Trout of the Day

Dorset - - HOOKED WITH HIX -

‘Five min­utes later he re­turned to the bar­be­cue with a freshly caught trout in his hand’

Fi­nally we can go fish­ing and en­joy our first river­bank feast of the sea­son, but you need to catch your trout

Amaz­ing weather and the bit­ter irony of not be­ing able to fish be­cause of lock­down made no sense what­so­ever to me. We all fish as far apart from each other as pos­si­ble, un­less you’re on a boat at sea of course. But rules are rules and, though I was tempted when I heard re­ports of salmon and sea trout head­ing up my lo­cal rivers (the Axe and Brit), I didn’t break out so much as a fish­ing fly.

Fi­nally, the rules re­laxed a lit­tle, and the long-awaited river­bank lunch I had planned with Robin Hut­son could hap­pen; we could even chuck a fly on the wa­ter ei­ther side of one of our leg­endary feasts.

The ex­cite­ment lead­ing up to our de­but day was pretty much 50/50 be­tween Robin and I; as it was our first fish­ing trip of the sea­son and our first meet­ing for months, we wanted to cel­e­brate by cook­ing a tru­ite au bleu for lunch. This is an old-fash­ioned dish, served in fancy ho­tels and restau­rants, where a trout would be cooked in a court boul­lion, straight from the tank and fil­leted in front of the guest.

It’s also a very sim­ple dish to knock up on the river­bank, and a great way to cook the freshly caught trout you have landed.

Howard Tay­lor had kindly in­vited us to fish on his new beat, Free­lands on the River Test - a leg­endary chalk­stream fa­mous for its brown trout - which is a beau­ti­ful spot to have a quiet days fish­ing and lunch­ing.

By the time the bar­be­cue was hot enough to start cook­ing Peter Hannan’s Gle­n­arm Es­tate rib of beef, nei­ther of us had got a trout on the bank.

“Lucky I brought the beef!” I said to Robin. “But we still need to nail a trout for our starter.”

The fish had other ideas. We tried all sorts of dry flies - from dad­dies to wulffs - noth­ing took their fancy. Al­though it’s easy to blame the sun, it’s bloody frus­trat­ing, but that’s fish­ing!

By this stage my fish ket­tle was sim­mer­ing away next to the beef, so I sent Robin back on the wa­ter for one last try with yet an­other fly - this time a large ugly mayfly pat­tern. Five min­utes later he re­turned to the bar­be­cue with a freshly caught trout in his hand. Job done!

Robin and I al­ways laugh at cook­ing our first fish ‘au bleu’ be­cause in his youth, when train­ing in ho­tel man­age­ment, Robin had col­lected the cooked trout from the kitchen, lifted it out of the fish ket­tle at the table and pro­ceeded to fil­let it in front of the guests only to dis­cover that it was still raw in the mid­dle. Be­ing the young trainee he got flak from the chef, but we still have a chuckle about that story on ‘Tru­ite Au Bleu Day’ over a vino or two.

Find more de­tails on fly­fish­ing on the River Test at Free­lands at up­streamdryf­

Take an old saucepan or fish ket­tle to the river­bank for this recipe, one which you don’t mind go­ing on the bar­be­cue. If you’re very lucky, you may even have ac­cess to a posh fish­ing hut with a cooker!

Serves 2


2 medium-sized trout or 1 larger one, gut­ted 2 ta­ble­spoons sea salt 150ml white wine or cider vine­gar

10–15 black pep­per­corns 1 tea­spoon fen­nel seeds 1 bay leaf


Bring enough wa­ter to the boil to cover the trout. Add the salt, vine­gar, pep­per­corns, fen­nel seeds and bay leaf, and sim­mer for 5 min­utes. Care­fully place the trout in the sim­mer­ing wa­ter and re­move the pan from the heat. Smaller fish will cook through if you leave them in the wa­ter for 10 min­utes. If you have caught a large fish, just sim­mer it gen­tly for a few min­utes be­fore re­mov­ing the pan from the heat. To serve, re­move the trout from the cook­ing liq­uid with a fish slice or sim­i­lar onto a serv­ing dish.

Taken from Hooked: Ad­ven­tures in An­gling by Mark Hix pub­lished by Mitchell Bea­z­ley

ABOVE: Mark gets the fish­ing feast un­der­way on the banks of the Test

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