Managing Expectations: More on my Travel Out West

June 2022

On my trip out to California, my flight arrived in Reno late in the day. Notwithstanding the time distance in my favor, the experience at the airport was a bit unsettling. First of all, from the minute I exited the plane I was never more than a few feet from a slot machine. I can understand gambling at casinos but at the airline arrival gates? It was Reno but slots on the way to the men’s room?

The ride to Downieville was easy. The traffic out of Reno during rush hour was not the Long Island Expressway, that is it didn’t seem like much traffic at all. The exit into the valley was like an off ramp to the wilderness. I opened the windows in my rental car to take in the fresh mountain air. With Frank Sinatra on the Sirius radio I was in heaven. Cruising along with one eye on the GPS the time seemed to pass quickly as I headed to my accommodations at The Lure.

The Lure is not a hotel but a scenic arrangement of cabins along the Yuba River. I found my cabin attractive and well-furnished and looked forward to falling into bed. My first surprise was when I read in the list of Lure details and learned there was no wifi or cell service at the site. I sat myself down on the sofa and took a deep breath. Was this good or bad I thought to myself. Good—no one to bother me. Bad– withdrawal from life as I know it? I would deal with the issue in the morning. I live by an Apple watch and I phone. I went ahead and plugged all my gadgets into power, ready for whatever was to come in the morning. I was scheduled to meet Bill Copren for breakfast at Bassetts, a diner-service station about 45 minutes north on Route 49, followed by a day of fishing. Without cell service I had no GPS. Oh well, I would find the place as Ali had given me brief directions.

Of course, I set my travel alarm for 7:00 am forgetting that it was 2 hours earlier. In fact I arose without an alarm, at 5:30 a.m. Eastern time. The cabin came with a coffee maker but no groceries. Despite Ali’s admonishment that she outfit the cabin in advance of my arrival with basics, I, the big shot, told her I would handle groceries when I arrived. Of course, I didn’t realize the grocery store was in the opposite direction of Bassetts. I arrived at Bassetts before it opened at 8:00am and waited for someone to open the door. As soon as the “closed” sign was turned to “open” I stumbled in, in search of my first coffee of the day. Whoa am I addicted! Bill soon showed up and we sat together chatting about fishing and catching. I repeatedly told him I came to fish and catching was extra. I don’t think he bought my line. We left together in his truck to Gold Lake, off Route 49 in the mountains. Bill explained that Gold Lake got its name from the rumors that spread during the gold rush years, that there were massive deposits of the yellow ore beneath the lake floor. It drew hundreds of hopefuls but the rumors proved to be just that.

We approached the lake through a magnificent row of fir trees pruned by nature to form a canopy over our path. As we parked and pulled on our waders, we noticed an elderly couple – as a cohort I know how to define elderly—carefully rowing off into the middle of the lake. The sun beamed overhead between the high clouds, the sky pierced with contrails of passing jets. The woods teemed with life, including some busy blue jays hunting for breakfast. It was a peaceful, idyllic scene.

Bill and I waded chest deep into the water. The cold penetrated my feet and the shock was refreshing. The air temperature was in the 50’s and the water no more than 45 degrees per Bill’s reading. We were the only fishermen for some reason. After a while with no takes, Bill decided we should go to Mallard Cove at Davis Lake. Still no takes, but our time together was grand – a fishing and history lesson. Bill was a meticulous fly tier and we used the flies he had personally tied. The next day we traveled a distance to the Little Truckee River, where I went in barefoot in my wading boots. The water was icy cold and I cast with a 5-weight rod that allowed for a terrific drift. There was no action, but the stream was a delightful soft run of casual water that I am certain on the right day held lots of brook trout.

My time with Bill was a wonderful opportunity to not only hear but experience the history of the High Sierras. Bassett Station, where we met for breakfast, was a way station, since the 1850s, where horses were changed when pulling wagons over and through the Yuba Pass. Bill explained how a gold miner from Connecticut named AP Chapman discovered the valley in the 1800s and after a successful run of mining brought his family west to settle there permanently. He was the largest landowner in the area and is considered the founder of the Valley. In 1859 the Comstock Lode was discovered in Virginia City, Nevada and the miners abandoned the Downieville area.

