Mending the Line

Steve Duin – “Mending the Line”


On the banks of the  North Umpqua last summer, Portland filmmaker John Waller asked Frank Moore the question that many of us wait too long to confront:


Is there a mission, an obligation, a pilgrimage in your life that is still unfinished?

Moore is the river’s — and possibly the state’s — most renown angler. He built the Steamboat Inn and continues to renovate a stellar 70-year marriage. At 90, he is rock-solid and steelhead-nimble, and he didn’t stumble over the question.
You know, Moore told Waller, I’ve long dreamed of returning to Normandy and fishing the streams I crossed when I was 21.

He was distracted that June. Otherwise engaged with the 453rd Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion (Automatic Weapons), which landed at Utah Beach on D-Day plus 1, then marched across France to Luxembourg and the Battle of the Bulge.

But as his unit was chasing the Germans back to Saint-Malo, Moore remembers glancing down as he bounced across a viaduct in a half-track and spying a 25-pound Atlantic salmon and a fishing rod beached aside the stream.

There are moments in France, Moore admits, that vanished with the soldiers who fought beside him: “There are a good three weeks where I’ve lost everything.”

But that salmon remained with him. He hopes to return to the north of France in the next month and match wits with its great, great grandchildren.

And with Waller’s help — and yours — he just might.

Waller, the founder of Uncage the Soul Productions, was filming an essay on Moore for Travel Oregon last August when he asked the right question and realized where his camera and this legend truly belong.

Over the next two weeks, Waller hopes to complete a $50,000 fundraising campaign that will allow him to fly Moore; his wife, Jeanne; their son, Frankie; and a small film crew to France for a 16-day reunion with fish, battlefields and memory.
“This is the real story,” Waller said. “In a sense, this will bring his life full circle.”

A glorious circle, that. Born in Carlton, Moore grew up under the tutelage of a father and grandfather who built their own fishing line in the garage out of rayon, linseed oil and varnish.

He married Jeanne before he deployed with the 453rd, which eventually folded into the 83rd Division for the bloody advance into Luxembourg.

When he returned from the war, he and Jeanne opened Moore’s Cafe in Roseburg, but he was so often on the North Umpqua that Jeanne once placed a missing-persons ad in the local paper.

“He’s naturally athletic, the strongest man I’ve ever seen in my life,” said his son, a 66-year-old emergency-room physician in Alaska. “When I was 5 or 6, he would wade out into the river, jumping from rock to rock with me on his shoulders.

“He’s 90 years old and he could still whip both of us at the same time.”

And in that glorious competition with the steelhead?

“He knows the river,” Frankie Moore said. “He has the knack. His eyesight is extraordinary and he has the ability to focus. He can watch the fly in the water 100 feet away and he knows when a fish comes up and misses it.”

Time and again, that steelhead or brown trout only misses once.

Since April 10, Waller — who produced the “Finding Portland” time-lapse video and “Beyond the Spill,” a documentary film on the Deepwater Horizon spill — has already raised $20,000 on Indiegogo, a crowd-funding platform.

He has titled the documentary project “Mending the Line,” which describes the way a fisherman manages his line upstream from his fly, but the experience is meant to reclaim an essential part of Moore’s life, not repair it.

If the fundraising is successful, the trip will begin with the Memorial Day celebration at the Luxembourg American Military Cemetery in Hamm, where Gen. George S. Patton is buried.

“That’s going to be more important than anything,” Moore said. “The 83rd took a pounding there. In the first 10 days of combat, around the first of July, they lost 4,800 kids.”

He and his son will then fish for a week on the rivers and streams of Normandy and Brittany before returning to Utah Beach for the 69th anniversary of Moore’s first landing there.

“I was hoping they could put this off for a year, so we could make it the 70th,” Moore admits. “But when you get to be 90, you know anything can happen.”

Far too many of the possibilities are painful, quiet and medicinal. Not this one.

Precious few veterans of World War II remain — though Moore begs me to mention James Stone and Arnold Ebert, close friends in Roseburg — and fewer still who continue to wade the river and mend their lines.

When I asked Moore where he thought the French currents would take him, into the well of the past or the sanctuary of familiar waters, he didn’t hesitate or stumble.

“I’ll find out,” he said.

With Waller’s help. And yours.

– Steve Duin

Frank Moore is “the strongest man I’ve ever seen,” says his son, Frankie. “When I was 5 or 6, he would wade out into the river, jumping from rock to rock with me on his shoulders.” Uncage the Soul Productions

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