Magic on the Metolius
“First thing we want to do is get the fly workin’. It’s like a puppet on a string. Give it a little twist now and then.” John Judy, the fly-fishing expert and author, is giving my husband his first lesson in the sport that continues to fascinate and frustrate, demonstrating how to tease the bull trout hiding in thick grass that spills over the banks of the Metolius River in Central Oregon. It is a peaceful place with views of the stately Mt. Jefferson, Oregon’s second highest peak, in the Cascade Mountain Range, as well as Three Finger Jack, a jagged outline against the blue sky. The spring-fed river runs clear as crystal, meandering through meadows filled with lazy cows and Queen Anne’s lace. Ospreys circle overhead, no doubt searching for the catch of the day.
On a knoll a short distance away is the House on Metolius, a 200-acre family estate and retreat for more than a hundred years. Five rustic cabins scattered among soaring stands of pine have long served as hideaways for anglers and vacationers. The Main Lodge, once a private home, was renovated in 2012 and is now open for family gatherings, weddings, and corporate retreats.
The lodge has seven pine-paneled guest rooms and an expansive suite, most with private fireplaces, and comfortable Craftsman-style furnishings. In the Gorge Great Room, relax in a rocking chair by the massive stone fireplace, or take a turn at the 1920s Steinway piano, where the family matriarch, Evelyn Lundgren, now 99 years old, still likes to play whenever she’s in town. Now owned by her son Kim and his wife Reidun, Evelyn’s grandson Tor manages the property. The lodge is more like a family home than a hotel, filled with books, maps, and memorabilia reflecting the family’s world travels and adventures.
The lovely dining room, with chandeliers handcrafted by blacksmith Darryl Nelson, offers lodge guests a complimentary continental breakfast. A private chef prepares lunch and dinner for groups. On one memorable evening, we sat fireside on the stone terrace overlooking the river and mountains framed by Ponderosa pines, sampling wines from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, and poached rhubarb shortcake with berries and ice cream.
Long, relaxing days are filled with fly-fishing, picnicking, mountain biking, hiking along the riverbanks, and touring the fish hatchery nearby. But perhaps the favorite pastime is lounging in Adirondack chairs beneath the towering trees, taking in the view and listening to the wind rustling the leaves, the river rumbling by.
A short drive to the south is Camp Sherman, where one can stock up on camping equipment, fishing gear, groceries, and picnic fare at the bustling general store. Across the street, the popular Kokanee Café, despite its rustic ambience, has a surprisingly upscale menu. We especially savored the Northwest wild salmon, roasted with pine, sage, and juniper berry with summer squash quinoa and sweet corn béchamel.
As for that bull trout, my husband swears that John Judy, who has been fishing these waters since the ’70s, willed the elusive fish on his line, only to gently release it back into the pristine waters from which it sprang. That summer afternoon was a bit of magic on the Metolius. (541.595.6620, www.metolius.com) ANDREA NAVERSEN
Atmosphere: photo by Pam Devaney All Other Photography Courtesy of House on the Matolius