Like most fly anglers, I don't take a lot of trout home. But every now and then, a special circumstance induces me to kill a fish or two for the fry pan. Typically, this happens at the start and end of the season.
Last weekend, I had good reason to do so. Jenn's grandparents were visiting and with their visits comes a tradition of feeding them fish. For the most part, that means pan fish, walleye or bass.
On this visit, however, work and the onset of hunting season had kept me off the waters, so there were no fish in the freezer. Luckily, however, that morning, I was slated to lead a group of new anglers on an introduction to fly fishing seminar for a local tourism initiative.
So, with that in mind, I got to the river early and caught a nice pan-sized trout for George, Jenn's grandpa. For interest sake, it hit a brown beadhead wooly bugger swung along the current seam.
That's not the point, however. The point is that if you are going to kill a trout, or any game for that matter, it needs to be treated right in the kitchen.
And, when it comes to pan-sized trout, a cast iron frying pan, a pat or two of butter and some dill seed, lemon, salt and pepper are all that's required to do them justice.
A well-seasoned black cast iron pan is probably as much a part of the outdoors tradition as any other piece of camp gear I can think of. It's the unsung hero of most hunting and fishing trips, the versatile cooking implement that provides comfort, warmth and flavor at the beginning and end of each long day.
When pan-frying trout in one, I like to add the butter and get that pan good and hot so that when that fish is laid in it, it sizzles and crackles — a sound that's music to any angler's ears, I suspect. I prepare the fish with some or all of the ingredients mentioned above rubbing the spices and juice on the skin and inside the cleaned out cavity. Then I constantly move and turn it so it doesn't stick to the pan and when the flesh has cook through, give it a little more time and then remove it.
When set on a plate, you've got a meal fit for a king.
Jenn's grandfather certainly thought so. In fact, you could see that this fish and the way it was prepared took him back to simpler times when trout, fresh from the stream was one of life's great pleasures. That's the other important part about keeping fish — it needs to be appreciated or what's the point.
I can honestly say that it was. Which is why, I was more than happy to provide the experience.