So you wanna be a trout bum.

The first thing I would tell you is to finish your degree and pursue a normal career.

If you don’t want to go the smart route, and spend the rest of your life having a ball and chasing fish…then jump in with both feet!

If you read the disclaimer and being a trout bum seems like a good idea, then read further.

Many, most, if not all of the industry folks here on the Missouri River and all the watery resources beyond started out as trout bums. Certainly most. Why did they do it? What drove them to decide to risk normalcy and pursue their trout fishing dreams?

Everybody has a different story with a central theme. They love to trout fish. Some ended up here on Montana’s Missouri River.

To be a successful trout bum you have to be savvy, smart, creative, and a survivor. Most have made the conscious decision to find a way to spend more time here. You visit on vacation or find this place online as one of the top trout streams in not only the U. S. of A., but the entire earth.

Trout Bum 101

A list of things you need to think about before making the leap into Trout-Bum-Dum.

A passion level well beyond the level many of your friends possess. Meaning a willingness to follow a path not celebrated by folks who live in the city, or to follow the normal logical life paths encouraged by your parents.

Those who become full time trout bums have a need, a drive to educate themselves beyond the common man. Beyond the common recreational angler.

A need for more than the normal accepted fishing day(s). When the weekend days do not fill the void, the need, the desire level. Then it is time to move on to the next level.

If you find yourself fantasizing about rivers, ponds, salt flats…this is a sign. Once I was asked by a girlfriend in my early 20’s laying in bed after a full night of fun what I was thinking about…the answer was not what she anticipated. I said “I’m thinking about the way a soft hackle during the beginning of the drift acts before, before it comes tight. Does it breathe looking alive, or does it just dead drift looking dead, or dying.” She just looked at me with disgust. If this seems completely normal, then quit your day job and find a river you love.

Job? Some, most need them. Good bum jobs include fly shop staff, waitstaff, guide…a job where you get lots of time on or near the water.  Any job that allows and understands that you really want to be on the water. Working with/for people with similar mind sets is healthy for your constitution.

Housing? Really tough for the most part. Other than those trust-funded trout bums residing in 3/2’s in Boze-Angeles most have to scratch and claw for decent housing. Some live in their car or truck. Those on this level of housing costs may not need the job. And in today’s customer service centered fly fishing business many require you to take showers. Daily. Housing can be $500+ in most areas and you can lessen the blow if you are willing to have roommates.

Your fishing skills will improve dramatically. Surrounding yourself with like minded anglers, fishing daily, and living amongst thousands of trout and billions of insects will saturate your fly fishing soul with all things trout. If you want to be a better angler than 99% of the public, then this is the lifestyle for you. If you cannot stand to go to work away from the water. If you envelope yourself in fly fishing daily…you will get really, really good.

There are a number of summer residents that come from all corners of this great land. Young and old love the trout bum lifestyle. Some are retired, some are temporarily retired, some are in a transition period. All good times to become a trout bum. Not everybody make a career out of it. For some, it is a temporary affliction. And that is OK.

For many others, it is a lifelong curse. One that you jump at the chance to love to live.

Common tools for the trout bum job include a quiver of fly rods with a desire for more. A knowledge of fly lines, flies, tying materials, history of mundane facts, tricks, and mending techniques of silk lines, a Subaru, a dog, a girlfriend in a  different state, a drift boat or raft, supportive parents, a strong reach cast…all things helpful. If you do not possess all of these tools yet, just join the life and you can acquire the missing tools along the way!

These are just a few of the tools, desires, and dreams that you must possess to come on over and join a team of talented, driven, passionate, and satisfied individuals enjoying the life of a trout bum.

If you need schooling, a mentor, or an ear…just come by the shop with a  6 pack and a flask of Fireball and we @ Headhunters can help.


Previous Post
Missouri River Montana Fishing Report 2.18.14
Next Post
$300 Missouri River Guide Trips | Headhunters Spring Special

Related Posts

No results found.


  • Also, according to Gierach, “No one under the age of thirty qualifies as a trout bum. The whippersnapper living along the stream, or traveling from river to river, isn’t a bum because he [sic] isn’t commited to a way of life-he’s on an adventure. He hasn’t actually rejected such encumbrences as a wife, children, and house payments. He just hasn’t got around to considering them yet.” One of the best openings to any book ever!

  • Sounds pretty fun, maybe I’ll try it

  • Why must you continue to torture my soul with articles like this?
    I need to read about cold water and variable weather giving the fish a case of lock-jaw!

  • Still working, raising kids, and saving so I can become one. Not the typical chronology I suppose.

  • Trout bum.
    A bum who likes to fish For trout…


  • And some of us can’t fish good enough to warrant tossing our careers away to fish 24/7.  We are too far into the 9-5 grind at this age,   Now, if I was 21 again and knew then what I know now, things would be very different and rewarding.  

  • Actually Red Boat Mark I believe Mr. Lafontaine—my hero for obscure fly fishing logic, and probably the first coming of Raisler— made that stellar opening remark…
    How bout a G. Lafontaine winter celebration???  What a Missouri legend!  love all of his informative and non main stream patterns and writing.


  • Terry Armstrong
    February 19, 2014 9:24 am

    A trout bum is a step above the typical bum. A trout bum is not a bum because he is to lazy to work for a living he is just unable to stop fishing long enough. What was that you wanted me to bring? A six pack and a flask of fireball?

  • Chris Thompson
    February 20, 2014 7:22 pm

    I am a long way from a trout bum, but at least I have “a quiver of fly rods with a desire for more” going for me. Great writing SOL. I have a feeling that my desire to be a Trout Bum will only grow after my first trip to the Missouri..

Comments are closed.