Trout Duty

Every job has its drawbacks, but most have perks, too. The author’s gig as a timber cruiser allowed him to take long—sometimes very long—streamside lunches.

Illustration By Ken Landgraf
My job as a timber cruiser once allowed me to hike into many off-the-trail locations that were seldom seen by another human. Much of that was due to the fact we ran our cruise lines across terrain that few sane people would want to navigate under most circumstances. Drop 1,500 feet down a near vertical slope into a rocky creek canyon and, like it or not, you still need to find a way to climb out again. Trust me, few nature lovers are interested in that kind of exercise.

The one real advantage here is that I saw sections of trout streams that were almost never fished. Most of us old timers made a practice of carrying a length of fly leader and a handful of mixed dry and wet flies for those times when the temptation to take a “long lunch” on one of these creeks was too much to resist. This happened to be one of those times.

The one real advantage here is that I saw sections of trout streams that were almost never fished. Most of us old timers made a practice of carrying a length of fly leader and a handful of mixed dry and wet flies for those times when the temptation to take a “long lunch” on one of these creeks was too much to resist. This happened to be one of those times.

At the bottom of the canyon was a gin-clear creek about 10 feet wide with a number of small rapids and a deep pool at the end of each (and, no, I’m not going to tell you where it is!). It was easy to see that each hole held a couple of nice 10- to 12-inch cutthroat trout at its upper end waiting for something edible to tumble in with the current. Reaching into my cruising vest pocket, I pulled out a large Boker two-blade folding hunter and started searching the bank for a suitable sapling.

Thanks to a beaver sometime in the recent past, a willow was sending up a nice crop of long, thin suckers that were ideal for what I had in mind. A couple of quick cuts with the knife and I had a “fly rod” about 8 feet long. After tying an equally long section of leader to the sapling with a nice “grasshopper” looking dry fly on the end, I was ready for some fishing action.

It is best to approach these pools as quietly and slowly as possible. Once I was in position at the head of a pool I carefully dropped the fly on to the surface of the water. Instantly, a trout rose from the bottom and engulfed the imitation insect. A quick flip and it was on the bank. Two fish later and I had the makings of a streamside lunch.

After I had used the Boker to clean the fish, I pulled a small piece of pitch wood from my pocket and whittled a pile of shavings. Carefully stacking a number of pencil-size sticks around the shavings, I lit the highly flammable pitch wood with my Bic. Adding progressively larger sticks soon had the small cooking fire I wanted ready. The Boker hunter was again used to cut a pair of willow saplings that the trout could be threaded onto and held over the flames.

The hot fire quickly cooked the trout to perfection. A bit of salt and pepper from the shakers I carried in my lunch kit and a meal like few people ever experience was ready. What can I say—those were the good old days!