Go Outside!

Man, woman and child outside
Outdoor adventure is a family affair for< fishing guides Mia and Marty Sheppard and their daughter, Tegan. The trio lives in Maupin, overlooking< the Deschutes River.

A Maupin fly-fishing couple champions outdoor fun

By Drew Myron

Bundled in a baby-sized life jacket with the John Day River rushing beneath her, Tegan Sheppard was just 6 months old when she traveled her first Oregon river snuggled next to her parents.

“It’s important to get outside so that your brain doesn’t rot,” Tegan says now, 11 years later. “I like fresh air.”

It’s a message her parents, Mia and Marty, have advocated personally and professionally all their lives. The couple own and operate Little Creek Outfitters, a fly-fishing guide service based in Maupin. They lead day trips and camping adventures on the Deschutes, John Day, Grande Ronde, Owyhee and Sandy rivers.

“Fishing is our main objective,” says Mia, “but really, that’s just an excuse to be outdoors.”

Marty agrees.

“Our focus is to get into the wilderness,” he says. While river guides are plentiful in Oregon, Mia and Marty are one of a few husband-and-wife guides.

Mia is a three-time world champion spey-caster. Named after the River Spey in Scotland, the flyfishing technique is traced to the mid-1800s and has
been called “easy to pick up and difficult to master.”

Female fly-fishers are also unusual, and Mia is a rarity: She is a mother, fishing guide and entrepreneur, who is also approaching 50.

“She’s an overachiever,” Marty jokes.

“It’s very challenging,” Mia says. “I hear from women who say, ‘How do you do it? It’s an inspiration that you can live an outdoor life of recreation, with children.’”

She emphasizes the importance of getting outside. “There’s a lot of disconnection to nature,” she says.

“Kids are connecting to technology instead. Growing up, I spent a lot of time outdoors with my mom and sisters. That relationship to the outdoors is so important to our resources. If you start to love a place, you want to take care and protect that place.”

“When you put kids and adults outdoors, they ask questions,” Marty says. “It’s how they learn.”

Rods, reels and other fishing gear
The Sheppards’ workshop is packed with tools of their trade: rods, reels, line and other fishing gear.

To enhance outdoor opportunities for women and youth, Mia created Juniper River Adventures. She leads fishing, rafting, yoga and paddleboard camps designed to “connect kids to the outdoors in genuine and real ways,” she says.

Mia recently was appointed to the Oregon Tourism Commission, a committee of nine members who help direct policy for the state’s tourism operations.

“I’m honored to be a voice for outdoor recreation and rural communities,” she says.

Mia has long been a model of outdoor recreation. She grew up in Tennessee, where she spent her childhood trout fishing and hiking the Great Smoky
Mountains. As an adult, she became an accomplished snowboarder. For more than a dozen years she traveled the nation in search of good snow. She later got hooked on fly-fishing, and was soon casting both a single- and double-hand rod.

A committed conservationist, Mia is a river steward for the Native Fish Society, conservation chairwoman of the International Women’s Fly Fishers, and a supporter of numerous organizations, including the Deschutes River Alliance, Trout Unlimited and Casting for Recovery.

Man with fish
Marty says Little Creek Outfitters’ focus is to get into the wilderness. He and Mia are one of the few husband-and-wife fishing guides in Oregon.
Photo courtesy of Little Creek Outfitters

Marty is a third-generation Oregonian who grew up on the banks of the Sandy River. Under his father’s tutelage, Marty landed his first steelhead at 5 years old. He says he and his father fished together endlessly, and instilled in Marty an instinct and zeal for the pursuit of steelhead.

In 2001, Marty went to work for Little Creek Outfitters, then headed by John Ecklund. Two years later, Marty and Mia bought the company.

“Mia and Matt are the best husband-and-wife fishing duo in the state,” says Don Jacklin, a longtime Maupin outdoorsman who founded All Star Rafting in 1993. “They have an excellent reputation.”

The story of Mia and Marty began long before their fishing days. The two met in the early 1990s, when both were deep into the new sport of snowboarding. They worked on Mount Hood in an assortment of jobs—bartending, lessons and events—that would support their snow sports.

The two forged a friendship. Even as Mia—a self-proclaimed nomad—pursued snowboarding adventures in other states, the two kept in touch. In
2006, they were married at the Imperial Hotel in Maupin.

Throughout the years and through many sports, the couple remain rooted in an appreciation for the Oregon outdoors.

Whether the activity is snow sports or fishing, “it’s a tool that gets you out in beautiful places,” Mia says.

To learn more about Little Creek Outfitters, call 503-819-4035 or go to http://littlecreekoutfitters.net. To learn more about Juniper River Adventures, call 541-419-2105 or go to http://juniperriveradventures.com.