Striving to be a steelhead bum? [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Striving to be a steelhead bum?

06-19-2003, 03:09 PM
Dana brought up an interesting subject about work and steelhead fishing and how lot's of us are somewhat tortured trying to do both.

Are there any of you out there that are really working towards becoming a steelhead bum? Maybe there are some who are already there. Anyway maybe those willing would fill us in on how you plan on becoming a fly fishing bum or how you have become one.

This question should be in world wide section except for one thing and it seems to me we steelheaders are the most induvidual, independent and creative of all the fly fishermen even over rocky mountain trout bums in Montana. We will go to just about any length to fish.

My plan is to retire on the most part in 4 years at 55. Mind you I'm not money rich nor do I wish to be. Plan on buying an 800 sq ft home on the OP, cash, fix it up on my time, have a garden etc and try and live on about 1000 or 11 hundred a month. I think I can do this real easy but does anyone have any health insurance answers? That's the one sticking point here in the USof A. Maybe if I'm going live such a full and independent life I shouldnt worry about insurance.

Anyone got any ideas how they are going to do it or how they would do it if they had the nerve to be able to break away from the every day grind?:devil:

06-19-2003, 03:35 PM
When I 'retired' the first time (move from Calif. to S. Oregon) to build our (then) vineyards the cost of good coverage was about $600/mth. That hurt .... but not as much as the sudden stop afforded by a concrete driveway from two stories up.

The 'cutter's bill' was over $33,000 alone for reconstructive sug. to my right arm. Suspect I got every penny I'd ever put into the employer plan in one "fell swoop.''

Also why I went back to work. The benifits.

06-19-2003, 03:51 PM
The answer is obvious OC.

Since you will be living on the OP save a little money and buy the biggest sled you can afford. Start a guiding business and have clients 2 days a week. That will give you a little extra cash and you can fish 5 days a week.

I can see it now. Offer drift fishing as well and you can name the business after your fly:

OC's Bisexual Guide Service "We swing both ways". :chuckle:

Seriously though I have thought a lot about how I could integrate fishing into my normal routine. If things worked out different a couple years ago I have no doubt I would be a steelhead bum. My wife and new baby are now my priorities.

Part time guiding (which I never want to do) seems like the only way I could justify the significant drop in pay I would incur. For my line of work (software development) there just is not a lot I could do in the fishing arena. Freelancing is always an option but I do like my steady paycheck (as does the wife).

I get to retire in 12,104 days and then I can really become a steelhead bum. As long as you guys do not tap out social security and there are still some steelhead left of course.:rolleyes:

For now I help out with flytalk and get to meet a lot of really good fisherman. I cherish each and every time I get to spend on the water which may not be the case if I was a true fishing bum. It is something I do not take for granted which in my mind is a good thing. Getting up early a few times a week and gettting in a couple hours before work is all I can fit in. For now it is just enough. Speaking if which it is time for me to leave work and go fish the sky. See ya!

I remain a slave to the man,


06-19-2003, 04:18 PM
OC's Bisexual Guide Service "We swing both ways"

That is simply priceless. I can see it now, they would only throw mid-bellied spey lines too.

Outstanding Sean! :hehe: :hehe: :hehe:

06-19-2003, 04:46 PM
When I grow up I wanna be a steelhead bum :D

IMHO guiding and fishing are worlds apart. In one, you are relaxing, enjoying, learning, releasing pressure and having some fishing for yourself. The outcome is yours to reckon with for credit or blame. In the other, you are working, teaching, selling and 100% of the pressure's on you. It's your fault when the fish don't cooperate or when the fishermen can't hit the mark.

Fortunately, the closer to 'bum' status you get the more you gain one of the important elements of guiding - recent, applicable and local knowledge. In striper land, if you can't pick a spot on a flat where the fish will surge at a given tide within 15 minutes of your prediction your clients are going to be pissed that you walked them 200 yards in thigh deep water to stand on a sandbar in waiting.

But, if the fish surge that flat they are bound to be impressed and if you have the next three locations mapped out through the tide change and they all get pods you are delivering the goods.

I guess the way I look at it is that when you fish, the challenge is to get yourself hooked up. When you guide, the challenge is to get someone else hooked up who's actions are not really under your control. To express what you think needs to be done using anecdotes instead of flies, motions instead of casts, and proposals instead of line tension is a lot like presenting to the fish, indirectly. So when your client hooks up, you feel you share that success and in a way you've done well on the water without taking so much as a cast.

