Outdoors in Maine: Leeman's the name, outdoors writing has been the game

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Maine fishing writer Bob Leeman, alias “Mr. Trout,” has decided to put away his pen.

Leeman has been writing a fishing column for the Northwoods Sporting Journal for almost two decades. His debut as an outdoor writer was a half century ago, he recalls, when he started writing an outdoor column called Wildlife Corner for a Bangor paper. He thinks that it was the Penobscot Observer.

Over the years, Bob and I have cultivated a friendship. We were just acquaintances before he, a widower, married my son’s mother-in-law. Since he and Alice tied the bow, Bob and I have fished together, shared family times together, and hosted a weekly Sunday night radio program together. I also helped him produce his three wonderful fishing books.

No, this is not a eulogy, even if it sounds like one. Bob is still very much alive and, at 87, still fishes his favorite trout streams from his old Radisson canoe with his buddy Bob Cusk.

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When he is not on the water, there is nothing, I mean nothing, that Bob would rather do than talk about fishing. He places great value on the fishing heritage and has promoted it by teaching fly tying at church, helping both friends and strangers find the right fly fishing gear, and organizing an annual group pilgrimage to his cherished Grand Lake Stream. I named the group the Wooly Bugger Gang and it stuck.

This non-eulogy is simply a public acknowledgement of a good fishing writer who is still here after all these years, and who still walks with a bounce in his shoes. Through his thoughtful writing and fishing fellowship, Bob Leeman has left his mark in the Maine angling community and now, by his own choice, has elected to quit while he’s ahead.

If you meet Bob for the first time, he will smile, shake your hand and invariably say, “Hello, Leeman’s the name, fishin’s my game.” And he is not kidding. Fishing has been his life. Chasing trout is his thing. As a young traveling seed salesman, his spare time away from home on the road was spent — not in bars — but on trout streams from Calais to Fort Kent.

He is a consummate fly tier. He has almost as many fly rods and reels as he does new shirts. When Bob was not looking, his wife Alice has given me some of his surplus shirts, which I often wear and flaunt around him intentionally. So far, he hasn’t even noticed.

As an editor for dozens of outdoor writers for the Northwoods Sporting Journal, I have learned one thing: we all run out of steam, some before others. Try as I might, I had no success in convincing Bob to give it another year with his fishing column in the Journal, or write an occasional piece when he was inspired.

“Nope,” he said, not looking conflicted at all. “It’s time to call it a day.”

Tight lines always, Mr. Leeman. Column or no column, those of us who know you know that fishing will always be your game. Always.

The author is editor of the “Northwoods Sporting Journal.” He is also a Maine guide and host of a weekly radio program — “Maine Outdoors” — heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on “The Voice of Maine News – Talk Network.” He has authored three books; online purchase information is available at www.maineoutdoorpublications.com.

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