Fly-fishing clubs: Help on the water

    JAMIE LUSCH / MAIL TRIBUNE A fly-fisher lands a rainbow in the Holy Water below Lost Creek dam.

    Theresa Schumacher didn’t have much interest in fly-fishing until Brad Pitt won her over.

    “I saw ‘A River Runs Through It,’ and it kind of sparked my interest in fly-fishing,” Schumacher says.

    With prodding from a friend, Schumacher joined the Medford-based Rogue FlyFishers Association and instantly she found a home before she ever cast a single fly.

    “Anything you want to learn, you are going to find someone there who knows it and is willing to help you learn it,” Schumacher says.

    The club traces its roots to the early 1970s, when fly angler Vern Hooker was unhappy with some fishing regulations on the upper Rogue River. He and Bill Leever Sr. discussed the possibility of organizing a club that became the Rogue FlyFishers in February 1971.

    It had 35 charter members, and the first meeting was at the WeAskU Inn along the Rogue River Highway overlooking the Rogue near Grants Pass. Meeting places have bounced around over the years, including a lengthy stint at the now-long-gone Kim’s Restaurant on South Pacific Highway in Medford.

    The organization currently meets the third Wednesday of every month at the Centennial Golf Club with a “wet fly” social hour, dinner, club business and presentations by guests ranging from outdoors authors, guides and conservationists.

    The club keeps close ties to the Rogue Fly Tyers and Middle Rogue Steelheaders, two other Southern Oregon angling and fishing-related groups.

    The club has about 180 members who pay $35 individual or $45 family memberships annually.

    The Rogue FlyFishers is active in conservation and fishery-enhancement work, spearheading independent studies of insect health and water-quality in the upper Rogue — particularly around the city of Medford’s water-treatment plant and how it may impact insect and aquatic weeds.

    The group also is involved in trout-stocking and monitoring at the upper Rogue’s “Holy Water” impoundment immediately below Lost Creek dam, and other fishery-related projects, including monitoring of urban streams for juvenile wild steelhead in and around Medford.

    Some of the club’s expert fly-casters hold weekly free casting clinics on Monday summer evenings at the Hedrick Middle School football field in east Medford.

    The flyfishers also hold regular club outings to fish together in places like the storied North Umpqua River, the coast’s Elk River, half-pounder steelhead fishing on the Rogue near Agness and regular trips to area lakes such as Diamond and Howard Prairie.

    It’s an older-aged group, many of whom attend the monthly meetings for the camaraderie and conservation fellowship.

    “A lot of these people have known each other for a long time,” member Will Johnson says. “The club mentality is from another era, their era. But there’s enough there that it really keeps them together.”

    It’s a chance to remain a dog in the conservation fight, even if it means signing petitions and buying items at their annual fundraising auction, Johnson says.

    “They do a lot,” Johnson says. “They give a lot. They’re always looking for ways to give.”

    When Schumacher joined the club five years ago, she took a position on the board of directors and serves as the club treasurer.

    “I understood there were people here who were going to help me learn,” Schumacher says.

    Schumacher regularly attended the casting clinics, even learned to tie flies herself, and she was top rod at a club outing to Diamond Lake three years ago.

    Fishing chironomid flies, Schumacher caught the most trout that day as well as the largest at 19 inches, she says.

    She’s even had a crack at Rogue summer steelhead thanks to her club affiliations.

    Fishing with club members and expert anglers Otis Swishwer and John MacDiarmid one day on the Rogue three years ago, she caught her first Rogue summer steelhead.

    Well, almost.

    “Otis hooked a steelhead and he handed me the rod, saying, ‘You’re going to have to learn how to fight these,’ ” Schumacher says. “It took me a while, but I got it. It was 25 inches.”

    Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or Follow him on Twitter at

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