Though stories about fish and game habits are interesting, it can be said that some of them are more folklore than fact. Consider, for instance, the oft-expressed belief that Atlantic salmon won’t take a fly when there’s fog on the water. Aside from personal experience to the contrary, I have a fishing partner who isn’t bashful about saying that tale holds as much water as a landing net. And for good reason. Back along, while fishing in fog thicker than smoke from a smudge, he hooked and landed an 11-pound salmon at the Penobscot River’s Pipeline Pool.
Another false cast regarding salmon is that the fish won’t rise to a fly if the air is colder than the water. Yet on September trips to the George River in Arctic Quebec, my Inuit guides built fires so that I could thaw my hands and fingers after catching salmon on flies skittered by means of a riffling hitch. Moreover, in the early 1900s heydays of the Bangor Salmon Pool and Penobscot Salmon Club, stalwart anglers caught salmon in April 1 dawns when the river was cluttered with ice and the gunnels of their double-ender boats were glazed with frost or freezing rain.
Then there’s the tale told ad nauseam about woodcock always pausing at the top of their rise. Without being facetious I’ll say that I’ve been looking at woodcock over shotgun barrels since before I began shaving, but I’ve yet to see one so much as slow down after taking wing, let alone pausing when topping cover. And so it goes with stories about beavers girdling trees to let the wind blow them down, or raccoons washing everything they eat, or foxes carrying several mice at a time by crossing their tails and picking them up all at once. But so what if such stories are more folklore than fact. After all, they make campfires burn brighter and warmer and give guides something to take up the slack when things are slow. Apart from that, however, the aforementioned tales and many others are reminders of the advice given to me by veteran scribes when I first began writing: “Never let the facts interfere with a good story.”
Tom Hennessey’s columns and artwork can be accessed on the BDN Internet page at www.bangornews.com. Tom’s e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org