For the all-female fishing team Team Wraptor, it isn’t the size of the catch that matters the most but rather it’s the memories you make, memories that last long after the fishing gear is put away.
There’s an unmistakable sound aboard Bill Monroe’s guide boat on Tillamook Bay. It’s not the puttering outboard motor or splashing silver salmon that catches my ears. Instead it’s the echoes of laughter from members of Team Wraptor. It lets me know I’ve landed in the right boat.
The four women of Team Wraptor — Pam Magley, Sara Dodd, Gretchen Dearden and Julie Johnstone — have been casting and trolling together for years.
“We just get along so well. We’ve traveled together, we’ve fished together, we build rods together,” says Magley. “We encourage each other and there’s no jealousy … We are here to encourage each other and support in whatever we want to do.”
All four work for the Wraptor Rods in Hillsboro. The company is the brain child of Johnstone’s husband, Jay, who produces custom fishing rods. Each Wraptor rod is a handmade original, built for every species of fish, from trout to tuna. According to Jay Johnstone, “Like your fingerprint, no two Wraptor Rods are the same!”
The custom rods are made with “the best components in the industry,” he says. “From the Rain Shadow blank, to the Alps reel seats, to the Telaxium handles, Wraptor Rods are built to last.”
A part of the team that designs Wraptor’s female-oriented fishing gear, Magley knows the rods have lasting importance.
“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,” Magley says. “They are of such high quality that they will be handed down with pride from generation to generation.”
Back on the guide boat, I learn that every member of Team Wraptor had built her own rod. Each is adorned with colorful marbling that shines in hues of green, teal and purple.
Sara Dodd learned fishing and hunting skills from her father, who made sure she had lots of outdoor time.
“It can be intimidating,” admits Dodd. “I know because I grew up in Southern Oregon, down on the Rogue River, [where fishing] is very male dominated.”
But Dodd persisted, saying she “paid her dues” before working as a rep for Wraptor Rods. Now her focus is encouraging more women and youngsters to get outdoors.
“What is there not to enjoy!” Dodd exclaims. “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!”
On ocean outings, Bill Monroe Jr. is often the Team Wraptor guide. 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 Monroe. “But 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,” adds 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 doubles down once, twice, three times as the reel screams. It’s a hefty chinook salmon that peels line for nearly 70 yards as Dearden stands her ground, wearing a mile-wide smile from the thrill of it all.
“Good work Gretch,” says Monroe, also smiling. He mentions the big bright chinook salmon looks like “a muscle with a head and a tail.”
“You’re good, you’re good — lift up the rod, lift, lift, lift,” coaches the guide. Monroe deftly slides the net under the gleaming salmon. “Okay, you’re good, you’re good… Yahoo, it’s in the boat!”
The chinook comes aboard as Dearden shakes — adrenaline overdrive has arrived. “Oh, my gosh,” she gasps. “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 ask the members of Team Wraptor what advice members they might offer other women interested in fishing.
“Don’t be afraid to come out and do what has always been a man’s sport,” says Magley. “Just get out and do it! Just come out and be you.”
“It’s the people, the people you’re with fishing,” adds Dearden. “I love it — I’m addicted to it for sure.”
Watch the “Grant’s Getaways” video at KGW.com.