There are still a few local gold mines, but not like they were in the heyday of the ‘49ers. The old mining towns exist today as Downieville, Sierra City, and many others. The rich history of the area is preserved by people like Carl and Bill, who keep it alive through word of mouth and through The Mountain Messenger – a nostalgic tribute to a wonderful pocket of American history.

Here in Downieville

June 2022

I spent last week in the High Sierras visiting with the owner-editor-publisher of The Mountain Messenger, Carl Butz.  It was a trip I had planned to take back in 2020 before the pandemic set in.  Finally, this spring I was able to comfortably plan a visit with Carl and explore the area that I briefly visited some 12 years ago with my good friend Gere, who was celebrating his 70th birthday with a trip to the California National Parks.  This time I was motivated to talk with Carl and learn more about the area surrounding Downieville, which is the center of Sierra County, and to explore some of the mountain wilderness.  My visit more than met my expectations.  Not only did I spend evening time with Carl, but he introduced me to one of his close friends, Bill Copren, who grew up in the area.  Bill was tasked with taking me exploring and fishing which we did together for a couple of days with enthusiasm. Not only did Bill give me a history lesson of the area but drove me through some of the most dramatic mountain ranges in North America.  I visited Sierra City and Truckee, all of which were within reasonable driving distance of my cabin on the Yuba River.  I urge those of you who read the Messenger from afar to visit the Downieville area.  The town is a classic, northern California gold rush town with lots of history.  Many of the buildings are historical sites occupied by local retailers of sports equipment, morning coffee, bars, and a grocery store.  Downieville, as county center, brings morning traffic from points north and south.  I took away from my trip a better understanding of Carl’s goal in purchasing and bringing back to life the paper.  “Nostalgia” responds Carl to my query about why subscribers and readers both local and far away read his weekly paper.  Of course, local news is important, but the history of the area prompts readers as well.  Carl’s enthusiasm for providing both a service of local interest as well as the historical aspect is palpable. Caffeinating with Carl on the second-floor porch of his office, we spoke of the importance of maintaining a weekly paper with local news.  Coming off an interview about the Supervisor race for the county job, Carl was focused on the positions taken by the candidates.  Over 40 locals participated in the session where the candidates answered questions and stated their positions on issues that are similar to those in races throughout our land—gun control, the environment, climate warming and affordable housing.  Carl’s reporting in last week’s paper articulated the views of many of the participants.  Those of us who cherish the free press and liberties associated with the right to express our opinions are fortunate to still have people like Carl who invest their time and money to preserve a local paper.  P.S. For my readers, including my friend Arnie, who were praying for me to catch a salmon on my last afternoon of fishing the Restigouche in Quebec – I am sorry to report I was “skunked.”   I tried Arnie!

Restigouche Day Two

June 2022

After an “uncatching” afternoon my first full day on the water, I joined the rest of the Sports for dinner– a humbling experience.  The biggest news was that one of the guys caught a bright salmon – a big and sparkling specimen who swam upriver from the Atlantic Ocean to spawn. It was a happy report for all of us. There were several smaller kelts caught among the group, but the news of the bright ocean salmon was the highlight of the evening supper.  That night, I went to sleep dreaming of a knock from a salmon on the drift of my cast.  

There is a bit of backstory to my fishing the Restigouche River.  In 2017, I was invited by my friends Lori and Ted to a beautiful private fishing lodge in New Brunswick, Canada.  The seaplane fly-up included a stop at their camp on East Grand Lake, next door to a property that was my camp to be.  That trip was the impetus to buy my camp on the lake. The side story is that at Restigouche, Ted and Lori caught their limit of salmon and I caught nothing.  I was looking forward to a hook-up or two this time.  

