Daycare was closed, so I took the afternoon off from work. I had heard that VT Fish and Wildlife Department had just stocked Sunset Lake in Brookfield, VT a couple days prior and the Cub and I had been itching to wet our lines. It was time to fish. We arrived mid-afternoon and were welcomed with a foreboding drizzle. I briefly thought about turning around and heading home but as we drove across the bridge, we saw a fisherman hold up his stringer full of 12 to 20 inch trout. We parked the car and suited up.I baited the Man Cub’s hook with a couple of salmon eggs, hooked on the bobber, and helped him cast out into the middle of the swirling school of rainbows. About thirty seconds passed before the orange bobber was ripped beneath the surface. Pole bent solidly over, the Man Cub shouted, “Whoa! It’s a big one!”
He was right. I held onto the pole to make sure it didn’t disappear along with the bobber, and the Cub reeled as fast as his little hand could. “It’s JUMPING!” The trout rose up out of the water and shook its head, revealing just how large it was. It was far larger than any trout that I had hooked into before. We managed to wear it down and bring it to shore. The Man Cub held the pole while I fished it out of the water and took out the hook. Once the fish was safely on the stringer, I handed it to him to hold. He grabbed the stringer with both hands which were shaking with excitement, smiling from ear to ear he shouted, “It’s a rainbow trout! It’s a BIG rainbow trout!”
By this point, there were several other anglers moving our way, crowding in to get a line out to where the fish were. The Man Cub held out his fish for the men to see and they all congratulated him on what was his first trout ever. We put the trout in the water, tied the stringer off to a rock and rebaited. The school of freshly stocked rainbows were cruising a loop from the end of the bridge we were all standing on, 30 yards out to the edge of the receding ice and back. Massive shadows lurking just beneath the surface turned the grown flannel wearing men into small children, pointing and squirming with as much excitement as my own two year old Man Cub. Rods were bent, fish were jumping, and bearded men were squealing.
We ended up catching five trout within about 45 minutes, all of which were over 10 inches in length. Our largest two, 17 and 15 inches, would serve as the night’s main course. The rest were released to tickle the lines of future anglers. After cleaning the fish back at home, we went out into the yard to harvest the first dandelion greens of the year. I clipped a few leaves from each basal cluster along the edge of the garden, leaving some behind to ensure they would have enough energy to produce flowers for bees and dandelion wine.
Spring foods tend to have a fresh flavor to them that brighten the palate, which is a welcome change after a winter of eating squash, root vegetables, and thick meaty stews. I chose to keep this meal simple, allowing the ingredients to speak for themselves. Some light salt and pepper on either side of the fish, along with some finely chopped chives stuffed inside was all that the trout took before slapping it whole onto the grill. I carefully supervised the fish, making sure that it was not overcooked. Occasionally lifting the sides with a large spatula, I checked to see how the skin was crisping. Once adequately browned, I flipped it to the other side and repeated.
While I watched over the grill, my wife wilted the dandelion greens in a pad of butter and whipped up some couscous with some olive oil and fresh chives from the garden. The trout, which hung off either side of the plate, was cooked to perfection – skin crisp, flesh orange-pink, flaking and moist. A bitter bite of dandelion green offset the sweetness of the trout. Salt, pepper and a few chives were the only spices added to this meal. It had already been seasoned with the excitement of a child’s first trout fishing experience and that was flavor enough.