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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.

Humble Pie
by Mark Littleton

This fly fishing is a funny game.  Every time you think you have it down, something happens to let you know that you will never master it.  This usually happens after I’ve had a really good run.  I have the right pattern and am showing up on the river at the right time, catching fish after fish.  Even the really tough fish that can rarely be caught seem too easy.


You start to think “Yes, I am the master of the river.  I have the tools and I have the skills. Bow down to your master, my piscatorial pals.” Then it comes.  The day you’ve been dreading;  The day of humility.  It can come in many forms: 


The Gear Day :  Your gear, specifically your line and tippet, are balled up in a mess all day long.  You can’t go for more than three casts without having to take time out to untangle the mess you’ve made, or worse cut the whole tippet off and start over.  Or you are constantly hung up on a bush, breaking off fly after precious fly and retying.  This makes for a frustrating and unproductive day and worst of all you can’t blame it on anything but yourself.


The “where did you learn to fish” day : This often happens on the first day of a Blue Wing Olive hatch.  These are tiny bugs that require a delicate cast with thin leaders to fish in calm shallow water.  I sometimes spend the first day of this hatch slapping the water with my casts, spooking the fish.  When I finally start to hook some of the fish, I usually break the first five or six off setting the hook because I am not used to using such light tippets.  More than any other hatch, this one tends to impress upon you that maybe you aren’t so masterful after all.


The “what’s wrong with my fly” day - These are the days when fish are rising everywhere, the river is virtually boiling with them, and you can’t hook one to save your life.  Why?  You know what is hatching and you are putting the fly right on the fishes nose and can’t get a taker.  This kind of day will send you back to the drawing board designing new flies that won’t work either.


The “what’s he got that I haven’t” day : This is when you are fishing with someone else who is catching fish like crazy while you are getting skunked or close to it.  Maybe they are just in the right place or have a fly you don’t carry in your box, but for whatever reason, they are outfishing you beyond all reason.  This happens to me most often when I am riding in the back of the boat and one of my regular fishing buddies is fishing in the front.  If you need a lesson in humility, try fishing behind one of these guys when they are vacuuming the river of all fish before the fish even get a chance to see your fly.  Now that’s a chance to get up close and personal with your insecurities about you ability as a fly fisherman.


I guess the moral to this story is that no matter how good a fisherman you are, anybody can have a bad day.  So next time you feel the hubris building up, keep in mind that your heaping bowl of humble pie is just over the horizon

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
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