RWONWF Melissa Handley: ‘Forever Addicted And In Love’

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 Melissa Monroe Handley

It’s been since childhood that I’ve held a rod in my hands, practicing a cast to prove to my dad and brother that I could fish too. Most of the time I watched as they hauled in salmon from our local Rogue River, bottomfish from the Pacific and trout from Klamath Lake. I loved it, but deep down I also wanted to be a bigger part of it.

I grew older and busy with school, college and becoming a young mother. Life took over. Many stresses and years went by.

Fishing for Chinook, winter steelhead and half-pounders in the beauty of Southern Oregon is a “spiritual experience” for Melissa Monroe Handley. (MELISSA MONROE HANDLEY)

Twenty years later, as a mom with a full-time career as a leader in the medical imaging profession, with all of the changes life has brought, there’s one thing I have recently found that manages to bring me back to center. The ability to go back to childhood. Forget the stress. Remember where I started. 


In the last three years, I met and married the love of my life, Jonathan Handley. Turns out his passion in life has always been fishing. He’s been fishing and guiding the Rogue River for years. Little did I know just how obsessed he was. I soon found out, as I was fishing alongside him every free moment we had, learning all the techniques that he’s been taught and tried throughout the years. He’s taken me for multiday river trips, just us two, me in the front of the drift boat, the only one fishing for days as he gave instruction. Steelhead, salmon, half-pounders – life changing, and through some of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen. It’s a spiritual experience. 

To go from the excitement and adrenaline of hooking into a steelhead or salmon, to the more relaxing parts of the river, where the chaos of the world seems to disappear in the sounds of the flowing river, calms the soul.

“We have had so many adventures fishing together, and a lifetime to go!” (MELISSA MONROE HANDLEY)

I get to spend time with the best fishing partner God could have blessed me with. We have had so many adventures fishing together, and a lifetime to go! Rivers in Southern Oregon, Northern California. Ocean kayak fishing – one of the scariest but most exciting things I’ve ever done!

I’m still in awe at the beauty of places fishing can take you. I am forever addicted. And in love. 

Up next: fly fishing. I can’t wait! –Melissa Monroe Handley