August 10, 2022
By Rich Simms
On January 23, 2022, the angling and conservation world lost a giant. Just one week shy of his 99th birthday, Frank Moore passed away peacefully, surrounded by Jeanne, the love of his life, and the rest of his family. Frank survived D-Day in Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge before coming back to Oregon to marry Jeanne. He embodied the spirit of the Greatest Generation, and inspired all who knew him to do and be better.
I am just one of many people privileged to call Frank a friend. I could never adequately express the countless lives Frank touched and the relationships he built throughout his life as an angler, conservationist, and founder of the famous Steamboat Inn on Oregon’s North Umpqua River. So I invited a few friends to help convey what he meant to them.
If I had to sum up the traits defining Frank, they would be gratitude, perseverance, and humanity—all suffused with love. I had the good fortune to meet and fish with Frank through my father-in-law, Dave Carlson, who was close to Frank since the early days of the Steamboat Inn. Frank was already a legend by the time we met. Steelhead fishing with him on a technical, demanding river like the North Umpqua meant observing a master at his craft. Frank was already in his 80s then, but he possessed the athleticism and grace of someone half his age. And anyone who’s ever cast a fly rod would forever aspire to cast like Frank. His roll cast alone would make you question the need for a double-handed rod.
An invitation to do some casting with Frank at his trout pond was something no one ever turned down. Even the most seasoned fly caster would learn something new. Watching Frank coach my son, Derek, a beginner at the time, was a wonderful experience. Frank had an extraordinary ability to connect with him, making him beam with pride in each cast, wanting to become better. Frank did that with just about everyone he met. To this day, when I am out steelhead fishing, as I set up for a roll cast along a brush-lined bank and manage to shoot the line, I can still hear Frank’s booming voice echo in my head: “There you go!”
Fishing and casting were just small parts of my experience with Frank. More important was his dedication to conservation. He personified what it means to be both an angler and a conservationist. Frank didn’t just go fishing—he actually rolled up his sleeves and did the hard work. Frank believed that people could be brought together to protect the environment for future generations. He had the innate ability to transcend divisiveness and encourage people to work together to solve problems, something sorely missing these days.
Frank was a fierce protector of the North Umpqua River and its magnificent run of wild steelhead. He made it his mission to protect it. His legacy includes taking it upon himself to start recording stream temperatures in the late 1960s below logging clear-cuts on tributary streams.
He inspired the famous advertising man Hal Riney and cinematographer Dick Snider to cancel a British Columbia fishing trip to make the award-winning film Pass Creek, exposing destructive logging practices and standing up to big timber companies. Frank flew his airplane around to speak with all who would listen. He traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with senators and other congressional leaders, encouraging laws to forever change road-building and logging practices in many watersheds. He showed many of us in the conservation community that the little guy can take a stand—and win.
In 1969, Governor Tom McCall appointed Frank to Oregon’s Fish and Wildlife Commission. In that role, he pushed for wild preserves on the Deschutes and Williamson rivers, advocated for stronger conservation of Oregon’s fish and wildlife, and helped establish the 31-mile section of fly-fishing-only water on the North Umpqua.
Frank invited Governor McCall to the Steamboat Inn, where McCall caught his first steelhead on the fly. The event was immortalized in a famous photo by Dale Greenley, and later a bronze statue in Oregon’s capital at Riverfront Park on the Willamette River depicting the pensive governor marching out of the North Umpqua with his steelhead.
When poachers were dynamiting the Big Bend Pool on Steamboat Creek—the main spawning tributary for the North Umpqua wild steelhead—Frank led the charge to get the community to establish the North Umpqua FishWatch Program, whose volunteers stand guard over the pool filled with resting fish. Lee Spencer served in this role for many years, and the program enabled his in-depth observations of wild steelhead, documented in his 2017 memoir A Temporary Refuge: Fourteen Seasons with Wild Summer Steelhead. Frank understood that one positive action can lead to another, with unforeseen benefits.
Frank had a hand in everything positive that had to do with his home waters. To celebrate his life’s work, the community rallied to establish The Frank and Jeanne Moore Wild Steelhead Sanctuary, which now protects approximately 100,000 acres of public lands in the North Umpqua watershed, including some of the best remaining wild steelhead spawning habitat in the system.
U.S. Senator Ron Wyden called Frank Moore a “natural resource hero” and said he will always be remembered as a legendary fly fisher who channeled his love for the North Umpqua River into protecting and preserving an extraordinary national treasure.
U.S. Representative Peter DeFazio stated that “Frank Moore was one of the foremost conservationists in Oregon’s history. The Frank and Jeanne Moore Wild Steelhead Special Management Area honors their work to conserve our natural world for future generations.”
In 2008, I had the privilege of presenting the Wild Steelhead Coalition’s Conservation Award to Frank for his legacy of conservation work and the example he provided for all of us. His gratitude was so sincere that he made me feel as if I were receiving an award instead of him. That was Frank.
It is easy to just be an angler, go fishing, and ignore that much of what we love is slipping away and being lost. There is a haunting passage toward the end of Pass Creek that sticks with me: “When those rivers are destroyed, they (the anglers) can leave their rivers and find others until the time, for the fish and fisherman, when there’s no place left to go.”
