FISH AMERICA: With a Little Help from my Friends

When I planned this trip, I saw it as a solo endeavor. And the first week has, in many respects, met expectations. There is the odd sensation of having nothing to return to, there is the struggle to keep your life organized when it's all in a jeep, and there are the moments when you just have to slow down and soak it in.

I did not, however, anticipate the help I'd get from fellow fishermen. Brooke Hidell, a guide on Sebago Lake in Maine, pulled out an atlas and show some places worth seeing. Jeff McEvoy put me up in Grand Lake Stream, and explained the history and tradition of the place, and Jared Koenigsfeld, a guide on the stream, single-handedly took my fly-fishing ability from laughable to almost passable in a single day.

But few have been as helpful as Jerry Gibbs. If you are an avid OL reader, then Mr. Gibbs needs no introduction. Outdoor Life's Fishing editor for more than 30 years, award-winning conservationist and author, Gibbs is a walking, talking (scotch-drinking, cigar-smoking) pelagic encyclopedia.

Growing up, I certainly admired rock stars and athletes. But I held fishing writers and editors in the same regard. It seemed to me a rarity, to have spent enough time on the water, and with the written word, to attain proficiency in both arenas. Luckily, the legends of our sport are much more accessible. You don't have to jump the gates at Graceland to meet an editor and fishermen as renowned as Mr. Gibbs.

From his back porch, Jerry rattled off advice about fishing water from Maine to Minnesota like someone talking about the street they grew up on, all while training his new Brittany pup, Jack, and grilling chicken.

Jerry passed along his regards to OL readers, and didn't rule out parachuting in for some of my choicier fishing destinations along the way.

Unable to explain the continued help from fishermen along the way, I am just gratefully accepting it. Perhaps Brooke Hidell put it best when he said: "At the end of the day, most fishermen are cool."

After fishing Sebago with Brooke, I headed north. I'd never been to Maine, but imagined it as a sea of pine trees broken by pristine lakes and ponds. And nature is one of the few things that typically exceed expectations. Climbing north on 95 with your windows open in the evening, your speedometer begins to blur and resemble a plane's instrument cluster. And if you are playing the music loud enough (I recommend Clapton's cover of Little Wing) you begin to wonder if you shouldn't have packed extra weight to keep your jeep on the ground. Yes, Maine is one of those places you have to see to believe, although I'll do my best to show you in the week ahead.