When I told my best pals that I’d decided to pursue another professional opportunity, stepping away from regular employment at the Bangor Daily News and heading to graduate school, their response was predictable.
They didn’t cajole nor criticize. They didn’t try to convince me that I was making a mistake. They did none of that. Instead, they offered up hearty congratulations and suggested that a celebratory trip to the woods was certainly in order.
My friends are like that, you see.
Maybe you’ve got similar buddies. For your sake, I hope you do. For us, there isn’t much that life can throw at us that doesn’t give us reason for another fishing or hunting trip. Or maybe just a drive through some of Maine’s wild places
So that’s exactly what Pete Warner, Chris Lander and I did on Sunday. We’re all properly vaccinated against COVID-19, so we threw a bunch of gear into Chris’s truck, hopped in and nodded in agreement when Chris asked if we ought to head north.
The goal was to tell a few stories, spend some time fishing and simply catch up with each other. We’d had precious little opportunity to do that since the pandemic hit, and were far overdue for an outdoor adventure.
We set course for Greenville, which has been the hopping off point for many of our previous trips. We’ve driven through town on the way to northern Quebec fishing adventures, and Greenville has served as the last stop for supplies on plenty of bird hunting and moose hunting efforts.
Our goals on this trip remained modest: I’d get a chance to tell them both exactly what I had planned, we’d all get to see if any of our fishing gear still worked, and at some point, we’d stop for lunch.
I may have told you that when my group of friends go hunting or fishing, we may not find fish or game, but we always eat well. It goes without saying that we remained true to that tradition.
On the way out on Route 15, we stopped at a couple of spots on the Piscataquis River, where we cast flies and lures toward the stocked brook trout that we knew had been dumped into the river over the past couple of weeks.
Others shared the same idea, and while we never had a stretch of water to ourselves, our fellow anglers were always in good spirits and happy to share reports of their own success, or lack thereof.
The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife liberally stocks this stretch of river, intending for anglers to keep some of what they catch. The fishery, defined as “put-and-take,” would not exist but for the stocking effort, and by late summer, the water gets too warm and low for trout to survive.
With that fact in mind, we headed onto the river looking to catch a few fish for the frying pan.
That was the hope, at least.
Only one in our group — the one we all call “Game Hog” due to his incredible success rate while hunting and fishing — was able to catch one, though.
(Congrats, Pete. You earned the title, and now you have to wear it for all to see).
Eventually, we rolled into Greenville, where we enjoyed the first restaurant meal in more than a year. It seemed odd at first, but it didn’t take long before we were chowing down like nothing had changed at all. Like I said, we may not hunt or fish very well, but we’re all world-class eaters.
After lunch, we headed farther north and tried the West Outlet of the Kennebec, where the trout proved just as reluctant to play our games.
But that didn’t matter a bit.
For years, these trips afield have been much more than hunting and fishing opportunities, you see. They’ve been ways for us to get together to process disappointments, celebrate life events, and continue to keep in touch with each other, even as life got more hectic.
On Sunday, it was good to get back into the woods, forget about the pandemic for a few hours and celebrate new opportunities.
And by the time we returned to Bangor, I’m certain that all three of us agreed on two things: It had been far too long. And we’d have to do it again.
John Holyoke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.