Monday, September 21, 2015

A Miracle - A Farewell

It has been a long time since there has been any sort of life on this blog.  I must admit that I just don't have the motivation, nor the time that I once had for Bum Trout.  So today I am write what  may be the last post for a long time, maybe ever, because not long ago my world changed forever.

On Sunday September 13, I welcomed my daughter into the world.  In that moment everything completely changed forever in my life.  I was always told by my mother that you never really know what love is until you see your child for the first time.  She liked to tell me this from time to time, usually it was during my teenage years when I was prone to bouts of reckless and slightly self destructive behavior (sorry mom!).  The typical response then was to roll my eyes, and let out a sigh with the obligatory "I know mom."  But now, for the first time in my life, I get it.  In an instant my life has been transformed and when I look at my little girl all I feel is love and this profoundly deep sense of wonder and gratitude. 

I guess when you have your first child it gets you thinking about miracles, wonder, and joy and what that means if anything.  And being one of those guys, the ones that can't help but mix spiritualism and fly fishing (this is a fishing blog after-all!) forgive me if I talk about "woowoo" a bit or make my best lackluster impersonation of David James Duncan, (by the way if you haven't read The River Why, you should.), but I digress.  So how does this miracles, and wonder junk apply to fly fishing?   Let me stumble over-myself here and try to explain, as I see it.


Fishing has always been and will always continue to be an integral part of my life.  It is one of the few things that creates clarity, peace, focus and shakes the dust off of everyday life.  When I was a kid fly fishing seemed like some kind of crazy voodoo-magic-sorcery.  Talk about technique and gear and all that junk all you want, I still think there's a little magic tucked away in this sport of ours somewhere.  Has to be right?  As Norman Maclean put it, we fishermen experience "spots of time," moments that stick with us, forever frozen like snapshots in our minds.  Like when I caught my first steelhead on a dry fly.  Or when that monster cutthroat  materialized from under a cuttbank to sip a green drake a this spring.  Or the time a 23 inch rainbow that sipped my trico spinner on a few years ago in less than a foot of water.  Those moments that stick, the magic ones, the ones you never forget. it's a good part of what keeps me coming back to the water, again and again and again.


Fly Fishing offers us limitless opportunities of hope, to believe in the "unseen" if you will.    That is what faith is after-all right?  Fishing offers us a chance to connect with a world incredibly foreign, yet inexplicably and infinitely connected to our own.  Every cast, every drift is in some way a small act, and test of faith.  A belief in what may happen, a belief in the unseen.  It is that feeling at the start of everyday of fishing.  That "this could be the day" kind of feeling.  Faith that the long drive, grueling hike, dive down the bank, or thorn-filled bushwhack will be worth it.  Faith is what keeps us casting, changing flies, stepping down the run, lacing our boots up and taking another pull on the oars.  It's the faith that at some point we will find our-self connected with something, wild and beautiful.  Faith that a fish will eat our fly, eventually.      


Holding a wild and beautiful trout still holds the same wonder for me today as when I was five years old.  It's hard to explain in words but every-time after I release a buttery brown in spawning colors, a brilliant technicolor cutthroat, or a startlingly colorful brook trout,  I feel that sense of wonder, like what just happened has to be to good to be true.  And it's not only the fish mind you.  It could be the mountains, clouds, a blizzard hatch of caddis, the sight of a male Western Tanager, the calls from a Sandhill Crane, a herd of elk crossing the river, an entire hillside exploding with the color of the spring Balsamroot bloom.  Whatever it is, fishing offers me more opportunities and occasions to experience wonder than anything else I have ever done.  Moments when you stop thinking, analyzing, judging, worrying, criticizing and just think "wow!"  That's wonder. 


Gratitude for I'm not sure what, to the river, the mountains, the world in general, or to something bigger perhaps, something beyond our perception.  Call it god if you will.  All I know is that most of the time when I'm fishing I have this feeling of gratitude.  It can come after landing a big fish, but more often than not I find myself stopping in my tracks, looking at the mountains, perhaps covered up high with a fresh dusting of early fall snow, the cottonwoods and larch trees just starting to turn, the light breaking through a mid afternoon squall and not a soul in sight.  It hits me, alone in this moment, knee deep in the Bitterroot river, this feeling of gratitude, of being apart of this spectacular moment in the universe.  Here I am a speck, a tiny grain of sand, separate, distinct, but somehow connected and a part of all that surrounds me.  If I but stop and allow myself to be present in the moment, to be thankful, to be gratitude.  During the hustle of my daily life I rarely afford myself the time to be grateful, fishing allows me these moments of gratitude and I'm thankful for it.


If all you are out there for is to put "meat on a hook" then in my humble opinion you're out there for the wrong darn reason.  If I ever get to a point where I lose my sense of wonder, gratitude, and love for it all.  If I stop experiencing those great moments as small miracles, then that will be the day I quit fishing for good.  I pray that never happens, in 22 years of fly fishing, it hasn't yet.