In the end, it's better to have a high paying day job to support your fishing habits than to have a job helping others catch fish IMHO. Hmmm.... how about a high paying job where you fish all day? (yeah right) ;)

06-19-2003, 04:59 PM
Sean & Sinktype

Come on now this is a serious question I've asked of world importance.


Your right being a guide is not the answer for sure. being a guide with a jet boat means that one would have to hang out with all those guides we see on the Sky, boondogging and none of us would want that for any of us would we?

Fred it's a tough question on the insurance I understand where you are coming from but wish I had the courage to say screw it and go without. But it's hard when one just convinced his daughter to join the cattlemans association( establishment) so the family can get affordable health insurance.

Anyone live in a tepee year round?

06-19-2003, 06:03 PM
OC-- Here is good news/bad news in regards to health insurance. If you're trying to scrape by on $1100 a month or so, the state has a Basic Health plan with payments scaled to your income. If you're single, you might be able to qualify for it. If not, you probably will. That's the good news. The bad news is that with the current budget crisis, the plan might not be there after Locke signs the budget bill.

I'm self-employed as a freelance writer, and the health insurance thing is a big problem... affordable health insurance just doesn't exist. Even catastrophic insurance-- where you pay all the bills up to a given figure like $10,000-- is expensive in my view. We priced some at $200 a month, and that was with a $2500 deductible per person.

Fortunately, my wife went back to work, and we now have insurance through her job.

On the steelhead bum business-- I'm trying to get there, but it's still tough to take care of a big backlog of chores that build up when you're self-employed. I have hopes that maybe in a couple of years I'll be there with daily reports of fishing for you. One point in my favor is that I already live on the OP.

Good luck,


06-20-2003, 12:45 AM

I tried being a fishing bum for two years back in 1982 and 1983. I had my fill of spineless small school principles (I was a band and choir director then) who would allow kids to get away with a huge amount of crap in band that they wouldn't think of letting them get away with in other classes or the sports teams.

Anyhow, I was single, owned a single wide mobile home (14x64), and a 1971 4x4 Ford pickup outright. I heated with wood that I cut and split myself, even cut some for a bit of cash from a few neighbors. I tied trout flies for a shop in Great Falls, MT and place several ads in fly fishing rags for retail sales of flies and custom rods. I lived in Cascade, MT and had a lot rent of $45.00/month with garbage, water, and sewer included in the lot rent.

Because I owned outright the truck and the mobile home, my living expenses were minimal. Electric bill averaged $35.00/month, propane for the gas stove and water heater amounted to a 100 pound bottle every 3 months (about $45.00 to fill it at that time), and food cost was also minimal because I has a garden (I spent about $50.00/month on food).

I got to fish a lot, and loved it! Virtually every day from March to December I fished. And I lived only 2 blocks from the Missouri River's quality trout water (so-called blue ribbon section) so I didn't need gas to go fish either.

The downside, no health insurance for the two years, had to make all my own repairs on the truck and the mobile home (these took me away from fishing or tying flies that needed to get finished and sent out). And I never had any left over money. As a single guy, it was OK and I convinced myself that I didn't really miss having a better diet, nicer clothes, better vehicle, etc. because it so great getting to fish so much.

Then I got tired of living this way (I made and lived on $4200.00 one year and $5300.00 gross before tax profit each of the two years respectfully) and went to graduate school so that I could make some real money and not have to work 40 hours weeks. I then met and married my wife and the responsibilities of raising a family will not allow me to live like that now.

Every once in a while though the thought crosses my mind that it would be nice to be able to go fishing if I felt like it without worrying about work. I really liked being a Montana trout bum for those two years. But I also like being able to buy a replacement for something before it is worn out, and I like having newer vehicles and the ability to buy a new rod, etc. that having a job affords. It would still be pretty easy for me to be an OP fishing bum though; however, my wife and kids would never understand.

06-20-2003, 12:54 AM
2 Words: Sugar Momma ...a sugar momma that wants you to have lots and lots of fun!

06-20-2003, 01:07 AM
I dont live anywhere close to the life of a steelhead bum but I must say I am pretty damn lucky. I talk fishing all day, dont have an overly large number of responsibilites so my days off are devoted to the water 90% of the time.

