Your name or any nicknames you have?
Mia Sheppard , sometimes friends call me Mama Mia
Where are you at in the world? Where will you be fishing this year? In the near future?
I live in Maupin, Oregon on the Deschutes River with my husband Marty, daughter Tegan, two pointing dogs and 4 chickens. The last 5 years I’ve worked for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, a sportsmen’s group that focuses on implementing federal policy to benefit fish and wildlife, conservation and public access for hunters and anglers. When I’m not working for TRCP, my time is split, being a mother, guiding, and tromping around the desert, enjoying the local rivers, fishing for steelhead and chasing upland birds. The next few months is our summer steelhead season on the John Day River, this is where I’ll be till the river freezes. The winter months are spent fishing the Sandy River for winter steelhead. One trip I’m planning for in 2017 is going to Thailand with Fly Fishing Collaborative to help build a tilapia farm and fish the jungles.
We guide on the Deschutes River for trout and steelhead, John Day River for steelhead and small mouth bass, Sandy River for winter steelhead. Some of my favorite steelhead rivers to fish are, the Umpqua, Skagit, and Clearwater. Though I don’t make it to these places as much as I would like, they hold a special place in my heart.
How long have you been guiding/fly fishing?
I’ve been fishing since I was a little girl and started fly-fishing in 1996. My first rod was purchased at a garage sell for 30 bucks. It was a Shakespeare with a pflueger medalist reel, I still have the reel. I started guiding in 2003 when Marty Sheppard (my husband) and I purchase Little Creek Outfitters. Guiding was never in my cards but when I started running gear boat on multi day trips and rowing anglers on small mouth bass trips, I loved it. A few years later, I gained the confidence to guide steelhead fishing. Purchasing LCO was a business opportunity that we were planning to sell in 10 years. Well, that never happened.
What got you into fly fishing? When did you start?
It was roughly June 1996 on the Deschutes River. The salmon fly hatch was thick, thousands of Salmon Flies crawled the banks and hung from willows, and the bugs would drop in the water and disappear. Marty, handed me a rod and said, “follow what I do.” We rigged rods together and then he showed me how to tie on a fly. He quickly gave me a 10 minute casting lesson and we headed for the river. He advised me not to cast far; the trout would take a fly at the bank. As I watched the fly drift down river, there was a rupture at the surface, water splashed and my reel started spinning. I managed to land the fat trout that day. The take hooked me and now it’s the preservation of the beautiful places I fish and spending time on the water with family that keeps me loving this sport.
Guiding wasn’t in my cards but it happened when we bought LCO. I didn’t start taking it serious until our daughter Tegan was born in 2007. I didn’t want her to spend the first few years raised in a day care. I believed I could spend time on the water and take Tegan on fishing trips too. She’s become a real river rat and loves camping and being outdoors.
Deciding to be an angler is different. I grew up fishing, and have great memories rock hopping and fishing the Smokey Mountains for trout and smelt on the Sandy River in Oregon. Fishing is something we did as a family and still today it’s the glue that keeps us together. I also come from a snowboarding background and fishing was a cross over during the summer months when I wasn’t on the snow.
Has the fact you’re a female ever been an issue with a client or other fishermen (such as them hitting on you or maybe talking down to you)? If so how did you deal with it/them?
I love rivers, mountains, and ocean so it’s only natural to lean towards sports that take me to beautiful places and get me outside. It didn’t dawn on me that I would be entering a male dominated sport when I started fly-fishing. Like snowboarding in the early 90’s it was dominated by guys and now there are just as many women.
As a guide, I’ve had to prove myself and had people question my ability to perform. Guiding multi day trips can be very physically demanding, long hours, heavy lifting, and days without a shower. All you can do is get out there, kick ass, not complain, and learn as much as you can about technique, casting , river etiquette, and history.
There’ve been many occasions when I’ve been on a river fishing and people will look twice or a friend will over hear someone saying “that’s a girl” or “ your pretty good at throwing that line. “ I just laugh and say, “yep, your pretty good at that too.”
I do believe the stereotype is being broken and with more and more women stepping up, getting out on rivers, the gap is narrowing.
When it comes to fishing and rowing, I approach the water the same, and row boats the same way as my husband. A couple differences are: he wants to get up at 4am and I don’t mind getting up at 6am to catch a steelhead. When teaching people to cast a double hand rod, I put an emphasis on the fact that casting a two handed rod is about grace and not strength. In the end, everyone has different styles that lead to different perspectives, whether your a female or male angler.
How can the fly fishing industry and community encourage more females to get involved?
There is an increased interest and enthusiasm from women in fly fishing and no wonder why; this is a sport where size and strength don’t matter. The fly fishing industry can encourage more female participation by engaging and marketing to mothers, kids, and all demographics, also, listen to professional woman in the industry and be inspired and learn from cross over sports, lastly, start projects such as this [blog] that provoke female participation .
My Winston 5 wt Micro Spey, Saracione Mark IV reel and Simms Down Jacket, opps, that’s three things !
Best catch of all time?
My first Dean River Steelhead
What’s your “Dream Trip”?
There’s so many dream trips, I can’t name one.
What are some of the best places you’ve been fishing?
The Smokey Mountains, BC (gotta keep those river names secret J) and the rivers in my back yards .
How do people get ahold of you for guiding and lessons .
Note: All photos are property of Marty Sheppard