It’s tough to go anywhere with Yvon and not stop to grub up some wild food along the way. And since I’m pretty much in the same category, when you put the two of us together, we tend to find the time–even in the middle of a steelhead trip. The crab pots paid off with countless huge Dungeness, right in front of camp, and Yvon, as usual, ate all the crab innards with a spoon while Will and I stuck to the succulent leg and body meat. Then there were limpets dotting the rocks along the beach, which I thought of as tiny abalone. We also found tremendous steamer-clam beds, and even a lack of implements and containers couldn’t slow us down. That’s the human backhoe mining for bivalves with a mini-raft oar above, and hauling our catch in someone’s discarded wading boot below. Who needs shovels and buckets?
But crab guts and raw clams proved too tame for Yvon, and I learned some new tricks along the way. At low tide, near the mouth of one of the rivers we fished, we found the rocks covered in marine snails, or whelks. I was focused on the fishing at hand, and would have barely even noticed, if Yvon hadn’t started collecting all he could carry. Back at camp that night, he steamed ’em up, then used a special, improvised tool–hemostats and a #2 octopus hook–to pull the critters from their shells.
Then he tossed the de-shelled snails in garlic butter, and I have to admit, it smelled pretty good. But I was still skeptical. Until my first bite. Amazing. Like tender, delicate steamer clams, only milder and more complex, with just a hint of the sea.
Finally, as we were preparing to leave camp on the last day, Yvon started busting barnacles off the rocks, cutting away the shell and slurping ’em down. I would like to say they were tasty, or even good, but I will just leave it at this: Not really to my taste. Kind of like gooey-yet-chewy oysters with a little iodine twang thrown in for good measure. But perhaps I was just anxious to get going, as we were bailing early due to a near-catastrophic weather forecast and 35 miles of open water between us and town. To be continued…