If I could do it differently though, I would not of gone on that large spending spree like I did when I turned 18. For two years I lived life to my credit's limit. So at 22, living at home, making decent money (decent for flyshop wages), I can not travel as far as I would like as I often as I would like in search of steelhead as I have some serious credit card debt to take care.

Hmmm...a sugar momma isnt sounding all that bad. Do any of you older gentlemen have a young, proffesional daughter you would like to set up with an industry proffesional (that last part would definately benefit yourself). :hehe:

06-20-2003, 03:56 AM
There are options out there. For health insurance, you could take a part time job that offers benefits. Some places only require 16 or 20 hours a week to get them.
Could you buy two small houses when you sell your current home? A rental house could bring in extra $$$ for things like insurance while still keeping its worth.
I worked nights for a couple of years at a job that had a new schedule each week. I could fish every morning at 6:00 and everyone else wanted weekends off for family stuff so it was no problem when I asked to work the weekend shifts and have weeknights off. I got out 4-5 times a week.
With my new job (less than a year there) I'm at the mercy of the higher-ups for my schedule and have been assigned swing shift with weekends off. Swings allow me to fish mornings before work, though there have been a few times when I got up early and fished, then wished I hadn't because work was busy. For about a month I had tue-wed off and it was nice. In time I'll be able to move around and get back to weekdays off.
Being childless is a must. Being single helps.

wet fly
06-20-2003, 08:27 PM
OC Take a look at David James Duncan's book "The river Why?" It is a good read on being a Fly fishing bum. It is a dream of a lot of us fly fishermen. If I could only fish 7 days a week instead of one or two!! Some are able to take a year or two off in the start of life. Some lucky people get in a 10 or 20 year period of healthy retirement. It is the work and family years that create the conflict. To be responsible to work and family leaves too few hours left for the river. "Fly fishing through the midlife crisis". by Howell Raines adds a little more thought ot the subject. Jerry

06-21-2003, 01:58 AM
Originally posted by wet fly
Some are able to take a year or two off in the start of life.

I was unemployed for 9 months after I finished college. I lived at home, but my parents never saw me because I was always on the river.

06-21-2003, 11:11 AM
I must say that I prefer bumming to guiding in every sense of the word.

I though about doing it once.

Working as a Helicopter mechanic during the Native land Surveys and US Geological Survey of Alaska you would spend most summers in the Bush.
Footnote as far as I know we had not lost any land since the first US Geological Survey of Alaska.

Got a chance to watch the Pipe being built plenty of good fishing along the right away mostly Grayling and Rainbows?

Work hard all winter to get enough money in the bank so you could raise two girls buy a home keep the wife in new cars and head for the bush with snow off and not return until freeze up.
Then do it all over again

Fished many places on the Peninsula and the Chain over the years.
Many where even today very few people venture.

Lots of fun; got to see and fish much of the state without any of the normal hassles.

In the 60ís very few fishing guides or camps met a fellow once who wanted to start one.

Did some guiding.

Did not get much of chance to fish when your are Guiding (didnít guide many fishermen though) just those who hunted the Big Brown things at go bump in the night. Love to hunt Bears hate moose hunting too much work
Things do go wrong.
Been through a couple of hard landings (a hard landing is any thing you can crawl away from, itís only wreck when you want the Insurance money.)

Learned to how to live off the land and have great little adventures

Got left once for an extra two weeks my wife finally missed me and asked the fight service if they had picked me up.
After that I Learned to carry 10 lbs of rice with me got really tired of fish and venison

Living is Southeast Alaska was a lot easier just jump on a Mail Plane and spend your lunch hour on a mountain lake or one of the 187 Steelhead Rivers very little completion there.

Would I do it again you bet?

It was a great 26 years.
I still dream of being a Speybum: some day.

06-22-2003, 01:01 PM
Good stuff guys,

Like most of us being a true "steelhead bum" is a pipe dream. I'm certain that there aren't many who are willing to pay the price that guys like Bob York paid. Yes, if you think about it, the steelhead vagabond pays a different kind of price than you and I, but is is equally steep (if not more so) - if it wasn't we'd all be doing it!

It is kind of nice to have a few guys who are "living the life" - it gives us some heros to dream about while we sit at our jobs - with all our benefits and security - and pensions - and health care - and family.

