By Lenny Ackerman
I headed to camp solo this past week. I wasn’t alone intentionally, but my invited guests declined for various reasons. Anyway, I wouldn’t really be alone once I got there. I envisioned days of backwater fishing with my camp caretaker, Greg, using my new 4 weight rod—a birthday present from an old colleague—and spending at least a day on the water with Andy, my long-time fishing guide at Wheaton Lodge.
My first morning back I awoke easily at 5:45am, the sun dousing me with warmth through the bedroom window. Quick to caffeinate and with metal coffee cup in hand, I sprinted down to the dock for a few casts off toward the rocks, past where the local ducks were sunning themselves. The bass were disturbed by my casts and fled, so I sat for a bit at the edge of the dock, scanning the lake and the few boats trolling for landlocked salmon and lake trout. East Grand Lake never ceases to amaze me. What was my hurry this morning? The water lapping at my feet at end of the dock and the quiet sound of nothingness was like a soothing balm.
After a time I was ready for fishing – perhaps the gods would provide for a bit of catching. I headed to Wheaton’s and Andy greeted me with a grin. Knowing I would not arrive at daybreak he had already trailered over to Spudnick Lake and dropped his East Grand canoe into the water. Wheaton’s had prepared us a cold lunch, which would give us more time fishing – no lakeside picnic over an open fire–as there was a thunderstorm forecast late afternoon. We set off into a breezy but beautiful, partly cloudy morning on the lake. Sitting with the wind at my back I closed my eyes and savored the moment, the sun on my unshaven face, with only the sound of the small motor pushing us along to break the silence. Andy steered us over to a small cove sheltered from the gusty winds. We dropped anchor and using one of Andy’s hand-tied yellow poppers I cast into the still water among the rocks and downed branches. Andy advised me to think like a bass: first scan the fly, then swim around it a couple of times then, if the fly moves, lunge for it. So using my bass mind, I retrieved the line a few times and…whack a hit! I set the fly and stripped in the line with my left hand. I brought a lovely small mouth bass to the canoe. Andy excitedly scooped the fish into the boat and grabbed his cell for a photo. He was as excited as I was to have caught a fish first cast out.
First cast, first catch. In a larger sense, it is almost a metaphor– for those times in life when taking a new chance on something yields results. There have been times, when faced with a challenge, I went for something new—a first attempt at a solution—that led to a success. For instance, in my early years practicing law I decided to review the dissent in a case as the starting point for an argument to overturn precedent in a forthcoming case. This was an unconventional, fresh approach into unfamiliar waters that in the end resulted in a win. I used that strategy a number of times after that. My first big case in the Hamptons that received some press came about when I argued against the Town preventing a portion of beachfront from development without any legal basis to support the ruling. My challenge came from the dissent in another case which argued that “policy does not make law only a properly enacted legislative act of the municipality.” In that case I cast into an area where the courts wouldn’t usually venture in overturning an action of the Town.
The day fishing with Andy was a delight as always. Things don’t change much in northern Maine. Andy’s Maine style reflects the nature of the water. He is even yet spirited. A great fellow to fish with.
Back at camp Greg and Darcy prepared for the next day at the backwaters off River Road. I had in past years tried fishing from the top of the water, but now with nymphs I would try my hand below the surface. My old Grumman canoe was propped against a fallen tree when we arrived at the edge of the pond. The paddles were in tattered shape having been ravaged by a bear per Greg. As usual Greg used a tree branch as a paddle to get us into the middle of the pond. I cast out, using my new rod and waited. A very slight, almost imperceptible movement of the bopper sitting on the water surface was the signal that a fish was on. Greg yelled at me to set the hook. Like I wasn’t moving as quickly as I could once my brain registered that yes Lenny a fish was on one of the nymphs below the surface. We did not have a net so Greg brought the fish to the canoe by hand over hand stripping in the line. A beauty–the colors of a Monet thrashing around in the bottom of the canoe while I took a few photos. Once again it was the first cast into fresh water. I wish every cast could be a first cast.