December 14, 2018
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Geese a bad weather barometer, as it turns out

Robert F. Bukaty | AP
Robert F. Bukaty | AP
Honking Canada geese lead the way as their their southward migration takes them over Wolfe's Neck Woods State Park in Freeport, Maine, in 2012.

While unloading gear for our first outdoor show of the season on Saturday morning, I heard an unexpected sound, especially with the weather I was experiencing at the time.

The wind was howling out of the north, and snow and sleet flew sideways, pelting me in the face.

But the sound was unmistakeable.

Honk! Honk! Honk!

Chuckling, I looked aloft and saw a huge flock of Canada geese, struggling due north, straight into the gale. This wasn’t one of those regal, high-flying flocks you might see during a typical migration. Instead, this was a ragtag bunch — about 50 in all — that looked like they’d just arrived for spring training at the local goose training grounds. They were only 50 feet or so off the ground, and were struggling mightily to stay in their classic V formation.

Gusts blew the geese every which way, and they jockeyed desperately for position.

“Sorry, guys,” I said to myself, and to a colleague who was helping me with my gear. “I think you miscalculated. You’re being way too optimistic if you think it’s time to fly north already.”

Later, inside the Brewer Auditorium, one of our area’s rites of (almost) spring, crowds of outdoor enthusiasts mingled with exhibitors over the weekend at the Cabin Fever Reliever, an outdoor show organized by the Penobscot Fly Fishers.

The goose sighting proved to be a good ice-breaker for conversations with attendees, and it turned out that a few had seen the same thing that morning, and had gotten a chuckle out of it.

By the time doors opened at 10 a.m., a line of excited attendees stretched out the door. A variety of exhibits included some that were set up especially for the younger visitors. Included in that list: Air rifle shooting and archery instruction.

And let’s not forget the fly tying lessons, during which dozens of kids got the chance to tie their first flies under the guidance of some expert mentors. I stopped by during one lesson and watched as Olivia Argleben of Eddington, 6 1/2 (don’t forget the half!), completed a fly called a maple syrup. I told her that the fly was invented by a Maine man — Alvin Theriault — so that his daughter, who was about Olivia’s age at the time, would have a fly that she could perfect and sell to make some money.

Olivia feigned interest in the history lesson, but at the mention of making money, she perked up a bit.

The Bangor Daily News staffed a booth again this year, and we had a wonderful time greeting visitors and talking to them about our outdoor offerings. Our Aislinn Sarnacki was on hand for a few hours on Saturday, signing copies of her first book, “Family Friendly Hikes in Maine,” and chatting with other avid hikers. Many told her they were glad to hear that her “1-Minute” adventures have returned to the BDN, starting this week.

And I had a great time talking with old friends and new acquaintances alike, and sharing tales about fish that got away, moose that didn’t, and other outdoor matters.

Alas, spring often seems a mere illusion here in Maine. This morning, we’re digging out after yet another powerful snowstorm. Somewhere, a groundhog is laughing.

And somewhere north of Brewer, there’s a group of 50 miserable Canada geese who are preparing to elect themselves a new leader. All in favor, say “Honk!”

But eventually, warm weather will come. I promise.

In the meantime, come visit us at the next outdoor show — The Eastern Maine Sportsmen’s Show in Orono — March 16-18 and we’ll renew our longing for the true arrival of the season.

And as our winter limps out of here, do your loved ones a favor: Be careful out there. The ice on our lakes and ponds is getting sketchy, and another snowmobiler lost his life this week after plunging into a lake.

No snowmobile trip’s worth a dip in the lake. Neither is any fish. Be safe.

John Holyoke can be reached at or 990-8214.
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