May 27, 2018
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Musings on modern-day gear

Painting by Tom Hennessey | BDN
Painting by Tom Hennessey | BDN
By Tom Hennessey

If you’re among the gray-haired guardians of Maine’s symbolic outdoor traditions it’s likely that you’ve spent some time musing about the changes you’ve seen in sporting equipment. For instance, did you ever imagine that the ribbed-and-planked, canvas-covered boats and canoes that contributed so memorably to your addiction to the outdoors would be replaced by models molded from Fiberglas?

For that matter, did you ever think you’d see the day when the world-famous Old Town Canoe Company would produce more kayaks than canoes? Of course you didn’t. No more than you expected to see paddles and snowshoes made from aluminum and plastic or waterfowl decoys made from Styrofoam and polyethylene. Likewise, when you fished with bamboo fly rods you never had a thought that one day you’d cast and troll with rods turned from glass and graphite. And while applying greasy dressings to braided-silk fly lines to make them float when dry-fly fishing, did you envision the high-tech floating lines available today? How about rifles with synthetic stocks and forearms?

There’s no denying that, for the most part, modern sporting equipment is a godsend, especially cold-weather clothing. Nevertheless, I’m done buying rain gear made from “breathable” micro-porous fabrics guaranteed to be waterproof. In other words, the jacket and pants that I tolerated through one soggy fishing trip sufficed in a drizzle but not in a downpour. That said, and because rain gear isn’t used often, I’ll stick with the PVC (polyvinyl chloride) outfits worn by weathered commercial fishermen. And since I’ve hunted this far in either well-oiled, moccasin-style leather boots or rubber pacs, I’ll go the rest of the way without investing in a pair of the supposedly waterproof, lug-soled, insulated, nylon-top boots remindful of those worn by Luke Skywalker.

And so it goes. Thanks to modern sporting equipment, the majority of senior sportsmen will affirm that traveling woodsy trails and waterways nowadays is easier and more enjoyable than it was back along. Trouble is, though, the new stuff reminds us that things aren’t what they used to be and never will be again. Unfortunately.

Tom Hennessey’s columns and artwork can be viewed on the BDN website: Tom’s email address is:

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