The morning of my second day it was rainy and overcast with temps in the low 50s.  Jere awaited me at riverside, eager to get going.  Dressed in waders and rain gear I slid into the canoe.  Jere, bundled for the weather, carefully sat himself down in the middle seat. The object when fishing these waters is to have a guide who knows, based on experience, where to locate the fish, then cast away and hope for the best.  Our guide motored out into the middle of the river directly in front of the lodge.  Setting the anchor, we were positioned away from the others who were off to their guides’ secret sites.  I asked Jere to cast first so I could watch his technique.  Jere cast like a maestro while remaining in his seat.  With both hands on his 19-foot rod he drew the rod back from the right side of the canoe and with the thrust of his right hand directed his cast to the left side careening some 20 plus feet.  Smooth and effortless, it was a quick and quiet motion but for the swoosh of the line.  I watched the line drift to the right on the water surface, waiting for the slightest knock from a salmon.  The line was nearly straightened as Jere and I talked fisherman small talk about nothing much when a sudden grab on the line startled all of us including the guide.  The first cast of the day and a take! OMG! Jere responded with “Oh s—t.”  His face broke into a smile that could have brightened the entire river.  The guide gave Jere directions to set the hook and hold on as he pulled the engine to start for the shore to land the fish.  We traveled carefully with the salmon on the line, careful not to lose it with a slack line.  On shore the guide netted the large, beautiful kelp specimen.  Jere was thrilled.   We high-fived each other and of course the pressure was now on me to catch one.  We still had some three hours before lunch and I cast until my shoulder ached.  I was mindful of the need to relax my grip in the unlikely event a fish knocked into my fly.  These fish I am told, set the hook by attacking the fly and by turning set the hook.  Not the customary cast, drift, strip and set upon the take.  Standing in the canoe and extending my cast almost as far as Jere had from a seated position, I had a few knocks but no takes. It was not meant to be.  I did not look forward to facing all the Sports at lunch with a no-hit record on the boards.  

Restigouche River Lodge Day One

May 2022

The trip north from camp to the Canadian border at Houlton was a pleasant hour drive in my new Bronco.  Through the car’s Bluetooth, I picked up WQXR radio out of New York which was reporting 90-degree weather in New York—quite aa contrast to the brisk 40 degrees outside my window.  The Bronco was a bit noisy on the highway, but the fresh new car smell and the knowledge that my fishing bag and rods were tucked in the trunk gave me a sense of freedom and real excitement for my first post-Covid adventure fishing trip in North Country.  The Restigouche River Lodge had been closed since 2020 due to Covid.  The guides, all from the Quebec side of the river, had been quarantined and virtually blocked from crossing the bridge between Quebec and New Brunswick.  When I reached the border, the female officer seemed a bit bored and robotic in her inquiries of me –where and why the trip?  Never a look at my face, only a look-see at the computer and a continuing conversation with of the other officers at the window.  It was a routine, though heavily armed and tattooed welcome to Canada.  

The GPS reported some 170 miles to my destination.  The rain started out lightly as I-95 merged onto the Canadian highway system.  For the next 80 miles there were some trucks and a few cars but I mostly had the road to myself.  Surprised by the signs that read 90 speed limit I pushed the Bronco to 80mph. Of course, at that hour I was not sufficiently caffeinated to realize that the Canadian signs are not in miles per hour but kilometers.  Luckily, I was not pulled over, since my French is non-existent beyond parlay vu fransay.  It was too early for office calls. I did all I could to stay focused on the route and my GPS.  

The countryside was magnificent.  Open space for miles and gracious, unobstructed vistas of mountains and fields.  It reminded me very much of Wales, which I have visited several times on fishing trips.  As I drove further north off the highway onto local roads I passed through small towns only recognizable by the fact that there were gas stations and scattered motels.  The northern Canadian landscape is primarily a forestry-driven economy.  I passed trucks laden with lumber traveling both north and south.  Lumber mills occupied the center of the various small towns I passed through.  The music of WQXR kept me alert behind the wheel -a lively Bach concert was the ideal morning program.    The only thing missing was a third cup of coffee and the New York Times.  Oh my addiction to that paper—an addiction I can’t seem to satisfy with the online version.  I have to hold the newsprint in my hands. I wouldn’t be doing that for the next few days.   

