In the eat-or-be-eaten world of the animal kingdom, Mother Nature has equipped most prey animals with an immutable logic. A fish or a coyote, or any creature in between, learns not to expend more energy getting its food than the food is worth, nutrition-wise. The glaring exception to this law of nature is the foraging behavior of the complex, inscrutable bipod, Homo sapiens. Man.

It’s as if man, once a primitive hunter-gatherer, lost his way in the march of progress. That’s right. In his unchecked enthusiasm and unbridled passion for his pastime, the sportsman has been known to ignore the law of diminishing returns when it comes to fishing or hunting. And this is just the protein-in-versus-protein-out equation, with no factoring in the costs of fly rods, rifles and big 4WD pickups.

Case in point.

“Wanna go fishing?” Bob asked me the other day.

“Sure thing. What’s the deal?” I asked my friend.

” We’ll just do the morning rise. Have you back home by lunchtime,” Bob assured me.

Now I like to fish with Bob and rarely turn down an invite.There are a number of reasons. Good-humored and easy-going, Bob is pleasant company in a canoe. A devoted trout man who has written a wonderful book about fly fishing Maine’s trout waters, Bob is also knowledgeable. We always catch fish. He knows some good places, obscure trout pockets, spring fed streams that will give up a few trout even in warm weather. Like me, Bob is not averse to killing a few brookies for the pan either.

“Good. Be at the house by 7 a.m. You might want to bring your 7 weight rod, too,” Bob advised. “There’s some nice trout there and I’ve had trouble turning them when they get into the weeds,” he said with a cocked eyebrow.

He also advised that I would not need my customary hip waders, that I wouldn’t even need to get out of the canoe.

“You got a small cross-cut saw,” Bob asked.

I did, and agreed to bring the saw without giving it a thought. Little did I know.

“What’s the saw for, Bob?” I asked later, as he and I “geared up” the canoe and began sliding it down the steep railroad bed to the stream.

” Well, it’s a little tangled with beaver dams and overhanging trees before we get to the spring holes. We may have to cut a branch or two,” he said.

After a few minutes on the stream a few things were apparent. The water “was down some,” as Bob put it. “We may have to drag the canoe some, too,” he said. The beavers, in keeping with their reputation, had been busy. The eel grass and water lilies were enjoying a banner growing year. In short, we faced some navigational challenges between us and the trout hole up stream.

The first hurdle was a large tree that lay across the stream blocking our passage. Hence the crosscut saw. Since Bob was the stern man, I was to become the cutter. Standing in stream muck up to my knees, sawing away, it hit me. “What’s this ‘we’ stuff?”

Bob was right about the low water and the need, in many places, to drag the canoe across stream grass and beaver debris. Knowing that Bob had a bum knee and was facing fall surgery, I figured that he had no place dragging a canoe and fighting the stream muck. So “we” dragged him and the canoe like Humphrey Bogart in African Queen. I’d say that Bob outweighed Katherine Hepburn by a good 50 pounds.

Finally, we got to the trout hole. Bob was right. The trout, some decent fish, were hungry and cooperative. We caught a bunch on hoppers and muddlers. Some were kept for the pan. A fast, short strip of the line, was the key. It all reminded me once again that, in Maine, contrary to popular wisdom, you can catch brook trout all summer. The trick is to know the water and concentrate on the spring holes.

By noon, “we” were dragging the canoe and the gear up the steep railroad bed and then heading home with our limit of brookies. It was a good morning rise in spite of the obstacles. Of course, lesser creatures, who are looking for a nutritional return on their investment, would have avoided this protein quest as a losing proposition.

But then fish and coyotes don’t care about the compensatory, soulful residuals, do they — the deepening of friendships, the lasting memories and the good night’s sleep.

No doubt, we’ll turn around and do it all again next year. Anything for a couple of nine-inch brookies.

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal and has written his first book, A Maine Deer Hunter’s Logbook. 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]

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