Now that my kids are grown and out of the house, I am enjoying what I like to think as the best of both worlds. My wife and I started young and while that was tough - we now have the payoff of having our lives to ourselves before we are 50. I am also fortunate that Sandi is a champ. Long ago she accepted the the impotant and innevitable, that is - fishing was not something I do - it is something I am! Not that there isn't a limit to what fishing I do, but she has never tried to change me - I am a lucky man.

As for guiding, I guided for salmon in Campbell River while at university, then when the family was younger I spent my fishing time on myself. In the past 6 years I have begun to guide again. Those who think it isn't "fishing" are probably right.

I do it for 2 reasons. The first is that I work for Langara Lodge at the north tip of the Queen Charlotte Islands - IMHO the best salmon fishing hole in the world! One that I could never afford to fish myself on a regular basis - yet they pay me to fish! There is a difference between guiding for salmon in the salt and steelhead, that is - in salmon fishing the guy driving the boat is "doing the fishing" (I guess if you pulled plugs for sreelhead it would be similar). Those on the rods are helping by letting out line and reeling in the fish. Llike steelheading (at least for me), the biggest thrill is the take and I still get that in my guiding.

The real danger and downside of guiding is that it can turn fishing into a job :tsk_tsk: - I do not want that to happen. Again, I am fortunate that guiding is not my livlihood - so I don't have to spend 5 months solid at it. I get to wake up every morning and say "Yahoo! I get to go fishing today." It is a cool thing. I have always maintained that if I start to wake up not wanting to go out - then it is time to quit!

The second reason I guide is "to support my habit". The money I make guiding finances my tackle aquisitions and various excursions during the rest of the year. Before Langara, I began working weekends at a flyshop to finance the habit and while fun, it had more drawbacks than guiding. First the pay sucked (though the cheap gear was good - if a little too tempting) and it seriously cut into my fishing time. Now, while I will admit that that I love to talk fishing - it is not as much fun as actually fishing. So when the offer to go to Langara came about it was an easy choice!

So I guess I could call myself something like a Gentleman Steelhead Bum, similar to a Gentleman Farmer, I get to pretend that I am a steelhead bum - yet I have the security of "regular" lifestyle - Bob York or Ed Ward may not think this the lifestyle for them - but it works pretty well for me.

06-22-2003, 02:09 PM
I think I have an would be the latest greatest reality show on TV. It would be titled Who Wants to be a Steelhead Bum or better yet PNW Steelhead Bum ala American Idol.

There would be 3 judges, one of which would be a total cranky ole you know what...any ideas who could play that part??? :devil:

Then there would be 2 nice judges...although finding an attractive Paula Abdul look alike would be very difficult as the only prominent female steelheader out there is far from attractive.

Anyways...the aspiring steelhead bums would get on the stage and showcase their flytying and Speycasting abilities etc. etc. along with true steelhead bum qualities such as eating cans of Pork n Beans while driving 80 mph with jetslead in tow, bumming drinks at the Steelhead Inn in Spences Bridge (you know who you are) etc. etc.

Their fellow steelheaders would show up screaming like teenage girls, holding signs proclaiming their love for one contestant over another.

A winner will be chosen and they will be given enough money to be a steelhead bum for as long as they like. They will not be allowed to have a steady girlfreind or get married during that time...they will have to deal with having a cult following developing around their flies and their lines and their haunts. They will surely get their photo published on numerous occasions...they will become a hero to some....but BEST of all...they get to steelhead wherever they want when they want!

06-22-2003, 08:52 PM

Just for thinking this up you deserve an all expenses paid trip with a certain female deity/guide! :tsk_tsk:

06-23-2003, 07:53 AM
But since this is all fantasy, you should have made it a "Beautiful, immoral female deity/guide....


06-23-2003, 10:14 AM

Very creative but there is one flaw. Any true steelhead bum worth a damn has no desire to be either famous or a hero. In fact a true steelhead bum would prefer not to be known or for that matter even seen.

I agree as to Ryan's prize. I want to be there though to make sure everyone stays vertical. Since I was with Spark the first time he had a brush with the immortal one, I feel it is my duty. While I my have failed the first time, as God is my witness, I vow this time there will be no legal action involved. :hehe:


06-23-2003, 10:40 AM

Take your camera. I would pay for pics of Sparky and the Goddess:hehe:

06-23-2003, 03:04 PM
Perfection .... The definition of the "perfect" woman (at least when I was in the Marines) was.....

