Tromping around in the boggy marshes of a remote, unnamed stream, I was on a search.
In search of the perfect meal.
I’m not going to pretend to be Anthony Bourdain or any number of other celebrity TV foodies. No exotic locales. No special recipes or little-known cafes. Sometimes the perfect meal is not found in the kitchens of the culinary elite. Sometimes you have to find it all on your own, coax it out of its wild environs and then take matters into your own hands in terms of preparation.
Nothing — I repeat, nothing — tastes better than trout right out of the stream.
My memory of this goes back a ways, when I was first introduced to stream fishing by my brother-in-law, Mark. He’d spent some time learning the ins and outs of trout fishing and was willing to share with me what he’d learned.
We went with ultra-light tackle and fished the streams with spinners. Brook trout were the most common fish in this stretch, but there were also small rainbows and browns. Beaver ponds proved to be particularly bountiful. Finding those calm spots in the river, working the currents and figuring out where the fish would be looking for food — these were all elements to what I consider to be the cerebral art of angling in a trout stream. It’s you, your tackle and your wits vs. the fish — unseen and on their turf — in a modern version of predator vs. prey.
That said, we weren’t geared-up as much as we should have been. No waders between us. In other words, we discovered new ways to soak ourselves from the waist down as we forded streams, waded to islets and fell into deep, hidden mudholes between hummocks of grass.
So, yeah, we earned this one. We fished the valley hard, tromped around for hours and managed to haul in enough keepers to make a meal of it.
We were car camping, so there was plenty of room in the pickup for a decent camp stove, pans and all the things needed to turn these little panfish into something special. So we cleaned the fish and switched into cook-mode.
We kept it simple: corn meal, eggs, salt and pepper. A little oil in the pan. Batter up the filets, plop them in the pan and sear them until they’re done.
Doesn’t sound very gourmet, but the truth is if you’ve spent any time in the outdoors, a hard day of hiking, climbing and bushwhacking can make granola bars and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches taste five-star. Our fish? Nothing short of fine dining.
Sounds good to you? You don’t have to go far. The Blue River. Beaver’s Bend. Lower Mountain Fork River. These are just a few within our borders.
— Bob Doucette