Non Sequitur Fridays

The Time I Got Arrested For Trolling

This post is part of our Non Sequitur Fridays series, which will feature a different Wistia team member's take on a non-Wistia-related topic each week. It's like our "employee of the month" but less "of the month"-y. Adam Zais is VP of business development at Wistia. His last Non Sequitur was about selling in an inbound world.

Three of Wistia's core beliefs are transparency, the power of storytelling, and the strength of an active and engaged community. My post today wraps these three beliefs together.

Okay. I have to come clean. I have a rap sheet. There, I said it. My career as a criminal was brief, and I've come to terms with it. But it was, and is, a part of who I am today.

My story began back in the summer between my sophomore and junior years in college. I was one of two waterfront counselors at a summer camp in New Hampshire, where I had gone as a camper years before. You can imagine the usual scene: I taught swimming, removed leeches (occasionally) from those very same swimmers, killed water snakes in the dock area (so those very same swimmers would actually go back into the water), and generally provided a robust and manly model for scores of youngsters that would guide them throughout the rest of their lives. Well, that last bit might be over the top. But I wasn't kidding about the leeches and snakes. Yuck!

Moving on. Every counselor got one weekend off during the summer. I planned my weekend off as a combination camping/canoeing/fishing trip to the Rangeley Lakes area of Maine with my best friend from high school. Plus, he had a car. We lashed the canoe to the roof, stuffed all sorts of camping gear into the back, and took off for three fun-filled days of wilderness enjoyment. Or so we thought.

Photo courtesy of Saddleback Maine.

We pull into town on one of those gorgeous Maine summer afternoons. Hot. Zero wind. Tons of flies. No matter; we're rough and manly outdoorsmen. Or so we thought. Yes, faithful reader, we did go to the general store and dutifully acquire all the proper fishing/camping/canoeing licenses needed for a proper wilderness Maine excursion. Have you ever seen a Maine fishing license? It's kind of like the manual you get with a snowblower—only longer, written in a totally foreign language, and in 4-point type. No joke. We tried to read it. And gave up after a while… the files were unbelievably distracting.

Moving on. We get directions to a place where we can stow the car and put in to one of the lakes from the guy at the general store. We'd gone back in to buy a couple of gallons of “Old Time Woodsman” insect repellent. They call it "fly dope." Not sure why. The flies are smart. It's the woodsmen who are dopes. But I digress. Suitably outfitted, off we went in high spirits (we might have been tipsy from the fly dope) on our exciting wilderness journey. Nothing could go wrong. Or so we thought.

That afternoon was, generally speaking, uneventful. The canoe didn't capsize. We didn't succumb to the fumes of the fly dope. We actually found our intended campsite, one of the islands in Mooselookmeguntic Lake. No kidding. That's the name of the lake. Again, I digress. Suffice to say that we managed to be robust and manly outdoorsmen that night. We were like a couple of Bear Gryllses.

Saturday dawns. "When do flies sleep?" we kept asking ourselves. Oh, here's a Maine outdoorsperson's tip. Never—repeat, NEVER—get Old Time Woodsman fly dope in your eyes. Take it from me. Anyway, we throw our fishing gear into the canoe, jump in, and paddle like demons out onto the lake to escape the bloodthirsty swarms of flies that have invaded our idyllic camp. Finally! Let's go fishing! We discussed the various meals that we were going to make with all the fish we were going to catch, sort of like that scene in Forrest Gump where Bubba is telling Forrest all about shrimp. Except we were talking about fish. Just making sure you're all still with me. We were gonna catch us a mess o' fish. Or so we thought.

We're casting. Paddling. Casting. Paddling. Casting some more. Paddling some more. For hours. Nothing! Not a single bite, nor any indication that there even were fish inhabiting this huge lake. Confusion started to descend on us, along with hunger. See, in our haste to get out of camp and get to the lake and do our backwoods thing, we'd pretty much forgotten to take along any other source of food beyond the sandwiches we'd bought at the general store along with our fishing licenses. Real savvy woodsmen, we. Oh, did I mention the clouds were beginning to move in?

Moving on. By now, all our paddling has brought us to the far northern part of the lake. In the distance we see some fly-fishermen doing their thing. We pulled out our maps to discover that there was a water-connector to another lake. You might call it a river. Anyway, we reasoned that if other people were fishing over there, it must mean that there were fish. Might have been the fly dope fumes again. But so we reasoned. We set our lines for trolling and we start paddling up the water-connector, er, river.

We hadn't gone 100 yards up the river when we heard a disembodied, bull-horn amplified voice from the trees on the right bank of the river. The voice sounded angry. We wondered who it could have been angry at. This went on for a few minutes. Oh, it's angry at us! And it turns that the voice belongs to a uniformed Maine State Park Ranger!

Not sure why, but we started paddling over to where the Ranger was standing. I mean, we were in a canoe out on the water. What was he going to do, run after us? Clearly, we weren't thinking clearly. Fly dope? Perhaps.

We got to the bank, whereupon the Ranger launched into a tirade about state fishing ordinances, and those dirty rotten long-haired out of state hippies who invade his pristine and orderly wilderness universe like so many black flies for which the state is rightfully infamous. My friend and I are looking at each other. Out of staters, sure, dirty?, true enough, but come on, long-haired? Rotten? Hippies? No way! Well, my friend's hair was a bit long in those days, but we certainly didn't look like charter members of Woodstock Nation.

Anyway, continuing his tirade, he climbed into our canoe and made us paddle over to a place where he knew he could borrow a motor boat. Mind you, that's like a couple miles of paddling. And all the time this guy was reading us the riot act. Oh, and the clouds were now really building. In fact, I'd say, in classic Maine down-east understatement, that the weather was taking a bit of a turn.

We arrived at the motorboat place and the rain had started. The Ranger took me with him in the boat and sent my buddy back to our camp in the canoe. Where was he taking me, you ask? Why, back to the car of course.

Why, you ask? Because by now, we'd discovered that we'd been arrested, and he was collecting the fine. What, you shout? That's right. He was collecting the fine right there and then, well, after about an hour boat ride down to the car and back to the campsite in weather that was getting really bad. Think Gilligan's Island or The Perfect Storm, and you'll get the picture. Turned out that I had some traveler's checks in the car. I mean, who takes cash with them into the wilderness?

Anyway, he finally dropped me back off at our camp and motored away. I was now soaking wet from the driving rain, freezing from the 35-knot winds, penniless from being fleeced by this maniac of a Ranger, starving because we hadn't caught any fish (legal or otherwise), a bit seasick from the boat, and thoroughly exhausted and shocked by this entire ordeal.

Photo courtesy of Rangeley Lakes.

Oh, you're probably interested in what the charges were, aren't you? Trolling with a spin-caster in fly-fishing waters. That's verbatim what I was arrested for. Full disclosure. I have a record in Maine. Quite a story, huh?

Here's the final point. About community. I now belong to a community: people who have been arrested for fishing in Maine. That's actually a subset of the community, "people who have been fishing in Maine." If only there had been an online manifestation of this community at that time. I would have been better informed about all the ins and outs of the environment I was about to enter. And now, I would be better able to contribute to the shared knowledge and wisdom of the community by sharing this story. As a warning. Or tips. Or fun facts. And so on.

Well, thanks for reading. And when in Rangeley, never—repeat, NEVER—go trolling with a spin-caster in fly-fishing waters!

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