So where am I going with all this?  I believe most fly fishermen somewhere in some small part believe in this stuff.  Thousands of hours standing in wild trout streams has a way of changing you that way.  Think about every time a trout takes your dry fly, this is no small miracle, and act of grace if you will.  I mean, why in gods name would a fish eat something so ridiculous as feathers, hair, and something that equates to that of dryer lint tied to a metal hook?  The easy answer is that trout are dumb.  Yes, maybe they are just dumb. 

But I'd rather believe in miracles.  The greatest of which (in my life) happens to be 6 lbs. 10.5 oz. and is named Eliza, she has her mothers good looks and a healthy dose of attitude.  I pray that she grows up strong and happy and whole.  That she experiences wonder and joy.  That she knows she is loved.  I hope she comes to enjoy the sport that I love so much but I'll forgive her if she doesn't, and even if she fishes with bait....

Thank you, and goodbye.



Sunday, January 25, 2015

Streamer Class at Freestone Flyshop

I will be teaching a streamer class again this year at Freestone Flyshop in Hamilton, Montana on Saturday, February 7.  The class begins around 9:00am.  I will be tying some of my favorite proven patterns and then sharing all that I know about catching large predatory trout on streamers.

You can sign up for the class on Facebook or by contacting the shop.              Phone: 363-9099 or email Jeff at to register.  While you're at it, check out the shop website at  Space is limited so sign up soon!

Hope to see a few folks there.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Catching Fish on Our Terms

I was casually checking the Headhunter Fly Shop blog the other day a few months back, mulling through one of Scumliner's recent articles "News Flash.  Not All Anglers Want to be Dry Fly Anglers." that got me thinking about this topic in earnest.  Clicking the link will take you to the article.  After that you can come back here, or not.  It's up to you.  You just might get swallowed by the Headhunters website after all.
Do You Like Sneaky Stuff?
Back?  What does catching fish on our terms mean?  Simply, catching fish how and when we want to.  In my humble opinion there's a prevailing sense in our sport that dry fishing is the ultimate, high art way to catch trout.  Many folks would agree with that statement but it's when you start dissing on the other disciplines I think there's a problem there.  True, personally I would rather catch fish on dries or streamers than on nymphs but that's just me.  There's nothing wrong with indicator nymphing or anything else for that matter.  It's my opinion that fly fishing is fly fishing, plain and simple, and as long as you're not San Juan shuffling, chumming, or snagging fish I could care less which method you prefer to use.    
Throwing the Big Bugs?
This brings up an interview I recently heard on an Ask About Fly Fishing Internet Radio podcast with steelhead guru Dec Hogan.  He was discussing why in the heck we choose to swing for steelhead when we could nymph them up a lot better.  Or for that matter, why not just chuck bait and catch every fish in the river?  I guess the answer lies in the fact that many anglers reach a point where it's not important how many or how many big fish we catch.  It's that we want to catch those fish the way we want to, on OUR TERMS.  We just want to do what makes up happiest.
The Big Nasty Stuff?

Thinking back to steelhead again.  Why swing?  There's a lot of reasons out there to justify it.  Purists might argue that a floating line and wet fly combination is the only method fitting of such an amazing creature.  Plain and simply though, it comes from a mindset that you're going to catch that fish the way you want to catch it.  Most hardcore steelheaders that only swing, I believe, would agree with the notion that when you catch a fish it's because you deserved it, you worked hard for it, you earned it.  For some, that one fish and the consequential feeling of achievement and satisfaction it brings, means more than anything, more than twenty gear or nymph caught fish.  I get it.
The Junk?
After many years involved in this sport, I've come to the conclusion that there's almost no wrong way to fly fish.  This craft of ours accommodates every style, every method, every age, and (almost) every personality type.  The fact of the matter is that you should do whatever brings you joy.  If fishing a double nymph rig under an indicator brings you joy, then do that.  If ripping six inch long streamers on a sink tip brings you joy, then do that.  If throwing a size 24 trico spinner on a 3 weight with a 20ft. leader brings you joy, then do that too.  Fly fishing should bring you joy, whatever that may look like.  There's no better way, no worse way.  There may be the more technical and challenging way (think dry or die and/or streamer junkie guy) but it's not better.  Hey, but if it makes (dry or die and/or streamer junkie guy) happy then that's what he should do, plain and simple.
Do What Makes You Happy.  Get out and Fish.
There's a hatch, a run, a technique, a fish, a spot in the world for everyone and everything.  So go do what makes you happy.  Catch those fish on your terms, how you want to.

And if you really just like to catch a lot of fish, use bait learn every discipline, technique, method, fly, and rigging combination you can, and figure out when and where to use it.  Oh, and swing soft hackles occasionally, you just might catch every fish in the river.

Feel free to leave comments and tell me how I'm totally wrong about all this. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

New Boat Smell

A month or so I sent my old Riken Dodger raft affectionately known as the "Gray Whale" down the road.  The "whale" was a good old boat for me and logged literally hundreds of days on the water over the last few years.  A lot of good memories were made, and a lot of great fish were caught out of that old raft.  For being twenty years old it only ever had one tiny leak, that's right, one. 

All things come to an end however and it was the right time to sell her.  I'm happy to say that the whale has found a good home and I hope the new owners get as much enjoyment out of that old boat as I did.

