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A day in the life of a Big Sky trout bum



Sexy or not? It’s in the eye of the ‘beerholder’

By Patrick Straub EBS Fishing Columnist

John Gierach, the man most often credited with coining the trout bum term and exemplifying the lifestyle, once said in order to be a trout bum one has to be well over 50 and have gone through several relationships with most ending with the trout bum choosing a day fishing over a day walking in the park and holding hands.

I’m paraphrasing here of course, but Gierach nailed it—a trout bum is dedicated to pursuing trout above all else, including most things necessary for modern-day living, things like Facebook, a smart phone, skinny jeans and double-tall lattes. The true modern-day trout bums I know have none of these. They’re on the water fishing while the rest of us are updating our status or emoji-ing.

Here’s a peek at what their world looks like during winter. They are a dying breed, but enough still exist for a glimpse before they are gone forever.

7:32 a.m. Still soundly asleep.

8:46 a.m. Still asleep, yet not so soundly.

9:13 a.m. Awake, with both feet firmly on the ground. With a groggy head from a few too many IPAs last night, the coffee brewing starts. Hot coffee is poured into yesterday’s mug, which was found underneath a pile of fly-tying material.

9:26 a.m. Sits down at the dining room table/fly tying bench/wader repair bench/only table in the apartment to tie two dozen flies for the day. What takes the lay person half of an hour takes our Trout Bum eight minutes. A dozen perfectly tied Pat’s Rubberlegs and a dozen fire-bead Czech nymphs sit in a cleaned-out Copenhagen tin. In a few hours, these fresh flies will be immersed in the water of the Gallatin River.

9:34 a.m. Two Pop-Tarts spring into action out of the toaster.

10:57 a.m. Trout Bum pulls onto Highway 191, but before pulling out takes one hand and lowers the rod tips protruding from the back of the car, allowing any oncoming traffic to come into view. Half of a dozen rod tips venturing into the space between the driver seat and passenger seat, most of which are tandem nymph rigs with strike indicators and sinking lines with large woolly buggers, create an obvious obstruction.

11:07 a.m. Walks into the local fly shop. Our Trout Bum knows everyone by name and asks the staff a few questions, but already knows the answers. After thumbing a few of the latest rods and reels and calculating how many packets of ramen noodles they’d cost, Trout Bum heads out.

11:43 a.m. Now on the Gallatin River and fishing a tandem nymph rig on a 9-foot leader with 18 inches of 4X Flurocarbon tied to the end it, our Trout Bum has landed four rainbows, two browns, and a few whitefish in 4 to 6 feet of water at the top of a deeper pool. On the end of the 4X is tied a size 12 coffee and black Pat’s Rubberlegs. Off the bend of that hook is a size 16 fire-bead Czech nymph.

12:36 p.m. Heads back to the car and drives to another location on the Gallatin.

1:27 p.m. While eating half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and watching for trout, a few splashy rises are spotted. The tandem nymph rig is clipped off. Twenty-four inches of 5X Rio Suppleflex are added to the 9-foot leader. A size 20 Griffith’s Gnat dry fly doused with a liquid floatant is tied onto the leader.

1:31 p.m. After seven perfect but unsuccessful drifts with the Griffith’s Gnat, Trout Bum switches to a size 22 Parachute Adams, to no avail. A size 18 Brook’s Spout with a size 20 Flash-Bang emerger is then tied on. Third time’s a charm and fish are caught.

2:23 p.m. Our Trout Bum is beginning to think about taking a nap. If it were summer, a streamside nap would happen soon and waking time would occur in time for the evening caddis hatch.

3:07 p.m. After fishing a few more runs and fooling a dozen or so more trout with the dry fly and emerger rig, it’s back to the truck.

3:48 p.m. Back at the house, our Trout Bum has tied a dozen Flash-Bang emergers and settles onto the couch for a nap. A big snow is forecast for the night, so tomorrow could be a powder day and rest is required.

Gierach wrote “God must have invented fly fishing to keep old hippies from getting rich or ruling the world.” As I’ve seen after 20-plus years in this business, Trout Bums are harder to find and fly fishing has become commercialized with many going into this business for profit more than lifestyle. For those anglers who embrace the lifestyle over the amount of black in the bottom line, we salute you. And the ramen noodles are on us.

Pat Straub is the co-founder of the Montana Fishing Guide School and the author of six books, including “The Frugal Fly Fisher,” “Montana on the Fly,” and “Everything you always wanted to Know About Fly Fishing.” He and his wife own Gallatin River Guides in Big Sky and he co-owns Montana Fishing Outfitters.

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