"I love fly feeshing!" said Chef Phillipe Boulot, his Normandy accent bouncing around the Heathman Restaurant. "But," he added with a shrug, "there is no feesh left in France. That's why I'm in Portland."
It's as good a reason as any. I, too, was in Portland to do some fishing—and to play some golf—along the Great Oregon Loop, a scenic five-hundred-mile-long circle of tar that arcs from city to coast to desert and back to city again, crossing rivers and forested mountains along the way. The plan was to head west from Portland, play the Ghost Creek course at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club, drive a bit and do some fishing with the legendary guide Milt Fischer, drive a bit more and try the new seaside links course at the Westin Salishan Lodge & Golf Resort, then head inland toward Eugene and the McKenzie River, home to stellar rainbow trout as well as the Tokatee Golf Club, which lies in the shadow of eastern Oregon's famed Three Sisters mountains. After that, a quick easterly jaunt over the Cascade Mountains to Sunriver Resort and the Deschutes River to finish up with some sagebrush golf, angling and high-desert cuisine before take a breath here—heading over Mount Hood and back to the Portland airport.
If you're in a hurry, the Loop can be done in one week. But why hurry?Perhaps nowhere else in the country do the refined pursuits of fly-fishing and golf merge as seamlessly, or as challengingly, as in Oregon. The land seems designed precisely for recreation: More than twelve hundred rivers and streams lattice the terrain, making any map of the state downright vascular with blue lines. Such waterways also make nearly .all golf courses hazardous to your handicap, especially on the Pacific side. Oregon is divided smartly by the Cascade Mountains, whose ten-thousand-foot peaks routinely snag Pacific storms, bidding them drop their cargo on Oregon's western third and rendering it coolly tropical. The east side is left to desert, much of it crossed and crossed again by vertiginous rivers.
Because the idea of the Loop was to build up an appetite on the links and then sate it with the bounty from the streams, it seemed appropriate to launch the trip with a fishermen's feast, which was why we were in Portland's Heathman Restaurant, comparing notes with Chef Boulot.
"I like my feesh a certain way," he explained. "I want the skin on. Even in Portland it's hard to find." Soon Boulot's Provenal Fish Soup au Pistou (no skin) and Grilled Chinook Salmon (skin) were on the table. But not for long.
Cut Out Of The Willamette Valley Just Twenty miles from downtown Portland, the green swales of Pumpkin Ridge's Ghost Creek course carry the buckling charm of any good Celtic countryside. You can see the original allure of the valley, laid down between the Coast Range and the Cascades, to weary farmers arriving on .the Oregon Trail. And to golfers. I'd been paired up with Charlie Griswold, an Arizona pro practicing for the Nike Tour, and his brother, Ed, a struggling duffer like myself, who lives in Portland. "You'll need every shot in your bag," Ed warned. "And a snorkel."