Denis “Dee” Dauphinee grew up in Bangor, the youngest of eight children, in a family with a long legacy of humor. His quick-witted father always seemed to have a joke at just the right moment. His mom had a good sense of humor too. He remembers spending much of his youth laughing.
So it’s of little surprise that his new book about fly-fishing, life and the natural wonders of Maine is full of laughs.
“It’s part of the family tradition,” he said.
Dauphinee fishes more often than not. Last year, he figures he fished four days a week, which is pretty remarkable given that he works full-time as a surgical assistant, writes regularly and is a husband and father of two.
“Give me an hour and I’ll be fishing,” he said, adding that he does not necessarily recommend such dedication to the sport.
“The path to great fishing is as narrow as a razor’s edge,” he added with a laugh.
One does not have to love fishing to appreciate Dauphinee’s “Stoneflies & Turtleheads: A Maine Flyfisher’s Misadventures,” published by Unity-based North Country Press.
One just has to appreciate a good read by a middle-age Mainer who has spent much of his life traveling the world and observing others.
The book reads like a personal journey. Readers come away with a sense of Dauphinee’s life beyond fishing. We spoke by phone last week.
Q: This is a book about fly-fishing, but it covers a lot of turf. It seems more to be a book about Maine and Mainers and how we live. Was that your goal?
A: The goal was pretty simple; I like good stories, and I wanted to tell some. I’ve been very lucky to have fished around the world, and if you do that enough, the anecdotes become stories.
Q: I appreciated your sections about Maine speech and the mispronunciations that drive you nuts. Do you keep notes during your travels?
A: I keep notes every day, no matter where I am. Today, I stopped in at the Fogler Library at UMO just to take a quick look at something, and came out with six pages of a composition book filled. It’s a problem with me.
Q: How long have you been fishing?
A: Since before I can remember. Caught my first trout on a fly at the headwaters of the Pleasant River, the one in Washington County. It was only a 6-inch brookie, but I was only 13. It might as well have been a 70-pound tarpon. At that moment, I was smitten with fly-fishing, and still am.
Q: What do you like about it?
A: I’ve tried about every sport out there, and in no others can I find the same focused solitude.
You can be wading a beautiful stream somewhere, bathed in the warm, morning sunlight, with your mind innocent of life’s daily considerations, when suddenly you are confronted with excitement and calmness.
If you’re not careful, it can confuse you, in a good way.
Q: Why is fly-fishing such a brotherhood?
A: I think because more than any other mode of angling, fly-fishers are really tuned in to the fish — their food, their biology, their needs. Fly-fishers study the fish and the waters, and eventually they learn to appreciate the river ecology and become stewards of the rivers, streams and lakes.
Q: Who did you write this book for? Who is your audience?
A: Anyone who loves nature, I guess. A couple of years ago, a few of the guys I fish with started bugging me to write down some of the stories for my children to read. I did, and a new passion surfaced.
Since “Stoneflies & Turtleheads,” I’ve written a novel that I like a lot, which is at the publisher’s, and another collection of fly-fishing essays, titled “Something’s Wrong With My Fly!”
Writing has become a going concern. I wanted to write this book in such a way that the reader would feel they were sitting around a campfire, listening to a story.
Q: How did you hook up with North Country Press?
A: I actually felt guilty at first. I sent the query letter and sample chapters to four publishers, and three wanted it. I liked North Country Press, because they were small, and I was a first-time author. They were friendly, professional and nice, and I am silly and goofy. It’s a good fit. And they drink wine when the job is done.
Q: Tell us about your life in Maine? Where do you live, and what do you do when not fishing?
A: I’ve lived in five states, and in South America. I lived for extended periods of time in Panama, Israel and Europe, and in all those places, as romantic or beautiful as they are, I always knew I wanted to return to the great state of Maine to raise my children. And to fish.
I live in Bradley now with my wife, Lisa, and two children. Our 140-plus-year-old farmhouse is tucked between Otter Stream and the Penobscot River. When I’m not fishing, I’m writing about fishing, and trying like heck to stay married.
Q: What’s your best fish story?
A: Oh, Lordy. That’s a tough one. How about standing waist-deep in the Orinoco River, casting big, ugly poppers to peacock bass, while kids are catching piranhas two feet from my legs? Or tilapia in the Sea of Galilee, while a storm, lit by a sunset filtered by desert sand, rages on the far shore.
Q: You’ve traveled a lot. Any favorite spot you’ve been to outside of Maine?
A: Another tough one. I love the town of Portobelo, Panama, and Huaraz, Peru. Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina. There are too many to list.
Q: Favorite place in Maine? Personal favorite fishing spot?
A: I like the brooks and streams of Washington County because I can revisit the memories of my childhood. But I do love the Allagash River. That’s my son’s favorite place to fish, so we’re creating new memories there every summer.
Q: You were born and raised here, I presume?
A: Yup, right in Bangor. Went to John Bapst (High). But don’t hold that against them. It’s a great school.
After high school, I left for Wyoming with a guitar, about $80 and a single duffle bag. Came back four years later a different person.
Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or: