The Great Game

The Great Game

When I first moved to Maine in the 1980's, I was working as a full-time freelance writer. That is to say, I had no money, but lots of free time, and I

  • By: Paul Guernsey
When I first moved to Maine in the 1980's, I was working as a full-time freelance writer. That is to say, I had no money, but lots of free time, and I regularly fielded a host of offbeat propositions. One of my most interesting freelance gigs was as a contributing writer for a travel magazine whose editor would call a half-dozen times a year and offer to send me on some wildly exotic adventure. That editor never paid me a dime the whole time I worked for her-but she did pack me off on trips across China, up the Amazon, into Africa's Serengeti and around the Holy Land, to name just a few of my excursions.

I loved all that overseas travel which, as a struggling writer, I never could have afforded on my own. However, it wasn't long before I began turning down all trips, no matter where they went, that took place between May and October. What had happened was while I was living here in the Piney North, something else had captured my imagination, something that I found even more fascinating than ascents into the Ecuadorean Andes and peeks behind the Iron Curtain. My name for it was The Great Game.

You may have already guessed that The Great Game was fly-fishing-but you'd only be partly right, because it was so much more than that. The Great Game was an annual late-spring and summer quest, with fly rod in hand, across a Maine landscape that was partially real, and largely the product of my own imagination. Among its more notable features, this landscape included secret holes that always held giant brook trout, and which had never been fished-perhaps never even been seen-by another human being. Of course, I never actually found a spot like that, but I knew they were out there, and I certainly put in my time searching for them…

However, the actual object, the Grail, of The Great Game was neither a place, nor an abundance of fish, or even a fish of a particular size; rather, it was a moment. Every so often, after I had crawled through a swamp, bushwhacked my way through a forest, or followed a stream that I knew nothing about other than that it had to come from somewhere, I would experience a brief moment of grace during which my natural uncertainty and clumsiness would magically fall from me for an instant, and I would make a good cast to land the right fly in the right spot, and the perfect fish would be waiting.

To be honest, since those early fishing and freelance-writing days, I've done enough fishing, and enough writing, that I'm a little more relaxed about both than I used to be. Just a little, though; aside from my family, writing and fishing are still the most meaningful, most exciting things in my life.

And for any angler, no matter how experienced and well-traveled, life is never more meaningful and exciting than it is at this time of the year, when the fishing is either going gangbusters, or things are just about ready to pop. This is exploring time. Driving-dirt-roads-in-the-pickup-truck time. Crawling-through-swamps-getting-bitten-by-mosquitoes-and-blackflies time. It is lying-awake-at-night, staring-at-the-ceiling-and-plotting-your-next-move time.

My fellow anglers, we're coming into summer, here. The possibilities are endless, and The Game is on.