Mar 20, 2017
Holy Frozen Canoli it was cold out. I mean, sure, this is Maine in the winter, but standing in the only non-frozen stream we could find when it was minus 1 degree Fahrenheit? What – were we nuts? Selene certainly has her opinion on that, but I’ll let you answer that for yourself. We were in this frozen predicament because this was the weekend Selene and I went to the Western Maine Fly Fishing Expo – hosted by Mollyockett Trout Unlimited Chapter.
The idea was that Selene and I would present at the show – showing some of the aquatic insects that I’ve been talking about in the podcast, promote the podcast, and Selene would show her cool fly patterns and take orders for flies. We would also have live trout stream insects and Selene would talk about using materials to imitate those insects – both in structure and in movement. And that went well – folks really seemed to enjoy our schtick.
The weekend began heading up the day before and staying at the Bethel Inn a beautiful old historic resort that we could only afford because we won a free night at last year’s show. We had a wonderful romantic dinner in the car at our favorite roadside BBQ trailer and pretty much went straight to bed, knowing that we would be getting up early to collect insects for the show the next morning.
We got up the next morning and packed up. As we loaded up our overnight luggage in the car, we commented on how it seemed a little colder than usual. Our fabulous Volvo, which we’ve affectionately named “Volvomort” helpfully told us it was -1 degree F (-18 Degree C). We had noticed the day before that most of the rivers and streams we passed on the way up were frozen. We were surprised because all the rivers and streams in Central Maine (only a few hours away, but considerably lower in elevation) were open. I now realize we live in Maine’s “Banana Belt”.
Selene remembered one location that had open water, and me, with my hazy memory thought I knew the location to which she was referring. We drove to Bear Brook, parked, and put on our waders. It was so cold that I needed to help Selene, with her frozen fingers, navigate the zippers on her wader boots. By the time we were done getting dressed, we decided it might be pleasant to sit in the car for a few minutes with the heater blasting before we were to try venturing out again…
After thawing out, we did go back out and what is that line? “Foolishness is the better part of valor”? We went over to the stream and I pointed out the 3’x5’ patch of open water that I could see and that I thought Selene was referring to. The open water was upstream a bit and we recently had a pretty hefty blizzard come through so there was a good 2’ of snow on the ground between the open water and us. We had no idea how deep the ice was on the stream, nor did we know how deep the water was under the ice. Images of Jack London’s story, “To Build a Fire” flashed through our minds. After some rather pointed discussion, we decided to try the stream that Selene was originally referring to, which had a little more open water.
We hopped back into the gloriously warm car and down the road a few more miles to Meadow Brook, in Hannover, Maine. That water was open right by the bridge. We took a deep breath and climbed through the snow down into the water. Which was cold.
We were smart enough to make sure that we did not get our hands wet, but it was even so, quite, quite cold. We took out our seine, did some sampling and caught some good specimens. One of the things I like about entomology (I obviously like a lot about entomology) is the fact that you can do it year round. The insects we care about in the summer are there during the winter – and getting out and into a stream in the winter is a wonderful way to quench your winter fly fishing desires. Well, when it is above zero at least.
We got some good specimens. Which, amazingly, survived the trauma of immediately being flash frozen when we took the seine out of the water. We caught some nice insects – some nice crawler nymphs – Family Heptageniidae – probably Genus Mccaffertium, some crawler nymphs, in Family Ephemerellidae, a nice beetle larva (which I neglected to get a picture of) and some blackfly larvae and midge larvae.
Selene took some pictures, and tried to take some videos, but by that time she was so frozen she really couldn’t hold the camera very steady. After a rather brief collecting trip, we climbed up the snow covered bank and back into the car. We cranked on the heat and Selene held her frozen hands in front of the heaters – which … was not the smartest idea – Selene had very cold hands and warming them up too quickly made them very, very painful. I was in pretty good shape because, well, ummm…. I have a little more of an insulating layer around me.
Selene’s comment on the effort was that it was worthwhile in that we tested our limits and determined that we had exceeded those limits. We now have new limits at a higher temperature.
But survive we did and we made it back to the show to demonstrate our finds. Which, folks really seemed to enjoy. Lots of people stopped by – we had some wonderful discussions and Selene got some fly orders.
Scott Stone, the organizer of the show, was very gracious and helpful, and is even interested in having Selene and I on his radio show and podcast, the Liars Club.
It was also wonderful to see and talk to all of Selene’s old friends – from Grant’s Kennebago Camps, the Outdoor Sporting Heritage Museum, A. L. Poland Studios, Chandler Pond Outfitters and others. Western Maine is a glorious place – even when it is below zero. It was, as always, a fun show, wonderful to meet new people and talk to old friends. The fly fishing community is just that – a wonderful community.