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.
The Empire by R. Sumner 02/07/2008
My old friend Phil Hull had his
50th Birthday this month, and the troutbums and there brides got
together at Birchfield Manor to celebrate the event.
I went through my shoe box of fishing pictures to find some evidence of
his early fishing life, in the days when we both had a full head of luxuriant
brown hair. We past them around the table and had a few laughs and a toast.
Phil asked if I remembered the first time I took him fly fishing. Yes, I did teach him to fly fish, and to his
credit he still fishes to this day.
Before I describe his first trip,
a trip on which he broke two fly rods and slipped into the river I need to make
a note on Phil’s rather polite English demeanor.Philip would have been just as happy in a
different age. I can see him collecting exotic insects with the Raj a top an
elephant when the Empire still ruled India.
Having tea at on the dot, even
in the bush. Especially in the bush. Imagine the barrister in the movie, “A Fish
Named Wanda”, the perfect example of English propriety. A person who’s idea of
hell is to be publicly embarrassed.I’ve
always admired Philip’s sense of self and as the Brits would say pluck.
A month or so before opening day
I gave Phil a list of gear he might want to invest in before his fishing debut,
the only thing he did buy was a pair of 5mm neoprene waders and boots. I told
him that I had plenty of rods and flies, and at that point I still did. We met
up on the river in the morning around
and it was already getting beastly hot. Our other companion is not to be named
for complicated statute of limitation reasons; we’ll just call him Tom.
I put the boat in the river and readied the
gear, Phil put his new waders on over his jeans, Tom and I wore shorts and
t-shirts.As Phil attempted to mount the
drift boat in his new clunky brown waders he slipped and fell back into the
river with one leg in the boat and rest of his body thrashing in the water. Tom
and I may have chuckled a bit. After righting himself he gave it another
attempt, this time he was perfect… except for stepping on a rod and breaking it.
Bloody good show old man.
Tom looked at me thinking I might go into
Atlas missile mode but it was opening day, what the heck things happen. What I
remember is that none these setbacks seemed to make much of an impression on Phil;
I thought he must be numb from the neck up, little did I realize I was
witnessing generations of breeding.
The rest of the morning went
rather well; Philip took to the casting and actually caught some nice rainbows.
When I anchored the boat for lunch in the shade of an old Cottonwood
tree, Phil got out to explore the river bottom desert flora. Tom broke out the
delicious mini-mart cuisine and some ice cold pop and we waited as one hog does
When Phil got back to the boat I was engrossed
in one of Tom’s infinite stories of bad luck and inappropriate behavior. Tom
was at that time the funniest human in earth, a treasure of hilarious off the
wall stories that could make you laugh till you were in tears. I was having one
of these moments when Phil reappeared and stepped into the boat breaking fly
rod number two. Tragic…. and yet in a surreal way extremely funny. Here sitting
in front of me sweating in his own brown sauna was a guy that had trashed my
gear and was now asking for a cold Diet Pepsi:” I’m thinking, Bit of bad
business about the rods, eh?
I also taught Philip to tie
flies, he took to it like a proper Englishman, In fact I believe I’ve seen him
at his tying desk wearing a jacket and tie, staring deep into the high plains
checking his watch for tea time and swatting flies off an elephant’s back.