At the turn off from Route 17 onto Flathead Road which runs parallel to the river, I rolled down the window to take in the fresh smell of burning wood from the fireplaces in nearby houses and the sound of rushing water which was music to my ears.   I would be home in the woods for the next few days.

Restigouche River Lodge is a beautifully built camp along a broad expanse of the Restigouche River.  Chris, the manager, greeted me warmly and gave me a welcome gift of assorted hand-tied flies which, earlier in the week had caught several kelt salmon. Perhaps a good luck charm.   Kelt are defined as salmon that have spent the winter up the river under the ice and are now on their way back to the ocean to feed.  The salmon swimming back upstream are called ocean bright salmon—they are fully fed, big, and now ready to spawn.  I think I got that right… Anyway, the flies were a beautiful and touching arrival gift.  

It was late afternoon and after the long drive I was excited to fish.  I was paired up with Jere, who would be my canoe mate, and who was anxious to get on the water as soon as I could wader up.  I emptied my fly-fishing bag onto the bed in my cabin and layered up with fleece, a beanie cap, rain jacket and wading boots.  I had not donned my cold-water fishing clothes in two years They felt a bit stiff and uncomfortable but they would be worn in again soon enough.  

Our guide was from a small town across the river in Quebec and spoke perfect English mixed in with a few French words here and there – Franglais.  Jere had been out fishing with him for several days now and caught three kelt so far.  No pressure mind you.  The grand canoe was similar in design to my camp canoe.  Jere cast seated.  I needed to stand to get the distance and we alternated casting.  He would cast out a comfortable length of line and then I would go, though it was not really casting on my part.  I had a 12.6-foot two-handed Spey rod which I had last used in Iceland in 2017.  At least that was my excuse for hooking the guide on my initial attempt.  Jere wisely kept his head down when I stood up to cast.  I spent most of the first afternoon relearning how to cast, and thanks to my companions I had some damn good instructors.  By the end of the trip I was in fact getting the line out.  More on that next week, folks.  Just for the record I did not hook a fish my first day out.  And wait til you hear what happens that night, when the rest of the Sports at camp reported on their day on the water.  Boy was I humbled.

Fresh Air

May 2022

It was a breath of fresh air coming off the Delta connection in Bangor.  Greg was waiting for me by the luggage carousel, where I joined him to watch for my fishing bag to emerge.  Baggage claim was busy.  I was surrounded by excited, happy faces, and there was an air of anticipation.   I noticed a few fishermen like me in the group among the locals returning home.  Bangor is the drop off for northern country commuters. It is the last stop before Canada and the wilderness of Aroostoock County.  

As we drove north on I-95 the air was cool and full of pine scented excitement.  The roadside trees had thickened with spring growth.  Greg filled me in on camp life since we last spoke in person in October at my 82nd surprise birthday party.  That night was a once in a lifetime experience, especially seeing Katie and Greg dressed in evening clothes –out of their usual Maine camp wear.  Now back on their home turf we caught up on post -covid life.   Katie was suffering from a continuous loss of taste and dealing with a lost appetite.  Greg still doesn’t have a cell phone.  He got along without one for 60 plus years so why get one now he says.  Per Greg, the fishing this spring is as exciting as ever.  Lake salmon and brook trout are as large as can be with trolling streamers.  The turnoff at Lincoln was a welcome sign that we were closing in on Danforth and my camp on the lake.

All very exciting and intriguing to me, as if from another universe. Returning north from Florida where only last week I fished the Loxahatchee River with Captain Charlie for snook in a flat boat to here on Maine’s third largest lake.  Now on to Restigouche in Canada for a few days of salmon fishing.  It is like a trip to the moon for me.  From one universe to another to another.  In the fishing brotherhood the people are all the same—honest and trustworthy.  Brothers of nature we are. 


