Steven Mogul of Holden fly fishes the West Branch of the Union River during the COVID-19 pandemic. Credit: John Holyoke

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Back in the “before,” this would have been just another April day for many of us. Before we knew anything about a coronavirus. Before everything shut down. Before we started having to assess our social interactions based on whether we were able to stay six feet away from everyone else we happened to encounter.

Before we learned that we couldn’t hop in a buddy’s truck and drive to a fishing hole together. Before.

[Our COVID-19 tracker contains the most recent information on Maine cases by county]

But sometimes, if you try hard enough, and you obey the right rules, it’s almost possible to step back, to something familiar, and comfortable … and right.

For a couple hours on Tuesday, Steven Mogul and I almost got back there. For a time, we were just two guys exploring an unfamiliar river, looking for a place to cast a few flies.

Two guys driving in different vehicles.

Two guys who always remained at least six feet away from each other.

But two guys who — finally — were enjoying a sunny day of fly fishing.

“Weekends, weekdays, they really don’t seem to mean anything to me anymore. Not like it used to, when you’d work all week and then the weekend would come,” Mogul said, explaining his own new normal, a life lived under new rules, with new expectations. It used to be that Mogul spent his weeks at work as an attorney. Weekends were for family. Or fishing.

Then weekends and weekdays began to blur. Only one person at a time can enter his firm’s law office now, and every day seems like a work day.. And fishing? Well, there was more important stuff to worry about. Fishing could wait.

Then, it couldn’t wait any longer.

“I’ve been looking forward to this,” the Holden man said on Tuesday, as he celebrated his own personal opening day of fishing season. “Really looking forward to this.”

Mogul began paying attention to COVID-19 earlier than many Mainers. He listened to the news reports a couple months ago as the virus began to ravage Italy, where his college-aged daughter had just begun a semester abroad.

She scrambled to get home, and did so before travel was severely restricted.

Then she spent two weeks in isolation in Mogul’s in-laws’ apartment, waiting for a clean bill of health that she eventually received.

That scare made the situation real for the Moguls. It also fueled a desire to spend a bit of time outdoors. Safely, of course.

On Tuesday, we hopscotched up a Hancock County river, looking for likely spots to fish. Armed with just a map and a rough plan, we took our time making decisions, scouted the terrain, and finally hopped out of our vehicles at spots that we thought might hold a trout or two.

Not that we were measuring success by the number of fish we hooked, mind you.

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“If I had to catch fish to enjoy fishing, I wouldn’t be fishing. There’s so much more to it,” Mogul said, echoing a sentiment I’ve shared with plenty of friends over the years.

A smiling family walked past, veering aside in an already-standardized six-foot arc, leaving plenty of space between themselves and the strangers who’d parked on their rural road. We chatted about eagles and the weather, and went our own ways.

We drowned a few streamer flies and tried a few wet flies and nymphs, hoping for the best, expecting less than that, and getting exactly what we deserved: A fine day spent on the water, after far too much time spent inside, hiding from humanity. And that April surprise snowstorm we were supposed to get later in the week? We never gave it a thought.

Mogul has taken to sleeping later, he told me, and cooking breakfast for his wife every morning. Then he’ll do a bit of work at the kitchen table before “officially” going to work at around 3 p.m. Then, he has worked late into the evenings, all alone in the office.

Weekdays? Weekends? They all run together. They’re all the same.

Until, all of a sudden, they’re not. Mogul decided that this day deserved to be a weekend, even though it was in the middle of the week. And in these upside-down times, it made perfect sense to both of us.

“We’re out, it’s a beautiful day, and we’re having a great time. Walking, talking, exploring,” Mogul said, summing up the day.

“No fish, though,” I reminded him.

“Who cares?” he asked.

Exactly.

John Holyoke can be reached at jholyoke@bangordailynews.com or 207-990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke. His first book, “Evergreens,” a collection of his favorite BDN columns and features, is published by Islandport Press and is available wherever books are sold.

Watch: What does returning to normal look like?

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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...