I go to lengths to take advantage of that last, fleeting opportunity.

This year saw me scheduled for a two-day stint at a remote sporting camp in Northern Maine’s 100-Mile wilderness. Two ponds within walking distance of the cabins hold lots of native brook trout. So as September approached, my thoughts more and more turned to my trip upcountry.

But the weather didn’t cooperate. All reports predicted rain by sometime during the first afternoon, just about the time I was scheduled to arrive. And wind was supposed to pick up too, bad news for someone fly-fishing out of a canoe. So I cancelled my trip.

I woke up this morning crestfallen. But since it wasn’t yet raining, I decided to take my boat to a local lake and try my luck on togue, or lake trout.

I arrived at the place where fish usually congregate this time of year and found the bottom bereft of fish. My fish locator/depth finder failed to indicate even one togue. The wind picked up slightly and it seemed only reasonable to pack it in, to wind in my lines and go, top speed, for the boat landing. But something told me to wait, don’t be hasty. One spot on the west side of the lake sometimes produces fish.

Okay. I zipped over to the last-chance spot and within five minutes of letting out line, my rod tip bounced and I lifted the rod out of the holder and reeled like crazy.

Then the fight began. I knew it was a good fish, from the way it hugged bottom and from how the rod slowly pulsated. After what seemed an eternity, I saw a silvery sheen heading my way. Soon, I made out that it was a lake trout. But then it saw the boat and gained renewed energy, taking off, stripping my reel of line in short, powerful bursts.

But in time the fish tired and I slid the net under it and lifted it in the boat. I was overjoyed. It wasn’t the biggest togue in the world but it was my precious, last-of-the-season fish. I reckoned that it weighed about five pounds, the perfect size for eating.

After arriving home and taking care of my prize, I got a call from a friend who lives on Verona Island at the head of Penobscot Bay. He wanted me to assure him that the mushrooms he had found were indeed puffballs. From his description, I was sure that he had some good, edible fungi.

Later, it occurred to me to go out in my own woods and hunt for puffballs. That variety of mushrooms had been scarce thus far and I wondered if it wasn’t just a case of them being somewhat late. And so it was.

I picked enough puffballs to make two, good meals and headed home, happy and content.

A fish, a few mushrooms and a late-September day in Maine. That’s what it takes to make me happy.

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