BRUNSWICK — Carrie Stevens is one of Maine’s fly fishing heroes, a colorful Rangeley character who made her name in the 1920s on a remarkable catch and the fly that landed it.
The flies Stevens tied became the things of fishing lore around rivers in the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s, and later, around auction houses and museum rooms.
She died in 1970, but her name lives on in fly fishing clubs worldwide.
Selene Dumaine’s name as a fly tier is less known. Her flies don’t hold the same mystique as her predecessor in Maine. And her path to fame has taken a harder road.
Yet as one of Stevens’ most notable disciples, Dumaine’s reputation as a fly tier is growing in Maine and beyond. And despite experiencing some tough struggles in a rough economy, she’s determined to stay there.
This summer Dumaine will be one of 50 women in North America featured in an exhibit at the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vt.
“She has become pretty world-renowned tying streamer flies. She is almost the most associated name with Carrie Stevens,” said Jim Quimby, mountain manager at Saddleback Mountain in Rangeley, where the ski trails are named for famous flies, and Stevens’ are chief among them.
But while Stevens lived a fairly charmed life beside Rangeley’s Upper Dam Pool, Dumaine’s life as a fly tier has been one of struggle and resolve.
Right before the recession hit, Dumaine became a single mom with two young boys in 2007. She had worked as a music teacher years ago and enjoyed it. In hopes of giving her boys more stability, she moved to New Hampshire to find a job as a teacher.
Finding nothing, she moved back to Maine a year ago to take over a fly shop in Brunswick called Merrymeeting Flies. But she couldn’t make a go of it in a failing economy.
“I didn’t know if I was going to leave fly tying. To try to start anew and keep my old life, I just knew I wouldn’t make it as a fly tier. It didn’t matter how many flies I tied,” Dumaine said. “I wasn’t tying. I wasn’t giving up. I just had to find a real job.”
Finally, last fall Dumaine sold all the inventory and got a job as an ed tech at Freeport High School to support her boys — Eli, 12, and Gradon, 7.
“I feel in some ways a part of me had been taken away. But I want to keep that part of me. It’s who I am,” Dumaine says.
It’s a fishing tale that is yet unfinished. Dumaine says that now with a job, a newly purchased home that has land for a fly shop beside Route 1, she has reason to hope.
After all, it was a single brookie that launched Carrie Stevens’ career. The 6-pound, 13-ounce brook trout Stevens landed in 1924 beside her home in Upper Dam Pool took second place in the 1925 Field and Stream fishing contest.
That bit of acclaim sent Stevens and her Grey Ghost streamer fly on to fishing fame.
A modern version of the same tale may play out along the Androscoggin River today.
In a tiny room at the back of an old house beside the river, Dumaine sits at a bench half the size of a school desk. It’s a closet-sized space, but with peacock and turkey feathers before her, Dumaine is inspired again. And she thinks it won’t be long.
“I see the shop as a place to hang out, with a big screen TV with videos and classes, small, intimate, not huge,” she says.
Dumaine envisions her future fly shop as simple and small but filled with fly fishing artifacts, and fly fishermen. And with a view of one of Maine’s big rivers, she plans to soon pursue the art of fly tying again.
“She is part of the women who are knee-deep in the fly fishing industry,” said Cathy Comar, executive director of the American Museum of Fly Fishing.
“She has been compared to Carrie Stevens as far as the quality of her flies. And I know her reputation is just building.”
Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at: