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Hooked on Fishing in National Parks

by Sue Daignault and Alanna Sobel
A kid and a parent smile as they hold up a fish on a line
iStock / SDI Productions

Fishing has a way of bringing people into the present moment.

As Sue Daignault describes it, “maybe it’s the hope of feeling that lively tug when a fish strikes.”

L.L.Bean Fly Fishing Instructor Sue Daignault (L.L.Bean)

To notice that slight, or intense, vibration on the line, we must be paying attention to what’s happening in the here and now.

“It’s as if fly fishing re-wires my brain to see more positively,” says Sue.

If our mind is wrapped up and ruminating on a previous interaction, or what the future might hold, we may just miss that lively tug.

Sue Daignault, a fly fishing instructor with the L.L.Bean Outdoor Discovery Program, has more than 15 years’ experience as a Certified Casting Instructor with Fly Fishers International, and we were fortunate to chat with her about her love of fishing and national parks.

Talking with Sue reminded us that fly fishing and fishing in general is a practice in mindfulness, which has benefits for all of us. And, it’s also great fun to do with family, friends, and alone.

Illustrated booklet cover depicting a park ranger teaching young visitors how to fish, plus the Junior Ranger Angler badge
Junior Ranger Angler booklet (NPS Photo)

Through the National Park Foundation’s partnership with L.L.Bean, we’re helping people discover easy and enjoyable ways to get outside, like fishing, and feel confident while they’re doing it. At Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway in Wisconsin and Petroglyph National Monument in New Mexico, we’ve helped make fun and inclusive fishing lessons for kids and families possible. We also partnered together on the National Park Service’s Junior Angler Ranger booklet, inspiring people of all ages to get out and fish.

The truth is, once people give fishing a try, they’re hooked!

We hope you’ll enjoy this glimpse into our recent conversation with Sue and be inspired to share your own fishing memories and tips in the comments below.

How are national parks and your personal story connected and intertwined?

Jordan Pond area in Acadia National Park (NPS Photo / Victoria Stauffenberg)

I grew up in Massachusetts and spent summers surfcasting for stripers with my family. My parents were schoolteachers and had summers off so we fished day and night for striped bass from Nauset Beach, Chatham, MA, to Provincetown and regularly visited all areas of Cape Cod National Seashore.

I have visited Olympic National Park while living in Seattle, WA, and of course, Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine, is a regular favorite. I have also visited Everglades National Park in Florida to fish and Virgin Islands in St. John. They were all beautiful and I thoroughly enjoyed them as a visitor and angler. I appreciate how the National Park Service preserves their beauty and welcomes visitors from around the globe.

What is one of your favorite fishing memories in a national park?

Blue ocean is visible beyond a wooden fence and green shrubbery
Ocean view from Marconi Site at Cape Cod National Seashore (NPS Photo)

The best was a 40-pound striper I caught in Provincetown, MA, on Race Point Beach at Cape Cod National Seashore. That was a heavy one!

What is it about fishing that you love so much?

Fly fishing is tranquil and brings me serenity. When I’m fly fishing, my thinking stops, or sometimes things work themselves out in my mind. It’s as if fly fishing re-wires my brain to see more positively.

Maybe it’s the hope of feeling that lively tug when a fish strikes and the thrill of the fight, seeing a beautiful fish and releasing it.

I love to share the passion of fishing with friends, loved ones, and students because it really is addictive in a good way and gives us a lifetime activity we can do and enjoy alone or with others.

What advice do you have for someone interested in fishing in parks?

Fishing in Freeport, Maine (L.L.Bean)

I encourage people to explore what fishing programs are offered in parks near where they live. Once they’ve found a program they’re interested in, it’s time to make sure they have the right equipment. L.L.Bean is a great place to get what you need for fishing, whether you’re just beginning or an advanced angler.

For those anywhere in nature, and especially in the parks, treat them with care and love. We need to preserve these pristine places, never pollute, even clean up after others and leave no sign that we were there as best we can. Fisheries are declining in some areas and need to be attended to so those behind us can enjoy them as well.

Learn how the National Park Foundation is helping to protect fisheries in Yellowstone National Park.

Why do you think it is so critical for people to work together to support national parks and ensure everyone feels welcome?

I think the world needs to be a more welcoming place! The parks are special and we were all put here to enjoy things together, with no barriers that exclude anyone.

A visitor shows off a fish she caught, smiling to the camera

Wherever your fishing adventures take you, we hope you’ll share your experiences with us on social media using #FindYourPark and #EncuentraTuParque and in the comments below.

Sue Daignault is a fly fishing instructor for the L.L.Bean Outdoor Discovery Program. She is a graduate of the U. S. Coast Guard Academy and served in the Coast Guard for thirty years, entering the occupational safety profession during that time. Among many qualifications, she is a Certified Casting Instructor with Fly Fishers International and a Registered Maine Guide (Fishing & Recreation). She mostly enjoys fly fishing in the Bahamas during winter breaks for bonefish, tarpon and permit, and in Maine in freshwater for trout and salmon, and in saltwater for striped bass. She is the northeast Fly Gal administrator for the online Facebook group United Women On The Fly (UWOTF), which includes over 6000 members and seeks to include all interested women worldwide in the sport.