It's funny sometimes how words can have entirely different meanings when used in pretty similar contexts, and if you don't believe that say "she's hot" instead of "it's hot" when your wife is standing by your side, watching you steal a glance at a girl on the beach.
And take the word "bum," for instance. Certainly there's connotation attached; you don't want to look like a bum, dress like a bum or live like a bum. Well, maybe you did when you were 12, but it's not which you ultimately aspired.
But throw the word "trout" in front of the word "bum," and suddenly a lot of folks – at least those who fish a lot but still never seem to get on the water as much as they'd like – are looking at you with a certain amount of envy. Shoot, you even command a little bit of respect among the hardcore trout-chasing crowd.
That's happened on more than one occasion when I told fellow anglers of our plan to do some serious trout bumming this season, just Paula and me, hitting one stream after another for about a week, not plotting any particular route but instead adjusting our itinerary to the hatches, the quality of the fishing and the availability of a campground shower once in awhile.
It's not really trout bumming if, at the end of each day,you're returning to a jacuzzi, king-sized bed and cable television. But if you're accommodations involve a futon mattress neatly fitted into the bed of your pickup on state forest land and you're handling several of your meals over a Coleman cookstove while wearing headlamps, you're in full trout-bumming mode.
To be honest, Paula and I don't have to go far to find some superb trout fishing up here in the Adirondacks. We're 25 minutes from the Ausable's famed West Branch, another 20-25 to the Saranac and its North Branch,and have countless brook trout waters right out our back door. You can catchall the wild brookies you want if you just stop at every culvert in the neighborhood. Not exactly an adventurous outing, but productive.
But if you're returning home, checking email regularly and focusing too much on personal hygiene, you're not even close to being a true trout bum.
That's why serious trout bumming involves a concerted effort to avoid civilization and a single-minded pursuit of fish. You can actually do that up here, hiking into spots like the Boreas River, the upper Hudson, hitting remote brook trout trickles where you're not even sure of the name, and all those backcountry ponds, some of which require a backbreaking effort to access but carry huge rewards in the form of brook trout built like footballs.
You don't have to hit them all. You might just fall in love with just a couple and park there for the week. That's what trout bums do:fish where they want, when they want, with little regard to time, date,schedule or responsibilities. And really, a week might not even qualify. This is something a true trout bum does all season.
Like I said, you can't be a trout bum if you're on the phone at the end of the day talking to your friends about the fishing. You have to check out – of society, almost – to be a trout bum.
Our regimented ways – let's face it, after more than 30 years in the newspaper business my life has been one big deadline – flies in the face of trout bumming. And Paula over plans, something a true trout bum would never do. She's always wondering what waters we're fishing each day,where we we're staying at night, and what hatches might have the trout "looking up."
A trout bum's day might go something like this: arise whenever, eat whatever, decide to fish wherever, take a break, eat, maybe nap, maybe even shower at a campground, then decide whether you want to stay on one particular water or jump over to another. Coming off the stream after dark, you find a good spot to park for the night, probably boil up some Ramen noodles, maybe have a cup of tea (or something stronger), sleep in the bed of your truck on an old mattress.
"Nice," says one angling friend when I outline our plans.
"Sweet," says another.
"Man, I'd love to do that," adds a fellow fly fisher.
Hey, not everyone can be a trout bum.