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Unsung Hero: Macauley Lord of Brunswick, casting for life

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Unsung Hero: Macauley Lord of Brunswick, casting for life

BRUNSWICK — When Macauley Lord was 6 years old, his grandfather took him fishing at a pond on his grandfather’s old farm, built in 1844 outside Louisville, Ky. 

Lord caught four blue gill and became (sorry) forever hooked. At age 12, he took up fly fishing, a sport he continued as a student at Bowdoin College.

After college, Lord went on to pursue graduate studies, first at the University of California at Santa Barbara (physical geography) and later at the University of Michigan (natural resources policy).

Then in 1986, he got a call from a friend he’d met while fly fishing in Montana, a place Lord calls “the center of the fly fishing universe.” The friend had a job teaching fly fishing at L.L. Bean and asked Lord to come back to Maine to work at Bean. He accepted immediately.

For several years, Lord taught fly fishing in the summer and performed various roles for Bean in the off season.

“Fly fishing is hard to learn and hard to teach,” Lord said. “There’s a lot of bad fly fishing teaching going on, so the students get really frustrated.”

Then in 1992, he learned that the Federation of Fly Fishers was launching a program to teach teachers of fly fishing. Lord called Mel Krieger, a legend in the world of fly fishing, and got permission to go to Montana to take the course. In 1993, he was officially certified as an instructor, and in 1995 he passed a rigorous exam to become a master fly casting instructor.

Clearly, Lord had found his niche.

In addition to serving as head instructor of the fly fishing program at Bean, he became a noted author in the field. He wrote the "L.L. Bean Fly-Casting Handbook" (Lyons Press, 2007) as well as dozens of articles for magazines such as American Angler, Fly Fisherman and Saltwater Fly Fishing.

Last August, Lord was awarded the highest distinction in the fly casting world, the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award from the Federation of Fly Fishers. A press release at the time said “his words, like his instructions show beginners and experts alike how to take their skills to the next level, focusing on many of the little casting techniques that incrementally lead to the whole of being more successful in the water.”

But Lord’s inspiring story extends well beyond the fly fishing world.  Even as he was working at Bean, Lord was overseeing the health of his mother back in Kentucky, who suffered from a mental illness. One year alone, he took 11 trips back to Kentucky, a situation forcing him to give up his regular status at Bean.

The experience of caring for his mother, combined with his natural inclination to serve others, prompted Lord to set out on a new career path in 2008: the ministry. He enrolled at the Portland campus of the Bangor Theological Seminary in order to earn a master's degree in theology. Most of his training has been in the field: serving as a hospital chaplain and a prison chaplain.

Lord easily sees the parallels between being an expert teacher of fly fishers and serving as a chaplain.

“In teaching, as in ministry, I’m developing a bond with another person," he said. "I’m always drawn to meaning. When you teach someone to make a good cast, that’s a beautiful moment. You’re teaching them to cast out into the universe. With prisoners, you’re helping them cast out, in a way, to find some peace and hope and sanity.”

Lord continues to serve as an instructor at Bean as he prepares for his new career. During a conversation at his home, he told a story that speaks to his substance and sensitivity.

“On May 30, 2011, my grandmother died at the age of 102, Lord said. "I went back to Kentucky for the memorial service. There was a place on a door panel on that old farm where she used to write milestones. I saw one I’d never seen before: ‘May 20, 1968, ML - 13 bluegill.’

"I guess that was my first official fishing report.”