Bonnie Holding holds her Wiggie Robinson Legendary Maine Guide Award in April with her husband, Blaine, by her side. Submitted photo

Bonnie Holding, a master guide for over 30 years, was recognized in April by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife with the Wiggie Robinson Legendary Maine Guide Award.

She is involved in several programs, including being the coordinator for Casting for Recovery, a “national program that uses fly fishing and its related skills to help women recovering from breast cancer,” according to the department’s website.

Name: Bonnie Holding

Residence: Coplin Plantation

Age: 63

How did you become interested in the outdoors? It all started when I met Blaine (husband) in high school.

What led you to become a master guide? When I worked at L.L. Bean, they encouraged us to get our guide’s license to be more credible on the sales floor.

Did you need any specific skills when you started? Your skill sets should be as familiar as you can with the discipline of your license.

What is a master guide?  There is a whole section on the Inland Fisheries Guide page!

(According to the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, “Registered Maine Guides are outdoor professionals who are licensed and permitted to accept any form of remuneration for their services in accompanying or assisting any person in the fields, forests or on the waters or ice within the jurisdiction of the state while hunting, fishing, trapping, boating, snowmobiling, using and all-terrain vehicle or camping at a primitive camping area.”)

Do you ever face challenges in guiding?  There can be anything from weather conditions to the sports that you guide. One of my early trips with some older sport,s we got into so really bad wind and rain conditions. It had been raining and breezy but the weather took a dramatic quick turn. I am rowing a double-ended Rangeley boat, I am sitting in the middle, with my sports on either end. All of a sudden the boat lists so much to one side that we are taking on water and I don’t know what has happened. Turns out that my sport in the bow has fallen off his seat onto the gunnel of the boat. He couldn’t help himself and I was going to have to help him. Everything happens so quickly in cases like this, but I took a couple of good pulls on the oars so that I could get the boat straightened out, I turn around and picked the gentleman up and put him on his seat. Not only had we been taking on water because of the boat listing, but also because we had gotten sideways to the waves, they were coming over the boat. It is amazing what adrenaline can do! There is more to the story, not enough time, but we made it safe and sound back to the dock!

What is your favorite part? Interesting people. They are always the favorite part! One of the sports I guided for about 18 years had been fishing since she was 7 or 9, and she fished with me into her 80s! She had been taught to fly fish from her mother and grandmother. Such great stories from her!

How did you become involved in Casting for Recovery program? I attended a women’s health symposium and heard someone talk about the program. The very first retreat we had here in Maine at Tim Pond was the turning point for me to continue with the program. I had been working with a woman on her casting, we had been laughing and just having a great time. When it was time to move to the next session I could see her shoulders shaking. I thought she was laughing, but instead she was sobbing. I thought I had said something to upset her, but she gave me a bone-crushing hug and said that was the first time in a couple of years that she hadn’t thought about chemo or radiation and only thought about “that stupid fly line.” A participant came up to me after one of the retreats and with tears in her eyes she thanked me for giving her her life back. It isn’t me doing that, it is the program, and how do you walk away from that?

Were you surprised to be honored with the Wiggie Robinson Legendary Maine Guide Award? Shocked would be a better word! There are so many great guides out there!

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