For more than 20 years — since I first caught the fly fishing bug and began traveling up to the East Outlet of the Kennebec River every chance I got — I’ve looked forward to regular visits to downtown Greenville, and to the fly shop that sits just a few long casts from Moosehead Lake.
The Maine Guide Fly Shop was just one of those special Maine places, a spot where you always knew you’d find exactly what you needed, and that the person behind the counter — sometimes Dan Legere, more often his wife, Penny — wouldn’t steer you wrong.
Sadly, this week, I reported that the end of an era is upon us.
The Legeres have sold the building. And the Maine Guide Fly Shop name and inventory are also up for sale.
There may be another version of the Maine Guide Fly Shop. I hope there is.
But no matter how good that version is, nor how knowledgeable and friendly owners, it won’t be the same.
Dan won’t be there. Penny won’t, either.
The Legeres have owned the fly shop for 38 years, and in the beginning, Dan guided legions of anglers who waited all winter for the magical opening day of fishing season on Moosehead Lake.
Back then, he told me once, everyone wanted to troll the big lake. There was some wading going on in rivers, and some pond fishing, too. But everyone wanted to troll. Especially just after the ice went out, when the fishing could be spectacular.
Things change, and Legere changed along with them.
Dan Legere said he was the second guide in the state of Maine to make use of a drift boat, a flat, agile craft that serves as a stable, comfortable casting platform for two anglers.
And for more than 75 days a year, he drifted down the East Outlet with eager anglers, showing them the river he loves.
Once each year for the past 17 years, he also shared the boat with me and a lucky winner of the BDN’s popular “Win a Drift Boat Trip” contest. I approached Legere with the idea of the promotion just after I became an outdoor columnist, and it remains among the best professional decisions I’ve ever made.
Our readers have loved the contest, and our winners now include some diehard fly fishers who’d never spent much time on the water until they won a day with Dan.
That, too, will change. Dan and I have been in touch. He said he’s planning to continue guiding, and though he has the 18th annual “Win a Drift Boat Trip” on his calendar — it’ll be Sunday, June 14 this year — he said he thinks this will be the last year he’ll offer up the grand prize for the contest.
Every one of those trips has been memorable. Some, for the fish. Others, for the anglers we hosted. And on all of those trips, for Dan himself, his unfailing optimism, and his unique outlook on life, family and fishing. Sharing a spot as a co-host in his boat was an honor that I may not have deserved, but one that I always accepted with pride.
I don’t know if I ever told him that, in so many words. Now, I have.
Over the years, spending hours in his boat and listening, I really gained an appreciation for Dan, who represented some of the best qualities of Maine guides. He’s smart. He’s patient. He puts people at ease. And he’s a top-notch teacher.
Just sitting there, watching as he shared his knowledge with other anglers, I improved as a fly fisher. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started conversations that begin with the words, “Dan Legere told me …”
No, the Maine Guide Fly Shop won’t sit in the same spot, if it ends up being sold. But I’ll still remember Dan’s little tying nook, nestled in on the other side of the sales counter, and the racks of fly rods I wish I could have afforded.
I’ve always heard that fly shops sell flies that catch fishermen. Catching the fish? That was a different issue altogether.
At this shop, though, you could have the best of both worlds.
If you waded in and started browsing the bins, the hundreds of dazzling options could be overwhelming, and you might wind up buying dozens of flies that you never knew you’d always needed.
If you took your time, and asked Dan or Penny the right questions, magical things could happen. You might even leave with exactly the flies that would give you the best chance of catching fish that day.
After a long conversation, that is. And a few tips. And a promise to return as soon as you could.
Those days, sadly, are over.
And it’s nothing less than the end of an era in Maine fly fishing.
John Holyoke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 207-990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke. His first book, “Evergreens,” a collection of his favorite BDN columns and features, has been published by Islandport Press and is available wherever books are sold.