Frank Moore set the standard and demonstrated what it takes to make a better future for our home waters and the fish we love to pursue. Our world, and steelhead fishing, were made better because of his dedication. We can best honor his legacy by following his example to do our best to protect the fish and the natural world. Thank you, Frank, for your service to our country, the wild fish, and the beautiful places they call home.
Letters to Frank from Friends and Fellow Anglers
My friend and mentor Frank Moore was a lot of things to a lot of people. He was a world-renowned fly fisherman, World War II veteran and hero, husband, father, conservationist, and all-around amazing human being. But it was Frank’s empathy and deep love of people that made him one of the greatest role models of the past century.
The lives of thousands of people from all around the world were made better through the simple good fortune of having met Frank.
His lifelong love affair with his bride Jeanne taught us what it really meant to be a devoted, loving husband. When U.S. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon was preparing legislation in Congress to protect more than 100,000 acres of Steamboat Creek in the upper North Umpqua watershed to ensure the survival of its remaining wild summer steelhead, he also wanted to honor Frank. Frank insisted that the honor should go to Jeanne. The “compromise” became known as the Frank and Jeanne Moore Wild Steelhead Sanctuary.
My 26 years in law enforcement—working as a narcotics detective and patrol supervisor—made me a very jaded, suspicious, and generally unhappy man, particularly with regard to my professional and personal relationships. Frank changed all that, likely saved my marriage and family life, and definitely put me on the path toward change. Now, 25 years later, I marvel at what Frank shared with me and taught me, and how differently my life turned out thanks to his example.
Everything I know about the North Umpqua I learned from my time on the water with Frank. He generously shared secrets about the Umpqua’s wild steelhead. He taught me how to fight to protect them. Without him, I would never have become a guide, and I certainly wouldn’t have become a conservationist. I’ll always be grateful for my good fortune in having Frank Moore as a role model, mentor, and friend.
Dean Finnerty is a father of five boys, a retired police officer, and a fishing and hunting guide in southwest Oregon. He works as a staff member for Trout Unlimited, as the Northwest director of the Angler Conservation Program, and manager of the Wild Steelhead Initiative. He lives on the banks of the Umpqua River.
In the late 1960s, stories of summer steelhead on the North Umpqua River were plentiful among Golden Gate Angling and Casting Club (GGACC) members. Ten-fish days were possible—if you could wade the river and make the casts. Frank and Jeanne Moore founded the Steamboat Inn, with Jeanne managing the lodge and Frank guiding the fishing. Frank was famous for knowing every rock in the river, especially which ones the steelhead would lie next to, and he could position you in the best spot. Seemingly made of steel, Frank could jump from boulders to ledges in deep, swift currents, cling to the bottom, then lay out a perfect cast to cover the drift.
My first encounter with Frank was during a family vacation in 1968. We stopped for lunch at Steamboat Inn, where we met Jeanne. She told us about the history of the lodge, then gave us directions to where Frank was building their future log home. Up a winding gravel road high above the river, we found the cabin, and Frank working high up in the rafters. He jumped down from 14 feet with a huge smile and shook my hand, nearly crushing it. Frank impressed then 12-year-old me so much at that moment that I knew I wanted to have a log home and to be as strong as he was. We talked for a while, partly about GGACC, recounting members who had fished with him. Of course he knew them all. I was determined to come back to fish with him another time, and stay in the log home.
Pestering my parents to make sure we could get back to the North Umpqua paid off for me. The next summer I met Frank for a day I will always remember. That day, he demonstrated how it was necessary to lift a super-high backcast, clearing the embankment up to the roadway, and to rocket out a long cast to cover a drift on the far side. It was amazing to see his V-shaped loop zoom 90 feet across the river, followed by a big mend to adjust the swing speed just so. In a scary wading location, he held me by the scruff of the neck, and told me to lay out the longest cast possible to a faraway drift. Just as the fly was about to land on the water, a steelhead jumped out of the water and grabbed it. Unfortunately, the hook in the Green Butt Skunk did not set. What did set was a bond with Frank that would last a lifetime.
My next encounter with Frank occurred in 1976, at the mouth of the Brooks River in Alaska. I was a guide for Kulik Lodge, and a float plane dropped me off with guests to fish rainbows for the day. Frank popped out of the forest, hammer in hand, along with his big smile. He and Jeanne were working for the Forest Department that summer, rebuilding cabins. He wanted to share a quick story about a brown bear encounter. I imagined a bruin had chased him when he had a sockeye on the end of his line. It turned out to be much more amazing. One morning while Frank was sitting inside the cabin by the window drinking coffee, a bear stood up and pressed his nose to the glass, staring at him. Unflinching, Frank did the same and was nose to nose with the bear for a moment. He had nerves of steel.
Frank helped me with several new rod projects for G.Loomis, particularly rods suited to the North Umpqua. The 10-foot, 9-weight GLX was his favorite, and he used it for steelhead and salmon into his late 80s. He was casting the GLX during the Oregon Public Broadcasting film shoot about the North Umpqua River.
