It all started the end of last summer, when I tasted smoked trout in Saltzburg, served with a horseradish sour cream and dill.
And remembered that they stock our lake in the Endless Mountains with trout every year.
I had a mission.
Getting a fishing license
Easy-peasy. Just go online, buy it and print it out. Make sure you buy the extra trout permit as well.
Getting a fishing buddy
Not as easy as getting a licence. My husband? Not interested. Most of my friends? Thought I was nuts. After all, Russ and Daughters is just a few stops away on the F train.
Except for Paula, the Eull Gibbons of New York City, who knows more about nature than anyone I’ve ever met. Here she is on a bike ride we took on the Croton Aqueduct Trail a few years back, explaining how to use black walnuts as dye.
What Book to Read
If there is an antique fair in town the weekend you decide to become a fisherman, you must buy this book. The Science of Fishing -The Most Practical Book On Fishing Ever Published by (are you ready?) Lake Brooks.
If there is no antique fair, you can download the free kindle edition.
Getting Bait and Supplies
Fortunately, the country store down the highway sells hooks, weights, floats, night crawlers and red trout worms. Meghan, the young girl behind the counter, shows you how to pierce the worm onto the hook, wrap it round and pierce it again, a skill you master well.
Your brother-in-law left his fishing pole behind last time he stayed at your place. You’ll need a second pole, which luckily, an antique store in town has for just $10. The owner graciously oils the works for you and gives you a weighted hook from the glass cabinet for free.
Learning to Cast
Practice in the street across from your house (sans hook, of course…) Your neighbors will have all kinds of advice, and everyone has a fishing story, so it’s a great way to pick the collective community brain on technique and timing.
When to fish
If you are Paula, who gets up at 5 am every day, or Peggy, who wants to be able to have enough time to smoke the trout for dinner that night, the answer is obvious – in the morning.
Everyone else will be asleep, so be sure to leave a note.
And mornings on the lake?
How to Fish
I had visions of me laying by a fishing pole propped up against the dock, hat turned down over my eyes Huck Finn-style, waiting for the big tug on the pole, at which point I would jump up and reel in a massive trout.
Turns out this is not actually how one fishes.
You need to be constantly casting, reeling, tugging and tweaking the line. A few minutes in one spot, then reel in and try another. Watch the still waters for little ripples that indicate a swimmer, then cast in that direction, intermittently twitching the line and hook as you gently reel it in. Watch for the float to bob and drop, indicating that something is grabbing at the hook, then pull back sharply to snag the fish and then reel it in.
What we caught
Me? Not a damned thing in two consecutive mornings. Seriously. Nada. Every worm, eaten off the hook. Not counting the one still hanging from the tree near the dock. And the ones caught under a rock or tangled in the grass in the water.
But Paula, the fish whisperer?
and two little perch.
We tossed the sunnies and kept one of the perch.
How to Clean and Cook Your Fish
We followed the technique in this video entitled “How to clean a perch in 10 seconds!” (The best part is the guy with the Minnesota accent saying “Gaw! No way!)
Our perch was way too small for smoking all by its’ lonesome, so we coated it with a teeny bit of mayo, tossed it in flour seasoned with salt and fresh ground pepper and pan-fried it in butter and oil.
Little bites of heaven.
But not trout.
There’s Always a Catch…
In this case, it turns out that the best place to snag a trout is not in a lake using a worm, but in a cold running brook using a fly.
Which, I expect, is why they stock our lake each year. Except that they didn’t stock the lake this year, given the recent sunfish die off – caused by stress around the time the lake turned, but by the time they figured that out, it was too late to stock. (The water, thankfully, is as pristine as ever.)
But as it turns out, even if they had stocked trout, warm summer mornings are not the time to catch them.
Better in the fall and in the evening. And in a boat out on the lake.
So no trout.
For now. But I’ll be back.
Hopefully the fish whisperer will be there too.