Dolan, Charles

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                               CHARLES DOLAN
                             By Doug Underhill


BLACKVILLE – So you want a story about the big one that got away. Just ask long time guide Charlie Dolan, 78, of Blackville.

“Did I ever tell you about the biggest fish I ever caught?” he asked in an interview. “Yes, I caught it in the early afternoon in Blissfield. By suppertime, he had taken me to the bridge in Upper Blackville. He put up a pretty good fight all evening, so I had to play him all night. And by next morning he was clear down to the Blackville Bridge, and it was close to dinner time before I landed him at White Rapids. And do you know what happened when I finally got him ashore? He was so big, the water dropped three feet.” Then Dolan began to laugh.

Guiding has provided Dolan with years of such joy. He worked at it for as long as he could. Now his legs won’t permit him to be out and about the way he used to be. The job had its demands, he said.

A good guide is expected by the sport, the person who has hired him, to be knowledgeable in all aspects of fishing and hunting. And he’s expected to be able to put the sport into a perfect situation where he or she was able to “bring home the big one”. This was Dolan’s job.

But there is also that special quality in all good guides which makes just being with them a time to remember. Besides possessing a true love of the woods and river, a guide had to provide a special companionship for the sport. He has to be able to make every trip memorable by being a good story teller and entertainer. That has been Dolan’s gift.

And he still has that knack of spinning a good yarn as he looks back over the years. “You know, some people didn’t like me around the river, because they’d have to wait in line to get into the pool. I’d cast my line out at nine o’clock at Doctor’s Island in Blackville and it would be noon before it swung around at the rapids,” he said with an elfin grin.

                         Began in 1930s

Dolan began guiding in the early 1930s when he was 16 or 17. The work took him south of the border for 22 years. He and his wife, Christine worked as caretakers for a private fishing club in Uxbridge, Massachusetts. “I was very lucky to have been able to have met people like Kingsley Brown from Connecticut. He was a person whom I guided for years. He was a member of a fishing club in Massachusetts called Laurel Brook Club.

“They needed a new manager, and he approached me,” said Dolan. “It is located about 45 miles from Boston, and not too far from Worcester. It has seven small lakes or ponds that they used to stock with trout from Rhode Island. The club had about 36 members and we were really lucky to have had the opportunity to work for them,” said Dolan. “We went there in 1956, and stayed for 22 years until we came back to Blackville.

“Doctor Hight from the club still comes up to Blackville to fish and usually will drop in for a visit.”

As is the case with all guides, early in life Dolan developed a love for the outdoors. “I started fishing when I was very young. My sister, Jessie had won a fly rod at a Renous picnic, and gave it to me. From that day on I was hooked. I have been a fly fisherman ever since,” said Dolan.

The stories flow freely as he talks.

“Do you know what country donuts were first made in,” he asks. “In Greece,” he said with a grin.

Over the years he has attended many salmon conventions both locally and as far away as Boston.

He has always been an ardent lover of the river and its way of life. “I have really enjoyed the river and the people I have met by it and on it. I like to tell a good story and to talk with the sports. If I was younger, I’d like to do it all over again” said Dolan.

“Hey, did I ever tell you about the couple that were going to get married…”

Life Provides Collection of Many Fond Memories

He has plenty of fond memories from his life as a guide, says Charlie Dolan.

“I certainly have had my share of luck in terms of grilse and salmon, but maybe it was easier back then as there were a lot more fish then,” he said.

Although he was not exactly sure of the year, Dolan remembers one fish in particular. It was a 42 pound July salmon caught in Washburn’s Pool below the Cains River on the Main South West Miramichi.

Dolan has also had success hunting. “My brothers and I did a lot of hunting. We got our share of deer, and even a moose or two. We never did see a caribou, but we did see the tracks of one,” he said.

Mounted on his kitchen wall is a 10 point rack which sports an old felt hat. In his shed there is another one which is equally as impressive. He and his brothers also trapped rabbit, mink and weasel.

Over the years, Dolan has met many sports who came for black and summer salmon. Many also came up in the fall to both hunt and fish. They would use trained dogs to hunt partridge.

“I have met a lot of good hearted people who have been very good to me over the years, and I’ll never forget them and the times we spent together” said Dolan.

When asked him if he’d ever run the river, he replied, “You know, a woman asked me that too, and I told her that I tried, but everything I did, I’d sink.”

But he has canoed almost all of the rivers in the Miramichi area including the Main South West, the Renous, the Cains, the North West Miramichi, the Little South West. His favourite was the Main South West. “I guess it is because I grew up on the Main South West Miramichi and perhaps knew it better. I have fished most of its waters, but growing up in Blackville, I especially liked to fish Doctor’s Island Pool,” he said. “I was lucky to be around the river. There were a lot of little things I picked up from older fellows.

“One day a fellow raised a fish, but it wouldn’t come back for him. I told him to move down river three feet and cast. He did and caught him,” said Dolan. “He thought it was a pretty good trick, but when a fish raises, the current will drop him back about three feet as the water takes him down,” he said.

“I certainly was no expert, but guiding was certainly a nice job to have. And over the years, I have been fortunate to have met and dealt with a lot of nice people.”

When Dolan started guiding he said he was paid about $2 a day, “but they get a lot more today.”

Besides knowing the river, how to fish, and what fly to use, Dolan tied his own flies and provided his sports with them.

Guide Made Writer Feel Special

Charlie Dolan had all the attributes of a good guide. But he also had that special quality that made him a fun person to be around. I know.

Although I have never had the opportunity to actually hunt or fish with him, I know him as my uncle, and how he made me feel. I can remember being a kid with a Daisy B-B gun going out to hunt squirrels so he could use their tails to tie flies. Although I was certainly not very successful in my pursuits, I can still remember him giving me a quarter for the odd one I got. He probably had more than he could possibly use in a life time, but I remember the special feeling he gave me by making me feel that what I was doing for him was important. He made me feel special, and I am sure I speak for the many who have spent time with him in the woods and on the rivers.

And he always had a little story to go with it, and still has that special quality that makes him fun to be around.


Source: Miramichi Leader Weekend – January 14, 1994

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