In the days of my youth, when my vision and hearing were reasonably acute, success as an angler or a hunter was thought to be predicated on woodsmanship, marksmanship and a good understanding of fish and their habitat.

The ability to see or hear the game, or tie a No. 18 Adams on a 7x tippet, was more or less taken for granted.

V. Paul Reynolds, Outdoors Columnist

Not so today.

A few weeks ago, from a canoe bow on the West Branch of the Penobscot River, tying on a small dry fly became a near-futile undertaking fraught with frustration.

As the salmon rolled in the surface foam, the canoe rocked with the motion of the stern man’s casting motions and the black fly hordes assaulted my face. The 5x tippet stubbornly resisted repeated attempts to thread through the eye of the No. 18 elk hair caddis.

Nothing helped. Not the drug store readers, the visor magnifying device or the profanities.

Still unresolved is why, when I could see both the tippet and the hook eye clearly through the double magnification, the errant tippet end never seemed to actually be where it appeared to be. There may be an optical anomaly that easily explains all of this. But that doesn’t solve the problem.

For some reason, these West Branch salmon like the tiny flies and the microscopic tippets that always present a challenge to old eyes and shaky hands. An invention or innovation to ease this burden for aging fly fishers is long overdue. Trout, when they are top feeding, are not as picky. They will hit a lug wrench when the feed is on. That’s why I love ’em so.

And don’t let anybody tell you that vision isn’t half the battle for the deer hunter.

My oldest son can see a gnat on a leaf at 50 yards. He kills deer. Once in Colorado on an elk hunt looking to fill my cow tag, three of us were working the black timber. Suddenly, my son brought us up short and began pointing. His moving lips spelled C-O-W. Scanning intensely, neither I nor my brother-in-law could see the cow elk. We did eventually see her, but only after she decided to beat feet for the thicker cover.

For hunters, especially those of us long of tooth, hearing the game moving can be a challenge, too. Before hearing aids, my hunter’s daypack included a Walker Game Ear. This reasonably priced device works pretty well if you are stationary in a tree stand or ground blind. Stalking through the woods with the game ear, however, is not for me. It is like walking on Rice Krispies. Crunch, crunch, crunch! No thanks.

A new hearing aid gets most of the credit for a nice 8-point buck taken by me a few years back during the Maine muzzleloader season. Hunting after a fresh wet snow, the buck was heard seconds before it was seen in spite of the quiet conditions.

There was a price to pay: The hearing aid, which wasn’t cheap, is still in the woods somewhere along the trail where the buck was extracted. A post-drag search never turned it up.

Was it worth it? What do you think?

V. Paul Reynolds is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine guide and host of a weekly radio program, “Maine Outdoors,” heard at 7 p.m. Sundays on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network. He has authored three books; online purchase information is available at

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