Saturday, September 23, 2017

Annie the Wirehair fetching a sage chicken
Rough Shooting Dogs
The British term for what we call “bird hunting” is “rough shooting”—stumbling about the brush and fields hoping our dogs either point or flush birds within range allowing us to blast away. As opposed to taking a stand at an assigned “shooting station” and blazing away at driven red-legged partridge  sailing by overhead, meanwhile addled gun handlers  feverishly shove fresh shotshells into the chambers of a matched pair of priceless Purdeys—or whatever brand of so-called “London Best Shotguns” one prefers.  Having never crossed the Atlantic I am told our modus operandi  is frowned upon—the why of which is baffling.

Over here things are not so cut and dried, especially here in the wild west, where it is still sociably acceptable in most circles to shoot grouse off limbs or sage chickens out the truck window. Meanwhile some of us run high class, really expensive dogs , shoot shotguns costing several thousand dollars—high end stuff most of us really can’t afford—and think nothing of tramping countless miles of inhospitable country for the mere chance to collect a handful of feathers.  As opposed to gunning down the costly tame variety, raised in flight pens, as often as not dizzied and tucked under a convenient bush before loosing equally costly dogs and wielding equally costly shotguns—one guy told me it might cost more but the results are guaranteed notwithstanding death marches are not an issue.

We are of course like the Britts, a strange bunch, but having chased a variety of bird dogs over hill and dale for 61 years and and counting I’ve come to the conclusion without the dogs well... For-Get-It.

In the beginning our rough shooting dog was a leggy, black mutt, with pointy ears and a white chest blaze, named Tippy. Father told anyone who would listen Tip was a registered black Lab. Non-hunters of course were clueless, but any hunter worth his salt knew better, which often led to some really loud, heated and entertaining disputes—which I’m pretty sure he lived for but can’t prove.

Whatever Tip was he loved to hunt. He trailed ringnecks silently and tongued (rather yipped pathetically) anything else—rabbits, squirrels, feral cats, skunks, you name it.  Since I was the only one in good enough shape (I played football, basketball and baseball) to keep up I got most of the shooting. Father and uncle Bob abhorred rabbits and squirrels, were interested only in roosters and got to shoot only when a bird flushed and flew back their way. We hunted grouse and woodcock as well but wisely left Tip at home.

My first real bird dog, a Brittany spaniel, was the runt of a litter of field trial hopefuls. The breeder said, “She’s just too small to run with the big dogs so I can let you have her for 35 bucks.” He then sweetened the deal, “If you give me a hand feeding and cleaning kennels, I’ll get her trained up with the rest.”

To Be Continued...

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Blown Out Rivers and Creeks?...

...Head for the many high country lakes and ponds...
Annie and me fly fishing Widgeon Pond on the Red Rock Lakes NWR a couple May's ago.
...scattered all across the Beaverhead National Forest, in southwest Montana. Contact,or better yet stop by, the Forest Service Headquarters here in Dillon and request the free Lake Inventory publication. Purchase the BNF Travel Maps and you're in business. Last time I looked there were about 300 lakes listed. Showing range, latitude and longitude, elevation and species and access--horse and foot travel, ATV, motorcycle, 4X4 or motor vehicle. Obviously this early in the season many are still iced over so pay attention to the elevation beforehand. As a rule those below 7500 feet are open now but there's still a lot of snow so getting there might pose a problem. The highest, the 8-9000 footers won't see open water until at least the end of June and some remain frozen well into July.

Many of the lakes hold westslope cutthroat trout, some pretty big. Brook and rainbow trout, Arctic grayling are found in many others. I know of only a couple brown trout lakes. No matter which lake, low, high, whatever the hot time is when the ice goes. For the next couple weeks trout swarm the shallows, looking for food in the warming water and in many cases looking to spawn. 

You don't need a lot of different flies--turkey jigs, chronomids, sheep creeks, wooly buggers and ants--always ants--are about it. Suspend the flies under a bobber, cast out and let 'er set, then let 'er set some more is one of the best methods. But if you can't stand staring down a bobber by all means strip 'em on a sink-tip or later when the trout go deeper, a full-sink line.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Catch And Eat

Article & Photo Courtesy Tom Dickson, Editor, Montana Outdoors Magazine
Sesame-Crusted Pan-Fried Trout

Preparation time: 15 minutes | Cooking time: 20 minutes | Serves 4.

Most trout anglers don’t keep fish anymore. That’s been good for trout conservation because a released fish can be caught again. But it’s a shame so many anglers—and their families—miss out on the joys of eating freshly caught trout, once a cherished Montana tradition.

Where legal, there’s nothing wrong with occasionally keeping some trout for a meal. FWP biologists account for harvest in regulations designed to keep populations healthy. In fact, regulated harvest could actually benefit some populations by giving remaining fish more food and habitat to grow larger.

A delicious way to turn a few trout into a scrumptious meal is this simple recipe. It’s a slight variation on one published in Field & Stream from a Maine chef, who created it for brook trout. The yummy sauce derives from a unique mix of ingredients, most of them found in the Asian aisle of Montana’s larger supermarkets. Readers may balk at buying sesame oil, hoisin sauce, and sherry* for a single meal. I urge you to make the investment. Believe me, you’ll make this dish more than once.
Fillets of perch, walleye, freshwater drum, and larger trout work well, too. Keep the skin on if you can, but it’s no big deal if you don’t. Store-bought cod, tilapia, or pollack also make good substitutes. 
4 whole 11- to 13-inch trout, gutted
1 T. plus 1⁄2 c. vegetable oil, divided
1 T. minced fresh ginger
1 T. sliced garlic
1⁄2 c. chicken stock
2 t. dry sherry
2 t. soy sauce
1 T.  sesame oil
3⁄4 c. all-purpose flour
5 T. toasted sesame seeds
1 t. table salt
1 T. butter
1 T. Chinese hoisin sauce
1⁄4 c. chopped scallions (green onions)
1 small tomato, chopped
Julienned scallions, for garnish

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Heat 1 T. oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
Sauté the ginger and garlic for 1 minute, or until just golden. Add the chicken stock, sherry, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Cook until the liquid is reduced by half, about 5 minutes, and set aside.
Combine the flour, 3 T. sesame seeds, and salt in a bowl. In this mixture, dredge the trout, which should be wet so the mixture adheres. Heat the remaining 1⁄2 c. oil in a large sauce or frying pan over medium-high heat. Fry the trout until golden brown, about 3 minutes on each side. Cook in batches.

Place the trout on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and roast in the oven for 6 minutes, or until just cooked through.

Meanwhile, bring the chicken-stock mixture to a simmer and whisk in the butter, hoisin sauce, chopped scallions, and tomato. Cook until heated through, about 2 minutes.

Place a trout on each plate and spoon the sauce over each fish. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 T. sesame seeds. Garnish with scallions.