Fifty years ago, I fished for trout in Bash Bish Brook on Mount Washington, Massachusetts with my brother. Those were good days. The few times I went salmon fishing in the Russian River when I lived in Alaska in the early ‘70’s, I concluded that salmon were so easy to catch, I refused to pay the high price to eat it in a restaurant or even to buy it in a grocery store. I didn’t fish much until Mrs. tVM and I returned to Defiance, Missouri in 2004. We lived on a 160-acre private lake stocked with catfish.
I love to eat catfish. Frankly, I didn’t even know they were in the lake until I took my oldest grandson, Alix down to fish that first summer. We were fishing for bass with limited success. For whatever reason, we had a bag of stink bait and young Alix – he was 10 or 11-years old at the time – decided to put one on his hook. Within seconds, his rod doubled over and we caught the first of 10,000 large, edible catfish that summer.
Ten years later, we have settled for good in River Falls, Wisconsin. The Kinnickinnic River runs through River Falls. The ‘Kinni’ as the locals call it is a Class 1 trout stream, which means it is a high-quality trout water that has sufficient natural reproduction to sustain populations of wild trout, at or near carry capacity. Consequently, the Kinni requires no stocking of hatchery trout. I’ve read there are 8,000 brook and brown trout every mile on the Kinni. Remembering my youthful pleasure on Bash Bish Brook, I decided to take up fly fishing.
We have a great little shop – Lund’s Fly Shop – downtown. The guys who work there are terrific, and I’ve found that the fishermen I meet on the river are always willing to share good advice. I am far from being a pro, but I do catch fish with nymphs, streamers and dry flies. The fact is, I find my time on the river so contemplative that I enjoy being there even if I don’t catch a thing.
You can fish the Kinni from January into October, but it is ‘catch-and-release’ until May. I learned the basics in the early spring and was ready to stock my freezer when the season ‘opened’ two weeks ago. Oddly, however, I had second thoughts when I cleaned the first fish I was legal to keep. They were beautiful. Do I really want to do this, I asked myself, or should I continue to release what I catch?
I concluded that I would make my decision after I had cooked and eaten my first batch. If they were good, I would keep some in the future. Bad news for the fish! I prepared my trout last evening and it was exquisite! I do not recall tasting any fish as good, certainly nothing I’ve purchased in a store or restaurant.
The Rush River is about 10 miles up the road. I usually fish there on Sunday because weekends on the Kinni are populated by more fisherman and kayakers. We share the river well, but I prefer the solitude without the crowds that frequent the water on weekends. There are not as many trout in the Rush River, but they are larger. As of this writing, I will only keep fish I catch on the Rush River and return those I catch on the Kinni. I think that is a good choice.