Hikers who want to try their luck at fishing in the back-country have a wide range of options open to them. Preparation for back-country fishing on a long distance hike is all about expectations and confidence. The hiker who has hoofed it far up a trail or bushwhacked into a wilderness should have different expectations from the fisherman camping near his motor-home in a busy campground. The hiker doesn’t have the luxury of fancy food preparation techniques or the reliability of his complete collection of tackle. Instead, the hiker should expect that his meals will be simpler and that his tackle selection will be limited. Still, with some forethought and a little knowledge of how to function within these limitations the hiker can go forth with great confidence in his ability to succeed at fishing and, if desired, cook his catch with enjoyable results.
Catching fish on a long distance hike should not involve carrying heavy and bulky fishing tackle. Quite the contrary, the hiker should set a limit of weight and fit this in with existing gear loads. For spin-fishing my favorite is the Dawia Minispin Combo. This rod is super light weight and comes with its own travel case that prevents damage in a backpack. It is a great choice for trout and pan-fish under most circumstances. Tackle choices should be geared to as wide an appeal as possible with as little weight as possible. Generally, I will carry 2 or 3 trout magnets, a selection of artificial nymphs and a fake minnow or two. Also, a few split shot, bare hooks and a floater or two complete a compact yet versatile tackle selection. Your tackle choices will, of course, change with the season or with your particular tastes. The key here is not to over-do it. Trout magnets appeal to fish across the spectrum and will nab rock bass, sunfish, crappie and smallmouth bass. Keep this tackle in a small fly-box and tuck it into an outer pocket on your back-pack and you’ll be good to go.
The next question that arises is whether to keep and cook your catch. As a hiker you may be on the move, more interested in fishing a variety of streams or ponds than in actually hanging on to your catch. A time may come, though, when that fresh trout or bluegill seems like just the right thing to replenish your hiking spent protein supplies. When this time comes don’t be afraid to use the limited gear at your disposal to prepare a great meal. If you’re hiking, chances are that all you have is an alcohol or white-gas stove and a titanium cooking pot. This is all you need if you’re prepared. A few basic ingredients in your food-bag will really make the difference in how well you can prepare a fish in the back-country. Salt and pepper is a must, but did you bring some olive oil? I always keep olive oil in a 3 ounce container, as well as some lemon pepper wrapped in a bit of cellophane. Whatever your preference, a little flavoring will go a long way to improving your wilderness cooking experience.
To cook a trout or panfish in a titanium pot is not all that difficult. Scale and filet the panfish and cut the filet into small chunks. Trout should be cleaned by gutting, removing the head and the tail and then cutting the fish into cross sections. A Snow Peak pot with the 7 inch frying pan top is perfect for quickly frying your catch in a little olive oil with some seasoning. Using the pot you can poach the fish very quickly by adding the chunks to a half inch or so of water and bringing it to a boil. Take it off the heat (a pot cozy is helpful at this point) and let it sit for 3 to 5 minutes then drain off the water. If the fish is done (as it should be) you will be able to easily remove bones and skin with your handy spork. At this point you can season the poached fish further or eat it as is. Sometimes I cook some wild mustard garlic, nettle or plantain leaves as a potherb to accompany the meal. Another great addition is arrowroot boiled and mixed in with your fish.
Hiking, fishing, and eating well are all possible with a little preparation and a little knowledge. With some planning and modern equipment techniques a hiker doesn’t need to add more than a couple of pounds of weight to fully enjoy back-country fishing.
Jeffrey Gray, founder of TroutWorld.com, has been helping trout fishermen find their way to new and different fishing venues via the internet since 1999.
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