Eating-up Stratford
Bite by Byte

Friday, September 3, 2010

A Fish Story

I love to fish.

Fish Story #1: I once caught a three pound largemouth bass and decided to keep it for dinner. While I was filleting it, I noticed it had an abnormally large stomach. When I cut it open, there was a bird inside.

This week, the irresistible desire to hang a "Gone Fishing" sign on my door struck me.

Fish Story #2: When fishing with my wife a few years ago, I hooked into a fifty pound (minimum) channel catfish. We were in a canoe and had no net. After towing us around the whole lake for forty five minutes, the leviathan finally rose to the surface beside our unstable vessel. Wobbling, I attempted to lift it up by the fishing line for a picture, but its immense weight out of water snapped the eight pound test monofilament immediately... and all we got was a shot of  swirling foam.

I've noticed the name "Lyndon" included in the description of many local fish dishes on several menus in Stratford this past year. On the Delicious Stratford Stroll, the Sun Room Restaurant's Lyndon smoked trout sweet potato crepe was one of the highlights of the tour. When I attended the Stratford Summer Music Cabaret at the Church Restaurant, I was as impressed by the delicate Lyndon Arctic Char I was served as I was with the hilarious performance by Sean Cullen. 

Fish Story #3: My son's first name is "Fisher". This was in honour of my wife's wonderful family (Fisher being her maiden name), but as a lifetime angler, the literal meaning sealed the deal for me. It's a uniquely beautiful first name for a uniquely beautiful two-year-old boy... and he's lived up to it: he caught his first fish two weeks ago!

So in response to my craving to cast my line, I pulled out my flyfishing gear and headed east along Highway 7/8 to New Dundee (on the Stratford side of Kitchener/Waterloo) to try my luck at the Lyndon Fish Hatchery Public Fishing Pond!

Fish Story #4: Once, when I was flyfishing on a windy day in my early teens, I was trying to back-cast with way too much slack line out on the water. My Royal Coachman dry fly was blown over, and slammed into my face. The barbed hook was lodged into the tiny space between the ridge of my nose and my eye (i.e. it missed being embedded in my eye by less than a centimeter). I tried as hard as I could to get it out myself, even resorting to pliers. Finally, I had to ask my mom to drive me to the hospital (so embarrassing for a teenaged boy), where a doctor poked the hook back out through a fresh hole in my nose, cut off the barb, and then slipped it back out. Followed by a tetanus shot.

Once I started fishing on the large public pond, my craving to hook into a lunker was satisfied almost immediately, as I landed a three pound rainbow trout within ten minutes of casting right where owner Lynn Robert Rieck told me to go. I was flyfishing with a barbless hook (I've learned my lesson), so it was easy to release my worthy adversary without even taking it out of the water, and start casting for another!

Fish Story #5:  While I was fishing at Lyndon Trout Farm, two gentlemen from Norway and their Canadian host caught 15 trout in 2 hours, and kept 10 of them. Because it's a trout farm, there's no catch limit at the Lyndon Public Pond, and you don't even need a fishing license!
The friendly Norwegians I met (one is pictured above with the first Canadian fish he ever caught) loved the experience. "It was more than we expected - you say on your blog that the Norwegian fishers were happy! We'll be back!"

Fish Story #6: The owner of the Lyndon Public Fishing pond was telling me and the Norwegians about the luck of the draw, "The fish are not choosy. You'll see a little girl haul in a ten pound fish and her dad struggling to catch anything!" As if on cue, a little girl along the bank started screaming to her grandpa to grab the net, and promptly landed a four and a half pound rainbow trout!

Unlike most fish stories, I actually got that last one on video:

Like Lynn told me, the public fishing pond is "A safe place for experts and non experts alike."

Perhaps the greatest fish story of all, however, is the story of the Lyndon Fish Hatchery. Started only ten years ago, the adjacent system of rings, sluiceways, tanks and springs - all bearing thousands of trout in all stages of development - is now the breeding stock source for over half of all trout raised and eaten in the province of Ontario. The operators have a close relationship with Guelph University, and the entire facility is a real life laboratory where the cutting edge techniques in aquaculture are being pushed to the limit and tested. This means that the most sustainable practices in the industry are in place at this impressive facility, which includes the use of feed that is predominantly made of plant protein rather than entirely out of fish meal.
While I was flyfishing, I hooked into an acrobatic two and a half pound rainbow trout (above) that was so tuckered out by the time I finally landed it I decided to keep it. Owner Lynn cleaned the fish for me and put it into a bag, which he then placed in a styrofoam cooler box.

When I got home with my catch, I immediately contacted my Slow Food Sunday Market friend Dave Koert (of Koert Organics), who has been smoking local trout himself and selling-out at the market for weeks. "Smokin' Dave" will be providing a workshop on how to smoke fish, meat and vegetables in the Stratford Chefs School Learning Centre at the Savour Stratford Perth County Culinary Festival at 2 pm on Sunday, September 26th, so I knew I could count on him to teach me the recipe for smoking trout (fortuitously, I have an electric home smoker). Following Dave's instructions, I combined some pickling salt, brown sugar, lemon juice, and soy sauce mixed in water to create a brine that the fillets were cured in overnight. Then, it was into the smoker for four hours.
So as my final fish story, I have to say I had a great morning fishing at the Lyndon Public Fishing pond. And I enjoyed some beautiful smoked trout the next day! Although the Lyndon pond has been open seven days a week throughout the summer, now that September's here public fishing will only be open on weekends. But if you're just after some frozen Arctic Char, or feel like letting Lynn do the fishing and smoking for you, they sell vacuum sealed fillets on-site all week long.

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