Some Reflections On Being A Maine Guide|
by Frank P. Gilley
As a boy and a young man, I was interested in the Maine woods and waters and I was
intrigued by the term "Maine Guide." To me, the term almost had a connotation as
exciting as the "Royal Canadian Mounted Police."
My first real contact with a "real" Maine Guide was in June of 1941 when my Dad took
me up to the Birches on Moosehead Lake. The lodge was then owned and operated
by Oz Fahey. The mention of Moosehead Lake was enough to get a nineteen year old
University of Maine sophomore up on a cloud.
We went up there for three days and had a great time. We were assigned a Maine
Guide who turned out to be a Native American, of normal height and weight, and
nothing extremely different that would proclaim him a Maine Guide.
I'll call him Joe. Joe had a twenty -foot Templeton canoe, paddles and camp
wangan, and we went fishing across to North Bay and then up to Little and Big Duck
Coves. We caught several salmon and togue, all on live bait used with a Rangeley
Spinner. Joe didn't talk much, but when he did he always had something to
say. He pointed out the indentations of small sea like shells in the pieces of rocks on
the beach, showing the evidence of life hundreds of years earlier.
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Lunch time was a real experience. We gathered wood and birch bark to get ready for
our fire. Joe, it turned out, had spent the winter at Togus Veterans Hospital and had
given up smoking and no longer carried matches. Fortunately, Dad had some. Soon
we had a great cooking fire going with soup, potatoes, and steak cooking, plus
biscuits in a reflector oven and even a blueberry pie. Surprisingly, everything was
ready at the same time!
On our way back across North Bay, the wind came up and we took on some water.
Joe told Dad and me to get down on the bottom of the canoe. Then he did a great job
of slowly and carefully working toward camp. We were some worried. We had no life
preservers and Dad couldn't swim at all. Shortly, we saw Fahey's motor
boat coming near us. Oz told us he was coming along the side of the canoe to pick us
up. Joe stood up in the canoe in an angry tone said, "I bring party out. I bring party
The motorboat departed and we arrived back to camp later, wet and somewhat
uncomfortable, but with great respect for our Maine Guide, Joe.
Right then, in1941, I decided that I wanted to be a Maine Guide, but it had to wait for
more than three years of dental school, two years of service in the U.S.Navy, and
another year of orthodontic studies at Northwestern University.
In 1947, I moved back to Bangor and set up a dental practice. In the early fifties, I was
doing a lot of hunting and fishing in my spare time. I began to think again of getting a
Maine Guide license. I contacted Fred Reeves the local game warden in the Bangor
area. He set up a time when he and another warden could have me take them on a
short canoe trip, cook lunch, and answer many questions about safety, outdoor ethics,
game identification, and so forth. I passed the test and was some happy to fill out my
approved application. I had arrived! I was a Maine Guide! That was 1953 and I still
have my Master Guide license.
In 1979 I received my twenty-five year card. I also have a license to operate
motorboats for all inland waters of Maine as a guide.
My guiding has been a fun thing, as I didn't have time to schedule paying
clients. I already had a full-time dental practice to tend to. I did pride myself on
guiding friends for mostly spring lake fishing and bird hunting with my breed of setter
dogs helping out along the way.
As I mentioned, my early memories of a Maine Guide centered around campfire
cooking and I still find it a lot of fun, especially for friends and guests. I enjoy both
cooking in camp and over an outdoor fire. One of my favorite recipes is included in
this article and can be used for either type of fire.
Some essential tools for an outdoor cook are: a nested cooking kit with pots, pans,
dishes, cups and silverware. Also I have a big firkin or old butter tub that I filled with
extra utensils and essentials such as pepper, salt, spices, can-opener, matches, dish
soap, dish wipers, dish rag (chore boys), etc. A reflector oven is useful and, with a
little practice, a guide can do a good job cooking. One important thing to remember is
that a small fire is better than a big fire.
I sure hope that you enjoy the Maine woodlands and waterways as I have.
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