Sutters Camp

March 2021

Sutters Club in Doaktown, New Brunswick, Canada, began as a private fishing camp in 1994, open on a limited basis to friends and family members. In August of 2000, I was invited to the camp by Joe, an old friend and club member at the time, for a salmon fishing expedition on the Miramachi River. Joe flew seven of us up on a private plane, which was a thrill. My attitude on the flight was to keep my mouth shut and keep a low profile. The others on the trip were all young Wall Street types and Joe was their boss. I sat in the back of the jet and read while the rest of the group kept up an animated work- related discussion for the duration of the flight. After a few hours travel time, we arrived at Sutters camp, located on 50 pristine acres of Canadian wilderness.

The lodge was understated, with small but comfortable bedrooms. There was a master bedroom for Joe, our host, who came to breakfast the next morning in his pajamas. We all followed suit for the rest of the trip, so each morning we met in our pjs for an all-you-can-eat feast. It was such a casual and cool atmosphere, I will never forget it. Breakfast was the traditional fishing camp menu: eggs, bacon, sausage, bread baked that morning, fried tomatoes and urns of freshly brewed coffee. I took a few Pepcids afterward, then we all went off into canoes to fish the pools assigned to us—two guests to a canoe with a guide. My companion was a Harvard Business School grad who was just starting out in the finance world. He seemed nervous about saying or doing anything that would burn him with the boss. I was just there to fish and enjoy myself. We were casting from a 20-foot wide-bodied wooden canoe, typical of Canadian waters. I had my 8-weight rod and the guide provided the flies. Of course, after a while with no activity the guide started with the usual excuses: “the water is too low” “the water is too high” “you should have been here last week” “we should have fished in another pool” “the sun is too bright” and on and on. The usual excuses until someone strikes. I could tell my fishing companion was feeling competitive with his colleagues. I did not care about keeping score. Sure, I would have liked to bring a salmon to the net but it wasn’t the end of the world for me. The Pepcid was doing its job and I loved just being out on the water. I understood the competitiveness amongst the others, in a way a reflection of a desire to prove their worth. This excursion was another aptitude test, like the one they took to get into business school. I felt a bit sorry for them. Here we were fishing the beautiful Miramachi River—one of the best salmon rivers in North America—the sun was shining, the weather was warm, and it all seemed idyllic, but they were self-conscious and couldn’t really relax, even when they were in their breakfast pajamas. I had not felt that level of competitiveness since 1972, when I left a big New York City law firm for the country, to control my own destiny. I had no one else to account to, only myself and my willingness to succeed. For those young guys catching a fish was like grabbing the golden ring on a merry-go-round. I was probably the only other guest with fishing experience aside from the host and as it turned out I was the only one to hook a nice salmon. The guide was thrilled that our pool had produced a fish on his beat.

At the end of the day my canoe mate tried to conceal his disappointment. He had watched me struggle to finesse the salmon to the net and offered his congratulations. Of course, I felt good but downplayed my satisfaction. Upon landing at the dock, when asked how it went, I deflected any attention with a quiet “Okay” and left my canoe mate to tell the story. Fishing is about more than the catching. It is about the camaraderie and being in nature. You need to maintain your humility for those times when everyone around you catches and you get skunked.


March 2021

It is that time of year when I start thinking about getting back to camp in Maine. The landlocked salmon season opens in May and I want to be there when the ice melts. I have written extensively about my experiences at camp in my column here but thought I would share a few more details about myself and about Danforth. My camp is about 80 miles north of Bangor, on the northeast coast of Maine along the border with New Brunswick, Canada. My cabin sits on the shore of East Grand Lake, a majestic body of water formed many years ago by a series of dams, as a route for the logging industry. Small-mouthed bass, land-locked salmon, and lake trout are common and draw fishermen from far and wide- mainly from Boston and from throughout Maine. Sharing a boundary with Canada is beneficial since the Canadian side is all wilderness preserve. Most of the time I fish in Canadian waters. There is a heavy presence of Homeland Security here since there are several border crossings up and down the coast. The lake is closed in the evenings to boat traffic and drug running has all but ceased since the drones started flying. My camp road is at the terminus of US Route 1 which runs from Maine to Key West, Florida. Every time I drive south onto Route 1 I feel I am back on the road to civilization so to speak. Danforth is downsized from what it was when the logging industry was dominant. The center of town is comprised of little more than a gas station, a general store and a coffee shop, all of which exist in one non-descript building. The clientele is mostly truck drivers hauling wood, who have stopped on the way to the few remaining plants that process pulp for transport to China. The houses that remain standing in Danforth are grand old mansions of another era when logging was king. Most are diminished by years of neglect and the long, hard Maine winters. The local school has only a few children. There is plenty of history here but few to share it. The economy is pretty much supported by the remaining paper industry and tourists like me. My main attraction in town in Dave’s Hardware. Dave has everything from antiques to screen doors. But Dave, like everyone else in Danforth, is ready to leave. The sign in his front window says, “For Sale- Hardware Business Including Inventory – Make Offer.” There is no police presence and the EMT is voluntary as is the Fire Department. The retail has been devastated. First, by the decline of logging, secondly by the arrival of a Walmart 45 minutes to the south in Lincoln and another one 45 minutes to the north in Houlton—Danforth is caught in the middle like a kid being taunted by two bullies– and the final blow was of course the Covid scourge. Unless you arrive on the lake by seaplane and a few people do, the highway goes through Lincoln, home to a mall with a McDonalds, a Hortons, and the Walmart. I drive the 45 minutes to Lincoln every Sunday for the New York Times. Recently I was offered internet service at my camp. This was a major advance, especially for me. I still practice law and the internet has enabled me to work remotely from camp when I wish. I will not connect to a TV. I am holding out. I have a wonderful library of my outdoor books as well as an accumulation of my fishing stories from all over the world, documented in photo books.

I found Danforth by accident. Several years ago, I was fishing in Canada for salmon and took a sea plane rather than drive. We landed on East Grand Lake to pick up some friends with a cabin there, and I saw a For Sale sign. When I could not connect to cell service, I knew this was the area I wanted as my wilderness escape, finally. I have been fortunate to take fishing trips to Patagonia, Wales, Labrador, Chile, Slovenia, and out west to California. I will always cherish those trips, especially the one to the Sierras, which brought me to Downieville. But Danforth, imperfect though it may be, is my getaway. I cannot wait to trade the Florida sunshine for the cool, brisk Maine spring.