Steve Rajeff is the world’s most decorated caster with 46 consecutive American Casting Association titles and 14 all-around world championships under his belt. He has been the chief rod designer at G.Loomis since 1986, and has designed over 3,000 models of fly, spin, and casting rods for G.Loomis including the families of IMX, GLX, NRX, and NRX+.
Frank Moore’s easy smile, bright blue eyes, and relaxed demeanor made one feel within minutes as if you’d just met your best friend. These qualities all came into play one day in the late 1960s, when two young Hollywood cinematographers stopped at the Steamboat Inn on their way to a film project in British Columbia. Frank’s convincing manner persuaded them to stay and instead do a film on a clear-cut that was scheduled along Oregon’s Pass Creek. At the time, the Forest Practices Act of 1972 was being debated in Congress, and it appeared to have no chance of passing.
Frank showed the resulting award-winning film all over the country. By chance, the Undersecretary of the Department of Interior Nathanial Reed saw Pass Creek and brought a copy to the halls and offices of Washington, D.C. Most politicians from the East Coast and the Midwest had no idea what clear-cutting involved. After seeing the destruction of the forest and streams graphically presented in Pass Creek, they passed the Forest Practices Act—thanks to Frank Moore, the unsung hero. Frank spent the rest of his life spearheading other battles—often successfully—for better management of our watersheds. Much of the fishing we enjoy now is because of his efforts.
As a steelhead fly fisherman, Frank was a legend. His ability to catch steelhead was nearly unmatched. He didn’t, however, put much stock in the accepted “musts” of what it took to hook a steelhead. One hot August afternoon when the water was low, Frank hooked and released a fish downstream of me. After hunching over his fly for a bit, he hailed me down.
“Forgot my glasses,” he said. “Will you tie this fly on for me?” Taking his line and fly, I soon discovered why he had trouble. The leader he was fishing with was the remaining butt section of a tapered leader, all 18 inches of it from the nail knot at the end of the line. It was too thick to go through the eye of the fly. So much for long, fine leaders in low, clear water.
Frank and his wife Jeanne were our neighbors when I was a young lad. They were my den mother and father in Cub Scouts. After my father died, I lived with them at the Steamboat Inn for several years until they sold it in 1975. Frank Moore was my surrogate father. I’ve spent many hours with him, both on and off the river. My admiration for him knows no bounds. Frank and Jeanne Moore are two of the finest people I’ve ever known.
Dale Greenley began fly fishing the North Umpqua River in 1962, and is a longtime member of the Steamboaters, a member organization that works to protect the North Umpqua River. He lives in Myrtle Creek, Oregon.
I met Jeanne and Frank Moore in the 1980s at the annual Wildflower Show in Glide, Oregon. I had already heard about this beautiful couple and many of their accomplishments. Frank invited me to visit them at the large log house Frank had built above the North Umpqua River. One of his favorite things to do was to take visitors to the trout pond beside the house and share some fly-casting pointers.
Anyone walking through the door of their house knew they were entering a special place. Displaying pictures of friends from around the world, Frank’s medals from World War II, Zane Grey’s fly rod, and numerous conservation and angling awards, it was truly a living museum of fly fishing and a life well lived. I never met my own grandfathers—both were lost in the war that Frank survived. Over the years, I became one of the Moores’ “adopted grandkids.”
Frank’s and Jeanne’s appreciation for the plants and animals, the North Umpqua River and the entire natural world was an act of love. This led to a life of working to protect these values. They became mentors for conservationists from around the world. Frank knew the land as very few people ever do. Some of the stories Frank told me were of the high mountain trails that Native Americans first used. If there was a creek or mountain he did not know, he knew someone who did. His knowledge of the forest and rivers led to helping and consulting to protect them.
Frank was always more than willing to help out on river and forest protection projects. In recognition of their lifetime efforts, the newly designated Frank and Jeanne Moore Wild Steelhead Sanctuary in the North Umpqua drainage was created in their honor. It designates 100,000 acres of public lands in some of the best remaining wild steelhead spawning areas in the Pacific Northwest. Frank and Jeanne were honored for their commitment to stewardship of the North Umpqua River, recognized as inspirational conservationists, and American heroes.
Frank’s wisdom, strength, grace, friendship, love for the natural world, and humanity will have a positive influence on the world forever. At the age of 98, Frank was still voicing support for U.S. Senator Ron Wyden’s bill, Oregon Wild and Scenic Rivers Democracy Act of 2021.
On Veterans Day 2020, Frank said: “We are blessed to have these rivers here in Oregon and all that they do for us. Let us not take them for granted. The river is part of me, and I am part of the river.” When a breeze flows up the North Umpqua River picking up some pollen from one of Jeanne’s favorite wildflowers, it will be Frank’s spirit flying on.
Bob Hoehne is a wilderness advocate, river coordinator with Umpqua Watersheds, and South Umpqua River steward for the Native Fish Society.
Rich Simms is a founding board member of the Wild Steelhead Coalition and Fly Fisherman magazine’s 2017 Conservationist of the Year.