For this mother’s holiday, we wanted to single out Mia Sheppard. Mia owns and operates a device with her husband Marty, is the mother of a 14-year-old, and is a passionate advocate for her local rivers. We were able to go out in the water with Mian and her 14-year-old daughter Tegan for an unforgettable day on the Deschutes River. Watch the interview below to learn more about Mia, including her experience with owning and operating a device, taking her daughter to the water, and some of the advocacy work she does.
Flylords: Who is Mia Sheppard?
Mia: I was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, and have 3 sisters, my parents were really outdoor and so I grew up playing outside all the time. We would go hiking, camping and fishing every weekend. My mother passed away from pancreatic cancer 18 years ago and my father passed away when I was 14 years old. I started fly fishing in 1996 when I was looking for a transition from snowboarding in the winter months to an activity in the summer months around the mountain. Hood. Marty Sheppard invited me to go trout fishing in Deschutes and that’s where it all started.
We stayed in touch over the years and started dating in 2001, then bought Little Creek Outfitters in 2003. LCO is a year-round guidance service. We specialize in taking people on fly fishing trips, hunting and rafting in the desert on John Day, Deschutes, Grande Ronde and Owyhee Rivers. We live in Maupin, Oregon with our daughter Tegan, who is 14 years old. We have 1 dog with a finger and some chickens. I like to be outside, be it fishing, hunting, gardening or caring for my first hive.
Flylords: How did you get into running and owning a device? What has been your motivation?
Mia: Marty and I were given the opportunity to purchase Little Creek Outfitters in 2003, so we borrowed $ 20,000 in advance and financed the rest. Without a business background, we started running Little Creek and that started my guiding career, as well as being a booking agent, accountant, trader, meal planner, lawyer and toilet cleaner. I would not aspire to become a guide, but I like to be in the water, so my motivation was to have the opportunity to spend more time in the rivers and share this with others and of course be my boss.
Flylords: How did you balance dress direction, running and being a mother?
Mia: Finding a balance is difficult. I do not have much time for myself. It has become easier as Tegan gets older. Since she was one year old, she has joined us on many summer bass trips. She would board the gear boat and on trips with other children she would board the boat with clients. When she was 6 years old, she started helping with dishwashing, at the age of 8 she could break the bed and help set up tents.
She is now 14 years old and will be assisting the gear boat this summer. The gear boatman is the one who goes in front of the group and takes the camp and sets it up. She is a great helper! In the winter, Marty and I take turns traveling, so one of us is home with Tegan. When we are both traveling, we are lucky to have a network of friends and family who will be watching Tegan or taking him for weeks.
Flylords: How has this affected your daughter’s growth?
Mia: What I see is; a young lady who loves nature and wildlife, she is empathetic, respectful, aware of her surroundings, independent, creative and confident and works hard.
Flylords: Any tips to get kids in the water. Even if you do not like fly fishing?
Mia: Introduce children to water from an early age. When Tegan was 1 1/2 years old I started taking him to a pool and teaching him to swim on his back and navigate with the dog. Always wear a life jacket. If you want to fish all day, then take a trip with the girls or boys. My experience is that most children under the age of eight burn while being in the water all day, there is an exception. Let them bring a friend, it makes all the difference in the world, especially as they grow older. The biggest tip is, Keep it fun!
Flylords: You mentioned “It’s more than just catching fish”, can you elaborate on that?
Mia: Teaching your children about fishing is teaching them about birds, bees, flowers and trees. It is the connection to everything else that surrounds us from insects in the water, also wildlife in the hills, camaraderie with friends. Introduce them to all the exterior wonders, not just the emphasis on catching fish or throwing.
Flylords: How has being a woman in a male-dominated industry influenced the running of a device and leadership?
Mia: Yes, I experienced challenges but I also had a lot of support. An annoying thing would be when people act surprised that I run or fish and say “Oh, you instruct?”
One of the most interesting things is to see the growth of women who want to go fishing. When I first started running, maybe 2% of our guests were women, now they are close to 30%. I get requests from women and men with girlfriends and women who want to fish with me because I am a woman.
Flylords: What are some of the advocacy jobs you have done in Oregon and how has it had a positive impact on your business?
Mia: As a business owner, it is vital that we engage in public processes that may affect the environment or our recreational opportunities.
The most recent work I have done is writing public commentary on the BLM of the Prineville District (Bureau of Land Management) regarding several different NEPA processes; one about buying John Day River land 30 miles, another about removing toilets in the lower Deschutes I have also written and commented many times about a very unfair, restricted, entry crossing system the boats we are trying to take them. change. I have also written a letter of comment to ODFW and Governor Brown regarding water quality at lower Deschutes and steel tip closures.
A major achievement was the invitation of Senator Bill Hansell to Maupin to talk to him about the impacts of steel head closures and how water quality in Lower Deschutes is affecting business. This meeting pushed him to fight on behalf of guides and disaster relief equipment, which ended up in the 10 million that were appropriated to guides and equipment in a one-time program. I am also an Oregon Travel Commissioner and board member for the Oregon State Maritime Board.
Flylords: An item you never leave for a day on the boat?
Mia: My rods and watercolors.
Flylords: The current wader model and vading boots you are rocking?
Mia: Simms G3 Wader Guide for Women and Boots Simms G3 Guide for Men.
Flylords: What do you expect most this coming guide season? What will happen next for Mia?
Mia: With the uncertainty of a steel-toothed season, I look forward to exploring new water and creating new programs; including, chukar hunting leadership and sheep and deer hunting equipment.
Thanks Mia for spending time with us, be sure to follow her adventures on @ miaflora2 and @littlecreekoutfitters. You can also book a trip with Little Creek Outfitters here.
All photos by Toby Nolan, for more from Toby’s work, check it out online here or on Instagram at @ t.nolan.imagery. Interview by Pat Perry @patperry.
Women in the water: Keani Taketa
Women in the water: Rachel Leinweber