Clifton guide had a gift for gab

I didn’t know Lorin Lecleire very well. Of course, you never would have known that if you saw us engaged in conversation.

In fact, you’d likely guess that we’d known each other for years. And I imagine that there are plenty of other people out there — many of them outdoors-loving folks — who could say the same thing.

Meet the man, and you’d remember the experience. The big smile. The firm handshake. The laugh. The nonstop, mile-a-minute chatter. Right off the bat. Right from the get-go.

I first met the former Orono fire chief (and master Maine guide) several years ago at “Muskie Central,” (really just a group of tables in front of Bee-Jay’s Tavern in Fort Kent), during the town’s international muskie-fishing derby. Lecleire rolled in driving an over-packed truck, his young son Zachary in tow. He strode toward the registration table. And he started talking.

To derby organizers. To me. To anyone who’d listen.

Lorin Lecleire, I soon learned, loved to fish. And he loved to go fishing with Zachary and his nephew, Christopher Kingsbury. During that summer of 2005, in preparation for the second annual derby, the trio fished 42 straight days, from Chemo and Hopkins ponds to Alligator and Duck lakes. They even headed north to Chamberlain, where Zachary learned an important lesson from his elders.

“Never drink water out of a pond,” the then 8-year-old told me. Then he gestured toward his dad, Lorin, and at Christopher. “They got beaver fever, all of them.”

Today I was saddened to learn that Lorin Lecleire died unexpectedly at his home on Monday. He was just 52.

When I did see Lecleire after our first meeting, he always greeted me with tales of fish caught, not-so-secret ponds visited, or various critters that he’d seen, hunted or heard about.

In one conversation — it may well have been the first — he showed me his lists.

Lecleire loved his lists, you see.

In those lists, he detailed every single piece of equipment (and morsel of food) that had to be packed in order for a camping trip to be successful. That’s not all that uncommon. But his lists also told the camper exactly where each piece of equipment (and morsel of food) was stored. Green Rubbermaid box. Red milk crate. Whatever. There would be no poking and hunting for grub or a knife or a tarp on Lecleire’s watch. Not once. Not ever.

He had a system, he proudly told me. And as long as he followed that system’s rules, he never, ever ended up in front of a campfire, slapping his head, and saying, ‘Oh. I forgot to bring …”

As an organizationally challenged individual, I was impressed. Overwhelmed, but impressed.

When January rolled around and no safe ice was to be found, I’d sometimes run into Lecleire. He always grinned, then told me exactly where I could find the best ice in the area. He told me where to park … what to use for bait … what kind of action I could expect.

He was providing, I suppose, another form of list.

After visiting his Facebook page earlier today, I learned that his quest for fishable ice did have its consequences at times.

His post from Dec. 27:

“Hmmmm never volunteer to test the ice in the cove when perch fishing, unless you know the water [is] less [deep] than you are tall … lol.”

On New Year’s Day, he found safer ice, went fishing, and posted the photos to prove it.

Last Wednesday, another Facebook post detailed a trip afield. Alas, the avid photographer was not able to capture images of the scene he described.

“Adventure – found a waterfall across the pond from fishing hole that is cascading and frozen … hmmm some thin ice in between, so no picture,” he wrote.

And today, dozens of friends and colleagues are posting their own messages on Lecleire’s Facebook page, telling him how much they appreciated his friendship, and how they are mourning his passing.

Among those poignant posts was this offering, from a woman who may have best summed up Lecleire’s approach to life, using his own words.

“Copied from your favorite quotes,” she wrote. “A little nonsense now and then, makes us all wise men. Live life the best you can, be kind to others, give before taking. Go for it, be dangerous, take a risk, adventure, seek knowledge, enjoy what life has to offer, stay away from negative people, fast, furious, never bored, play hard with the love of your life. You truly lived by these words….may we all live by them. Rest in Peace, we will miss you!”


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.