Real ‘Most Interesting Man in the World’? Bangor author’s experience makes books shine
By John Holyoke
Not long ago, I was talking with a friend of mine. It turns out he knew Denis Dauphinee, an author I’d recently interviewed.
“He’s great. He is the real, live ‘Most Interesting Man in the World,’” my friend told me.
Can’t say that I disagree.
Dauphinee, who goes by “D,” has worked as a farmer, a photographer, a mountain climbing guide, a fishing guide and an orthopaedic physician’s assistant. He was a semi-pro football player in Vancouver, trying to catch on in the Canadian Football League. He has parlayed his photographic skills into global adventures that have taken him to El Salvador, Peru, the Arctic, Israel, Egypt and across Europe.
He also grows killer Russian red garlic.
And, luckily for us, he writes. Correction: He writes well.
Over the past two years North Country Press has released two Dauphinee books.
The first, “Stoneflies & Turtleheads,” is a collection of hard-earned essays that cover some of his adventures. The second, which hit bookstores just a few weeks ago, is a novel called “The River Home.”
Both are worth a look, for different reasons.
In “Stoneflies & Turtleheads,” Dauphinee takes readers along on a life full of epic trips. Heck, even his first journeys, from his Bangor home to not-too-distant fishing holes in Hermon, sound epic when Dauphinee describes them. And those first trips paved the way to the life he has led.
“I’m not the brightest guy in the world, so I had this really warped sense of adventure,” Dauphinee said. “I wanted to test myself physically and mentally in unknown places.”
Those initial forays into the wilderness, first with his dad, then on his own, helped mold the man he became.
“I remember being 9 or 10 years old, and with buddies who were like-minded, we’d get on our banana bikes and we’d tie fishing rods to them and backpacks,” Dauphinee said.
And off they’d go. Alone. Into the woods, to fish.
“We were starting fires along the railroad tracks and trying to stomp ‘em out,” Dauphinee said with a laugh. “You couldn’t dream of that now. Three kids, 9 or 10 years old, gone for a whole weekend? Nobody would do that now.”
“Stoneflies & Turtleheads” documents some of his trips during a period in which Dauphinee scrimped, saved and plotted ways to see new places and experience new things.
And along the way, he learned new skills in unorthodox ways.
“I was guiding in Jackson Hole [Wyo.] when I was young. It was funny. I started out with one of the local climbing outfits out there. I just wanted to get involved and learn more about climbing, so I volunteered to drive the shuttle bus and make the sandwiches,” Dauphinee said. “All of a sudden one guy breaks his leg and another guy’s mother gets ill in another state and the next thing you know, I’m guiding.”
In “The River Home,” readers will find a well-crafted novel that uses fly fishing as a device to tell a much more important tale.
“There’s a little bit of heavy fly-fishing stuff in the very beginning that you’ve got to wade through, but it sets the tone for a relationship that’s important throughout the book,” Dauphinee explained. “Then it’s unspeakable tragedy, triumph over adversity and handicap, sex, love … a little of everything.”
Dauphinee said the entire story that he tells in “The River Home” came to him one night as he lay in bed, half-asleep.
When his restlessness woke his wife, she told him he ought to write down what he’d been thinking. He did, and when he looked at the results the next morning Dauphinee found that he’d written 25 pages that served as the outline for the book.
“I’m sure it happens to people, but I’d never even heard of it,” Dauphinee said of the late-night eureka moment.
Dauphinee is working on a second set of essays that he’ll call “Something’s Wrong With My Fly,” and also plans an ambitious project that will document an important piece of Canadian history.
And he figures all of it started when he started walking and riding his bike along railroad tracks heading out of Bangor, looking for places to explore.
“Those railroad tracks,” he said. “They were calling.” Warden to sign book
Several months ago I received a review copy of a book called “Maine Wild, Adventures of Fish and Game Wardens,” which was written by Megan Price.
Price, a Vermont writer, has produced a series of “Vermont Wild” books. Her latest work focuses on the tales of Parker Tripp, former chief warden of the Maine Warden Service.
The tales are short and humorous, and as we’ve learned from other wardens-turned-authors, Maine’s game wardens find themselves in a pretty wide variety of situations.
Brad Ryder of Epic Sports in Bangor emailed me earlier this week with some news that might be of interest to outdoorsy holiday shoppers.
It seems that Epic Sports has been selling lots of “Maine Wild” books lately.
And on Saturday, Tripp will be on hand to sign copies from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.
If you’ve got any eager readers, young or old, on your list, this might be just the thing for them.
Follow John Holyoke on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke
Bushnell on Books
By Bill Bushnell...
STONEFLIES & TURTLEHEADS:
A MAINE FLYFISHER’S MISADVENTURES
By D. Dauphinee
North Country Press, 2013
Among all the books written about fly fishing in recent years, Maine author Denis Dauphinee’s debut book, “Stoneflies & Turtleheads” is by far one of the best.
Dauphinee may be passionate about many things, but one things is certain: He loves fly fishing so much that he’s fished in South America, the Middle East, Europe, above the Arctic Circle, across the U.S. and, of course, here in Maine.
He also claims he’s not much of a writer, but he’s wrong. This collection of 19 essays is very well-written, funny, informative and entertaining. Readers will see the rivers and streams, the mountains and lake, the people and the fish in an elegant narrative that truly conveys the patience, solitude, and “the simple romance and poetry of fly fishing.”
This is a marvelous guide to fresh-water fly fishing, including discussions of equipment, types of flies for conditions, best types of water, time of day, and what insects are hatching to lure fish as well as detailed descriptions of certain varieties of fish — from the most popular game fish like salmon, trout and Arctic charr to “trash” fish like pickerel, chubs and crappie (that’s the name, not an opinion).
As part travelogue, the book also offers colorful descriptions of exotic fishing trips to Peru, the Holy Land, Baffin Island and Otter Stream outside his backdoor. Dauphinee also likes to climb mountains — the Andes and the Rockies are his favorites — but he always takes along his fly rod, reel and a couple of his favorite flies, just in case.
Learn why being “skunked” has nothing to do with an offensive odor, why Maine fishermen don’t like bass, how a scorpion sting in a tender location can ruin your day and what fly fishermen really think of bait fishermen.
Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.
BY BOB KEYESSTAFF WRITER
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: