Every inch of the Troy Resort shouts “rustic outdoor experience.”
From the haunting stare of the bobcat mount in the corner of the bar to the extremely rare spike cow elk above the restaurant door, Troy, Ore., isn’t your typical weekend hunting and fishing destination.
Located at the confluence of the Grande Ronde and Wenaha Rivers and at the edge of the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness, the resort is a haven for fishermen, hunters, hikers, campers, river rafters and sightseers alike.
Bill, Steve and I arrive in Troy on Saturday morning at 8 a.m. and immediately hit the river with our fly rods.
We are surprised at how quiet the small hamlet is for the first week of November.
Usually the resort is packed with RVs and serious steelheaders through the end of Fall, but this year’s recession has hit the Troy Resort particularly hard.
This place is a hidden gem well known by few, who are seemingly reluctant to pass the secret on to anyone aside from family and close friends in fear that crowds might ruin the magic of this place.
From the moment we pull into the parking lot it is immediately evident that this valley has escaped the technological advances of time.
While the world around Troy advanced, Mother Nature worked overtime perfecting her beauty on this hidden canvas in far northeastern Oregon.
Troy native Doug Mallory, with his charming wife Kristen, returned to Troy in 2008 and re-opened the Troy Resort in August of 2009 after a 21-year stint as an engineer in California’s Silicon Valley.
“I have a lot of history here. My ancestors settled here sometime after the Civil War to ranch and farm on the Grande Ronde River,” Doug tells me as he leans over the counter of the resort’s restaurant.
“As a kid growing up in Troy in the ’70s, I remember hearing John Fogerty jamming country music with the locals. He owned property and spent time here then. I had no idea who Creedence, or CCR, was back then; we had no radio or TV here in the canyon to inform us of these things.
I spent spare time in my youth hunting and fishing here — who needed television with so much to do!”
Long before it’s reopening in 2009, Troy has been a serious steelheader’s magnet. Every fall, people from as far away as England migrate to Troy to fish the Grande Ronde’s legendary steelhead run.
This is the sort of place that once experienced, the magic of the valley draws you back year after year. With almost 14 miles of easy river access from Wildcat Bridge to the Washington border, there is plenty of room for anglers of all skill levels to find their perfect run.
On each of my previous visits to Troy, I spent the lion’s share of my time photographing my surroundings instead of fishing. The rivers, canyons, wildlife and breathtaking landscapes around every turn made it very easy to forget the real reason I came to Troy, the fish.
I asked Doug Mallory to share with me his most memorable Grande Ronde fishing experience.
“When I was 5, my much-older cousin Verne rigged up my tiny toy fishing pole with a real metal fish-hook so he could take me fishing for some small trout on the Grande Ronde,” he recalled. “This toy pole was a metal rod 3 feet in length with a single plastic guide at the tip. The pole had a plastic reel loaded with about 5 feet of nylon string. It came with little plastic fish with holes in their lips so little fisherman could practice ‘hooking’ them. Not a robust pole, but perfect with a few modifications for a 5-year-old to catch some small trout.
“Twenty minutes into our fishing session, I was having a blast,” Doug said. “I’d already landed two ‘huge’ 8-inch rainbow trout, while sitting in cousin Verne’s lap so I wouldn’t tumble into the river.
“That’s when it happened — the water EXPLODED in front of us, and a 38-inch steelhead burst from the river with my hook in it’s mouth! My makeshift fishing pole blew apart and the last we saw of the pole was its contrail headed upriver behind that fish, like a torpedo buzzing through the water towards a destroyer in an old war movie,” Doug tells me, smiling from ear to ear.
“Good thing Verne had hold of me or I probably would have also gone buzzing upriver with the fish... I guess that’s when I first got hooked on steelhead, literally.”
Bill, Steve and I fish the Grande Ronde for two days and hook plenty of fish to keep us busy. Everyone we speak with on the river is having success, including three off-duty Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists who are floating the river for the weekend. We land five steelhead in all, one of which is the largest native steelhead I have ever battled.
After a long day of fishing, and a plenty of catching, we retreated to the lodge to enjoy a very well-prepared and reasonably priced rib-eye steak at the restaurant.
After dinner, we sip cocktails at the bar, exchanged fishing tales with a local fishing guide and visit with Doug and few fellow resort guests before turning in for the night.
“Like most areas, Troy is continually evolving and changing.” says Doug.
“Troy boasted a population of nearly 45 residents in the ’70s, now the town’s fulltime residents number about eight. For me, the things that remain constant are the canyon walls, the smell of the pine oil in the air that these Blue Mountains take their name from, and the sound of the river in my ears.
“Also, the wildlife,” he says. “I see more here in a week than you would in most small zoos. It’s definitely one of the perks of living here. Most that visit Troy once are hooked for life.”
With a full stomach and my fill of cocktails, I finally settle down from the excitement of a day full of fishing. I quietly retreat to the front porch of the lodge to reflect on the day’s events, quickly joined by Tank, the local cattle dog whose affectionate prods remind me of the importance of escaping from time to time to visit a place like Troy. A day here unfold as it is meant to unfold: at it’s own pace, absent of any outside influence. No text messages, phone calls or traffic signals to distract you from the reason you are here. The comforting solitude felt in this place is a sudden and welcome feeling. As I turn in for the night, the smell of the pines and the sounds of the river in the distance remind me of the heartfelt stories shared by Doug and his wife.
The local owners of the Troy Resort, Doug and Kristen, are two of the most hospitable hosts you will ever meet, and the local greeter, their dog Tank, is a close third.
The Troy Resort is open year-round and has 20 RV spaces, three rooms in the lodge, four cabins and river-view tent sites. Lodging rates range from $55 for a single lodge room to $119 for a larger multi room cabin.
The people who know about Troy know it well because they return year after year. Unfortunately, lodging is down 50 percent this year and Doug and Kristen are worried about the prospect of keeping the doors open for another season.
It would be a shame to lose such a wonderful place.
For a perfect “rustic getaway” to a quiet corner of Oregon, look no further than the Troy Resort on the Grande Ronde River.
Just one visit and you’ll be hooked!
Phillip Wolfmueller is the owner of fly-fishing Internet retail business Stream Flies in Hermiston, Ore. See the website at www.streamflies.com.