Food isn't always just about a recipe, though that's what I was looking for one when I went into Feather-Craft Fly Fishing for the secret to cooking great trout.
The relationship between man and beast is one many chefs and cooks strive to learn from, as understanding where food comes from and what it takes to get to our plate makes cooking all the more enriching and rewarding.
The fishing season is getting into full swing, so who better to know how to cook a fish than an avid fisherman? For many, it's about the game, not the meal, so instead of a recipe, long-time employee Mike Jacobs gave me a philosophy.
"There are so many life lessons to be learned through fly fishing," Jacobs said. "It's the key that unlocked many different philosophies in my world. It's a chess game between you and the fish more than it is about capturing and eating the fish."
Those lessons, Jacobs said, include three essential elements: patience, confidence and being observant. "As long as you have those three things with you at all times, you will eventually be a good fly fisherman."
Fly fishing is an art form, Jacobs said. "Tying a fly and then catching a fish on that same fly is about as rewarding as anything I've ever done."
Jacobs is just one of many employees at Feather-Craft with a breadth of knowledge on the subject. The family-owned and run store seems to have everything under the sun you could need, though seek out expert advice if you go in.
"All you really need to fish in Missouri is a crackleback fly, but with 99 percent of people who come in and want to learn, we can find the right equipment to suit what they want to do and their budget," Jacobs said.
A crackleback fly is a simple yet extremely effective fly about a half inch long. Learning about this and more, are also important to getting better at fishing, Jacobs said.
"The first year or two is going to be frustrating, but you should always be moving forward and learning more, and if you're not, you're probably not going to last too much longer in this sport," he said.
So why, after fishing since the age of nine along the Currant River in Montauk State Park, does Jacobs not have even one decent trout recipe?
"What we do here is get people excited about fly fishing by bringing them some kind of awareness about nature," Jacobs said. "Really to me, and in my opinion, all fishermen out there, it's just an excuse to get outside."
Not all fishermen don't eat their catch, of course. If you're on a fishing trip, the best recipes are the simple ones, to allow the fresh fish to shine in the dish.
Long-time avid Feather-Craft customer Micki Jackson weighed in on her best recipes.
Micki's Fried Trout
- Andy's Red Fish seasoning and breading
- 2 trout filets
- canola oil
- Simply bread the filets with the seasoning and pan fry on both sides in about one inch of oil until golden brown and flaky.
Micki's Trout Almandine
- 2 trout filets
- 2 T butter
- 1/4 cup slivered almonds
- 2 cloves garlic, mince
- cooking spray
- Spray a pan with cooking spray and lay the filets skin-side down. Melt the butter and brush over the fish, then sprinkle garlic, almonds, salt and pepper over the top. Micki says cooking it under the broiler is best, but you can also do it in a hot oven at 400 degrees to really get the skin crisp.