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Q&A | Susan Daignault

Updated: Dec 19, 2023


A Massachusetts native, Susan "Sue" Daignault spent her childhood summers surfcasting for striped bass with her parents and three siblings along the beaches of Rhode Island and Cape Cod. For thirty years she served in the U.S. Coast Guard, including postings from Alaska to Louisiana. She moved to Maine in 1989, travels to the tropics each winter to pursue bonefish, tarpon and permit whenever possible. Now a Registered Maine Guide and Certified Casting Instructor from Fly Fishers International, she resides in Harpswell, Maine with her spouse, Karen.



We've asked Sue some questions about her love of fishing, what goes into the best fishing story, and what she hopes readers take from her book. Below are her answers.


 

You have caught many different species of fish over the years, do you have a favorite? A least favorite?


The striped bass (striper) is clearly my favorite fish, having grown up on them, but so many species are such fun to pursue and catch! Stripers are just voracious feeders, hit and fight hard, and their beauty when fresh out of the water is stunning. Brook trout, with their fall spawning colors, are awesome too. I’d be crazy to leave out the rainbow trout or amazing kingfish of New Zealand and my most recent experience of landing golden dorado in Argentina, wow, such beauties. My least favorite is the infamous permit because I’ve only had my heart broken with those so far!


What advice would you give to someone who is interested in learning how to fish?


Fishing is a recreational thing for many, but can be a job for some. It has been both for me as a guide and instructor of fly fishing, but it should be fun regardless of the motivation. When teaching others, safety always comes first, followed quickly by fun. People think fly fishing is difficult but it doesn’t have to be, so I keep it simple with beginners, trying to pace advancement of new skills with the student’s ability. Some can be overwhelmed with the many details it affords but much of the skill comes with time and experience with a rod in hand out there on the water. If one really wants to get into fly fishing, my best advice is to take a hands-on class like the ones L.L. Bean offers, or hire a private certified instructor. Learning by watching videos or searching the internet is not as effective. Finally, be patient with yourself. 


Alongside telling many fishing stories, you’ve probably heard many in your life. What makes the best fishing story? How do you tell the perfect fishing story?


Ahhh, the best story is true, of course, not too overly embellished, funny, emotional and not too long. If you go to a party and bore non-anglers with lengthy dissertations, you’ll lose them and some have no idea why obsessed anglers are so into it. But include the scenery details, quirks of an area, other things happening, then others may be more into it like "an eagle flew right by my area” or “the locals were so kind and endearing and the food was exceptional."


Having pictures really supports a story. I learned this from my father who is a professional outdoor writer and photographer. A pic of a wet fish, in or above the water, ready for a safe release is the best!


I’m an emotional person so I have to include what I felt in a story, even if it was heartbreak. Hey, this isn’t life or death stuff, but when you’re pursuing the fish of your dreams and it throws the hook at your feet, that hurts!


What life lessons has your love of fishing taught you?


A lot has been said and written to eloquently describe the more romantic or emotional benefits of fishing. It’s not just recreation for me. It can be just fun and something to do. But, a day on the water (salt or fresh), casting a fly rod, hiking a river, or whatever, is just so freeing and relaxing. I seem to let go of troubles and worries. I stop going over past events and concerns for the future, and steady myself in the moment. I emerge refreshed, new, whole again. It teaches me patience, attention to detail, flexibility with each outing offering a different set of conditions, and mostly it teaches me hope. 


If you can possibly imagine it: if you didn’t fish, what would your backup hobby or sport be?


I can’t imagine that at all! If I couldn’t fish, I’d want to teach others how to. But I do many other things and enjoy them. They just don’t give me the meditative and contemplative benefits that fishing does. I used to be a distance runner and that became a daily obsession. I think the endorphin load with it was numbing and refreshing. But I had injuries, got my hips replaced and it just isn’t wise anymore to run a lot. Swimming is a favorite for me and nice, long walks. I know one day I’ll be too old to fish but I hope I can find a way to get out for a very long time.


What do you hope people take away from your book?


I never planned on writing a book. Then I had all these fun stories in my head from experiences all over the world, and they came spilling out while bored and out of work during the COVID-19 pandemic. I was fishing a lot and stories kept dropping. I wanted to share them for fun, to bring joy, or entertain others. I don’t necessarily want to teach in this book but if the reader learns something, I think that’s great. I don’t want to come across as egotistical because I have failed on many fronts and have so much yet to learn. The bottom line is that life’s short and whatever you want to pursue, you should do it as you can, especially if it brings you joy. 


 

Susan “Sue” Daignault was practically born with a rod and reel in her hand. Nearly from her birth, she and her family spent entire summers surfcasting for striped bass along the coasts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. That love has followed her through her days in the Coast Guard and to her home on the coast of Maine and to some of the most beautiful, and fishy, places in the world. In her fun and fascinating new book, A Full Net, Sue shares with readers how she became “fish-brained,” and a woman increasingly driven to pursue everything from bonefish and tarpon to bass and, of course, stripers—wherever and whenever she could. What shines through all of her stories of success, failure, and friendship is a love for the waters of the world and the respect and admiration for the fish who call them home.


 


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