On the flip side I recently got a brand new ride, a 13' NRS Otter.  Needless to say I am excited to get it out on the water.  In the meantime I'm enjoying the new boat smell in my garage, kind of a chemical smell however.  I think it's probably killing some of my brain cells...  Oh well.  I don't need many anyways.    

Goodbye Gray Whale

The Finished Product

Sunday, June 1, 2014

I'm Still Here

I am alive. 

Blogs tend to go through a hibernation period every once and a while.  However just like the grizzly bears here in Montana, after the long slumber I'm once again up and running, and ready to spread more nonsensical misinformation about fly fishing through the intellectual wasteland known as the inter-web.

Just like the proverbial phoenix in Igor Stravinky's Firebird, Bum Trout will too rise from it's own ashes and once again take it's place as one of the most preeminent  mediocre fly fishing blogs on the planet.  Self-aggrandizing aside, it feels good to be back, to have time to be back.  Teaching, school, coaching a high school sport, tying flies, and teaching saxophone lessons has left the blog feeling thoroughly neglected.  I did however have one or two of you out there ask where the heck I was and when, if ever, I was ever going to post again.  To those folks, thank you for caring.

Anyways, two months later here I am.  I promise to post some more this summer.  Some new stuff is in the works.  Promise.

Big Bitterroot Brown From a Few Weeks Back

Monday, March 3, 2014

Small Fish Are Cool Too.

I think a large part of many an angler's life is spent in search of the next "big" thing.  The next "big" hatch, secret Shangri-La stretch of water, or next big fish.  It's true, fly fishing folk are the kind of people with their heads always in the clouds, daydreaming about that next big steelhead, tarpon, salmon, or kyped out slob of a brown trout. 

We regale to each other, stories of that time on River X where we "slayed them," all on dries, and they were all big fish.  We are always in search of that next adventure or new piece of water.  We make big proclamations every year such as; "I'm definitely going to go to Silver Creek this summer" or "I'm not missing the Salmonfly hatch on the Big Hole this June."  Sometimes these prophecies come true, sometimes they don't, but at any rate, we never stop dreaming.

I digress.  The point I was out to make when I started writing this was that small fish in small water are cool too.  I mean, what if that next "big" thing happens to be that beautiful meadow on a tiny mountain stream a few miles up that bumpy dirt road?  

Often I find myself plotting on how, when, and where I'm going to catch more and bigger fish.  I spend money I don't have on food, gas, licenses, flies, and fixing flat tires in order to get to big famous rivers with their (if you read all those fly fishing magazine articles) supposedly never ending supply of big fish.  Don't get me wrong, I love a good adventure, and I REALLY love to catch large trout. Who doesn't after all? 

However no matter how many big fish I catch, and all the big rivers I fish, my first love will always be for throwing dry flies on small streams for beautiful, clean, and (mostly) small fish.  I can't really even explain why I love this kind of fishing so much.  All I know is that by the middle of July, all I want to do on my days off is grab my Tenkara rod, and run up the nearest trail into the mountains.  Small mountain stream fishing for me is like coming home, I feel like a kid again, it washes the dust of life away.  Plainly and simply,  I can never get enough of it. 

The small fish that are found in these mountain streams never cease to amaze me.  From the fiery red of a pure blooded cutthroat's slash, to the shocking Technicolor shades of a wild brookie, to the leopard spots of a wild rainbow, these fish are simply gorgeous.  Pure and wild.  Missing are the shredded fins, washed out colors, and beaten down bodies of a hatchery trout, or the ripped lipped, missing mandible, hooked-scarred-been-caught-100-times tailwater fish.  These small stream trout are fresh, bright, clean and 100 percent wild.  I'd rather catch one of these six inch fish than a 20 inch trout that looks like it's been through World War II any day.   

Folks that claim to be above catching small trout are okay with me.  Less competition for me, less pressure on the fish I love, I'm cool with that.  You can have your drift boats and big rivers when it's one hundred degrees outside at 2pm during those dog days of summer.  I'd rather be standing in an icy mountain stream catching six inch cutthroats, alone, unbothered and unencumbered. 

If your goal is to have your face up on the Slab of the Month page on Moldy Chum this may not be your kind of fishing.  If however you want to be alone and feel like a nine year old all day, this may be your thing.  Small fish are cool, and as I would argue, the most amazing of all.         


Friday, February 21, 2014

Montana Fly Fishing Magazine - February/March 2014 Edition

The latest issue of the Montana Fly Fishing magazine in now live.  I'm proud and happy to say that this month's cover shot happens to be one of mine!  You can also read some of my thoughts on nymph fishing in this month's issue.  I'd like to once again thank the good folks at Three Forks Publishing for giving me this great opportunity.
My half-baked theories and ramblings aside, there is a bunch of stellar content in this issue featuring:  The Bozeman Reel Company, Austin Trayser, Matt Guymon, Korey Kruitbosch, and Taylor Todd to name a few.     
 Clicking on the link will take you there, and as always, it's free to all.  Montana Fly Fishing Magazine