May 2022

The last several weeks have been scheduled with lunches and dinners for end-of-season goodbyes. The “season” in Palm Beach is from October to May, at which time everyone goes their separate ways for the summer and early fall. These goodbye get-togethers are both merry and bittersweet. One however, was a purely solemn gathering. A goodbye of a different kind, it was the funeral for the father of a good friend, a quiet refrain amid the more boisterous events this time of year. The service, an Orthodox program, included the deceased’s grandsons, whose heartfelt letters to their beloved grandfather summoned memories of my parents, who died some years ago. It was a reminder to visit the cemetery where they are buried in Rochester, which I have not done since pre-Covid days.

The goodbye dinner last night was a mostly happy occasion, with fond farewells to friends scattering to the north, to Europe and out west. Our talk turned serious at times, discussing the war in Ukraine, which led to a conversation about ancestry. So many of us have parents or grandparents from Ukraine, myself included, who emigrated to the U.S. during previous periods of turmoil. The war and refugee catastrophe in Ukraine calls to mind the historical tragedies of the Nazi invasion of Eastern Europe and the inability of Jewish refugees to escape the brutality of the invaders. Those of us who are first generation Americans are fortunate indeed for our parents having left before the Holocaust. This morning I found myself on Google reading about the shtetl life from which my own parents fled prior to World War 11. How wrenching their goodbyes must have been, to leave extended family and community behind forever.

Though our group of friends will be separated for a few months, at my age-82-this is merely a short interval-and a considerable amount of living time. A lot can occur in five months, especially in the age of Covid. When I looked around the table last night, a lingering bit of melancholy from the funeral cast a shadow on my thoughts. The New Year’s Rosh Hoshana pronouncement “Who shall live and who shall die in the New Year” crossed my mind. So too as we pass through life, the days are few and time, like the late evening breeze, brings with it the clouds of past, present and future. But there is sun in between, when all is well, and we sit down again for an evening meal with dear friends.

Mother’s Day, May 11, 1958

May 2022

I think back to my last Mother’s Day with my mom, Rebecca Ackerman. I did not realize the significance of that Mother’s Day outing in 1958 until many years later. I was off to college in August, and after that graduate school, then marriage, starting my own family in New York City and then my parents moved to Florida for retirement. It would be our last Mother’s Day, with all of us together, to celebrate it with her, before she passed away in Rochester, New York in 1997.

Growing up, I looked forward to Mother’s Day. It was the one day of the year my family went out to dine at a restaurant. My parents were Orthodox and would not eat out unless the restaurant was kosher and the only kosher restaurants in town were delicatessens. Hence, they rarely dined out or travelled. The one vacation trip we took as a family, with my sister and her husband, was to Atlantic City in 1949, when I was still small enough to share a room with my parents. Every night of the trip we went to the same, possibly the only kosher restaurant in Atlantic City. Dinner always started with half a cantaloupe, followed by a typical heavy kosher meal of pot roast, potatoes and hearty soup, and it was summer, probably 87 degrees outside.

But on Mother’s Day, the rule was broken, and we would dine out at a non-kosher fish restaurant called Spring House, which is still in business all these years later. It was a momentous occasion for the family. My parents would dress in their formal High Holiday clothes, I would be in a starched white shirt and long pants. Despite all the excitement and preparation, my parents were not
very comfortable eating in a restaurant. Dad could not read the menu in English and relied on Mom to choose his food. Mom, being the chef at home, knew what she wanted before she sat down. They would start with coffee and then order a fish course, usually cod. She was always conscious of cost and knew Dad would question her later about the price of everything that was ordered. She would caution my sister and her husband, both of whom dined out a great deal, to be prudent in their meal choices, knowing that she would have to account to my father for any extravagances. Alcohol was never ordered. Jt was coffee start to finish. I knew to be careful when ordering. I did not like fish as a child and chose the least expensive one. I would eat a few bites, saving my appetite for the ice cream dessert.

