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Trout Bums at Large is a monthly column appearing in the Yakima Herald-Republic and the Seattle Times. The column is written by Randal Sumner and Mark Littleton. We will be keeping an archive of these articles on this page.

Where are the Instructions?
by Randal Sumner

Soon after my Mom received her new computer system she called me and asked “where are the instructions, I didn’t get a manual”. I told her there is no manual. She said the last time she bought a mixer it had sixteen pages in four languages and the mixer only cost twenty dollars. “It’s a whole new world, mom” was all I could come up with. She was right, good grief.

So let’s say you’ve seriously decided to take up fly fishing this year and need some advice, good luck. When you buy that $500 fly rod it won’t have any instructions either, neither will the reel or line, leader, tippet material or flies. The waders, boots and vest are self-explanatory or as they say in the computer business: intuitive. You just know how, like you hardly ever wear your boxers on the outside of your jeans.

Then there is the river, in our case the Yakima, here’s where it gets complicated. The water is always going up or down, the temperature and clarity are always changing and the trout are always moving with the conditions and hatches. The fish on the Yakima see a lot of flies during a season so your presentation has got to be pretty good most of the year. I have three different rod setups in my boat all the time for changing strategy, but it’s recognizing when to change that’s critical. You will need to be able to stop fishing and ask yourself “What the heck is really happening out here”. The efficient fisherman is thinking all the time, adjusting their technique.

Then once in a while the old Yakima gets easy, when the conditions and hatches and moon phase all line up, if you hit one of these events just savor it. You will find yourself laughing out loud and probably singing old Beach Boy tunes.

The best way to learn this stuff is to be mentored by an honest to goodness trout bum, but unless you already know one they’re kind of an edgy bunch. Most of these guys have spent twenty years learning the trade the hard way and are not keen on wet-nursing a rookie.

Hiring a professional is an option but somewhat expensive and you may not get the kind of help you need. The right guide can save you years of trial and error and thousands of dollars in bad gear choices. But before you put yourself in their hands make sure your personalities are compatible. You want a guide to tell you what you’re doing wrong or right and why with out beating around the bush; its not personal they are trying to teach you something My regular clients fish with me three to five times a season. They’ve seen the fishing great and heartbreakingly tough, but the point is they’re getting better over time. I’ve become their instruction manual.

The fly-fishing world is full of fishing books written for the novice; most are of little help. Not to say there aren’t some great ones, but when your starting out how will you know? One book that remains on the top of my list is “Hatch Guide to the Lower Deschutes River “ by Jim Schollmeyer, buy it, read it and keep it handy.

Mark and I have joked, that we should write” The Little Black Book of Fly Fishing Truths” but we lack motivation and who would publish a book with fifty pages of trout bum advice: some of it even about fishing.

Fly fishing for trout is a subtle, evolving avocation: it’s not what you’re doing wrong so many times it’s what you’re doing almost right. I guess my only instructional advice would be to keep the big picture in mind. This supposed to be fun. Practice humility and remember it was never about the fish. When you begin to grow as a fly-fisher the trout will just show up.

