by Randal Sumner
Over the last
twenty-two years I have taken at least one trout bum trip a season. I am the
only long-term survivor of these trips. There are a lot of reasons the
personnel has changed over the years: work, family, golf, mental illness. There are all kinds of excuses not to set
aside a week or two aside for fishing, none are reasonable except death.
For many years we
went to Southwest Montana to camp and fish the Big Hole and Beaverhead Rivers.
These were the years before the drought that has damaged both these famous
fisheries. If you want trout, you need water itís the main ingredient, water.
Well that and bugs.
This is the tale of one of those trips and a
fisherman named Tom, not his real name and the perils of his last trip with me.
problems started the first evening after we arrived and set up camp. As we got
our waders and gear together Tom discovered that the new pair of waders he had
purchased before leaving were the wrong size. Never one to dwell on the details
he had bought a pair of waders that were a bit to large; standing with his feet
in the knees, the rest of the legs were lying in the dirt two feet in front of
him. I loaned him a pair of old neopreames and told him they had a leak or two.
Later that evening we fished him out of the
river; apparently the waders filled with water and pulled Tom under.
A couple days
later the rest of us were out fishing and Tom decided to do a little cooking or
to be precise BBQing with my little propane BBQ we affectionately called The
Bomb. Tom apparently turned the gas on and waited a while before lighting the
incendiary device and the explosion burned off most of his hair and eyebrows.
He smelled like a singed chicken and looked like one of those cat breeds
without any hair. Toward the end of our trip we
decided to rent a raft and float the Big Hole. It was perfect September day
without a cloud in the sky and air temps in the 80ís. Four of us piled into the
raft with our gear including waders and jackets, the Big Hole is located on the
Continental Divide and a storm blows through almost every day, it can get nasty
Tom wore a pair of cotton shorts and a
Like some weird clockwork at 2:00 the skies
darkened, the temperature dropped and it began to rain and hail. We happened to
be on a gorgeous flat at the time and got out to fish the Mayfly hatch that has
to happen in these conditions. The bugs came off on schedule and the trout were
churning the water. When the hatch was over I looked back to see Tom huddled
under a bush, drenched to the bone and shaking like a wet bald cat with blue
We gave him all the clothes we could spare
and continued down river. As it got dark Tom was really in tough shape he was
even wearing an old orange life jacket trying to get warmed up, my guess is he
had a dose of hypothermia. When we finally we arrived at the take out, Tom
chucked the life jacket in the river and ran to the truck. Wrapped in an old
oily blanket he talked to himself all the way back to camp. By the time we had
returned the raft and most of the life jackets it was pretty close to midnight
and we decided on a quick dinner of chilidogs.
Now here is the amazing part of our day, we
all watched Tom eat four enormous dogs in two minutes then go to sleep standing
That was the last
trip Tom ever went on with me, and I guess I understand, a trip like this is
not with out its low moments. But between the near drowning, lighting himself
on fire and hypothermia I really think he had a good time.