Saturday, August 20, 2016

Rainbow Trout

Bluff Lake

I grew up in northern British Columbia in a village that incorporated to become a small town when I was a child. My father's family moved to the valley in the early 1900's and homesteaded and farmed. Our family was one of the first settler families in the area. 

Although our little town had all the amenities -- a paved Main Street, power, water, and sewer, and even one television channel beginning in 1963, a pioneer lifestyle still was the norm in much of the surrounding wilderness area. During the 60's and 70's, many young people from across Canada and the United States were attracted to the area because of the chance to live a back-to-the land lifestyle, and they brought cultural richness in the form of diverse ideas, music, and the visual arts. Many have remained in the area and raised their families. 

When I was growing up, we did lots of hiking, skiing, and exploring old back roads as a family. We also gathered the riches of the land. For example, in the Fall, we picked huckleberries and blueberries, which my Mom canned or froze. My parents had a large vegetable garden, berry bushes, and fruit trees. In my younger years, my father hunted for moose, deer, and grouse. My Dad made wine out of native plants, such as choke cherries and dandelions. A typical Sunday afternoon activity for the family in the Fall was cruising the back roads with a 22 rifle or a shotgun, looking to get a couple of grouse for dinner. 

And, of course, we went fishing. My Dad was an avid fly fisherman, and one of my earliest memories is of picnicking at Driftwood Creek and hunting for fossils while my Dad fished the creek for rainbow and cut throat trout. As he was a skilled fly fisher, we often came home with trout for dinner. We also fished for salmon, steelhead, and Dolly Varden in the rivers, and rainbow trout, lake trout, and Kokanee in the many lakes in the area. My Dad (who was not a naturally patient man) took the time to teach my three brothers and me how to fish, although as we had to take turns with the rod, it never seemed to me that I had enough fishing time. 

When I grew up and went to the city for university, and then later married and lived in one city after another, I missed the hiking and skiing that I had grown up with, so I strived to make opportunities for these two pastimes that I loved. However, I hadn't realized that I would also miss the gathering and eating of wild foods, and that I would miss fishing so much. These were two things that I seldom had the opportunity to do.

After my first husband passed away, I raised my three children as a single mom for many years. During visits to my childhood home, my Dad and my brothers sometimes took my kids (and especially my youngest son) fishing. When I moved back to northwestern BC, my dear friends sometimes included us on fishing trips, and one of my closest friends, who is a renowned fly fisherman offered my son and me some fishing instruction. 

Fly fishing is not a skill that can be picked up after a few tries. It is something that takes years of dedication and practice to master. I did not have my own fishing equipment or the time to practice. But I still yearned to fish. My friends and family surprised me with a big birthday party when I turned 50, and gave me waders, wading boots, and a fishing rod. I few years later when I met and married my second husband, who loves to fish, he took me under his wing, and began teaching me both how to spin cast for salmon and dollies in the rivers, and how to fly fish. I absolutely love fishing, especially fly fishing (even though I am still not good at it at all). There is something so peaceful about standing out in a wild river casting the fly line and sometimes catching one.

However, for the last four years, we have been living on the prairies, far away from any good fishing rivers. The few rivers closest to us are so crowded with fishermen that it does not seem sporting at all. 

We presently are on a camping trip in the West Chilcotin area of British Columbia. We spent three days at a great little fishing lake, and went out fishing in our belly boats every day. We have been fly fishing: dry fly, wet fly, and sink tip. Two days ago, Rob caught a twelve inch rainbow trout, and we fried it up for lunch and ate it with the potato salad I had made the day before. It was delectable! 

Finally, yesterday, I managed to actually land a fish that I hooked. I had just started to feel quite discouraged, then I managed to catch a beautiful twelve-inch rainbow trout. I caught another small one and released it. I hooked another good sized one and brought it up to the boat then lost it. Meanwhile, Rob caught and kept four smaller pansized rainbows. (He also caught and released several). So we had another amazing feast of rainbow trout. It has been many years since I have eaten trout. (I refuse to buy the dull, sad looking fish that the grocery store sells as "fresh trout.") The rainbow trout was delicious, and it took me right back to my childhood, fishing with my family. This has truly been a wonderful holiday.


  1. Such a beautiful story! I have had grouse a few times as well - and it is so much better tasting and so much more tender than any meat I have ever eaten. We like fish but it's the fish you describe from the store. I've watched people fly fish - and it truly looks like an art. I bet your meals were amazing! Keep enjoying your holiday!

  2. Vicki, we do eat some store-bought fish, but there is no comparison with freshly caught trout, salmon, or halibut. Living on the prairies, we have found that a lot of people there say they don't like fish, and our grocery stores do not have a good selection of fish. Strangely, though, there are some good sushi restaurants where we live. I have not eaten grouse since I was a child.

  3. How wonderfully you described all that! I know nothing about fishing - I grew up in land-locked Iowa, on the American prairie - but I did love reading that description. It's good to return to our roots in some ways. Once you got off the hiking trail and into the water, your vacation got better and better!

  4. I agree with Kathleen - this post is wonderfully descriptive. It has also made me hungry for fish for dinner!
    Thanks for sharing,


  5. Kathleen and Donna, thank-you for thoughtful comments. Yes, it is good to remember our roots, and I have always found that foods that I enjoyed growing up tend to stir up powerful memories.