RWONWF Jamie Lebon: ‘I Just Love The Adventure’

Editor’s note: Each December we feature the Real Women of Northwest Fishing in our year-end magazine issue, and here are stories from the 2021 edition!

By Buzz Ramsey

I’ll admit, there are times I cannot stop looking at what others are posting on the internet. It’s not the political stuff I seek; I block or remove all of that, even from friends who should know better. What I’m interested in is viewing the stream of photos posted by outdoor enthusiasts showing off fish, game and other edible rewards they have collected.

Jamie Lebon is described by friends as someone who “loves to fish so much she is often the first one up and out the door at oh dark thirty.” Here she holds a Drano Lake spring Chinook caught on a guided trip with Shane Magnuson. (JAMIE LEBON)

Perhaps like you, I only give a passing glance to most images, hit the “like” button on many and make a comment on those posted by close friends or ones that depict the bounty of the outdoor lifestyle I can relate to particularly well. 

It’s no secret, more than a few outdoor enthusiasts (both male and female) work hard at being visible to their many friends via Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms. These days, it’s the frequency of posts that exposes the players in the outdoor world. Jamie Lebon, a woman who loves to fish and is interested in learning to hunt, is one of them.

I first met Jamie a few years ago at the Washington Sportsmen’s Show in Puyallup and have since fished with her a few times. Even got my picture taken with her holding a spring Chinook she caught when we fished together along with others on Washington’s Drano Lake! 

Lebon traces her interest in fishing back to Lake Sylvia, near Aberdeen, where she caught rainbow trout as a kiddo. A little later she began trying for salmon on the nearby Chehalis River out of her dad’s wooden jet boat. (JAMIE LEBON)

Mutual friends have told me that Jamie is one woman who loves to fish so much that she is often the first one up and out the door at oh dark thirty. Driven is a word that might best describe Jamie when it comes to her passion for fishing.

I was able to interview Jamie recently to learn what got her into the sport and how she has connected with other outdoor women.   

Buzz Ramsey Jamie, share with me some of your first fishing memories.

Jamie Lebon My early fishing adventures were for trout. My parents would take me. I remember still-fishing PowerBait. We would sometimes fish with worms suspended under a bobber too. Most of those early trout trips were to Lake Sylvia, located near Montesano, Washington, where I grew up.

BR Tell me about salmon and steelhead.

JL When I got a little older my dad would take me fishing for salmon on the Chehalis River from his wooden jet boat. I remember catching a lot of salmon on plugs. I’m thinking we back-trolled them, but we might have fished while anchored too. Both my parents and several relatives were into fishing and would take us all the time, and still do.

I didn’t go winter steelhead fishing when young, although my father was quite avid. His favorite river, by far, was the Wynoochee. I’ve gone winter steelhead fishing a few times and caught a couple but really, it’s mostly just too cold for me.

“I just love the adventure of chasing fish in new places and learning how to catch them,” says Lebon, here with Brittany Church and the 110-inch marlin that won Lebon the 2018’s NW Girls Gone Fishing Tournament off Baja California. (JAMIE LEBON)

BR So, you’re more into chasing salmon these days? 

JL Yes, it’s salmon I fish for the most. I go with friends a lot but sometimes hire a guide, especially when participating in tournaments.

BR Who are some of the guides you have fished with?

JL Shane Magnuson is one great guide who has become a friend that took us to the Columbia River for spring Chinook in 2020. My girlfriend Michelle Johnson and her son Corbin and I were on that trip, and Shane limited us out.

Jamie went on to list a few of the other guides she has fished with, like Brandon Glass, who took her out several years ago when she participated in a Fish Like A Girl Tournament. Guide Jim Babcock has guided Jamie and friends on the Olympic Peninsula’s Queets and Clearwater Rivers for fall Chinook and coho. Jamie has hired guide Brian Moore when competing in the Lipstick Slayers Tournament at Buoy 10. She also had plans to fish with her guide uncle, Jim Miller. 

BR What’s the biggest Chinook salmon you’ve caught?

JL While I’ve yet to break the 30-pound mark, I’ve caught several salmon in the high 20s. 

BR Tell me about some of the other fisheries you have participated in.

JL I just love the adventure of chasing fish in new places and learning how to catch them. Here in the Pacific Northwest, besides fishing for salmon, I’ve gone for bottomfish and albacore tuna. Earlier this year I went to California with friends where we caught striped bass.

Jamie also told me about her participation in a kayak tournament for sturgeon on the Willamette River, near Swan Island. She had a blast. It was her friend Michelle Johnson who lent her a kayak and coached Jamie on how to do it. Jamie caught and released a 4-footer the very first time she tried fishing from a kayak. 

What really got Jamie excited was talking about her experiences while fishing in Mexico. She has fished out of both Cabo San Lucas and La Paz. During those adventures she caught striped marlin, mahi mahi (also called dorado), yellowfin tuna and bonito. It was in Cabo where Jamie won the NW Girls Gone Fishing tournament in 2018 by catching a 110-inch marlin. It’s a catch-and-release event and about 30 women participated that year. 

Kayak fishing trips have been some of the most memorable for Lebon. An outing on the lower Willamette with Michelle Johnson, Leslie Rosaneau and Kelly Mather yielded a 4-foot sturgeon … (JAMIE LEBON)

BR Your most memorable fishing trip?

JL Fishing for coho out of Depoe Bay in a kayak. I went with my friend Michelle. It was my first time doing it and we ended up 2 miles out and couldn’t keep the silver salmon off. We kept our coho limit that day and caught bottomfish too. The whales were close; they stink but are fun to be around. We saw porpoises swimming nearby too. That was really fun and I cannot wait to do it again. 

BR What’s the hardest thing about fishing?

JL Figuring out why I can’t catch fish on the days when others are catching them but I’m not. 

BR How has the internet helped you connect with other women interested in fishing? 

JL I see posts made by other girls on the web and maybe chit-chat with them a bit online and they sometimes invite me fishing. In many cases it’s at the sportsmen’s shows where I’ve actually come face-to-face with many of the women I first made contact with over the web.

I’ve also connected with other women at fishing events and tournaments, like the ones Janae Brock has coordinated through NW Girls Gone Fishing. Janae is busy raising her young family right now so hasn’t been quite as active. For those who don’t know, NW Girls Gone Fishing is a women’s group where women of all ages and skill levels are welcome and can learn how to fish and do so safely.  

… while a trip off Depoe Bay with Johnson provided coho, bottomfish and close-up encounters with whales. (JAMIE LEBON)

When it comes to hunting, Jamie has duck hunted once and liked it, and she is interested in chasing big game with a bow. To orient herself, she has been watching hunting shows. 

One of her big motivations for fishing and wanting to get into hunting is to eat quality foods that are free from hormones and other bad-for-you compounds. 

“As a registered emergency room nurse, I’m sensitive to eating the not-so-good things some foods contain,” Jamie said.

Like a growing number of women, Jamie Lebon is working to make outdoor memories that last a lifetime. NS