Tuesday, April 28, 2009

First Fish 2009

25 April 2009, Saturday: Fished first time yest. MN Whitewater. Beautiful, caddis, limit (5), ramps, cress, HOT—91 in Rochester. Today 38 and drizzle.

You turn off the four-lane, U.S. 52, at Oronoco, and roll east along state and county highways for 25 miles or so, through gently undulant farmland, pastureland. Then just east of the tidy, pleasant town of Plainview, the road falls off a cliff.

I take the Jetta out of gear and just sail down the long winding hill, as the crenellated bluffs rise higher and higher above, white pines and leafless birch at their tops.

Eventually the road comes out of the hills and into the broad valley. This is where the trout live, in streams like this:

A fish rose just under that overhanging branch, moments before I snapped the picture. You might just see the ring of the rise in the shot.

In this beautiful place, springs pour from the hillsides. There's a little sort of grotto shaped from limestone; cold, pure water issues forth.

Coursing up through limestone makes the water alkaline--a good thing for stream fertility. It helps the watercress grow.

It helps other plants grow, mosses and algae and such that trout stream insects thrive on, and the trout thrive on the insects, and fishermen thrive on the trout.

The ramps--wild leeks, they're also called--are up and doing well. There are places in the southeastern Minnesota woods where all you see on every side are ramps, carpeting the forest floor.

Bloodroot are blooming, and anemones, Virginia bluebells about to burst out, the first trout lilies flowering, too.

It's really and truly spring, the trout season's open, and wild foods in all their extravagent abundance are there to enjoy. It feels pretty good.

The harvest from this outing we took out to Bide-A-Wee to cook. That's for next time.

Text and photos copyright 2009 by Brett Laidlaw


Wendy Berrell said...

I recognize those images. Great post and cool pics.

Good tips on the wild leeks. I've not picked those. Been meaning to try some nettles though - I've heard they are essentially equivalent to a sort of spinach. I was on some water today and I noticed some nice tender looking specimens - maybe a foot tall.

How do you prepare (if at all) that watercress? I see that quite often. Can you eat it straight up on the stream?

Trout Caviar said...

Wendy, I thought that would be familiar terrain to you. As for the wild veg, ramps are all the rage among fancy chefs and hillbillies, both (I consider myself an amalgam of the two camps...). Nettles, though they may look tender--well, you know what nettles are like, and they still need to be cooked, unless you're competing in one of those macho nettles-eating competitions. I've heard they have them in Britain.

The watercress, on the other hand, is edible and delicious fresh from the spring. We usually enjoy it raw as a salad green, or just wilted, under a grilled trout, say, or a steak. You'll find many recipes for watercress soup, often given body with a potato, richness with some cream or creme fraiche (or sour cream).

The salad we've been enjoying this spring (and I plan to get a detailed account up here soon), is a dressing made of a good fistful of ramps, chopped and slowly cooked in some butter till they're very brown and sweet. Toss those into a vinaigrette made with some grain mustard and a little sweetening (we've done honey and maple syrup, just a tad). Mix that up with fresh cress. Put a grilled trout on top of that. Spare a pitying thought for the catch-&-release crowd....

Cheers~ Brett

Julie M Petit-Thomsen said...

Greetings; This was a treat for me to see as I grew up in Plainview and know the area.

I was in Mpls last week for an Ethnic food trip and stopped in a shop where they had locally grown produce. One of the things I purchased was watercress pesto. It was out of this world you may want to give it a try. Just thought I would share.


Trout Caviar said...

Hi Julie: Thanks for your note. That must have been a great place to grow up--so much variety in that area, and so much natural beauty. I always look forward to my visits to the Whitewater each spring as trout season approaches.

The cress pesto sounds great. I made a ramp greens pesto a couple of weeks ago, and I bet ramps and cress together in a pesto would be awesome.

All best~ Brett