Sons’ catch din­ner

Dad keeps his word

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NWA OUTDOORS - FLIP PUTTHOFF

A fine morn­ing of trout fish­ing at the White River be­low Beaver Dam is a cure for sum­mer­time no-fish blues in more ways than one. Fish­ing has been good this sum­mer, as it was on a cool clear dawn at the end of July. Rain­bow trout were ea­ger to bite small black or brown jigs. The wa­ter is ice cold. That makes early morn­ing fish­ing re­fresh­ing when lit­tle wisps of cool breeze come off the river. There’s a fine fish din­ner at the end of the day. Catch­ing those fish and the evening feast re­minded me of an un­ex­pected trout din­ner many moons ago when my brothers and I were lit­tle kids. Our par­ents were great about tak­ing us on fun sum­mer va­ca­tions, mainly out West. One sum­mer we had our pop-up camper hitched to the sta­tion wagon, bound for the Black Hills of South Dakota. Mom and dad pulled into a lit­tle camp­ground tucked away in a grove of sweet smelling pines. They set up camp while my brothers and I trot­ted off to ex­plore our lit­tle home in the for­est. There were boul­ders to climb and trails to see. What re­ally got our at­ten­tion was the lit­tle lake that was the cen­ter­piece of this camp­ing par­adise. The wa­ter was clear and cold with a rocky bot­tom, per­fect for rain­bow trout that prowled the depths. Back at the camper, mom and dad were re­lax­ing in lawn chairs. “Dad, dad!,” we hollered, run­ning into the camp­site. “Can we go fish­ing?” He looked at my mom and sort of chuck­led. “Sure you can go fish­ing. Tell you what. You guys catch some fish and we’ll have them for din­ner tonight. If you don’t catch any­thing we’ll go out to a nice restau­rant.” Vi­sions of that nice restau­rant danced through my mom’s nog­gin be­cause we’d been camp­ing three days straight and eat­ing my dad’s cook­ing every night. His idea of camp­fire fare was a can of beans and hot dogs any way you like them, long as it was burnt. “Don’t worry honey,” my dad surely piped as we hur­ried off. “They won’t catch a thing.”

My two brothers and I got to the lake shore and cast our lines. I don’t re­call if we used lures or bait, but we weren’t catch­ing a thing. A ways down the shore­line was an older gent re­lax­ing in a lawn chair. A stringer led from his chair into the wa­ter. He must have some fish. We went to in­ves­ti­gate. Turned out he was us­ing that magic trout bait — whole ker­nel corn. Looked like a Jolly Green Gi­ant on his tin can. “Here. You boys take some of this corn. Now go on back down the bank where you were and fish there,” our new friend said. Corn in­stantly be­came our fa­vorite veg­etable. It was hot as a fire­cracker for catch­ing trout from this lit­tle moun­tain lake. Pretty soon we had a fine mess of rain­bow trout on our chain stringer, the per­fect size for eat­ing. Oh how happy our par­ents will be when they see the fine din­ner we’ve caught. We took turns drag­ging the stringer of trout across the pave­ment on the road back to our camper. You could al­most see the color leave our folks’ faces when we showed up with din­ner. We were so proud and my dad could see it. He didn’t want to spoil the mo­ment so he heaped the praise on thick, con­grat­u­lat­ing his fine fish­ing sons. Mom went into the camper and cried. Dad never let on that he’d rather be cut­ting into a T-bone in­stead of clean­ing a half dozen trout. Good to his word, he cooked them up fine right there on the camp­fire. On this par­tic­u­lar evening, we brothers were the proud­est boys on the planet. Even my mom was smil­ing and didn’t mind deal­ing with the bones. We boys did the dishes. I do be­lieve that was the last time my dad ever promised to cook fish. Mom got her din­ner out the next night at a nice restau­rant in town.

Flip Putthoff can be reached at fput­thoff@nwadg.com or on Twit­ter @NWAFlip

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