Who cares about the cold—or school, for that matter—when you can go ice fishing? Hopefully Ms. Moon isn’t reading this or she might not allow Riley to make up his weekly 2nd grade spelling test. Last Friday morning, while his classmates were puzzling over the etymological differences between principal and principle, he was exercising his own devotion to life’s First Principles by dropping a baited hook through a hole in the ice.
We kicked off our mid-winter break a couple days early to visit my folks in Colorado. Family friend Bill showed up on Friday with his gas-powered auger, which augured well for the fishing.
Bill is a riverkeeper by profession. Riverkeepers are good folks to know. They tell dirty jokes and know where all the fish are. For the local developers and other greedhead despoilers, they’re a royal pain in the ass. Bill has a pretty good idea of who is polluting what, and he makes them pay.
We’ve had some good fishing together, Bill and I. One time he took me into a scenic stretch of national forest with a pitch-perfect meander of purling creek. A spring flood had turned the creek into a monster a few weeks earlier that wiped out two barrier dams downstream, allowing stocked, non-native fish to escape upstream onto public land. Our mission that day: catch and dispatch as many stocker rainbows up to 18 inches as we could fit in Bill’s ginormous creel. Big dry flies and constant action. On our way out we spooked a herd of elk. Just a magic day in the mountains.
Bill has been talking up the local ice fishing in this part of Colorado for a while now. I haven’t done a lot of ice fishing. In fact, never. We got all the gear together: the auger, shovels, special light-weight ice rods, and mealworms to dangle tantalizingly from our lures—plus firewood and burgers. Bill took a turn with the auger, then I drilled out a few holes. We baited our hooks, took seats on rounds of firewood, and waited, looking down into those dark green holes.
I’m starting to get used to the fact that my eight-year-old son catches more and bigger fish than me. While I nabbed and released a few small brookies, Riley hauled in slab-sided rainbows of 15 and 16 inches, fish that looked as though two and half feet of ice and a general lack of oxygen weren’t having any sort of deleterious effect on their over-wintering plans.
Most of the fish were released unharmed, but in addition to the burgers we grilled up one pan-sized trout en plein air and the 15-incher got strung on a willow switch for lunch the following day. Speaking of our lunch, Bourbon and Pecan-Encrusted Trout, Riley not only got to play hookey last week, but he had his first taste of good ol’ American sourmash. Bad parent.
Here’s some vid action of the day, and the recipe below.
Bourbon & Pecan-Encrusted Trout
2. Combine butter, bourbon, coffee, and brown sugar in sauce pan and bring to boil, stirring. Reduce heat to simmer and whisk for 10 minutes until syrupy.
3. Lay trout fillets skin-side down on greased baking pan. Brush on sauce, then cover with pecans. Drizzle more sauce over pecan-encrusted fish to taste.
4. Cover with foil and bake for 10 minutes. Remove foil and bake a few minutes longer, careful not to overcook and dry out fillets. Serve with wild rice and a good Chardonnay, or just continue working on that open bottle of bourbon.