Cafe Society

Campfire cooking: Fishing for compliments

To borrow a line from Snoopy, it was a dark and stormy night and without any dinner, it was gonna be a hungry night, too.

Ted and I were camping last weekend in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains just south of Canon City, in the middle of bear country, and all we had for sustenance was a mixed twelve-pack of Bud and Bud Light, a sleeve of whisky shooters and a bottle of Smirnoff Cranberry vodka. We'd each thought the other person was going to bring up food for the weekend -- instead, it was just two guys in a lot of wilderness with a lot of alcohol.

Saturday brought the mid-afternoon showers that are so typical of southern Colorado summers, and the only smart thing to do was retreat to shelter and pound shots of vodka at the same rate as the raindrops were falling. That lasted all of a few minutes, as we both felt a little lightheaded from the elevation at which we'd gotten stuck. Or the vodka. And so we decided it was naptime -- or, more accurately, the adult beverages decided that for us.

We emerged from our respective tents only to confirm that we still didn't have any dinner for Saturday night; our bellies were crying out for something other than libations made from barley, grain, wheat and rye.

So we put on our hiking boots and scoped out the territory surrounding our campsite, hoping to spy a fishing hole before we started to go all Alfred Packer on each other. We managed to locate a creek and followed it downstream until we hit a beaver pond. With the sun setting in the canyon, the rays reflecting off the water and the fish leaping, we knew we'd found the spot to try our luck.

I carefully placed my Bud Light on the damp ground and attached a small spinner lure to the pole, then hit a dead-on, twelve-foot cast into the beaver pond. BAM! First hit of the day, sorta like Mel Gibson on a beverage bender. A few more casts and I had a Rainbow trout. A few more and we would actually have dinner to go with that beer, whisky, vodka, etc. I cast again in the same spot, while Ted, wearing polarized shades, positioned himself to watch the water for any potential dinner-party guests.

Not two minutes later, I had hooked another trout.The sun had started to set and with dusk quickly turning to darkness, I knew that we needed at least one more trout for a filling meal Ted said he'd spotted a fish just a few yards to the left of where I was casting, so I changed lures and tossed the line gently to the site of the last sighting. Soon we had three good-sized trouts on the stringer.

With our booty in hand (not my hand on his booty), I couldn't help but whistle the tune of the Andy Griffith Show -- you know, the one that goes with the scene where Pa and Opie are walking down to the fishing hole for some male bonding. Ted thought that was just a bit creepy.

We got back to camp, and while Ted started the fire, I took on the task of cleaning the first fish. Taking a pocket knife out of my tackle box, I sheared off the head and the first gill, and then the bloodied knife went to the back of the trout and removed the tail in front of its rear excavating cavity. With a perfect fillet ready for the beer-soaked foil packet, I went to work on our other two dinner companions.

The coals Ted had coaxed from foraged forest wood were at an extremely high but even temperature. As the fish cooked, we lay on the ground and watched the blue sky turn ink black, with stars of varying colors appearing over the huge spruce trees. It was such a super-clear night, the only light above us was the reflection off the stars. We counted six satellites spinning in orbit and both thought that was pretty cool.

After what seemed like hours -- but was really just minutes -- the three rainbow trout had made their way from farm to table. Pulling the foil back revealed the pink flesh and the white bones of our day's catch. We carefully peeled off the skin, then pulled out the spine with its small rib bones to expose the tender, moist meat.

Then we ate and drank our fill, using the last of those adult beverages to toast the protectors of the pond for making our camping trip so satisfying.

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