You could say that salt has been in Aaron Longton’s blood for just about his entire life. Born in Roseburg, he began fishing at the tender age of eight with his father on the salmon and steelhead-rich rivers of Southern Oregon. Since he was fishing every chance he had, Aaron decided to make it his livelihood. Aaron now owns two sea-going vessels – the Goldeneye and Sea Forest – on which he fishes for salmon, black cod and halibut in the Pacific Ocean out of Port Orford. He also plays an active role in pushing for sustainable practices in Oregon’s seafood industry, believing you can have both protected fisheries and a strong economy. When he’s not out fishing, he loves to share the grandeur of Oregon’s South Coast and Southern Oregon. Here are Aaron’s suggestions for a two-day excursion where you can take in everything from the Coast to Crater Lake, with plenty to eat and drink in between.
Start your day
Before heading out on the ocean to drop my lines, I’ll hit Paradise Café in Port Orford for an early breakfast. It’s a classic diner where the local fishing crowd gathers to swap stories and enjoy their enormous pancakes. They tell some tall tales of the sea, too.
Get out the camera
The Redfish Rocks Marine Reserve is a protected area of the Pacific Ocean marked by a group of ancient outcroppings. Pull off Highway 101 between mile posts 304 and 306 for some spectacular views. In the early spring and winter you may even catch sight of some migrating whales.
Meet the maker
Henry Estate Winery in the Umpqua Valley northwest of Roseburg is one of the state’s wine pioneers. With three generations of Henrys working at the winery, you’re bound to meet one of them. After tasting through their syrah, merlot, pinot noir and pinot gris, pick out a bottle, grab some of the local cheeses they sell, and kick back in their stunning gardens.
You’ve gotta see this
When I’m not out on the boat, I love to relax with a fly rod in my hand. Southern Oregon has some of the best stretches of fly fishing water in the world, and after a day on the North Umpqua River, you can’t beat the Steamboat Inn east of Roseburg. They do a multi-course, family-style dinner that’s out of this world, especially when the steelhead are running.
A treat worth driving out of your way
You can’t tour southwest Oregon without taking in Crater Lake and its amazing blue water. After a hike around the rim, grab a table on the veranda outside Crater Lake Lodge’s dining room. Sip on an Ashland Amber IPA from Caldera Brewing Company and enjoy their pasta with locally-foraged mushrooms and cheese from the Rogue Valley.
Can’t miss meal
If you’re going to eat someplace in Southern Oregon, make it New Sammy’s Cowboy Bistro in Talent. Tip: Be sure to make a reservation. The chef has her own garden and buys almost everything else (including my fish) from local suppliers. The list of Oregon wines is extensive and very reasonably priced.
Whether you’re in town to tour wineries or take in a performance at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the historic Ashland Springs Hotel is a great home base. You’re just a couple steps from the theaters and one of Ashland’s best restaurants, Amuse. Try their Pholia Farm manchego cheese plate with beet chips and balsamic syrup.