Dan Legere of Maine Guide Fly Shop in Greenville and Todd Mackey (left) of Rockport get fly rods ready before hitting the East Outlet of the Kennebec River for a day of fly fishing. Mackey was the 17th winner of the annual Father’s Day drift Boat trip giveaway. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik

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For the past 18 years, the BDN has partnered with registered Maine guide Dan Legere to give away what many winners called the trip of a lifetime: A daylong drift down one of Maine’s classic fly-fishing rivers.

This year, unfortunately, we won’t be holding that trip after all. The real-world realities presented by COVID-19 make things too unpredictable, and on Thursday morning Legere reached out from Florida with news I’d expected, but had also dreaded. We announced details of this year’s trip in February, and hundreds of you began to send your entries in. At the Cabin Fever Reliever outdoor expo in Brewer on Feb. 29 and March 1, many told me that they hoped this would finally be their lucky year.

Sadly, it won’t.

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“Honestly, I think cancelling is the thing to do,” Legere said. “[My wife and I] at this point are still in Florida and are unsure when we’ll be leaving. Then we have to go to our camp for the two-week quarantine.”

Add in the fact that the rental home he and wife Penny will move into is still inaccessible due to snow and ice, and the fact that he really doesn’t know when guiding will be allowed again, the cancellation of the trip makes sense.

The “Win a Drift Boat Trip” contest began back in 2003, when the BDN was looking for a way to introduce its new outdoors columnist — me — to the public. We decided that giving away a cool trip would prompt people to stop by our booth at the Eastern Maine Sportsmen’s Show, and it did. Legere often said the promotion was one that he really enjoyed, as many visitors to his fly shop told him they hoped to win the prize some day.

Last year, Legere sold the building that had served as headquarters of his base of operations, Maine Guide Fly Shop in Greenville and put the business up for sale as well. In January, he told me he thought this would be the last time he’d be participating in our drift boat contest.

That’s sad, because those annual June trips had become a welcome part of my routine. I looked forward to them, learned something new each year, and met a bunch of really nice people as I shared the boat with a winner and Legere.

Some of those winners were top fly fishers already. Others had never touched a fly rod in their lives. And all of them told me they had a blast.

The trip was popular from day one, and I was always amazed at the support that BDN readers and outdoor expo attendees gave us. In 2018, the contest had entrants from 16 states and 184 different Maine cities and towns.

Most times, we fished the East Outlet of the Kennebec River, but one year — 2011 — water conditions weren’t favorable there, so we spent the day on the West Branch of the Penobscot. I remember that it was so cold on Father’s Day, winner Don Factor and I were nearly frozen and quite eager to get out of the boat after our daylong drift.

Mike Horvers was the first winner of the BDN’s “Win a Drift Boat Trip” contest back in 2003. Others followed: Jason McCubbin in 2004, Doug Saunders in 2005, Tom Nichols in 2006, James Rolph in 2007, Dick Fortier in 2008, Tiffany Shepard in 2010, Don Factor in 2011, Jasper Walsh in 2012, John Craig in 2013, Byron Hale in 2014, Harvey Siebert in 2015, John St. Onge in 2016, Brandon Prescott in 2017, Michael McCarthy in 2018 and Todd Mackey in 2019. In 2009, the prize was not given, as the winner could not find a date that fit into their schedule.

To all of them, and the hundreds of others who entered the contest each year, thanks for the ride.

John Holyoke can be reached at jholyoke@bangordailynews.com or 207-990-8214.

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John Holyoke

John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. Today, he's the Outdoors editor for the BDN, a job that allows him to meet up with Maine outdoors enthusiasts in their...