A fly on the wall
Last year I wrote about titans of conservation converging nearby on the Elk River. While researching for the story, I found myself wondering what it would have been like to be there with them; the fly angling experience, the comradery, and the conversations.
Recently, the same three, Frank & Jeanne Moore and Yvon Chouinard, gathered again, only this time here on the world famous North Umpqua River. As luck would have it, I was allowed to bear witness to it. To a fan of conservation, like me, an opportunity to spend time with these legends is akin to a sports fan getting to hang out with Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan, and Serena Williams.
At a young age, I was introduced to the art of fly tying and angling and was prodded on by two uncles who supplied me with fly tying materials and fly fishing magazines in return for flies. When I wasn’t busy tying, I was reading about fishing adventures, often on the Umpqua, and dreaming of someday experiencing the thrill of our natural world for myself. This was also my introduction to the legendary fly angling status of Frank Moore of the Steamboat Inn.
It was Frank’s love and intimate knowledge of the river that led him down the path of conservation. While fly fishing, he witnessed the damage that clear-cut logging was having on the ecology of the river and set about to halt its destructive nature. He and others in the Steamboat area surveyed the nearby streams, recorded data, and made a short documentary filmed entitled PASS CREEK. The film and the data were shown to legislators and from the efforts were born the Federal and State stream protecting buffer laws that we have today. Frank also went on to work for many years on the Oregon Fish Commission where he fought for common-sense fish management.
Meanwhile, Jeanne was busy with her own conservation project, as she and three friends worked tirelessly to preserve the area known as Limpy Rock. At the time, timber harvest was at its peak on Federal lands, and even beautiful areas like Limpy Rock were on the chopping block. Jeanne and friends, who would later be dubbed “The Four Ladies in Tennis Shoes” by the Forest Service, spent several years surveying the land and documenting their findings, which included rare and even endemic plant and animal species. Their findings led to the USFS declaring the area a Natural Research Area, which has preserved it to this day.
At the Moore’s request, Yvon was the guest speaker at the Steamboaters banquet, and stayed for several days to fish the Umpqua. Yvon, Founder of the outdoor clothing company Patagonia, helped create the “1% for the planet” movement, encouraging participating businesses to contribute at least 1% of their earnings to conservation. Patagonia itself has given more than 75 million dollars to efforts worldwide.
The Steamboaters Banquet proved to be the toughest ticket in town. Beg as I may, I wasn’t getting in. I even joked to a member that I was going to sneak in as a waiter. So imagine my elation when a friend announced he could not go and offered me his coveted ticket!
At the banquet, I was introduced to Yvon by Steamboaters President, Tim Goforth. The conversation was engaging, as Yvon and I share the passions of fishing, conservation, and metalwork. Yvon was soon torn away by more introductions, but luckily, Frank soon pulled me over to meet Yvon, so we were able to resume our conversation.
In the days following the Banquet, I was tormented by the fact that I didn’t have enough time to talk to Yvon more about the great work being done at Umpqua Watersheds, including our Crater Lake Wilderness Proposal, which is supported by Patagonia’s Grassroots Grants Program. I was also seeking auction items for our banquet at that time and knew that items signed by the Big Three would fetch a high premium. So, as the Outreach Coordinator, I surmised that it was my sworn duty to outreach and seized the opportunity to visit Yvon at the Moore’s’ home.
It wasn’t until I knocked on the door that I thought I’d made a mistake. Who was I to show up uninvited, unannounced? And at dinner time no less. I felt ill as the door opened and I peered in, only to see a large kitchen table full of distinguished guests staring back at me from their meals. My instinct to flee the scene was quickly overcome by Jeanne and Frank’s welcoming spirit, and I soon found myself amongst the invited.
In my other occupation as a custom architectural metalsmith, I’ve had the pleasure to be invited into some of the finest homes in the country. To me, the quaint forested log home of Frank & Jeanne Moore ranks among my favorites. While many of the other homes reek of opulence and overindulgence, the Moore’s home is warm and inviting, much like its hosts. It’s not merely a house, but a home.
Inside, one is harkened back to a simpler time, deplete of many modern distractions, but full of charm and character. Distractions come in the form of memorabilia, collected from a lifetime of adventure. Fly rods, the tools of Frank’s trade, hang from the wooden ceiling, and the walls are adorned with photos, awards, and fishing gear. Colorful collections of artificial flies, many from other countries, are on full display, reminiscent of a Mardi Gras parade.
Conversation was enchanting, as many stories and topics were discussed, ranging from Angling to Zero carbon emissions. Fishing tales from around the globe were told, as well as stories of declining fish populations. Conservation and restoration efforts were discussed at length, and I even found myself joining the conversation to tell Yvon of the Youth Federal Climate Case involving two of our own, which brought a broad smile to his face.
At the end of the evening, after everyone else had left, the Big Three honored my request for autographs, signing auction items late into the evening. As I parted, I thanked the Moore’s for their hospitality and Yvon for his continued support. Yvon responded by acknowledging the good work being done by Umpqua Watersheds.
For me, the experience is one I’ll forever cherish. For once I wasn’t just drawing from the imagery of someone else’s story of an important event, as, much like one of Frank’s tools of the trade, I got to be a “fly on the wall” in the company of greatness.