Outdoor tidbits: Young writers win awards, canoe season approaches, and it’s still too cold out

Is it spring yet?

No, I didn’t think so. And while I’m not typically one to gripe about the weather, I’ll admit this winter-that-won’t-end is beginning to get me down.

So while we’re busy hunkering down as another snowstorm approaches, let’s clear the decks of a few interesting news items … and a few observations.

– First up: Good news for a pair of Maine student writers, who earned top state honors from the New England Outdoor Writers Association for essays they submitted in that group’s 2014 Youth Writing Contest.

Quinn Sluzenski, a senior at Calais High School, won top Maine honors in the senior division, while Chloe Lawrence, a sixth-grader at Reeds Brook Middle School in Hampden took first place in the junior division for Mainers.

Both state winners earned $125 cash prizes.

“The contest is a new endeavor, developed to provide an incentive for kids to get involved in outdoor recreation and writing,” Randy Julius, president of the NEOWA said in a press release. “This is the second year for the competition and we hope, as the word gets out, to attract more New England students to write about their outdoor experiences.”

Congratulations to both Maine champs!

– Here’s a fact to consider: While you might not be able to see any bare ground in your backyard, and while your local lake might be covered with more than two feet of ice, canoe racing season is nearly upon us. The season’s traditional opener, the St. George River Race, is scheduled for March 29.

Hard to believe when the mercury dropped below zero in many Maine towns earlier this week, but it’s true.

In an unrelated matter, rumors (which I may have started) that this year’s Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race will include a new category for ice boats are apparently not true.

If you’re curious, this year’s Kenduskeag race will be held on April 19. And I promise, it’ll be warmer by then. Really. I hope.

– If you’re looking for a Maine-based outdoor book, you may want to check out George Smith’s “A Life Lived Outside, Reflections of a Maine Sportsman,” which was recently released by Islandport Press.

Smith, the former executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, has been writing columns for central Maine newspapers for years, and is currently a BDN blogger as well.

And while many may associate Smith with political lobbying on a variety of outdoor-related issues, this book doesn’t delve into those prickly topics very often.

Instead, Smith shares several of his favorite non-political essays, the fodder for which he has gathered (as the title suggests) during a life spent hunting, fishing and enjoying the outdoors.

I’m in the process of reading “A Life Lived Outdoors,” but when I finish, I’ll share a few more thoughts on Smith’s book.

– Another weather-related thought: Should we be concerned that people are still seeing snowy owls? Isn’t it time for them to head back to where it’s supposed to be snowy? Do they know something we don’t? Will they still be here in June? Will we still have snow on the ground at that point?

As I might have mentioned, this weather has gotten under my skin more than a little bit.

– Think spring! It’s coming!

How do I know that? Rob Dunnett says so, that’s how.

Well, Dunnett didn’t really say that. But he did reach out to let me know that the Penobscot Fly Fishers will stage a Fly Fishing 101 class at the end of April … and that must mean something, right?

You see, I know these Penobscot Fly Fishers. They’re good guys. But they’re a little bit groundhog-ish, if you know what I mean. They are world-class hunker-downers, especially when it’s cold out.

During the summer, you won’t find them at home … they’re always fishing. And during the winter, they’ll be huddled in a cozy room, toiling over a tying vise, crafting the flies they’ll cast during the other three seasons. If there’s another PFF member nearby, they might talk about “hackle” and “dubbing” and “biots.”

If you don’t know any of those words, you might be a prime candidate for the Fly Fishing 101 class.

And if the members of the PFF are going to stick their heads out of their dens on April 27 to teach others about fly fishing, I’d say it’s a good bet that by then, winter will really, truly, be over.

The class will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will be held at the Penobscot County Conservation Association’s clubhouse The fee is $20, which includes the use of equipment as well as lunch.

The class will cover bugs and flies, equipment and knots, and casting.

If you’re interested, call Dunnett at 907-9008, or send email to treasurer@penobscotflyfishers.com

And if you do contact Dunnett, do me a favor: Don’t tell him that I might have compared him and his buddies to a pack of groundhogs.

John Holyoke

About John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. Today, he's the Outdoors editor for the BDN, a job that allows him to meet up with Maine outdoors enthusiasts in their natural habitat. The stories he gathers provide fodder for his columns, and this blog.