As we floated down the St. George River I asked Don why he likes fishing. “Fish don’t live in ugly places,” he said as he kept his eyes focused on the water ahead of us.
I looked around at the thick green forest surrounding this still river, the bright blue sky, and listened to the birds chirping and thought – he’s absolutely right.
I was out on my very first fishing trip with Don Kleiner, a Maine Fishing Guide, who had the big job of trying to teach me how to be still, cast with grace, and catch fish. Don wasn’t just any old guide, he is a Maine Professional Guide, a group that goes way back in the history of Maine wilderness.
Guides can make an experience stand out! Read my article about Guides Who Make You Go!
The Maine Professional Guide Association has a long history starting with the first guide, Cornelia “Fly Rod” Crosby, a female who received the first Maine Guide’s license in 1897. They are recognized around the world as the ‘gold standard’ in outdoor skills and knowledge. There are 6 designations; hunting, fishing, recreation (canoeing, camping, snow mobile, climbing), sea kayak, tide water fishing, and white water rafting. But today I was all about fishing with Don – my own personal guide. There were numerous times during the day I thought – thank God Don is here with me!
Why Hire a Maine Guide?
You Hate Paperwork
I had never met Don before, but we did exchange some emails prior to meeting since he took on the responsibility of getting me my fishing license. Something I totally would have forgotten about if left to my own devices. And quite frankly, I might have just lost interest in going out fishing if I would’ve had to do all of the paperwork myself! Note that not all Maine guides will do the paperwork for you, but if they don’t offer it, just go ahead and ask!
You Don’t Need Any of Your Own Equipment
Don picked me up in his big truck pulling a beautiful fishing boat, and off we went. Since I was a beginner, he wanted to give me a variety of experiences exposing me to different fishing environments, salt water and fresh water. You could tell Don loved fishing, and of course he was hoping that he was going to make a fisherman out of me. When we arrived at the Saint George River he took care of everything – got the boat in the water, put all of the equipment in and all I had to do was step on the boat.
Of course as a beginner I had no gear, nor did I know how to use any. But Don – Don had every piece of gear and lures you could ever imagine. This was also helpful since I flew to Portland to do a Maine road trip and even if I did have fishing equipment it would have been a pain to travel with. Instead I was able to use Don’s latest and greatest gear to learn on.
Guides Know the Region, You Don’t
I would’ve had no idea where to go fishing in Maine, but Don had a whole day planned knowing exactly what rivers and lakes we should go to for the best experience and the most fish. In addition, as we were floating around casting I also learned all about the history of the area and got tips on where to eat and what to see when I wasn’t fishing!
We started in the St. George River where I learned how to cast. I had a few bites, but nothing to reel in. So it was time to change locations. After a morning on the river, we moved on to a lake near Union Maine where I had just attended the Blueberry Festival over the weekend! One thing I learned right away is fishing guides are pretty secretive about their favorite spots.
The lake was gorgeous; we tried a few different lures and were finally getting some bites.
They Teach You Technique and They Are Your Cheerleaders
After a lot of guidance, I finally caught a fish; a small – Small Mouth Bass. What baffles me is how such a small fish can feel like such a big deal when you are reeling it in. It’s sort of a cruel joke. But you have to start somewhere, and I started small. On the plus side, I did catch this very small Small Mouth Bass all by myself with no help from Don besides him verbally giving me advice on what to do. It was a start.
After that I had more and more bites, and I continued to pull in fish…never mind that they were all tinier than my lure! I decided I would rejoice in the fact that I had ‘mastered’ the art of catching small fish. After all, if you think about it, size doesn’t matter – it’s just as hard to catch small fish, and maybe harder if you consider the odds of your lure finding something small in that volume water.
As I cast yet again, I started to think about starting a whole new sport – small fish fishing. If people can like small dogs – why can’t we like small fish fishing?
Don sort of agreed with my small fish fishing theories (likely just to shut me up), though he did challenge my comment about how I had ‘mastered’ small fish fishing. “I think the word ‘mastered’ may be a bit much,” he laughed.
Another small reason to hire a Maine Guide, they don’t allow you to get too big of head, they bring you back down to reality. And they offer a lot of laughs in the process.
However, Don was determined to get me a proper Small Mouth Bass; one that was bigger than his thumb. Where I might have given up, Don didn’t. He was my cheerleader…but with lures instead of pompoms.
Guides Help in Emergencies – Big and Small
I cast yet again into the lake and by now I was getting really good at casting (note – I hadn’t ‘mastered’ casting). Suddenly I felt it – my whole body jerked. This was not a small Small Mouth Bass, this was different. I had my big one on the line, and Don was giving me instructions on how to reel it in. I was excited and frantic, and trying so hard to be a good pupil. I pulled the line a little too hard, it unhooked from the fish and swung back around, and planted itself firmly in my ass! Yes, I had hooked my ass. Don quickly and calmly took action and pulled the hook out of my ass. I know the scenario sounds crazy, but don’t worry, it wasn’t painful, but it was funny as hell. And I have no idea what I would’ve done if I was on my own!
This incident then proceeded into Don telling me a number of gruesome stories about removing hooks from clients and himself. Mine wouldn’t have even made his top 20. But it was pretty memorable to me.
They Teach You Perseverance And Etiquette
Never give up…that’s what Don taught me. I did finally catch a proper Small Mouth Bass and I did it all by myself. I didn’t pull too hard; I let the line out, and reeled it in just like Don taught me. And when I got it to the boat and pulled it out of the water, to my surprise, it was a proper sized 2 to 3 lb fish!
The teaching didn’t stop there, now it was time to learn fishing etiquette. Don taught me how to take the hook out, hold it (for my awesome Instagram shot), and release it properly.
As we drove back to Camden Don and I reveled and laughed in our fun day. I might not have been the best pupil, but fish don’t live in ugly places, and we had a beautiful day out in Maine’s stunning landscapes.
I will definitely fish again…I’m not sure if Don will guide me again though!
How to Hire a Maine Fishing Guide
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I was a guest of Visit Maine on this trip, however all opinions expressed here are my own.