Wednesday, April 1, 2020

The Phantom Brook Trout of the Union River

Last spring, I was visiting with some old college buddies in Mariaville and staying in a rustic camp, a stone’s throw from the Union River. I had been lured to this area by sweet promises of 12-14 inch brook trout, so plentiful that they had to be practically beaten off an angler’s line with a canoe paddle. Upon arriving at camp, however, I was greeted by my good friend Pat who proclaimed, “Watahs too high and there ain’t nuf blackflies, fish jus won’t bite.” Apparently, I had been inadvertently bamboozled. According to Pat, a spring flood of unusually high water and an uncharacteristically poor blackfly mating season, had combined to extinguish my plans of landing numerous brook trout. Unfazed by the dreary forecast, my companions and I, over the next two days, threw just about every conceivable lure into the Union River, in an all-out effort to perhaps entice one brook trout to bite.
No Trout, Try Turkeys
After two days fishing, I grew tired of the drudgery and asked my friend Pat if he would like to try turkey hunting. Pat, a dyed in the wool deer hunter, had never hunted turkeys and he was excited to give the sport a try. One thing that I quickly learned, however, was that chasing old Tom around the blueberry fields of Mariaville is VERY different than chasing turkeys in Central Maine. While we did manage with several hours of effort to see a few hens, the lack of gobbles sent us back to camp well before lunch time.
            Unlike Pat and me, my other friends decided that despite days of not catching fish, today was THE day and their glass half full philosophy could not be challenged. Their plan was to travel several miles upstream, on the Union, and try a couple untouched pools, Pat’s only warning to my friends was, “Do not attempt to cross the river, it’s treacherous.”
A Cryptic Txt Message
            Pat and I were returning to camp, when I received a cryptic txt message asking if Pat had a come-along or if he knew where we could get one. A few minutes later, I received another txt message asking if Pat had rope. We both grew concerned that my friends had not heeded Pat’s warning, so I immediately called my friend Dave to find out what had happened. Dave answered his phone and relayed that he and another friend had buried one of the vehicles in the Union river and it was in danger of being washed downstream. I hung up the phone, concerned that we would now all soon be involved in what could potentially be a dangerous extraction of an ATV or potentially a truck (it was still unclear) from a hazardous section of the Union River.
Missing Wheeler!?!
             As we pulled into camp, I quickly scanned Pats camp yard and counted trucks and ATVs. I looked at Pat and said, “Odd, all the vehicles are here.” Pat replied, “Not all the vehicles Bub, where’s your ATV?” I immediately looked into the woods where I had parked my ATV and it was in fact gone.
The Apology
            Dave immediately came apologetically groveling out of the camp, spewing out comments like, “Thought I put it in neutral.”, “I shouldn’t have parked it on a hill.”, “I think the four of us can extract it.”, “There really isn’t much damage.”  At this point, it’s pouring buckets, so while Pat was digging through the woodshed for rope and a come-along, I proceeded to go into the camp to don my rain gear. This was also my chance to take a few calming breaths, so as not to choke my friend Dave to death. Dave, unable to contain his guilt, followed me into camp and continued his barrage of apologies. At that point, I was honestly kind of beyond it, the wheeler was insured and replaceable/repairable if necessary. Instead, I grew increasingly concerned that someone could potentially get seriously injured trying to extract it from the rushing water. Seeing the concerned look on my face, Dave told me to look out the camp window as a deer was walking by, as I looked up, there was my ATV safe and sound parked right next to the woodpile in back of the camp. It might not have been “April Fool’s Day”, but that was one fantastic practical joke.
            The four of us proceeded to retell this story over the next two days, to anyone who would listen and laugh hysterically every time and with each retelling, the story grew more and more outlandish, as all great stories do. I feel extremely fortunate that I have such good friends who are willing to invest their precious time in making sure my days on this earth are as exhilarating as possible.

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