Other than on Mother’s Days, my dine out experience in Rochester was limited to Eddie’s Corner, a luncheonette across from Ben Franklin High School, and to Critic’s, near the Paramount Theatre where my mother took me as a youngster to the movies on Saturdays. Mom did not drive, so we took the bus downtown. After the movie we waited for Dad to close his parking lot for the ride home. My parents were not always strict about my kosher diet and occasionally took me after school for a hamburger at a local barbeque, Don and Bob’s, though it had to be surreptitious, my father always parking away from the entrance to avoid being spotted at a non-kosher burger stand. As a teenager, where to go on a date was limited. None of us, my friends or I, had the resources for anything elaborate. After a high school ballgame, we might go to Bay-Goodman’s for pizza and Orange Crush. It wasn’t until I left home that I became an experienced restaurant-goer. When I married and moved to New York City, it opened up a new world, one I never could have imagined as a child sipping my soda at the counter at Eddie’s.

When I remember Mom on Mother’s Day, I think back to those once-a-year lunches at Spring House and how much they meant to her, despite breaking the kosher rule and the money pressure from my father. On that morning in 1958, my high school fraternity brothers delivered a red rose to each of the mothers of current members and to those whose sons had graduated the previous year. After that, our house descended into the usual chaos, with five people trying to get ready and only one bathroom. Dad of course got to go first, even on Mother’s Day, and I, the youngest, was last. It was sign up and soap up quickly. Nothing was ever easy growing up at 144 Navarre Road in Rochester, New York. My warmest memories are of Mom. I remember, before we left the house to go to the restaurant, my mother clipped the stem and pinned the rose to her dress, above her heart.

A Conversation with Sam White

April 2022

A lifelong career in land use law has afforded me opportunities over the years to learn, explore and even profess some knowledge of local historical architecture. Recently I appeared before the local zoning board to see the restoration of a magnificent home designed by Albro & Undeberg circa 1914 in East Hampton Village. Advocating on behalf of the owners of beautiful, architecturally significant properties allows me the additional benefit of associating with the people who specialize in their restoration. In the course of my work on a new project, a home built in 1926 by Roger Bullard, designer of the renowned Maidstone Club, I made the acquaintance of Sam White, a great grandson of Stanford White. Stanford White was a partner in the firm of McKim, Mead & White and was arguably the most famous architect of his day, during America’s Gilded Age. His legacy survives in the many buildings he designed and built including the spectacular “Seven Sisters” shingle-style houses on the cliffs of Montauk at the easternmost tip of Long Island.

In my meeting with Sam, I asked what it meant to him, as the descendant of such a famous architect, how it had impacted him personally. His response: “It is a privilege that I did not earn” –a modest response from an unassuming man who has staked out an impressive career of his own in architecture. In addition, he has written, together with his wife, some four books on Stanford White and lectured extensively about his great grandfather and his legacy. Sam explained that he wrote the books to clarify a misunderstanding about his great grandfather. “Too much attention was directed at how he died and not his work.” The circumstances surrounding Stanford White’s death were sensationalized in the press and at the time overshadowed his professional accomplishments. The impact of what he did achieve was felt through the generations, as Sam’s grandfather, Larry White, had thirty-five grandchildren, five of whom became noted architects and one a landscape architect. Sam himself is one of eleven siblings.

My conversation with Sam was via zoom rather than a preferred sit down with him in the original Stanford White home in St. James on Long Island, New York–still owned and inhabited by descendants of White. After Harvard and Vietnam, Sam attended architectural school at Penn. He sought to carve out his own destiny in architecture and embarked on a career restoring historical homes on Long Island. Sam reflected on the state of architecture today. “No one except for perhaps Peter Marino is equal to Stanford White’s capacity with color and texture in his design.” A worthy compliment to a contemporary architect and designer.

It was a wonderful conversation about an architect of generations ago who lives on today in the many homes and commercial buildings he designed in New York, Newport, Montauk and Southampton. A pleasure to meet you, Sam.

