Welcome to our series called “Trout Bum of the Week,” in which we highlight some of the folks living the good life. . .of a sort. (See the bottom of this post for a link to the previous installments.) Most of the subjects are guides who have turned their passion into a vocation, spending their time in an outdoor “office” that may include a drift boat, gorgeous mountain scenery, and crystal clear water. Others do have day jobs but manage to spend every other available minute on the water with a fly rod in hand. Whether you aspire to one lifestyle or the other, it’s illuminating to explore the different paths these men and women have taken on their way to achieving “trout bum” status.
Bob Streb is an independent fishing guide who plies his trade on the Eagle, Colorado, and Roaring Fork Rivers of Colorado. He is also a sometime contributor to this blog (see here and here). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and check out his blog, Bobber Talk.
1. When did you start fly fishing?
Nearly 30 years ago, in my early twenties. I had been fishing the tributaries of Lake Ontario with conventional tackle when I happened across some dude doing something that looked more interesting. I had no idea then what I was ultimately getting myself into.
2. What’s your favorite water?
My favorite trout water is my home water, the Eagle River in the central mountains of Colorado. She’s a blue-collar river. She makes you work for it, especially with a boat during her limited float season. But once you figure it out, there is no place on the planet like the Eagle River for dry-fly and streamer fishing. Now forget I said that.
3. What’s your favorite species to chase with a fly rod?
Most of my experience is with trout–and I will still claim them as my favorite–but I have some serious problems with migratory fish and anything that swims in the salt.
4. What’s your most memorable fly fishing moment?
As a guide, I have been privileged and lucky enough to have been around for a few fish-of-a-lifetime moments. I will never forget those times. It’s kind funny to me that a fish, of all things, can form a lifetime bond between a guide and his client, but it definitely does. My personal most memorable fly fishing moment was hooking a Permit on my 3rd cast in Belize last April. It’s a moment that is still surreal and only the other two people in the boat can truly understand how it happened. I haven’t been able to write about it because there really are no words for that 10 minutes of my life. It has been an honor to serve great men and women through Project Healing Waters and I look forward to every day with this great organization. Being part of a team that won the 2007 Orvis Outfitter of the Year didn’t suck either.
5. What’s your most forgettable fly fishing moment?
Well again it probably has to do with guiding, not my own personal fishing. I have done CPR (someone else’s client), been sworn at and sworn back, babysat brats with my drift boat, dropped measurable fish, knocked big fish off the hook with my net, and I once called Sir Nick Faldo “Mr”. I made a nice lady cry, even though I saved her Porsche from probably death when she wanted to drive it through the river. The largest rat’s nest I have ever experienced ultimately broke her down and sent several of us scrambling for a bottle of whiskey. I have forgotten lunches, nets, flies and rods, and for a long time I averaged about three people a year falling out of my boat. I have also been fired from two shops, several times by each actually, but that only helped my already shaky reputation with my peers. All and all I don’t regret much, yet; so I may have to get back to you when something major happens.
6. What do you love most about fly fishing?
First and foremost I love the water. I know it is cliché and trendy, but without it I don’t have a job. I have grown to respect moving water and all its influence on fish, bugs, boats, my friends, family, and my own soul. I love to row a boat for fishermen and to be an important part of the success of the team by how I run the ship. I have withdrawals if I am not in a boat for extended periods of time. I also love the relationships I have formed because of this incredible sport, especially the guides and my peers I have met along the way. This little fraternity has given me a great deal to make my clients’ day better, and I have been fortunate to learn from some of the best in the business. I have been humbled by both the genius and stupidity that I have worked around.
7. What is your favorite piece of gear
I probably should say my boats, but they are regularly giving me a hassle, so I’m going to say my Peak Vise. Fly-tying is a huge part of my program, and it has opened some doors for me off the water as well. I spend time everyday day dreaming at that fine tool.
8. What’s your go-to fly when nothing else is working?
If it’s dry fly fishing, it’s a good old Elk Hair or an X2 Caddis. If it’s a nymph or streamer, I would have to show you because I probably tied it and it doesn’t have a name.
9. What was your favorite fly fishing trip?
Southern Belize. Partly for the fish, part for the place, part for the water, but mostly, because of whom I got to share it with. Can’t wait to go back.
10. How do you define the difference between someone who loves fly fishing and a true trout bum?
I live near a very famous ski resort, and I am around the original bum, the ski bum, a lot. They chase winter, live on the cheap, drink more than they eat, and ride more than they work. But trust me, the first winter we don’t see the ski bum in town is a sign the snow isn’t so good, and to a trout bum that means the fishing is going to suck that summer. They are like the canary in the coal mine, so we are connected. A true trout bum has a similar spirit to the traditional ski bum, but a great number of trout bums have a real job and a family.
There are some trout bums who are well enough off to spend money on planes, guides, and high-end equipment but still have the right outlook on the sport: they have money but still have true passion for the sport and care about the resource. There are plenty of trout bums doing it on the cheap, too, and maybe the nights in the back of a pickup truck, eating off a propane stove, give them that gritty authentic feel over the guy staying at the Ritz. I think it comes down to love and passion for a sport that needs as much help as it can get to survive. Trout water is not going to be here forever. Living at the headwaters of the most used river on the planet reminds me of this every day. I never take for granted what I do for a living, where I get to do it, how delicate it is, and how much I want my son to have it to enjoy the way I do.
More often than not, the difference between someone who loves to fly fish and someone who is a true trout bum comes down to landing fish. A guy who loves to fly fish usually is hunting for as many fish as he can to feed his ego. A true trout bum loves a good long-distance release. A true trout bum understands it’s just about fooling them and dancing with them for a bit, not about touching them.