When it comes to a trout fishing expedition, never be without your trusty cedar plank.
That will come in handy for the feast after the catching is through. Smoked trout on a cedar plank is one way trout was prepared during a morning seminar at Roaring River State Park southeast of Cassville, Mo. The Missouri-Arkansas-Kansas Oklahoma Fly Fishers out of Joplin, Mo. and the Missouri Department of Conservation teamed up to host the free event.
Some 20 students tied fishing flies and learned to cast a fly rod with instructors from the Fly Fishers. Staff from the Conservation Department demonstrated various fish cleaning techniques for filleting trout or leaving the fish whole, bones, head and all.
Fine dining rounded out the chilly Saturday morning Jan. 14 as students got to sample deep-fried trout, poached trout, trout baked whole in aluminum foil, trout prepared in an air fryer and trout filets gently smoked on a cedar plank. All was expertly prepared by Tim Smith with the Conservation Department.
Fishing got the program started.
“We want everybody to leave here today with a better grasp on how to fish Roaring River and how to fly fish,” said Andy Rhodes, a Conservation Department educator.
Half of the student anglers gathered at tables indoors to tie a woolly bugger, a popular fishing fly on any trout waterway. The others headed outside for fly casting practice. Greg Edster, president of the Fly Fishers, made it easy for the tying students by having them tie their fly on a size 8 hook, which is fairly large in the world of fly fishing.
“If you use a smaller hook, say a size 14, that’s too little to learn on,” he said. “The technique for tying a woolly bugger is the basics for tying other kinds of flies.”
In less than an hour, the novice fly tyers were admiring a fly they’d tied themselves.
“Now you’ve all got a woolly bugger that will work right here at Roaring River,” Edster said.
Flies purchased at stores are your basic fishing flies, he added.
“When you tie your own, you can customize it, maybe add some extra flash or a longer tail.”
While flies were being tied indoors, fly rods flexed in the hands of beginners learning to cast . Lisa Spragg caught on quick with help from her teacher, Sarah Levels with the fly fishing group.
“I love it, but there’s definitely a learning curve,” Spragg said. “You’re so focused. Everything else just kind of goes away.”
All fly rods and fly tying materials were provided by the department and the fly fishers.
This weekend marks the final days of the winter catch and release fly fishing season at Roaring River State Park. Anglers may fish with flies only Friday through Monday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and all fish must be released. Catch and keep season opens March 1 and runs through Oct. 31.
Fish chef Smith cooked up a storm for the finale of the seminar. While hungry student anglers watched, Smith cooked trout and offered advice or preparing the catch of the day when catch and keep season opens March 1. Deep frying is a popular method.
Smith’s oil of choice is peanut oil.
“The ideal temperature is 350 degrees.” he coached. “Anywhere between 325 and 375 is good. I usually start at 375 because the oil cools a little when trout goes into the fryer. The fish is done when it floats, but you might want to leave it in a little longer if you like a darker color.”
Observant students added trout smoked on a cedar plank to their list of recipes to try. Grocery and outdoor stores sell foot-long cedar planks made specifically for fish smoking. Soak the planks in water overnight, Smith advised. Line trout filets along the plank and smoke them in a smoker or on a grill with a lid and charcoal set up for indirect heat. Planks can be used over and over again.
It doesn’t take long for the smoked trout to cook. Time depends on the temperature inside the smoker or grill. There’s no set way to tell if the fish is done, he said, other than to eyeball it and sample a small bite.
“When it’s done, it’s done.”
Catch a rainbow trout
Andy Rhodes with the Missouri Department of Conservation regularly fishes at Roaring River State Park with his son.
“My experience has been that fishing is best early in the day. It slows down after 10 a.m., but can pick back up in the afternoon,” he said.
His go-to flies are a brown woolly bugger or egg patterns of various colors. It’s good to experiment with color when using egg flies.
If trout are feeding on the surface, try a dry (floating) fly, Rhodes advised, such as a Parachute Adams or a Griffith’s Gnat
Source: Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette