This past weekend was our 3rd annual Trout Camp, a get together friends and I do every spring to shake off winter’s webs and fish for a few days. This year winter didn’t want to let go, but we make it happen no matter the weather, and even with crummy weather, Trout Camp 2013 didn’t disappoint. Fishing wasn’t prime, but we still caught plenty of fish and kept a handful for Saturday evening delicacies.
We departed early Friday morning in the wake of a storm system that dropped around an inch or two in southeast Minnesota.
Despite a few patches of blown snow covering the roads and a soaking rain the day before, we remained optimistic for a great weekend away. Camp was set up relatively quickly in the cold, spring air, and we were one of only 3 populated campsites in the lower campground. Note the snow melted quickly…a benefit of April even if this April isn’t behaving appropriately.
After 1-2″ of rain the day before in addition to a coating of snow, the river was running high and very dirty through the park, which was no surprise. We threw buggers for a while with no luck before venturing to another branch of the system which was also running high and muddy. After a short while of flogging the water fruitlessly, we headed to a much smaller stream farther south. We had much better luck catching fish the rest of the afternoon before heading back to camp to get the fire started and bacon-wrapped steaks on the grill.
Saturday started off with quite a chill, but there was plenty of sunshine to melt the frost.
Fishing got off to a slow start despite clearing water. Temperatures bottomed out in the teens and fish were sluggish. We managed a few here and there in the morning through early afternoon on buggers, flashy nymphs, and scuds. It was still clear that fish were sluggish post-flood as some that we caught were skinny and pale. There was also a lot of angler pressure, to be expected, which was another contributor. By the mid-afternoon, we headed to a favorite spot where rarely another angler is seen, and it turned out to be a very good choice. For the rest of the day, we caught plenty of fish on skinny nelsons and small PTs until we switched to black woolly buggers closer to sunset. That decision resulted in quite a few fish caught in the closing hour of the day and it was a blast to watch trout hammer the buggers. There was quite a bit of gallery fishing, trading off after a fish caught, mockery for losing one, and it was cool enough to keep the beers chilled.
We had caught (and kept) enough fish between the 4 of us to cook trout over the campfire. In lieu of simply gutting, cooking, and eating, we ramp it up a bit and turn them into fish tacos. It’s quite simple. After gutting and rinsing out the fish, stuff with some butter, salt, pepper, wrap the fish in foil, and cook over the fire. Once they’re done, a couple of us peel off the skin, remove the bones, and put the trout meat in a bowl and mince it up a bit with a fork. Instead of mixing ingredients, we have sliced limes, cilantro, and hot sauce on the side to make your own. Stuff a corn tortilla as desired and there you have it. Or do you? “That’s one way to do it, I guess.” To add a more crisp texture this time, we put the corn tortilla on the cast iron skillet, let it cook a short while, flip it, then add trout, squeeze a lime wedge over it, add cilantro, hot sauce, throw on a few of those sliced potatoes too, and….delicious. The 24 pack of tortillas and trout disappeared rather quickly.
Sunday was an excellent finish to Trout Camp 2013 and we were the only campers in the loop by 9am. Sure, the deep cell battery in the pop-up may have died and in turn left a couple of us with no heat for the night, and sure, a fresh inch of snow fell Sunday morning, but after another excellent breakfast of bacon, sausage, eggs, and venison chops we were welcomed by cleaner water, hungrier fish and a few blue-winged olives coming off in the midday.
…and camp was packed up around 4pm Sunday afternoon with a few, celebratory beers left over.
It was a great weekend to remember, spent with the best of people. Plenty of trout were released…until next time!
The smell of campfire still lingers for at least a couple days afterward.