What makes a Mainer? Is it a birthright? A series of events culminating in a self-discovery that there isn’t anywhere else you’d rather be?
If I’ve learned anything in the past three years, it’s that Maine is many things.
Maine is determined.
I’ve learned not to give up as I learned the hard way that a snow blower doesn’t work if the pin in the wheel is missing. It took pushing and lifting it inch by inch for almost an hour before I gave in and shoveled.
Maine is frugal.
I’ve come to love clearance rack finds and while I still get overwhelmed at Marden’s, I make up for it by saving dinner scraps for the compost pile and shopping secondhand.
Maine is cold. And wet. And snowy.
But for the most part, I embrace the white stuff now, either bundling up and going outside anyway or staying in knitting by a roaring stove.
Maine is wild.
A journey to becoming a true Mainer is fraught with learning from those who’ve been here longer, who’ve explored more and are eager to share.
A few weeks ago, Outdoors editor John Holyoke decided it was high time a couple of the flatlanders who now call Maine home learned to fly fish.
It sounded easy enough.
I’ve spent the past few summers watching my husband fly fish. I examined every detail of the rod he made our first year here and I’ve talked flies and rivers and open seasons with L.L. Bean employees and anglers.
But when it came time to actually fish, I’ve always sat on the shore.
Determined to change that, John planned an afternoon away from the office for my editor Sarah and me. We headed to the Kenduskeag Stream, just a half-mile due west from our new offices in Downtown Bangor.
I was proud of my shoe choice — sturdy, but water-friendly Chacos. My jeans, eh, not so much.
But nevermind my wardrobe choices.
We started with hookless flies on a grassy knoll along Valley Ave.
Using my elbow tucked close to my rib cage, I held a make-believe wallet to my side while I focused on not bending my wrist as I sent the fly forward. Keeping the rod between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on the imaginary clock above my body, I imagined the fly arching gracefully off the rod and touching gently on the top of water before looping back to me.
The fly leapt off the lime green tapered fly line and I smiled. I could do this.
After about a half hour on the grass, Sarah and I graduated to the stream. Across rocks and into the middle of the rushing water we went.
Two hours later, we’d hadn’t caught any fish, but we were hot, happy and feeling more like Mainers.
We’d fought back bugs, and a predisposition to stick with what’s comfortable.
It was a beautiful afternoon.
Not unlike the last few years I’ve spent experiencing everything this beautiful, wild state has to offer.