The Takedown: A new group is trying to diversify fly fishing in Maine

On a sunny June morning, fishing guide Jared Ouellette got into a whirlpool on the Wild River, reached the bottom under the frigid water, and pulled up a round boulder.

“So there’s a tiny little mayfly nymph on this guy, wriggling in the water over there,” he says.

He reveals one of the many tricks he learned during years of fly fishing, flipping rocks.

“Flipping rocks is a good way to start when you get to a new area of ​​water,” says Ouellette. Trout feed mainly on insects, a lot of which are nymphal stages of mayflies, caddisflies or stoneflies. They kind of hang out and cling to the bottom of the rocks. So, it’s a really good way to find out what kind of insect life there is in the river.

It’s a classic sight on the West Main: an experienced guide shares the secrets and magic of fly fishing.

But this assembly is not typical at all. Participants signed up for a special weekend called the Outcast Campout, which was organized by a new organization, the Confluence Collective. Although Maine is known for its variety of fly fishing opportunities, the anglers themselves are not very diverse. The collective goal is to change that.

Zsakee Lewis says the organization helps diversify the sport of fly fishing — for women, LGBTQ people, and people of color like herself.

“You open a magazine, or you surf the Internet, or you look for equipment, and the person who catches the fly doesn’t look like me, does it?” says Lewis. “So, to the average person, that might give you the impression that this is not something I have available to me, but it is.”

Lewis is from Staten Island, and this is her second group getaway. Many of the participants are new to fly fishing. Others are more experienced. Lorraine Murdock has been fly fishing for years. But she says this weekend looks different.

“Actually, I’ve never fished with anyone but men before, so this is a really cool experience,” says Murdock.

While Lewis and Murdock are fishing for trout in the Wild River, another group of fishermen heads to the Magalloway River in far northwest Maine, where native trout and salmon grow landlocked, eating flies from the water’s surface. Fish are picky eaters, but by lunchtime everyone in the group had caught a fish.

Confluence Collective founder Bree Dosti says that’s what it’s all about – bringing rivers, fish and people together. Dosti says she started fly fishing at the age of 15.

Rebecca Conley

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Maine public

Bev Pigeon displays a landlocked salmon caught on a recent fly fishing trip at Outcast Camp organized by the Confluence Collective.

“I’ve found some of the most beautiful relationships of my life on the water, it’s fueled my creative practice, it’s brought me together with people who will be a part of my life forever, and I’m here in ways I can’t imagine outside of nature,” Dosti says.

She says her goal, when she started the group in 2019, was to share the experience with people who might feel left out.

Outcast Campout isn’t just about fly fishing. There’s also fly tying, good food, and campfires. But in the end, it’s not about those either, says Zesky Lewis.

“Fishing is great. Tying flies is great. But just enjoying the environment is something we have access to as fishermen that no one else does,” Lewis says. that “.

A video for this story was also produced for the Maine Public Borealis series. They can be viewed here.

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