Jed showed up to fish one morning and before we hit the road, he handed me a single, perfect matsutake mushroom. I stashed it in my pocket, and from time to time throughout the day, I’d catch whiffs of the unique scent–a mix of pine trees, cinnamon and something earthy and mushroom-y. Someone once described matsutakes as smelling like red hots in a dirty sweat sock, but I don’t get the sweat sock part. They just smell delicious to me. More than once, my mouth watered at the thought of it.
Fast forward to dinner prep. Bruce and Aaron had a stack of enormous moose steaks; Calvin and April ran out to the truck, dug through a cooler, and produced a deer backstrap; Yvon broke out a magnum of Chateau Musar Bruce had given him; Rick was outside burning logs into perfect barbecue coals. I washed some rice, added the hydrating water from dried shiitake mushrooms, a bit of rice vinegar, a pinch of salt. Then, with great anticipation, I cut into that gorgeous matsutake. Inside, something moved. It was alive with small, white maggots. I recoiled. What to do? Figured I should give the crew the option. I showed them the wriggling mushroom slices and said we can either add it to the rice as planned, or toss it out and just go with plain rice. Someone said, “The rice is going to boil, right?” Another said, “Hate to waste a good matsutake.” There was a moment of silence, then the crew voted “Go for it” without objection.
It was delicious. And part of one of the most memorable meals I’ve had in a long time. Great food, great friends, great spirits. And a few maggots just to keep things on the adventurous side.
Sometimes, you get lucky and hit it right. We arrived just as the rivers were coming back into shape from high, dirty water. A fresh push of fish moved in, and between visiting with friends, cooking huge meals and generally hanging out, we found a few that wanted our flies. Yvon wasn’t messing around. That’s him, below, hooked up minutes after arriving on the river.
Yvon fought his fish with an audience, and landed it for an up-close look by 11-month-old Will. That’s Uncle Aaron providing fish-viewing assistance. The poor kid’s doomed to be a steelhead junkie like the rest of us now.
A few days later, after a morning spent on an enormous breakfast and serious socializing, Aaron and I walked down to the river for some fresh air and a quick fish. Aaron did his job, and then some.
On the one full day we actually dedicated to fishing, we found plenty of takers. It was a pretty epic six-fish day for me, and I was even spooled for the first time ever, by an enormous buck that turned downstream and never came back. When there were about four turns of backing left on the spool, I just clamped down until the hook straightened out. I’m already stoked for next year–there are friends to visit, meals to cook, and even a few fish to chase.
My buddy Yvon and I made the trek up to Skeena Country to give talks at the SkeenaWild fundraiser, but also to spend time with our friend Bruce, and sneak in a little fishing, too. I don’t know if there’s a more important place for Western Canadadian conservation–or epic meals–than the wooden table in Bruce and Anne Hill’s kitchen in Terrace, BC. Ideas, plans, strategies and campaigns have been hatched, setbacks lamented, victories celebrated around this table, and I always feel honored to have a seat here. On this morning, Bruce and Yvon talk history and strategy for the video cameras.
Then we were off to The Shack, for more time with friends I never get to see enough, and some actual fishing. After a day on the water, that’s (from left to right) Yvon, April, Aaron, Bruce and Calvin chewing the fat before dinner. Rick, our host was, I believe, outside turning moose steaks and deer backstrap on the barbecue, and I took a quick break from tending the matsutake mushroom rice to snap this shot. The highlight of the night, and probably the whole trip, for me, was when Bruce put his prized Martin six-string in my hands, and with a mix of embarrassment and fumbling fingers, I plunked out and sang a couple verses of Long Black Veil with Bruce. My utter lack of guitar and singing skills made me unworthy of the instrument, but it’s a moment that’ll stay with me forever.
Lured in by the aroma of sizzling moose steaks, our landlord, Bob and his giant friend Ootza(sp?), dropped by for a bite and a visit. Bob is one of the finest steelhead anglers and cane-rod makers on the planet, as well as a staunch protector of his beloved river and fish. He’s also a hell of a nice guy. Any time I fish or talk with him, I learn something new. Stay tuned for fishing and fish…
Home now from a fantastic book event at the Vancouver Patagonia store. Great crowd, lots of enthusiasm and talk, good beer and friendly people. Awesome. Huge thanks to the Vancouver crew–especially Liz and Manny. While I don’t have any pix from the event, I do have a few from before and after. On the way up, I ran into these characters doing a little Ghostbusting at a Mexican restaurant in Bellingham. That’s Flyfish Journal photo editor Copi Vojta on the left and El Jefe, Jeff Galbraith, on the right.
After a brief tour of the palatial Flyfish Journal World Headquarters & Grotto, we retired to their exclusive, private waters–Ye Olde Whatcom Angling Clubbe & Retention Ditch–for a few casts. The pristine, gin-clear waters reflected the sky (Or was that an oil slick?), obscuring the multitude of trophy fish. But I did have some ditch-pickle action on the surface, and landed this rare, trophy spiny-back trout. Then it was on to the border.
Finally, after the book event, my good friend Aaron Hill and I took to the streets of Vancouver in search of late-night Chinese food. We had to run to slide in before closing time, but hit the jackpot at Hon’s Noodles on Robson. What a feast. Black pepper chicken and bok choy. Spicy beef with hand-sliced Shanghai noodles. Hand-crafted pot stickers. The only pause in the devouring happened when we shot this selfie for Aaron’s dad, Bruce, who couldn’t make it. We missed you, Bruce! Then it was back to eating, drinking, talking, and um, eating, until way after midnight. Solved all the world’s problems–at least those related to fish–ate a little more, and staggered back to our respective hotels. Awesome.