TILLAMOOK, Ore. — There’s an unmistakable sound aboard Bill Monroe’s guide boat on Tillamook Bay and it’s not the puttering outboard motor or a splashing silver salmon. Rather, it’s the non-stop laughter from members of Team Wraptor that lets me know I’ve landed in the right boat.
They are four ladies who live to create angling memories together!
“We just get along so well! We’ve traveled together, we’ve fished together, we build rods together,” said longtime fisher, Pam Magley. "We encourage each other and there’s no jealousy! You know, ‘Oh she got a fish and I didn’t!’ We are here to encourage each other and support in whatever we want to do.”
Team Wraptor includes Magley, Sara Dodd, Gretchen Dearden and Julie Johnstone. The foursome have been casting and trolling together for years.
Each works for the Wraptor Rod Company of Hillsboro. The company is the brain child of Julie’s husband – Jay Johnstone – who produces custom fishing rods.
Each fishing rod that he builds from the blank up is an original. His artistic and creative talents provide anglers lasting memories that reach beyond a day in the outdoors!
He builds rods for every species of fish; “From trout to tuna,” he said with a broad smile during my recent visit to his company headquarters in Hillsboro. Wraptor Rods custom fishing rods are built with the “best components in the industry,” he added. “From the Rain Shadow blank, to the Alps reel seats, to the Telaxium handles, Wraptor Rods are built to last.”
Wraptor Rods has been Johnstone’s passion for more than a decade and he has built thousands of rods – all by hand. He told me, “Like your finger print – no two Wraptor Rods are the same!”
Magley works with Jay each day to help design fishing gear that is more pleasing to the female eye and more comfortable for women to fish with too. “Years down the road – say, a hundred years down the road, these rods are going to be out there and maybe a grandson – or better, a grand-daughter will have it,” noted Magley. “They are of such high quality that they will be handed down with pride from generation to generation.”
Back on the guide boat, I learned that each member of Team Wraptor had built her own Wraptor Rod. Each is adorned with sparkle that dazzles from colorful marbling that shines in varied hues of greens, teal and even pink.
Sara Dodd told me that she learned about fishing from father who made sure she had lots of outdoor time. As a child – she learned both hunting and fishing skills from her dedicated dad.
“It can be intimidating,” admitted Dodd. “I know because I grew up in Southern Oregon, down on the Rogue River. It wasn’t always very pleasant down there because it’s very male dominant and you stood a real risk to be run out if you weren’t with your husband or significant other or a parent that fished.”
Dodd persisted and learned the value of hiring a good guide like Monroe to help show the way. She said that she had “paid her dues” and is now working as a rep for Wraptor Rods to help encourage more women and more youngsters to get off the couch and get outdoors.
“What is there not to enjoy! You know, to meet people like this and enjoy the warm sunshine too. The stories we get to tell and the experiences that are always new. I just love fishing!”
Bill Monroe Jr is often the Team Wraptor guide and he calls their trips together, “The best research trips ever!”
“I don’t want to be rude to all the guys I take fishing,” said the longtime guide. “But it’s like – it’s more fun. They liven up the boat that’s for sure! It’s a different dynamic is what it comes down to.”
“We do talk a lot more,” added Julie Johnstone. “It seems like when you’re on a boat with men, it’s pretty quiet. When a member of Team Wraptor gets a fish on, it’s pretty darned exciting on the boat with lots of cheering, laughter and just plain fun.”
As if on cue, Dearden’s gorgeous Wraptor Rod doubled down once, twice, three times as the reel screamed. It was a hefty Chinook salmon and it peeled line for nearly seventy yards as Dearden stood her ground and wore a mile-wide smile from the thrill of it all.
“Good work, Gretch,” said Monroe. He smiled and said that a big bright Chinook salmon is “like a muscle with a head and a tail.”
“You’re good, you’re good – lift up the rod, lift, lift, lift,” coached the guide. Monroe deftly slid the net under the gleaming salmon. “Okay, you’re good, you’re good. Yahoo, it’s in the boat!
The Chinook came aboard and Monroe smiled broadly and Dearden was shaking – adrenaline overdrive had arrived. “Oh, my gosh – that first tug – my rod went off and of course I was so excited, and I don’t know – that feeling, that shake – that excitement. I want to fish forever.”
I wondered aloud what advice members of Team Wraptor might offer other women who are tired of watching their men have all this fun?
“Don’t be afraid to come out and do what has always been a man’s sport,” advised Magley. “Just get out and do it! Put a hat on and don’t worry about doing your hair, you don’t need to have any make-up on, just come out and be you.”
“It’s the people! The people you’re with fishing,” added Dearden. “I love it – I’m addicted to it for sure.”
If you would like to visit more of Oregon – consider a walk on the wild side with my new book: “Grant’s Getaways: Oregon Adventures With the Kids.” You’ll find activities to engage any kid, from archery to clamming on the coast to hunting for thunder eggs to zip-lining through trees in an aerial adventure park.
In addition, be sure to check out “Grant’s Getaways Guide to Wildlife Watching in Oregon.” You will enjoy 48 uniquely Oregon adventures highlighting my fish and wildlife encounters. Scores of colorful photos by “Grant’s Getaways” photographer, Jeff Kastner, show off some of our finest moments in the field. You can also learn more about many of my favorite Oregon adventures in: "Grant's Getaways: 101 Oregon Adventures".