D-Day Trout and A Return to Normandy

Story by Mark Hume with Photography courtesy Uncage the Soul

D-Day Trout: When Frank Moore landed on the beaches of Normandy on the north coast of France on June 6, 1944, he was like a lot of young soldiers under the command of General Eisenhower. He wanted to fight, to win – and to stay alive.

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Frank Moore

But he also had something else on his mind as he pushed inland – those beautiful big trout that he saw when he looked down into the rivers he crossed as a 21-year-old soldier.

The image of those fish stayed with Mr. Moore for 69 years and when he mentioned to John Waller his dream of one day returning to France to revisit Utah Beach, and look for the trout he had to pass up because a war was raging, a documentary project was born.

“Tough as nails, gentle as a poet, and determined as a badger,” is how Mr. Waller, of Uncage the Soul Video Production, describes Mr. Moore, now 90, who built and for a long-time ran the world famous Steamboat Inn, on the North Umpqua River.

Mr. Waller is in the process of shooting a documentary, Frank Moore: Mending the Line, which will tell the story of a remarkable man and his long love affair with fly fishing.

A lot of the video has been shot already in Oregon – but at this writing there was a big piece missing: Mr. Moore’s return to France to drop a fly on those big fish, if he can find them again.

Mr. Waller said a small doc team, which is volunteering its time, plans to take Mr. Moore and his wife, Jeanne, back to the rivers of Normandy, “this time armed not with a gun, but with a fly rod and reel.”

To bring Mr. Moore’s life full circle, and close the loop on the documentary, Uncage the Soul is trying to raise $50,000 through an online crowd funding campaign. Details can be found at the end of this article.

It is hard to imagine a fishing trip more worthy of support.

A River Never Sleeps spoke with Mr. Waller about the documentary he’s making on Mr. Moore – an old soldier with a fly fisherman’s soul.

Q: John, tell me how you came to the subject of Frank Moore?

A: I grew up down in southern Oregon on the North Umpqua River. My parents know him. They still live down there. They kind of had put us in touch. I have a video production company here in Portland, Oregon and we wanted to produce a few profile pieces on Frank last summer, one for Travel Oregon and one for a PBS show called Oregon Field Guide.

So we spent several days at his place on the North Umpqua River. We stayed at his log home down there and spent a few days out on the river with him. I personally had never met him before this project, although my parents and had known him for 10 years or so.

Q: And when did the story about going back to the old war zone surface? That wasn’t what took you originally to see him I take it?

A: No, we were just simply doing a profile piece on Frank having fished on the river for 70 years. It was during an interview and I posed a question to him about what he hadn’t yet done in his life that he’d still like to do. He paused and thought for a bit and said ‘You know when I was a soldier and had just come ashore in Normandy, I remember crossing over a bridge and looking down at the river below and seeing a few large fish spawning or swimming in the pool below.’ And that image stuck with him for now 75 years and he said ‘You know, I’ve always wanted to go back and fly fish the rivers that I saw as a soldier in World War II.’ And that was when we realized we had a pretty amazing story on our hands.

Q: So when do you go and where do you go to?

A: We would go late May to early June [2013] and our trip would coincide with Memorial Day and D-Day because Frank really wants to be over there at those times. So we’d fly into Frankfurt and go to Luxembourg where there’s a big cemetery. Then we’d go over to Normandy and spend about a week fishing on a couple of the rivers just in and around Normandy. Then we’d be at Utah Beach for D-Day which is where he came ashore.

Frank and I have spent a fair amount of time on Google Earth scouting locations. It’s amazing how sharp his memory is because he was recalling locations and town names and details that were just extraordinary in their precision. As he’d describe something I’d go and try to find it on Google Earth, and sure enough, there it was. And we could zoom in on these locations. You know, he’d say I was travelling down this road and there was a bridge and I looked to my right and there was a small café. With Google Earth you can confirm all that stuff. It was neat to spend a few hours with him doing that and at the end of that we had more or less planned our route.

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A scene from Mending the Line

Q: What’s the plan for the film? Who are you making it for and when will it be released?

A: Well, it would probably be released late this year or early 2014. Once we get back we still have some additional filming to do down on the North Umpqua and then the post production editing can take a really long time. So that would be our tentative release.

As far as where it lives it would be submitted to a number of film festivals both in Europe and the U.S. We’d attempt to sell the broadcast rights to it. It could end up on PBS or Discovery or History channel. And the third thing is we’d sell DVD copies. There’d be an online portal so people could go and purchase it. And then the fourth thing is, my experience with this in the past is that we get contacted by a lot of groups that want to have a screening of the film at their event or gathering.

Q: What length are you shooting for?

A: It would be a feature documentary. My guess would be about an hour long because we would be telling a lot of Frank’s life story. To really build his character and identify who he is with his historical background so that when we get to the point in the film where we’re actually taking him back to France, the viewer has a really good sense of who this guy is and the amazing life history he brings to the table.

In a way this is writing, I don’t want to say the last chapter, but a later chapter in his life story. But we have to get the viewer to that point first. So there’s a lot of background that we need to build on, who he is, his time in the war, his time on the North Umpqua River.

He has a pretty extraordinary resume.

Q: From the short trailer it seems he’s amazingly sharp mentally and strong physically too.

A: Yeah his mental acumen is extraordinary; his ability to recall people and places and dates and times. He’s very, very sharp. And physically he’s very capable too. He is 90 years old so there are those aches and pains. But we worked him pretty hard in the three days we filmed him. We made him go up and down a lot of banks and wade through some pretty swift water and he was solid out there  . . . All of us were out there to help him if he needed it but he was wading across super slick rocks that were sending the rest of us slipping and sliding under water.

Q: Do you come to this as a fly fisherman yourself?

A: I do. I’m not an avid fly fisherman but I go out maybe once or twice a month. It’s almost impossible not to do here in the Pacific Northwest because there are so many great rivers. I definitely try to take my fly rod with me wherever I can.

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Watch the short video trailer for Mending the Line here.

Editor’s End Note:

And Mr. Waller makes the following appeal for support:

We need help to make this happen.

1.  Invest in the project through a secure online crowd funding campaign at http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/frank-moore-mending-the-line

2.  Airline Miles.  Have a lot of extra miles, or know someone in the airline industry who could help out?

3.  Connections in France.  Know anyone in France that could assist our effort?

4.  Share the project.  What veteran, outdoor, fly fishing, or river conservation proponents or organizations do you know who would be interested in supporting the project?

Mr. Waller can be contacted at: info@uncagethesoul.com and a pdf outlining the project is linked here.