Some people believe that Oregon’s coastal rivers are filled with more than water as they flow to the sea.
Oregon pianist and music composer, Jennie Logsdon Martin, believes that if you listen closely, you will hear “river songs.”
Jennie Logsdon Martin is an Oregon native and classically trained concert pianist who has played in palaces and in front of presidents. She was born with perfect pitch and a gift for performance and she loves to write original pieces of music like her “Kilchis River Song.”
She called it a “romantic melody” that pays homage to the river in her own backyard and to her home state: “It’s true! Sometimes it’s hectic, sometimes peaceful and sometimes it’s rapid, just before the calm that also matches long tail outs. Each phase of the river plays out like a song.”
She is an Oregon artist who also learned long ago to prize the practical. During a recent visit at her Kilchis River home, she said with a chuckle: “I paid for my groceries many times by playing the piano at places like Salty’s on the Willamette River, Portland-area golf clubs and even taverns. But no matter the setting, it was always fun.”
Jennie’s fingers have danced across the ivory keys for more than three decades and that may have prepped her well for the computer keys when she created the popular website called "IFish" in 1997.
She admitted that she was driven toward technology by curiosity plus a lifelong passion for fishing. At the time she wondered: how might the two mix?
“I have enjoyed the outdoors – always – and it’s remarkable how it has touched or affected my life. So, I wanted to find a way to encourage others – who might be too caught up in daily life – to make time to smell the roses and fish the fish that Oregon offers.”
Jennie called her initial adventure in web design a “business experiment” that resonated and then rocketed into the cyber-stratosphere with hundreds of anglers.
Powered by an eager and dedicated angling crowd, the website soon became the region’s most popular site to center on outdoor recreation. IFish now has 60,000 registered members according to its creator.
Thousands more “visitors” drop in regularly to learn something new about angling, exchange ideas with others and even meet fishing experts from a varied menu of topics that include salmon, steelhead, sturgeon and trout fishing. Plus, salt water fishing, warm water fishing and the latest developments in tackle, even hunting and more. The site is uniquely Oregon and highly successful.
More importantly, IFish reflects the founder’s comfy, home-spun attitude and her love for the outdoors that she admitted was born of fishing trips with her Dad.
“He took me fishing on the Sandy River. I would sit on his shoulders as he crossed the river and then scramble to play on the big rocks that were strewn along the shoreline. I’d also go with him on the Willamette River where we would sit in the hog lines and fish for spring salmon. I can still hear the rush of the river and I think that’s where this passion was born in me; my fishing time with my Dad.”
These days it’s time spent with her longtime partner, Bill Hedlund – plus, their new kid in the block; a springer spaniel pup named ‘Willie’- he was named for their longtime friend and northwest angling and boat building legend, Willie Illingsworth.
Hedlund, a longtime fishing guide, confirmed what many people may suspect, Jennie’s sixteen years as the IFish inventor and leader was the real deal: “Oh, she’s very intense and frankly she’s caught as many or more fish than me in the past three years. She really puts in her time.” Hedlund paused – and then added, “When she has time.”
Fishing time has been harder to come by in recent years. Jennie struggles with a muscular disorder called Marfan’s Syndrome that has meant major heart surgery, followed by multiple eye surgeries. If that wasn’t tough enough, she had breast cancer surgery a year and a half ago. The surgery was followed by treatments that took a toll on both her body and her soul.
“The chemo was tough and I lost all my hair,” admitted Martin - who quickly smiled broadly then added: “But – I have it all back now and through it all I made many new friends – interesting and awesome people who fight this terrible and awful disease every day. Their strength made a big difference to me.”
She often shares her health issues with her readers too – not only on her daily IFish blog, but the new and career-capping accomplishment: the IFish Magazine.
The magazine is available to read online or you can print it and enjoy the varied articles at your leisure. “Unlike IIfish threads,” she said, “the magazine furthers a specialty with more depth. I like the fact that you can sit down with it, hold it in your hands and learn from longer articles that are often written by professionals.”
When it comes to angling, whether professional or amateur matter little to Jennie – she relishes in all of the stories that people submit to the site and to the magazine.
Even though she recently handed over the ownership reins of IFish, she has held on to her role as editor in chief and continues to be a regular columnist. She said that both positions are critical to her as she embraces Oregon’s angling community.
“I think it is a community…a lot of like-minded people and I think we’re kind to each other or at least I want us to be – I really want them to be.”
During a recent gathering of those like-minded regulars – many of the so-called “moderators” who volunteer to assist Jen in keeping the peace and maintaining her family friendly standards - offered good reasons that IFish has endured.
“She has opened up the sport of fishing to a wide group of people who can now get involved in this sport and actually connect with each other and go fishing together,” noted longtime friend George Buckingham.
Longtime “moderator” and good friend, Pete Morris, offered, “It was Jennie’s baby from the start and she paid attention to it 24 hours a day, seven days a week. She made certain that it became her living room – a place where fishermen could come and talk about fishing… so Jen’s passion turned into something that was many other people’s passion - it’s a remarkable thing.”
“If you want information, that’s the place to go,” said local fisherman Gordon Southwick. Len Clarke quickly added, “And you can do that from a million miles away! Few of us talk to Jen every day, but we know she loves our rivers – it’s just been a wonderful thing for the fishing community.”
“She is sort of the Mom of IFish,” added Buckingham with a broad smile.
That may be true – but for Jennie Logsdon Martin, the most wonderful and soul satisfying place to be is outdoors, alongside an Oregon stream, perhaps the one that flows through her backyard - casting her fly line to the rhythm of the river’s song.
Her contributions to the fishing community have been nothing short of remarkable – she has worked tirelessly on behalf of the angling community and she has created a site where everyone – no matter their depth or breadth of knowledge or level of experience – feels right at home.
“Such a beautiful place to be, a beautiful place to spend time and that’s why I do IFish,” noted Martin. “It is about bringing more people out here to enjoy life, see what I see, know what I know by being out here – just gives me goose bumps to think about it.”