Dipping My Toes in the Water

April 2022

At the end of my recent column, Comp Beginnings, I dipped my toes in the water off the dock at camp and drifted into a blissful state of mind, a quiet moment absent of the stress of everyday life as I know it. My old friend and dutiful reader, Jay, a retired surgeon living in New York City, commented after reading the column, “Why do you find happiness in the wilderness of Maine?’ What motivated me to spend clips of time over the summer months at Camp Kabrook, going back and forth between there and New York, to a place that was remote and often complicated and time consuming to get to? Why was it worth it? I must look back for the answer, back over my 82 plus years, to a starting point in time in the early 1950’s, when I begged my parents to sign me up for two weeks of sleepaway camp at Camp Seneca on Seneca Lake, a day’s bus ride from my hometown of Rochester. It was there in nature, in the beauty and the challenges I faced in the woods and the waters of upstate New York that I saw clearly what life could and would be-to come of age and to be “my own” person. I was no longer Marty’s kid brother but an individual– albeit still a youngster and a pimpled immature kid, but it was the start of something. Being on my own in the woods in a tent with new friends and young girls not far off was thrilling. The water activities at Seneca Lake drove me to push my physical effort to new limits. I felt a new excitement for adventure. The most exciting adventure was a trip to Seneca Falls a war canoe-a vessel big enough to hold 12 kids and supplies- several miles away and it was the ultimate physical challenge. To qualify for the trip, I had to swim out to a dock anchored in the middle of the lake. The level of endurance required was beyond anything I had felt before. In terms of physical activity, my only basis of comparison was summer softball at the Kodak Park Athletic League. Only a handful of us campers were able to qualify, and I was elated that I was among the chosen. This experience instilled in me a deep sense of confidence and accomplishment, both inextricably linked with the outdoors. Thus began my lifelong Jove of the water and wilderness.

Later in life, after college, everyone moved into apartments in the city. I never felt completely settled, a sense of wanderlust always churning to live beyond the concrete and glass. t needed grass and sunshine upon waking. My motivation to move to East Hampton with my young family, although driven by my wish to control my own destiny, was also in large part to experience the ocean and open spaces of East Hampton.

In later years, my passion for fly fishing was, now in hindsight, more about the journey and not the destination. It was less about catching fish and more about getting back to the wild. My camp was not a destination initially. I stumbled upon it, on the way to a fishing trip in Canada with friends Lori and Ted, who happened to have a family camp on East Grand Lake, where we stopped en route. It was that sea plane ride, landing at the dock of the camp next door to theirs, with a turned over For Sale sign, that hooked me on the idea of my own wilderness camp in Maine. I had read a lot about fishing camps and have a slew of design books on camp design and architecture. In fact, I once had an architect design a camp for a waterfront site on the West Branch of the Delaware that I wanted to buy but never did. Later, after visiting Blueberry Farm outside of Knoxville, Tennessee, I had an architect draw plans to replicate a fishing camp for my property in the Hamptons. Neither of these camps were ever built-my destiny it seems, was Maine. I suppose it has always been my desire to recapture some of the magic of Camp Seneca. I only needed the right place, and l found it on East Grand Lake.

Camp is more than a place to fish the morning lonely. I share the love of the water with my family- my girls and my grandchildren, my Patti, friends Lore and Ted and numerous others who drive the distance to walk down to the dock and dip their bare feet into the quiet waters of East Grand lake and dream like I do.

