I had the pleasure of spending last weekend at the Brewer Auditorium for the Penobscot Fly Fishers’ 16th Cabin Fever Reliever.
I made several new acquaintances and also had the chance to touch base with some friends I hadn’t seen in a long time, including former Bangor Daily News colleagues Jim Goodness and Don Corey.
But for me, the highlight of the event was having the chance to catch up with an old friend.
George Quimby and I go way back to our days at Fifth Street Junior High — now the William S. Cohen School — in Bangor. We played football together (well, George played while I stood on the sidelines) in ninth grade.
He was a first-string fullback and defensive lineman, and was an absolute tank. While playing on the scout team during practice, I once tried to tackle him. I may still have the cleat print on my midsection from where he ran me over (not maliciously, of course). George probably outweighed me (I was a Smurf) by 50 or 60 pounds. He was a good player on an outstanding team.
It wasn’t until some 20 years after our graduation from Bangor High that I ran into George during his tenure managing a restaurant franchise in Brewer. We exchanged pleasantries and the topic of fishing came up.
He enthusiastically shared stories of his fall fishing success trolling for salmon. We agreed that it might be fun to get together for a September troll. I never followed up.
Fast forward another two decades to last Saturday, when a rugged man wearing a face covering and a baseball hat approached me at the BDN table. Not until he took off the mask did I recognize that it was George.
I’m sure that given a little time I would have recognized his voice or his infectious laugh, but the suspense was short-lived.
We chatted for a bit and started talking about fishing again. George has probably forgotten more about salmon and trout fishing than I have ever learned. I listened intently as he recounted trips to numerous lakes and ponds across Maine. He detailed some of his favorite locations and described some of the nice fish he has caught over the years.
George also eagerly identified what streamer flies were effective, for which fish, on what bodies of water, and at which time of year. It was a clinic.
I admitted that I had not fished as much as I would like to but, being honest, I told him that I didn’t have the patience to start tying. I conceded that knowing how to tie flies might prove beneficial.
George offered to help bridge the gap, not only suggesting that we do some fishing together, but inviting me to visit his home in Brewer, where he could teach me some fly tying basics. I voiced my appreciation and George headed home.
Less than 24 hours later, George returned. From his jacket pocket, he produced an orange plastic pill bottle. It contained seven beautiful streamers and one dry fly.
After leaving the show on Saturday, he had gone home and whipped up an assortment of his most productive personal favorites, including the GTK — George’s Trout Killer.
The collection included his renditions of the Governor Aiken, Montreal Whore, Rainbow Smelt, Mickey Finn, Warden’s Worry and the Maple Syrup, along with one of his own creations, Thin to Win.
George downplayed his fly tying skills, but said these patterns are among the ones that have been most productive for him. I thought they were amazing.
It was a generous and touching gesture and spoke not only to George’s passion for fishing and fly tying, but his willingness to share his expertise, even with someone he hadn’t seen for two decades.
Our interactions last weekend mean a lot to me. George is a no-nonsense kind of guy, but he has maintained his sense of humor despite significant health challenges in recent years.
I hope to celebrate reconnecting with George by going for a lengthy troll with him sometime after ice out. I look forward to trying out the streamers and maybe even boating a few fish.
I’m sure he’ll teach me some new tricks.