Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Anglers pay big bucks to catch big fish. While it's nice if the river or lake is in a beautiful remote setting and not crowded with other anglers, we go where the fish are.
That's why I've been surprised by the comments of some Down East guides who oppose the Bower's Mountain wind project of First Wind.
"Our ticket is the wilderness," Dave Tobey, vice president of the Grand Lake Stream Guides Association, told reporter Tux Turkel. "It's our way of life and our living."
"We're as scared as we can be," Maine guide Steve Norris told Turkel. "I've had people tell me that they can stay home in Massachusetts and see industrial sites on the horizon. They don't want to come to Maine to see that."
Dave Rothberg of Short Hills, N.J., who has been visiting Leen's Lodge for 23 years to catch smallmouth bass, added fuel to the fire started by saying, "I come here because it's in the middle of nowhere."
I'll bet he actually comes to catch smallmouth bass. And here's my proof. If the Grand Lake Stream area didn't have fantastic smallmouth bass and landlocked salmon fishing, neither Rothberg nor anyone else would go there to fish.
I know and have the greatest respect for Tobey and Norris. But I think they're wrong to say anglers wills stop coming to Grand Lake Stream if wind towers are constructed 18 miles away.
And I fear if they keep beating that drum, they'll create a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Grand Lake Stream is not in the middle of nowhere. It's in the middle of some great fishing. If it continues to have big fish, anglers will come. Wind towers wouldn't change that, even if they were in the middle of town.
Let me tell you a story. A few years ago, after attending a conference for journalists in Big Sky, Mont., I spent three days with my all-time favorite guide, Maine native Joe Sowerby. Joe lives in Missoula and owns a very successful guiding business.
I have fished with Joe on some famous Montana rivers, mostly around Yellowstone, so on this trip, I met him in Missoula, to fish in that area. When he picked me up at 6 a.m. at my motel, Joe listed some famous remote rivers in that area where we could fish, asking where I'd like to go.
"Where would you fish today," I asked Joe?
"Well, on our days off, we fish the Clark Fork," he told me. But it's not in a remote setting, he said. "It just has great fishing." And of course, that's where we went.
On day one, we caught amazing rainbow trout. My biggest was in the outflow from a paper mill. I shall never forget that fish. We floated right through towns, past industrial sites, and the fish just kept rising to our flies. It was an amazing day of fishing.
On days two and three, same conversation, same decision. We fished other sections of the Clark Fork, catching native cutthroats one day, brown trout the next. And the Clark Fork moved right to the top of my favorite waters.
Truthfully, I had eyes only for my flies and the fish that rose to them. I couldn't tell you a thing about the towns we floated through.
Here's another story. I love wilderness fishing on rivers big and small. That's where I choose to spend my time and money. The Leaf River on the tundra in northern Quebec is my favorite brook trout water. It's way up there, a two-hour commercial flight north of Montreal, followed by a two-hour float plane trip.
But guess what? Outside my cabin window was the lighted tower of a weather station. That's where I saw a huge white alpha male wolf. Out back was a plane landing strip. The guides rode around on ATVs. In other words, even in the wilderness, they have the accoutrements of civilization.
Didn't bother me a bit. The fishing is beyond unbelievable. If I can talk Linda into letting me fork out the $5,000 for another week of fishing there, I'll be gone in an instant.
Same stories in Alaska, where I once rode an ATV (yes, an ATV!) two hours into the wilderness to catch big fish in a small creek.
Show me the fish, and I will come!
The wind in the wilderness needs to be harnessed for our benefit.
A wind tower won't stop me from fishing at Grand Lake Stream, or anywhere else.
George Smith is a writer and TV talk show host. He can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or georgesmith firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more of Smith's writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.