Fishing Deadwater

August 2021

I stole a few days away from our rental in Kennebunk last week to do some brook trout fishing up at my camp. The weather in Maine had been overcast with some heavy showers, but the forecast was for a few sunny days from Wednesday after 10am. Can you believe it but somehow, they got it right? The drive north from Kennebunk is a straight four-hour trip on I 95. Traffic was light except for the long haulers going back and forth to Canada, which is still open to commercial traffic, and a few campers with bikes on racks and canoes on the roofs. Mostly young people from my vantage point. A brief stop for a lobster role at Gardeners in Old Town and then back on the road to camp. I was eager to see the progress on a new studio under construction which will house my office, painting studio and fly-tying set up –and of course my books. I plan on sending up some 1000 books I have accumulated that are now double shelved in my library at home in East Hampton. Finally –a place to store all my books so my kids can have a grand camp file when I am gone. Greg the caretaker was excited about me coming up since he had cut a trail off River Road. He dragged my aluminum Grumman canoe down to the beaver dam at the head of a quiet dead water spot known only to him. I got to camp in time for dinner and Katie was ready for us to sit down and share a meal together and to catch up. The conversation was about fishing, fishing, and a bit more about fishing. Greg lives for the sport and with his breadth of knowledge of the land and area waters he is a fantastic guide. He gets paid to do what most people who love the outdoors pay others to do. Greg’s daughter Darcy and her new boyfriend also joined us for dinner. Her boyfriend is a local young man who works at the mill making wood products. He is also as expected an avid fisherman. After dinner we went through all and I mean all my fly boxes and settled on an assortment of nymphs to use the next day. OMG as the kids say—I didn’t realize how many flies I have accumulated over the last 35 years. After much examining and consideration, we set aside a dozen flies Greg maintained would catch brook trout. Well we hoped so anyway.

The next morning Greg was ready after picking up some logs for the studio in progress. He left his camp at 4 am with his construction partner, Jimmy, to go to the mill for a special trimmed half log to be used for the exterior of the studio which will match the existing camp building. By 11am he was ready to move out and find those trout with the handpicked flies in his back pocket– beneath his can of beer. I turned off my cell and left the message for my office that I had “gone fishin’.”

The excursion began with the ride along River Road west into the wilderness. The trails into the woods are overgrown this time of year unless the timber companies visit to capture some fresh cutting. The truck pushed aside the overgrowth as we went through, and I kept my arm inside to avoid getting slapped and scratched by twigs and branches in our path. The black flies were non-existent compared to last month, thankfully. After a few wrong turns Greg found his plastic tag flying in the wind as his trail marker to the hidden fishing spot. I was suited up in my waders, Greg was dressed as usual-old sneakers and dungarees. He never wears waders or boots—they are not his style.

Greg had spent a week last month cutting the trail into the woods. It wasn’t exactly the Appalachian Trail all neat and level, but I was able to keep up and never lose sight of him. We arrived at the water fairly quickly and there was my canoe turned over with a few leaves stuck to its side. My gosh Greg and his son had dragged it from the path down to the water. What great pals they are! We were onto the water in a matter of minutes. I sat up front in the bow, a bit cramped in my waders and boots which were unnecessary, since I didn’t have to step into more than a foot of water. Next time I will dress appropriately like Greg.

I have been told that fishing the shore is best since trout want the cover from predators beneath the overhanging shore growth. I was casting with my 5 wt and had the nymph on from last night’s prep session. There are several springs that feed into this dead water. It is called dead water because the beavers dam it up at one end. Our plan was to fish from the trickle spring all the way to the beaver dam. I cast into the small channel of the spring with a few short attempts to warm up my casting arm. I tend to be unfocused during the initial casting and never anticipate that the first time the fly hits the water the fish will take if they are eating. Well yup-a fish hit my fly immediately and yes, I was unprepared. Whack! I felt the tug and lifted my rod to set the hook, but the trout broke off the fly and yes this was the fly tied by Greg last night. What a jerk I am. If I’ve heard it once I’ve heard it a dozen times–a life lesson: know your trout. It will take a first time cast every time if they are eating. Greg was all over me but in a nice way—the usual common-sense stuff. He got over it and I did too.

We continued to fish, and the rest of the day was quiet except for Greg who fished with bait and caught several large trout. I refused to use live bait and suffered a lunch-only day. After lunch I waded upstream and cast repeatedly without success. Speaking of lunch, we found a wonderful spot under a tree on the brook. We sat in the canoe and dined in luxury. It was worth the outing just to have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in that quiet pristine spot under a lumbering old apple tree.