Armed with a full tank of gas and a day off, and buoyed by 70-degree temperatures, I headed down to Freeport on Saturday to check out L.L. Bean’s Spring Fishing Weekend festivities.
It was worth the trip.
Several conservation groups had booths set up for the occasion, and celebrity fly-tiers set up their vises to show folks new tricks of the trade. The always-affable David Klausmeyer of Steuben, editor of Fly Tyer magazine, was one of those featured craftsmen, and he had a steady stream of curious onlookers huddled around his table.
The big attractions, however, were the Legends of Fishing, which included Lefty Kreh and Tim Rajeff, among others.
Rajeff, you likely know, is a distance-casting champ.
And Kreh? Well, he’s practically synonymous with the sport of fly fishing.
I got the chance to watch Rajeff’s outdoor exhibition of casting skills and left impressed.
And inside, while watching Kreh entertain dozens of onlookers, I learned why the 85-year-old angler is one of the best in the fishing and public relations games.
On Saturday, Kreh stood at a table and tied knots that all of us knew … and that none of us could tie the way he did.
Fly fishing is a pretty knot-intensive pastime, but if you’d told me 15 years ago that people would line up to watch a man — any man — tie knots, I’d have thought you a fool.
Since then, I’ve learned, lining up to watch Lefty Kreh tie knots is the rough equivalent of lining up to watch Yo-Yo Ma tune his cello: If you’re a member of each performer’s target audience, there’s probably nothing else that seems to make more perfect sense.
That was the case Saturday, as Kreh held court among his people, offering a steady stream of jokes, stories and smiles for folks who had been reading his books and watching his videos for decades.
As I waited in line, Kreh told the crowd most outdoor writers are among the most foolhardy of folks, and believe they are much smarter than they actually are.
Kreh, for the record, is an outdoor writer, and knows what he’s talking about.
When I reached the front of the line, I smiled and admitted that I was an outdoor writer, but told Kreh I was quite confident I knew exactly how smart I wasn’t.
Kreh chuckled, then signed a copy of his new volume, “Casting With Lefty Kreh,” for me. He also told me about a couple of interactions with former BDN executive sports editor Bud Leavitt and Leavitt’s longtime fishing buddy, baseball legend Ted Williams.
Those anecdotes, suffice to say, are best left at the tying bench.
MaCKRO kids challenge to start
Late last week I received an e-mail from one of the state’s top paddlers, Jeff Owen, who told me about a program he and other racers are hoping takes off in the coming weeks.
Sponsored by the Maine Canoe and Kayak Racing Organization, the program is called the Paddle-with-a-Kid Challenge, and it offers free mentoring for fledgling paddlers ages 10-17.
Owen is looking for experienced paddlers to mentor the kids, and for kids to take advantage of the opportunity and take part in the state’s many whitewater canoe races.
The challenge will take place on the five shorter, less technical whitewater courses of the MaCKRO Downriver Points Series Championship. Those races will take place on the St. George, the Passagassawaukeag, the Meduxnekeag, the Union and the Sebec rivers.
Youth members of MaCKRO who compete in at least six of the series events will qualify to win some pretty cool prizes. By competing in all five Challenge races, kids will be just one step away from reaching that qualification plateau.
If you’re interested in helping out, or getting a kid involved, there’s a prerace clinic Thursday on the St. George River in preparation for Saturday’s actual race.
Call Owen for more information at 866-2348.
MYFGA banquet scheduled
For the past eight years, Maine’s Youth Fish and Game Association has offered programming that has introduced hundreds of kids to the outdoors.
Operating out of a clubhouse on Pickerel Pond outside of Milford, MYFGA has been a great success, thanks in large part to a dedicated corps of volunteers and donors.
On April 10, you’ll get the chance to become one of those supporters, as the club holds its annual benefit dinner and auction at the Old Town Elks Club.
An auction preview begins at 4:30 p.m., dinner runs from 5-7 p.m., and the auction follows.
The event is sure to be a lot of fun. If you’re looking to buy tickets or get more information, contact Jim Redding at 827-5107.
Paddle Smart event on tap
Canoeists and kayakers will head to Husson University in Bangor on April 10 for the 9th annual Paddle Smart Safety Symposium.
The event, which runs from 5-9:30 p.m., offers paddlers the chance to try out a variety of boats and provide several informative workshops throughout the evening.
In addition, door prizes will be handed out and a kayak raffle will be held.