More Trout Bum Articles:
05/01/2015: The wolves will always eat the sheep by R.Sumner
11/17/2014: Red Fish Redux by R.Sumner
08/01/2014: Retirement by R.Sumner
07/02/2013: Custom by Randal Sumner
05/01/2013: Subaru Magic by Randal Sumner
01/19/2012: Ding Ho by RandalSumner
04/06/2011: A Cautionary Tale by Randal Sumner
01/26/2010: Redfish Round-up by Randal Sumner
11/24/2009: Kentucky Don and English Bob by Randal Sumner
08/25/2009: A word about Bears by R.Sumner
06/30/2009: Polar bear hugging by Randal Sumner
01/27/2009: Christmas letters by Randal Sumner
11/25/2008: Trip to Eden by Randal Sumner
08/07/2008: Mime Time by R. Sumner
06/02/2008: fuel vs fishing by R. Sumner
05/01/2008: Long sleeve Hawiian shirt by R.Sumner
02/07/2008: The Empire by R. Sumner
11/29/2007: Troutbum self-help by R. Sumner
09/04/2007: The Perfect Client by Randal Sumner
07/02/2007: High Anxiety by R.Sumner
03/29/2007: Grasshopper by Randal Sumner
01/25/2007: Chinese food by R. Sumner
11/30/2006: Old Whitey by R.Sumner
09/28/2006: Chief Holland USN retired by R. Sumner
07/10/2006: BBQ by R.Sumner
05/30/2006: Cashmere by R. sumner
03/30/2006: Sterling Choices by Randal Sumner
01/26/2006: Tying with Pablo by Randal Sumner
12/01/2005: Brrr by Mark Littleton
11/24/2005: Thanksgiving 2005 by randal Sumner
09/01/2005: Anchors Away by Mark Littleton
07/01/2005: Some kinda fun by Randal Sumner
05/01/2005: The Base Lake by Randal Sumner
04/01/2005: Humble Pie by Mark Littleton
03/01/2005: Dance monkey dance by randal Sumner
12/01/2004: Das Boat by Mark Littleton
11/01/2004: What me Worry? by Mark Littlton
10/01/2004: Priorities by Mark Littlton
09/01/2004: Falling In by Mark Littleton
08/01/2004: Ice Fishing by Randal Sumner
07/01/2004: Honey, I flooded the basement by Randal Sumner
07/01/2004: Elvis Lives by Randal Sumner
06/01/2004: Coyote by Randal Sumner
05/01/2004: Redfish and Capt. Dan by Mark Littleton
04/01/2004: Vested Interest by Randal Sumner
03/01/2004: Are you a Troutbum? by Mark Littleton
12/01/2003: Christmas presents by Mark Littleton
11/01/2003: Oklahoma by Randal Sumner
10/01/2003: Steel heading JuJu by Randal Sumner
09/01/2003: Motor Home by Randal Sumner
08/01/2003: Life is Funny by Mark Littlton
07/01/2003: Deschutes by Mark Littleton
06/01/2003: Class of 2002 by Randal Sumner
05/01/2003: BOAT FISHING by Mark Littlton
04/01/2003: ALASKA, LAND OF THE MIDNIGHTBLUE TARP by Randal Sumner
03/01/2003: MARCH BROWNS by Mark Littleton
02/01/2003: DEEP IN THE HEART OF IDAHO by Randal Sumner
01/01/2003: TOP TEN by Mark Littleton
12/01/2002: SAN MIGUEL by Randal Sumner
11/01/2002: DISNEYLAND by Randal Sumner
10/01/2002: CAMPING by Mark Littleton
09/01/2002: MMMM MAYFLIES by Mark Littleton
08/01/2002: CARNEGIE HALL by Randal Sumner
07/01/2002: CRAWFISH PIE by Randal Sumner
06/01/2002: Sons and Pals by Mark Littleton
03/01/2002: Visitation by Randal Sumner
02/01/2002: Ouch by Mark Littleton
01/01/2002: Death by Randal Sumner
11/01/2001: Leakers by Randal Sumner
09/01/2001: Poser by Randal Sumner
08/01/2001: Snake River Diary by Mark Littleton
08/01/2001: It's Hard by Mark Littleton
07/01/2001: Etiqutte by Randal Sumner
06/01/2001: June by Mark Littleton
05/01/2001: Road Trip to Paradise by Randal Sumner
04/01/2001: What Are They Doing Up There? by Mark Littleton
03/01/2001: Gear by Randal Sumner
02/01/2001: Soft Hackles by Mark Littleton
01/25/2001: Motivation by Randal Sumner
12/28/2000: Winter Fishing by Mark Littleton
11/30/2000: Old Blackie by Randal Sumner