Tuesday, October 23, 2012

20 Questions: Mia Sheppard

Mia Sheppard
Mia Sheppard is confident, smart, funny and ... magnetic--she's a blast to hang out with. That she can cast a fly rod like a stick of butter and find fish on just about any stretch of water is simply a bonus. She's the real deal... a steelhead guide, an extreme skier, a chukar hunter and a patient, thoughtful and caring mother and wife. There aren't many out there like her.

But what I respect most about Mia (outside of the whole stick-of-butter fly-rod thing) is her desire to channel all that's good within her toward protecting our natural resources. She's one of the rare hunter/angler types that understands the connection between a healthy environment and the opportunity to fish and hunt. It baffles me that some folks think intact habitat and sporting opportunity are mutually exclusive.

I got the chance to fish briefly with Mia in Alaska this summer, and I'm so glad I did. Not only did I make a great new friend, but I was also reminded that there are people in this world who care about the places that allow great fishing and hunting to happen. You may not know Mia, now, but I'm betting you will, and I'm betting you'll be just as impressed with her as I am.

Here's your introduction. On with the questions:

What is your idea of perfect happiness? 
I’m definitely a realist and nothing is perfect but there are blissful moments such as my daughter kissing me goodnight and saying, “I love you.” Also, standing in a river with the sound of the water rippling around my ankles and my Sarcione reel spinning 'til I see backing, or standing on top of a snow covered peak looking at the horizon, contemplating what line to take in an untracked bowl, and then pointing into the bowl, and getting barreled in the first turn under a wave of snow.

What is your greatest fear? 
My greatest fear is that when I make a dozen cookies, Marty and Tegan will eat them all before I get one so I make a double batch.

Which living person do you most admire? 
Ron Walp started running the Deschutes river in 1969 and knows that river better than anyone, he’s an avid steelhead fisherman and sportsman. Ron took me on my first “real” mule deer hunt on the Deschutes a few years ago, on opening day we hike to an outcrop overlooking a gully, after an hour he says, lets hike up the gully to the top, over the ridge and scout the next basin. No problem, we traverse a shale 40-degree slope and ease our way up, when we get to the top we see Mt. Adams, and Mt. Hood, the open space is memorizing. We sit down and snack on apples and beef jerky talking about life. We didn’t see any deer that day but that didn’t matter. I made a friend that inspires me. Did I mention Ron is 75. Someday, I hope to be as spry and youthful as he is.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? 
Taking a late-night peek on Facebook. I feel like a snoop. But then it’s justified because I don’t watch the news and rarely read a paper so Facebook is my source for current, relevant events in the world.

What is the trait you most deplore in others? 
Lack of common courteous, respect. My blood boils when people can’t bury their feces in the outdoors and then your dog finds it and eats it or your walking along a river and there under a tree is a paper trail a mile long.

What is your favorite journey? 
I hate to sound cliché but my life is a journey. From running away from home at the age of 16 to crab fishing on a 125-foot boat in the Bering Sea, and snowboarding in Verbier, Switzerland to right now, every moment is a new ride. Right now I’m a mom, wife, working for a fantastic sportsmen's conservation group and I own a successful fly fishing guide service with my husband, Marty. The juggling of responsibilities is overwhelming and greatly rewarding.

On what occasion do you lie? 
I have a hard time lying but lately I do lie about my age or kindly agree when someone say’s “you look like you're 28.” But then I don’t have the poker face, to keep from telling the truth. I’m terrible at bluffing--I would never make it at a poker table.

Drives Mia nuts.
Which living person do you most despise? 
This might offend a few folks but Sara Palin drives me nuts. She lost me when she said “Drill, baby, drill.”

What or who is the greatest love of your life? 
The greatest loves are my husband, Marty, who is my best friend, and our daughter Tegan, who keeps me in check. They make me laugh, and have taught me the real importance of living life.

Which talent would you most like to have? 
I would love to play the fiddle. When I hear someone play the fiddle, it brings out so many emotions and makes me want to dance and have a good time. The fiddle talks to my soul ... it’s sassy, it laughs, cries, screams. What I would give to have the talent to make someone dance.

What do you consider your greatest achievement? 
My greatest achievement is giving birth to our daughter Tegan. I had a homebirth with no drugs, and at one point I asked my midwife “is there something you can give me for the pain.” She responded by handing me Chamomile pills and saying, “Sorry honey.” It was the most unbelievable experience in my life. I never thought I was cut out to be a parent, and was very skeptical of having a child

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be? 
At first I thought I would say a steelhead but then I thought about it a little more and decided a falcon. Falcons are aware of their surroundings, hunters and fly; I’ve had dreams of flying.

