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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.

Kentucky Don and English Bob
by Randal Sumner


            This fall Chris and I took our annual Trout Bum trip. This year to southwest Montana; territory that is very familiar to me from years of fishing the Beaverhead and Big Hole drainages.

             It had been ten years since I’d laid eyes on any of the country east of Missoula, it just got to be to far away for a fishing destination.

            Our fellow Troutbum Brandon Hill (Hill’s Discount Flies) had arranged a log cabin for our stay on the banks of the Madison River. This was some thirty miles upriver from the town of Ennis, which is often called the home of American fly fishing. Really… they have a metal sculpture of a cowboy fighting a huge steel trout in the middle of town.

            I got up early Friday morning, hooked up the boat, picked up Chris and we were on the road drinking coffee by 7:30. Our cabin wouldn’t be ready for us until late Saturday afternoon, so we decided to stay over in Dillon Montana a mere 10 hours and one time zone in the truck from Yakima.

             Dillon is the classic small western town, like a cowboy Mayberry, and except for the Patagonia Outlet Store outfitting the locals with snazzy fleece outfits, you’d swear it was 1960 all over again.

            We checked into the famed Creston Motel, as in ‘Restin at the Creston’. This is an anti-chain motel; there is just one Creston, which may be plenty.

             After parking the boat and hauling in our gear we were enjoying the Creston ambience and letting the flies in our room get some fresh air, when there was a knock on the doorjamb.  A man about our age asked if we were the guys with the boat and did we know anything about fishing. Chris and I just looked at each other and grinned.

             As it turned out our guest was from Kentucky and had just driven in from Billings after a flight from Lexington. Now get this; Kentucky Don as he was soon to be known had come all the way from Kentucky, bought some fly fishing gear at a pawn shop in Billings and was now standing in front of us asking if we could help him with the fishing knots ,leaders, tippets , flies etc.

             Kentucky Don had never cast a fly rod in his life.

             We saw Don the next morning at the gas station and he was more than ready to stand in the legendary waters of Montana and make an argument. At a time when fly fishing has become jaded by consumerism and the constant noise of fly fishing expert advice, Kentucky Don was pure. He was just going to have some fun.

            We made our way out of Dillon and met up with Brandon at the Westfork Cabin Camp on the Madison.  The cabins were rustic but really quite comfortable and the location was great, just a two minute walk to the river.  The three of us drifted and fished the Madison for next two days, it was hot and the fishing was slow. The spectacular scenery and cold beer made up for the lack of fishing production. There’s a reason it’s called Big Sky Country.

            On the evening of the second night,I was working over some pork ribs on the BBQ when a few of our neighbors showed up to introduce themselves. They had been coming here from Omaha for 25 years. They were just great old coots full of non PC opinions about everything.  During the conversation they mentioned that there was a gent from England staying in the last cabin. England; you must be kidding. This was too strange even for me. I walked down to the last cabin and sitting on the porch was English Bob I introduced myself and invited Bob down for a drink; this was a story I had to hear.

            English Bob had been fly fishing in England for years and, except that the fishing in England was mediocre at best, he loved everything about the sport. We never really got a handle on what he did for a living because his English was a little hard to understand.

             I covered all the English topics I knew about, Charles and Diana, Landover’s, White Cliffs of Dover; you know, the usual. We finally got to his Montana saga; English Bob flew from Amsterdam to Bozeman, a 22 hour trip. When he got to Bozeman he rented an SUV and preceded to the nearest fly shop were he outfitted himself with the finest gear on earth, waders, rods/reels, boots, everything he had was new and shiny. He had rented the cabin for a month and was down to his last nine days.

             Yes, we did take English Bob fishing to the Big Hole one morning, and although we really couldn’t understand each other the grin on his sunburned face that evening told the story.

            So what is the allure that Montana holds for grown men willing to come from such distances as Kentucky, Nebraska and Great Britain?  Is it the fishing?? No, I think as the sand starts to run out of the bottle faster and we realize our fading mortality it’s the adventure we are really seeking. 

            Just one more adventure is all we ask.  


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
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
01/01/2005: Where are the Instructions? 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