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 11/24/2009
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
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 . 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
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
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
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.