What is your most treasured possession? 
Cover girl.
Photos of my childhood. It’s refreshing to reminisce on the innocence of my childhood and compare photos of Tegan and I, seeing the similarities in physical character.

Where would you like to live? 
I like where we live now but I’m drawn to the sun. Bend, Ore., is really the ideal location, a two-hour drive north, south or east to some of the best steelhead rivers in Oregon, chukar hunting, and skiing in your back yard. I also have dreams of retiring in Baja at some little off the beaten path beach town, where I don’t have to ever drive again, be a surf bum and have a boat to fish out of ... sounds perfect.

Who are your favorite writers? 
Jack London, David James Duncan and recently Aldo Leopold. He was an innovative thinker for his time about land use and wildlife management. In the blogosphere Erin Block and Kate Taylor inspire me.

Who are your heroes? 
I could say Superman or some other iconic figure, but the person that had the greatest influence in my life is my mom. She raised four girls, many years on her own. She worked hard and tried to gave us the best life she could. She taught us respect for nature and people and found peace hiking in the mountains and riding her BMW. She taught me to be adventurous and to have strength and passion. In her last years, she fought pancreatic cancer and passed away at 60, but during that time she rode her motorcycle from Seattle to New York and back and found her calling as a nun in the last few weeks of her life.

How would you like to die? 
In a capsized boat in the Bering Sea. It would be quick--a couple minutes--and I would die of hypothermia. My body would be recycled to the ocean.

What would your profession be if you couldn’t do what you do now? 
I’ve always thought how rewarding it would be to work with street kids, to take them to the mountains and rivers, and show them there are better environments than concrete streets and better lives than sleeping under bridges.

What’s the favorite of all the cars you’ve ever driven? 
The skimobile.
I bought a brown 1973 Super Nova for 500 bucks and drove it from ski area to ski area in my early 20s. This is a front wheel drive car and it tracked in the snow better then any Subaru and rallied the best donuts in parking lots. That car got me around!

What’s the closest you’ve ever been to dying? 
I was working on a crab boat in the Bering Sea and the captain yelled “Get the fuck off the deck!” We ran to the door, shut it and right then the back deck was engulfed in the darkness of the Bering Sea, after a couple minutes the water disappeared from the deck, the shorting table was off the hingles and deck boards where missing right where I had been standing. And then there is the time in Seward, Alaska I was charged by a black bear. That’s a whole other story. I think I have nine lives.

BONUS QUESTION: If you could go back in time, what year would you visit first? 
I’ll say 1869. This is when the movement for women’s right to vote really took off. It would have been incredible to be a part of that. Also, fish and wildlife where plentiful, a person could homestead land and people worked hard.


  1. Mia is cut from a mold that was definitely one-of-a-kind. She's got a spirit that doesn't burn in many other folks. Great interview- thanks for a glimpse, Mia!

    1. She's a keeper, that's for sure... Thanks Kirk...

  2. very cool, almost surreal~ Where do you find these gems? I know we have them in every state- but W O W!!! amazing!! great read and getting to know another in the field. If only I could cut the late night FB peeking as well...
    Tight Lines,

    1. Hi Brian , thanks for the kind words, glad to know someone else is peeking late night. Cheers!

    2. I'm lucky in that I get to meet a lot of great folks... and Mia sure fits that mold. Happy to shine a little light on a great member of the fly fishing fraternity...

  3. Very nice read... What a great gal and someone to totally admire! She gets it done... It's time for a trip to Bend!

    1. Hi river damsel , look me up when come for a visit. :))

  4. I so admire guides for their spirit of adventure and love for what they do. It's doubly nice when you see a woman like Mia stepping successfully into that world.

  5. That was a great read! I am lucky to share many good times with her and a life full of epic journeys. She is as advertised- the real deal!!

    1. You're a lucky, Marty... glad you two are keeping the steelhead in check for the rest of us ;)

  6. All good except how was a 1973 nova front wheel drive? Small things always stand out. haha

    1. Funny how that is.:)) I don't know if it was front or rear wheel but it tracked like a front wheel in the winter without chains or studded tires. Were alll Novas rear wheel?

  7. Thanks for highlighting one of the truly great people in our community, Chris. Mia is a strong advocate for conservation, an outstanding guide, and an even better person. I'm honored to know her as a friend.

    1. Indeed... an impressive lady. I'm glad I got to meet her at OWAA, and I look forward to fishing with her again...

  8. Mia is an absolute gem, what you read is what you get.
    Marty picked a cracker.

    1. Russell and James, Thanks for the kind words, much appreciated. Happy fishing!

    2. Sorry about tipping your motorcycle over...twice.

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