Few knives are better named than the L.L. Bean Trout Knife. It is a near perfect tool for field dressing both pan fish and small game.
I probably don’t need to explain to any avid outdoors person what L.L. Bean is, but it may come as a surprise to many that the company is actually celebrating their 100th anniversary this year. From the beginning, they have been famous for offering practical, high-quality clothing and gear, much of it of their own design, for both hunting and fishing. One of those exclusive items that I believe first showed up in their catalog back in the 1930’s was the “L.L. Bean Trout Knife.” Basically, this was a stiff, narrow 4-inch “boning” style knife with a comfortable but simple wood handle in a sturdy leather sheath. As a dedicated trout fisherman myself, I always thought this design was very close to perfection for cleaning panfish in the field but, for some reason, I never got around to ordering one when I should have. Maybe because it was so basic, it disappeared from the catalog a few years ago. The good news is they have brought it back in a commemorative version for their 100th anniversary celebration.
The latest version of the Trout knife still has the same straight, narrow 4-inch carbon steel blade on a 4.5-inch rosewood handle, but this time around in a heavy leather pouch sheath. All are made in the USA, by the way. As with many products these days, you can read a long list of customer supplied comments concerning the knife on the Bean website, many of which I found enlightening. Most purchasers openly referred to themselves as “knowledgeable knife users” yet they often complained about the fact this non-stainless blade rusted during use. The only assumption I can make is that stainless alloys have become so universal that the average outdoorsperson has practically no experience with a plain carbon blade. Yes, carbon steel stains and will rust if you don’t keep it clean and dry. A little oil isn’t a bad idea either if you are looking at long time storage between trips to the river. Actually, there probably would be some merit in offering a stainless blade on a knife intended for fishing, but then it wouldn’t be a true replica of the original product.
The next most common complaint was that the factory edge was totally dull when the knife arrived, followed by a couple saying they spent an hour sharpening their new blade. I certainly can’t speak for every knife shipped but the one I received was plenty sharp enough for cleaning trout, something I quickly proved in the field. I’m sorry, but anyone that needs an hour to resharpen an undamaged edge doesn’t know how to hone a blade in the first place. While I found the blade still reasonably sharp after having field dressing around a dozen trout and boning out a couple of chicken breasts, I went ahead and touched it up anyway on a diamond-surfaced butcher’s steel. That had it something close to scalpel sharp in about 30 seconds!
Few knives are better named than the L.L. Bean Trout Knife. It is a…
by Massad Ayoob / Jan 1, 2013