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From the outside looking in, few outdoor activities are more intimidating than fly fishing. There’s specialty gear to be purchased, nuanced techniques to be learned, casting etiquette to be observed, an almost mystic understanding of the river’s flow, and profound insight into the mind and deep desires of various types of fish – all of which can seem like a bit much to an outsider.

Idaho is home to some of the best fly fishing in the world, so we were understandably a little bit hesitant to jump into the game without any experience. Thankfully, we had the good fortune to connect with Steve Stringham – owner of The Flybox in Salmon, Idaho – who was gracious enough to give us an introductory lesson. Steve has been fly fishing nearly his entire life and has now made a career out of his passion. We met up with him at his downtown shop to figure out how to get started.

One of the biggest hurdles we encountered while trying fly fishing was the fear of looking like idiots. There are a lot of serious looking fly fishers all over the west, and none of them seem like they would have the patience to instruct a couple of rookies like us. While we still looked like idiots at first, Steve was the best kind of teacher.

We began working on our casts at a nearby park. Getting a feel for the spring of the rod, the weight of the line, and learning that it is timing – not strength – that makes the difference between a good and great cast. While we had some beginner’s luck, we had a lot of beginner’s mistakes as well. Thankfully Steve and his wife Tammy were great at identifying the problem and giving subtle suggestions on how to correct it.

Our lesson was supposed to end there, but Steve invited us to join him later that evening along the Upper Salmon so we could get a couple casts in on the water. While casting in the park was good for practicing our form, the real trick comes from casting into a moving current and understanding how it plays with the line.

Fly Fishing 4

Beginners as we were, it was unlikely we were going to catch anything, but it was still tremendously relaxing to be out on the water. The rhythmic cycle of casting, floating, and reeling was truly therapeutic. While we weren’t sure fly fishing would be for us at first, by the end of the evening, we could definitely see why so many people are drawn to it.

Fly Fishing 1

Even though we didn’t catch anything, we thought it would be a good idea to come up with a recipe to convey a bit of the experience of fly fishing in the Idaho wilderness. So we developed a tinfoil campfire trout and potato lyonnaise recipe that uses simple ingredients and can easily be prepared over an open fire. While a meal like this would be best enjoyed while watching an Idaho sunset, it can be a wonderful gateway into the taste and flavor of the Idaho backcountry no matter where you are.

Campfire Trout + Idaho Potato Lyonnaise for Two

Campfire Trout Final

Ingredients

For the Trout:

1 lb trout fillets

1-2 tbsp butter or ghee

Salt + pepper

For the Potatoes:

1 medium Idaho potato

1 small yellow onion

2 tablespoons butter or ghee

1 tablespoon whole grain mustard

Salt + pepper

Method

Slice the potato as thinly as possible. Slice the onion in half and then into ¼ inch moons. Take a 16” piece of heavy duty tinfoil (lined with parchment paper of equal size if you prefer not to cook directly on the foil) and place the potatoes, onions, butter, and seasoning in the center. Bring the two long edges together and fold them to seal the top, leaving a little space inside the packet above the food. Fold the shorter sides in towards the food to seal the ends. Place on the grill above your campfire or bbq and cook for 20-30 minutes until the potatoes are tender.

Meanwhile, prepare the fish. Spread the butter on both sides of the fillets. Place the fillets on a sheet of foil 6” longer than the length of the trout (again, lined with parchment paper if desired). Bring the two long edges together and fold them to seal the top, leaving a little space inside the packet above the food. Fold the shorter sides in towards the food to seal the ends. Place on the grill above your campfire or bbq and cook for 10-15 minutes, turning the packet over halfway, until the trout is cooked through.

Carefully open the foil packets (there may be hot steam inside) and serve.

All photos, including feature image, are credited to Fresh Off the Grid.

Fresh Off the Grid is an outdoor travel blog and camp cooking resource written by Michael van Vliet & Megan McDuffie, where they share stories of their adventures and the food that fuels them.


Published on October 13, 2016