I love being the wife of The Writer.
He was on assignment a few weeks ago to cover fly fishing in Southern Oregon and I got to tag along. Sweet! Now, not being the out-doorsy type I wasn’t sure how I was going to like this but neither of us had ever seen that part of the country so we were excited and ready for an adventure.
Up at 3am (yep, that was the bad part) we headed off to Montgomery Regional for a 5:30 flight to Atlanta, then to Salt Lake City and finally to Medford, Oregon. From there we rented a little red Ford Focus and started the 45 minute drive to Morrison’s Lodge on the Rogue River in Merlin, Oregon. Woo hoo! This is happening.
Our first stop was for lunch at the Taprock in Grant’s Pass.
We were sure we had made a really wrong turn when they seated us at a table out on the balcony overlooking the river and we saw what appeared to be an exact replica of the river bridge in downtown Wetumpka, Alabama. Crazy.
Nourished and grateful for the leg stretch we set the Garmin for Merlin and it was Oregon or bust!
Winding through mountains and over streams that looked a bit like North Carolina but not as smoky we crossed the arched yellow trestle bridge that meant we were within sight of our destination.
Morrison’s Lodge is run by a precious family headed by Dad Lowell Pratt. The whole family is involved and they make you feel like family.
Famous for two things: orange rolls
they set out to make us fall in love with both. They succeeded.
One of Jeff’s “excellent artists” is a winsome guy named James Sampsel who also happens to be a professional fly fishing and rafting guide on the Rogue. James is now an official member of our family. He has a God given gift of hospitality and loves to serve. We met, officially, when he came bounding across the grass as Jeff and I sat in white Adirondack chairs taking in the lake view behind the lodge.
Wrapping us in hug that felt like we were still in the South he welcomed us to his world and began to explain what was in store for the next few days.
Rising at 6 we dressed in multiple layers, grabbed the camera and a cup of piping coffee and headed for the truck.
There we met James
and our photographer, Lenore, who would be trailing us in an inflatable kayak to capture the story for us.
I could get used to this.
As the rising sun danced on the water we shoved off in James’ float boat
that he has embellished with painted images of a “fly” and a jumping fish
and entered the chilly waters of The Rogue for the first time.
For the first several hours we learned the “twitch” method of fly fishing where you cast once and then just twitch the fly by doing a small wrist flick ever few seconds while the poor guide oars for hours guiding the boat back and forth across the water tempting the ever elusive steelhead to take the bait. They say that a really good fisherman will land a steelhead every 8 hours…hmmm
I seemed to be an expert at catching seaweed as for every few minutes I was having to reel in or forward cast to try to “lose the salad” as James would say. I spent the majority of my morning doing that but Jeff was getting “taps” on his line often.
Finally, “I’ve got one!” he shouted. “Stay calm, don’t move the line yet.
Now, gently lift the line and set the hook. Good. Now slowly reel in the line keeping the tension on it.” All the while James was rowing toward shore so he could assist in landing the fish.
– a cute little “half pounder”- and hand him off to Jeff for a photo op. SUCCESS!
By now we had worked up an appetite so we beached the boat and James pulled out a quite delicious lunch spread that the inn prepared for us. He even had a little pop-up table AND a table cloth, thank you very much.
He was distressed that he could not do a pretty presentation as he would on his overnight trips but all he had to work with was Tupperware and plastic.
While we finished our brownies, James began the demonstration of how to spey cast which is a one rod, two hand method of fly fishing that you use while wading.
YES! Now was my Ralph Lauren moment when I got to don the gear and step into that rushing river for the first time and show my stuff.
Honestly, I can’t believe it myself but this was more fun than a barrel of monkeys.
But I still had not landed a Steelhead.
Up again at 6 for day 2 on the beautiful Rogue I was determined. James told me that you had to have confidence to catch these sly little fish so I made some changes. I chose a different fly- one that looked like a cross between a bumble bee and a skunk with 3 bling-blings on its back. That outta do it. Then I made Jeff change sides of the boat with me and we were off.
Immediately the changes began to show results. Poor Jeff started to catch “salad” right off the bat. LOL. Hour 1 passed… no fish. Hour 2… nothing. I told Jeff he was going to have to pull out his guitar or SOMETHING to make these fisheys happy.
There is a Hebrew blessing that I just love and am often asked to sing so he said that I should sing it to the fish. Ahh… Ok, but heck, I am out of my box –right? I am game. I began to sing.
“Baruch hashem, Adonai. Baruch hashem, Adonaaaaiii. SHAZAM!!! I felt a hit.
“James! I’ve got one!!!”
“Girl! He likes your singin. Reel him in… real slow.”
“ Did you see him jump?!?”
“ Nice and steady. I’m getting out of the boat.”
And then, before you could bat an eye I had ‘im in my hands. A cute little half-pounder. Who knew Steelheads liked Jewish prayer songs?
If you EVER get a chance to go to Southern Oregon, GO and stay at Morrison’s Rogue River Lodge. Tell Lowell we sent you then request James for a day of fun on the river.
To read a different perspective on the trip be sure to check out Jeff’s article in Boom Magazine on the stands now.
And…if you would like to say, “That was fun!” at the end of your project contact me at