I don’t know about you, but my first fishing day of the spring is always a kind of a self-refresher course – a shakedown cruise.

You know, checking the boat, remembering the anchor rope, finding the fly reel with the 5-weight line to match the 5-weight rod, finding tippet material that has not rotted in the fly vest, and so forth.

Some of these spring shakedown cruises are smoother than others.

My son Scotty, an addicted angler who puts his belly boat in the water the same day as ice-out, had been taunting me for about two weeks with his trout-snagging tales.

“C’mon, Dad, get down off that ladder and let’s go fishin’,” he yelled up to me as I slapped the gray stain to the north side of the house.

It was a perfect May day. The yard work was under control and the paint pot wasn’t going anywhere. It was time to go fishing!

Scotty had been scouting the many waters around the airline country and had a pond in mind. As we hiked up the trail toting his belly boat and my newly acquired 12-foot, one-man canoe, Scotty advised that we were headed for Ducktail Pond, where he had caught some respectable trout earlier in the week.

“Ducktail Pond? Hmmm, that has a vague ring of familiarity to it,” I murmured to myself.

On the way up the steep trail, I was impressed with the easy carry that this small canoe afforded.

Soon we were at the pond, and as we geared up and tied on some nymph imitations to our 5x tippets, I searched my memory bank. As you age, dredging up old recollections is a little like early trout fishing with nymphs on the bottom. It takes time, but eventually it comes to you. Bingo! Yes, Ducktail Pond.

“Scotty,” I pointed to the shoreline across from the outlet where we stood. “See that spot over there? I tented there as a Bangor Boy Scout just about 56 years ago.” For me, good memories came flooding back. I remembered Mr. Nason, the troop leader and a real woodsman. Bless him, he helped so many of us learn to be content and comfortable in the woods of Maine.

Still in my flashback reverie, I shoved off in my new 12- foot canoe and promptly capsized. “Dad, you OK?” Scotty asked from his belly boat. “No, I’m not,” I shot back. “I’m soaked to the skin and red-faced as hell, can’t you tell?” In a half century of trout fishing from canoes, this was a first for me.

Recovering my gear and my composure, I got back in that treacherous canoe and paddled to a cove where I could fish, dry in the sun and sulk some. No fish came to inspect my offering. I wasn’t surprised. The wind began to swirl, even in the lee, and the tiny canoe pivoted on the anchor line like a centrifuge. It was hard to relax. The new Orvis Wonderline didn’t seem to shoot against the wind as advertised.

I had had better days on a trout pond. On the carry down the mountain, a man in a green uniform with a gun came hot footing it up the hill. “Cute canoe,” he said and kept on hoofing by us. “There’s another warden coming up behind me who will check your licenses,” he yelled back.

Indeed, there was. A few greetings, and then Maine Game Warden Shannon Fish asked for my license.” Sorry, sir. I have one, but not with me,” I said. “Do you have any ID?” he asked. “That’s in my wallet in the truck,” I said lamely. “Where is your license?” he asked. I frowned. “Well, I remembered as you were walking up the trail that I left it in my turkey hunting backpack at home,” I said.

“You know that you are supposed to carry your license at all times,” Warden Fish admonished. Taking out his notebook, he said, “I will need your name.”

“Paul Reynolds from Hampden,” I offered.

“That’s not Paul V. Reynolds,” he queried raising his eyebrows. “No, that’s V. Paul Reynolds,” Scotty interjected with a grin that he was struggling to suppress. I forced a smile. The warden said that they had a “hot one working” and had to scoot.

Oddly enough, we made it back to the truck in time to fish the evening rise on the Union River and drove safely back to Bangor without further incident.

It is always good to get these shakedown cruises behind you. Now I can get down to some serious fishing.

V. Paul Reynolds is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WCME-FM 96.7) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is [email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.