BREWER, Maine — Despite Saturday’s bright sunshine and balmy weather, the annual Cabin Fever Reliever show at the Brewer Auditorium attracted a dedicated crowd of outdoor enthusiasts eager for a respite from the winter doldrums.
“This show is about education and hands-on experience,” said Ernie MacDonald, chairman of the Penobscot Fly Fishers and primary organizer of the show. “People come here to see how to do things, whether it’s tying a fly, building a knife or making a pack basket.”
With almost 50 exhibitors, there was a lot to see at the two-day event. Commencing work on a new dry fly, Ron McKusick of Featherside Flies in Corinna paused to show off his Nor-Vise, a brass-and-aluminum tool that uses a bobbin mechanism to smoothly spin the tiny fishhook base of a new fishing fly. The rotating vise helps fly-tiers prevent repetitive-motion injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome, McKusick said.
“Almost everyone uses some kind of vise,” he said. “There are a few who use their hands to hold the hook, but that gets picky real quick.”
Charlie Mann, another fly-tying expert, was hard at work on a Spanker — a glittering, bite-sized morsel with yellow googly eyes, a lavish rabbit-fur tail and a delicate mallard-feather belly.
“It’s a flashy little pattern,” he said, fondly, of the 2-inch-long specimen in his vise. “The trout like them.”
Mann, who has developed several flies of his own design, had driven up from his home in Winthrop for the show.
At the exhibit of the Maine Trappers Association, stacks of soft, strokable pelts — otter, red fox, bobcat and skunk — attracted many admirers.
“Smell this, Dad,” demanded a young girl, thrusting a silky, pliant skunk pelt into the arms of her father.
“I don’t think this one smells anymore, honey,” her father said with a laugh.
Youngsters attending the event found a number of diversions including archery practice, Junior Maine Guide training, and a number of friendly and immaculate German shorthaired pointers.
At a quiet corner table, 8-year-old Isaac Mauger of Hermon dabbled in watercolors, carefully rendering a colorful redbreast sunfish while waiting for his grandfather to finish chatting with friends and exhibitors.
“I came here just to look around at all the cool stuff,” Isaac said. “This is my third or fourth year, I guess.”
Mark Buzzell of Carmel presided over an impressive display of the custom-made knives he makes. Using rare and beautiful materials such as giraffe bones, warthog tusks and exotic woods in the handles, and crafting the blades out of Damascus steel, Buzzell creates one-of-a kind knives that sell for $125 to $500.
At one of several booths staffed by the state Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Ed Davis cajoled female passers-by to sign up to win a free three-day workshop hosted by the Becoming an Outdoors-Woman program. Women of all ages attend the annual session each autumn, Davis said, learning to fly-cast, canoe, navigate with a map and compass or a handheld global positioning system, hunt, tie flies and more.
“A lot of women are intimidated by going to a course that men take, too,” said Davis, who teaches a firearms class at the camp. “Or they’re shy about having their husbands teach them. It can be a hard thing, like teaching your own teenager to drive.”
The women-only session develops skills, self-confidence and camaraderie, he said.
Show organizer MacDonald said the lineup of exhibitors changes every year, with a slowly growing representation of activities such as hiking, snowshoeing, kayaking and cross-country skiing.
“We’re trying to get people back into the outdoors and away from their computers and televisions,” MacDonald said. “This show helps people get out there.”
BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY GABOR DEGRE
Two- legged and four-legged participants at the Penobscot Fly Fishers’ 2009 Cabin Fever Reliever watch Peter Wade (left) as he talks about hunting dog training at the Brewer Auditorium on Saturday. Hundreds of people visited the programs and more than 40 exhibitors over the weekend.