Monday, March 21, 2016

St. Paddy's Day Trout

        The news came out the night before St. Patrick’s Day. It hit me like a ton of bricks. The commissioner of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife had opened the fishing season two weeks early because of an early ice-out, coupled with low-water conditions on streams and brooks.

I was at my publisher’s house in Topsham and would not be able to take advantage of this unexpected season opener until later the next day. And somehow I knew it wouldn’t be the same as what I had hoped for.

 April 1, the traditional opening of trout season, was always something of an unofficial holiday for me and so it was this year. I had made plans with fishing buddy Tony Wieman to spend the day fishing small brooks and streams around Waldo County.

This is something we both look forward to each year with great anticipation. We meet just after daybreak, fish our favorite and often most productive pool and then go out to Just Barb’s Restaurant in Stockton Springs. From there, fortified with heavy, greasy breakfast fare, we head out to any number of streams. By day’s end we are usually tuckered out from pushing through near-impenetrable stands of alders and climbing banks so steep and slippery that we have to grab roots and saplings to keep from slipping backwards. We usually have at least a few trout to show for out efforts, too.

But this year was different. Had we known of the early opening, we would have altered our plans. As it stood, I was free but Tony had to work. So after getting home on St. Pat’s Day, changing clothes and grabbing my gear, I headed out to the favorite opening day pool. But the road where I live is so bumpy with countless, cavernous potholes that as a practical matter, speeds cannot exceed 10 miles per hour. That cost me precious minutes and I arrived at the pool just in time to see someone else, rod in hand, walking down to the water.

It is rude to horn in on someone else’s fishing, so I was compelled to skip the preferred place and go on to the next stream. Some people don’t think anything of walking up to someone already fishing and then fishing right next to them. But that kind of boorish behavior is not in my repertoire.

Fishing was made difficult by all the bent-down alders, victims of a heavy, wet snowstorm back in November, 2014. Some pools were so cluttered with brush that they were impossible to fish. But here and there, an opening afforded me the opportunity to drop my hook in and hopefully, tempt a trout.

I caught many trout that day, most of them of a sub-legal size. But I managed to take four that were a bit above the minimum length limit. At day’s end, I was a bit tired, but pleased with my meager catch.

And it being St. Patrick’s Day, I got out my Uilleann (Irish) bagpipes and played some jigs and reels. It was then that I decided to capture the moment and arranged a photo, with the pipes spread out on the ground, with the trout next to them.

And as far as my opening-day trip with fishing buddy Tony, we have decided to go for it anyway, just as if the season hadn’t opened early. After all, it will still be April 1, trout season or not. Some things are too special, even carved-in-stone to mess with. And opening day of trout season is one of them.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Wild Edible Plant Seminar at Eagle Hill Institute

Up until last year I had never heard of Eagle Hill Institute, this despite being familiar with much of the local area. This small, natural history school sits in an out-of-the-way location surrounded by a typical Downeast forest of fir and spruce, moss and lichen.

Then last spring I got an email from Eagle Hill asking if I would like to put on a wild plant weekend and being free from other obligations at the time, I agreed. It was a good decision. The institute has everything needed to put on classes and my digital presentations in the morning, followed by an afternoon field trip, worked out well.

Even better, the people who participated in the class were keen on learning and that is what every instructor hopes for. The class went well and I even managed to keep in touch with some of the participants well after the class was over.

Eagle Institute has a great chef, too, and suppers are a special event. Also, people who cannot eat certain foods or have any kind of food allergies, can arrange in advance to have their meals prepared according to what they can and cannot eat.

Anyway, I’m on Eagle Hill’s list of instructors again this year. My weekend class will run from June 10 through June 12. People interested in attending this year’s session can contact Eagle Hill Institute at Eagle Hill Institute, 59 Eagle Hill Road, P.O. Box 9, Stuben, ME 04680. The phone number is 207-546-2821. On the net, go to or office@eaglehill,us. For more on class descriptions and author bios, visit