A beautiful rich deaf, dumb, blind nymphomaniac who owns a liquor store.

Now, how can you beat THAT!


06-23-2003, 03:11 PM
Wish you all could have been at the WSC meeting when I invited the Goddess and we were up at the bar getting a drink and Spark comes around the corner and almost walks right into her. I thought there might be a showdown at the OK corral. You could have herd a pin drop and all the members turned and just stared, waiting, waiting....

Both were well behaved as I expected, Ryan is a lot more mature now that he drinks legally. In the meeting they sat with Ryan directly in front of her. I was just waiting for something to happen but nothing did and it was a good evening.

The Goddess and Spark really are fine folks when you get to know them.

06-23-2003, 04:30 PM
My front door is 29 steps from an excellent steelhead run on the lower Deschutes. I will cast through it at least once a day from July through November unless my work puts me elsewhere on the river. In that case, I'll swing a fly through water wherever I may be camping.

I usually have Monday, Tuesday and Wednesdays off so today I am going to the North Umpqua for a few days. Not enough steel in the Deschutes yet for a trip to Wagonblast.

I try to live each day as though it was my last. I would like to have hooked a steelhead my last morning on Earth.

06-23-2003, 04:37 PM

Good to see you on this board. Have a great time down on the NFU.

You are a lucky man to get to fish the Deschutes that much. Plus you get float the river like four days a week.

I actually would love to retire oh in like 20 years on the NFU myself.


06-24-2003, 01:54 AM
As I drove up, I saw her rig and thought 'Oh Sh**'...I walked in and there she was...but she didnt bother me one bit (after a couple Redhooks) :hehe:

...and thanks for the kind words!

(Message edited by moderator.)

06-24-2003, 09:22 PM

Ryan needs to get the goddess's sister into fly fishing for steelhead. Then he can have the best of deals: a gorgeous woman (or so I'm told) who he can teach to fly fish as his companion. Hmmmmmmm......... perhaps the goddess could play matchmaker for him.

06-24-2003, 09:57 PM
I have seen a few pics of the lady in question and she is quite pretty to be sure. I fear though that she might have a bit too much horsepower for our dear NorthFork. But on the bright side, he would die with a smile on his face.

06-24-2003, 10:35 PM

There was a fairly ancient (she was about 75 12 years ago) lady fly fisher I would run into at times on the Missouri River in Montana. A woman of similar characteristics might be more the speed Northfork requires. Afterall, he did mention something about getting a rich sugar moma earlier in this discussion so that he could be a steelhead bum. Of course I doubt that he would die with a smile on his face with this type though.

06-25-2003, 12:53 AM
I dont get it!! all do not see me as the 'Rico Suave' type???? :confused:

I saw you edited my prior a freind of ours observered today, and I quote, "It's funny that Sinktip edits post on Flytalk and then posts the biggest flames on other sites, eh?" ;)

06-25-2003, 08:48 AM
Yes Sparky,

We think you and Rico would make a great couple.... Are you moving to Miami soon?:razz:

06-25-2003, 09:03 AM

I keep thinking of that picture you posted of yourself with the blue hair - and it makes me think Jr Smurf ...:D

06-25-2003, 10:28 AM

As you know I have been known to start a fire or two here too. I only edited your post slightly so as to get it back within the family friendly guidelines of the site.

As for flaming on other sites, I don't believe that entirely accurate but if you must know, I still believe that ugly people shouldn't have avatars :devil: Myself excluded of course :razz:


06-25-2003, 11:05 PM

I thought the blue hair was to better attract some of those "wealthy sugar momas" that Sparky mentioned earlier.


Nah, not Rico, more like Elmo 'cause he's so lovable.

06-26-2003, 12:17 AM
Ahhhhhh....I am so happy to see you all can find humor in my once blue hair (it has also been black and bleached blonde on numerous occasions), my sexuality (I am straight for God's sake) and my current plight with the oppposite sex (and you haven't heard the worst of it)! :rolleyes: ;)

....okey dokey!....back to!! :eek:

06-26-2003, 01:58 PM

Don't fret. Remember what I told you about Kevin and how he and his wife met and got together. You are now working in a prime location for the same thing to occur.