About 8 years ago, I took on a self-interest project during my off season of guiding to try and get a handle on what factors most affected the fishing conditions. I looked at 14 years of journals that I kept while working and fishing recreationally and reviewed angling results based on everything from weather stability to moon cycles. One of the by- products of this little study was that I got to see how often on average an angler gets to experience good or better than average days on the water in terms of actually catching fish. I’m not talking about those epic days when the catching is so good that you start rummaging through your boxes for flies that the fish won’t eat but rather those “just good enough” days that make up for the days in between when you feel like you know absolutely nothing about fly fishing.
Based on my journals, I determined that on average those good to really good days come every 11 trips. If that’s surprising think of it like this; the average avid angler fishes two to three dozen times a year. That’s it. That may not seem like a lot but given that we really only have about 36 weeks of available fishing time; that’s once a week. Pretty good for most and enough to leave one satisfied when the bad weather sets in. So, if my findings hold any water than someone who considers themselves and avid angler can expect 2 to 3 good days of fishing each season. Where am going with this?
Shore lunch. Those two words conjure up an image of a camp fire on the shore line, a string of pure white smoke rising in the still air and a weathered guide kneeling over a cast iron frying pan working on fresh trout in hot butter. For as long as I can remember, that image has been as symbolic of a great day of fishing as a couple of smiling anglers holding up a stringer of trout in front of the old station wagon. When I was a kid and fished with my father and his friends, it didn’t matter how good the fishing was, the one event that I looked forward to more than anything else was the shore lunch. Often it was as easy as a can of beans and toasted cheese sandwiches on the fire or as intricate as fresh trout fried in onions and butter but it was always the highlight of the day and a good shore lunch made everything right.
No matter how incompetent you may be as a cook, you can always prepare a great shore lunch. For the less creative, beans and wieners prepared the evening before or a couple of cans of Campbell’s Chunky stew will do the trick. For those of you with a flair for the culinary arts, try blends. Crème of Mushroom with Chunky Clam Chowder is divine. You want decadent? Use all beef franks with those beans. Or my favorite, two cans of beans in maple syrup and one of chipotle peppers. That’s how you really impress a fishing buddy. If you see a pattern forming, it’s only because canned food is just flat out easy but I’d be shirking if I didn’t mention the old standby. Bacon, eggs and taters! Cook your bacon to about two thirds done the night before (the idea being to leave enough fat on the bacon to cook the eggs in) and chop up the left over spuds in your fridge and you have the makings of a game breaker. Left overs are always a great diversion particularly after Christmas or Thanksgiving. It’s pretty tough to beat day old turkey, dressing and veggies with gravy on the side of the river.
If you want to turn a tough day around, put good, warm food in your belly and the afternoon will be rosy. There is no excuse for crappy ham and cheese sandwiches and a Budweiser when you can purchase a single burner for 20 bucks and a bottle of Malbec for 9.