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This is the time of year when spending a day away from responsible pursuits seems like the perfect thing to do. I know some people who are so busy they can't even take time out to be sick, which is a shame. Living through winter in anticipation of spring only to become so busy that you get halfway through summer without a day off can be stressful to say the least. If that's the situation you're in, dare to be bad, dare to be bold . . . go fishing for a day.
Once you commit to taking a day off, the rest should come easy. Pack some water, a little food, some fly dope and your fishing gear and head for the water. Foliage and bugs being what they are at this time of year, the easiest (read most relaxing) way to enjoy Maine's outdoors right now is in a canoe or small boat. Pack your stuff, don your PFD and shove off, leaving the world and all its tribulations behind you on the shore.
There are rivers, ponds and lakes galore in our area and they are all open to public access, so pick one that's convenient for you and see what adventures you can create. The easiest route is to paddle the edge of a small pond. The water is usually shallow, smooth as glass and full of critters of interest, including fish. If you don't see 50 turtles in a day of paddling you just aren't look for them. There will be ducks and geese paddling around, an osprey or red-tailed hawk soaring overhead, and at least one blue heron gawking around the shoreline.
Of course, fish will be everywhere, sipping and swirling and splashing among the logs and weeds as you pass. If you're out for a relaxing day away from life's stressful load, don't limit yourself to fishing hard for a particular species. Cast when you feel like it and catch whatever is there. You may end up with a bass, a pickerel, a perch or a bluegill; perhaps even a trout or salmon if you're very lucky. Leisure-day fishing should be just that, slightly non-focused and entirely random so you can enjoy honing your angling skills while fooling the occasional fish with a worm, lure or fly.
Recreational fishing seems to have gone the way of skipping rocks or flying kites - everyone seems to be a “specialist” these days with all their attention aimed at a particular species (bass and trout are the leaders in Maine). It's easy to overload a tackle box with all the “essentials” for a productive fishing trip and then spend the day frantically engrossed in catching only the target species. I've been with such folks and, believe me, it's not really about fishing. A “serious” trout or bass angler is a fanatic of the most desperate sort. They talk incessantly, study, choose and use their gear as if they were surgeons about to extract a part of someone's brain, and they covet that fish so much that they don't even see the wetland world around them. They catch fish and they are amazing at how productive they are per cast (some anglers even keep track of that!), but I usually exit the boat (mentally at least) long before we get to that point!
On my day-off excursions I often drift along shore or paddle downriver with my rod and reel cocked and ready to go, yet I may not make a cast every 100 yards. I like to look around at the scenery, the critters that cautiously edge out of the way as I pass and just absorb the ambience of the waterway. I find it all very soothing, logical and sensible. In fact, nature's decorating scheme is probably the only thing that makes sense in this world. It's amazing to me how everything seems to be in the proper place, even the most random lily pad, a broken branch or a cluster of rocks. It all falls and flows in perfect alignment and harmony, and it doesn't take long for my mind to wrap itself around the natural order of things . . . it's what I came out there for in the first place. I can feel the anxieties of my world slowly dissipate as I paddle along, and I invariably end a trip feeling much better about life in general and my own issues in particular. You can't buy that kind of serenity in a bottle or with a prescription. There are plenty of attempted substitutes, but nothing beats the “real” thing!
I'm often amused at people who spend hours (and many dollars) on therapy of one sort or another who come away feeling worse than when they went in. That has never happened to me after a wilderness excursion that, by the way, is still free! It takes some time for the restless world to affect me again after just one day away, but I can take anything that life dishes out because I know there's a cure waiting for me “out there.”
I will warn you that, like anything else that's good for us, a day of pure solitude can be addicting. Imagine - you get to be alone, think your thoughts, clear your head, make sense of issues that have been plaguing you and not have to discuss any of it with anyone. You can make big decisions, sort out issues and otherwise diffuse the calamities in your head without expending any more effort than it takes to steer the canoe downriver. On one of these “thinking tours” I paddled from Dover-Foxcroft to Milo one day and never wet a line, but when I pulled the canoe out of the water I was committed to changing jobs, buying a new truck, working harder than ever and even admitting a few faults . . . not bad considering I'd started out just planning to pay hooky from work!
Take a day, find yourself and make a change. You can do it yourself just minutes from home, it's perfectly safe and, best of all, it's free!
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