Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Tom Yum Lota

After my recent salmon head soup experience, I was eager to try it again. A nice big burbot I caught this Sunday (Dezadeash Lake is awesome) gave me the opportunity. Tom Yum!

Shiny new pot, full of a burbot

If this were eXistenZ, I could turn this into a gun

I simmered the burbot head and rack for 20 minutes, then broke them down to edible parts and set them aside.

Less meat here than you might expect

Then, I added the other ingredients (except the lime and burbot belly) for another 20 minutes in the broth. Not pictured, but added, were lime leaves and straw mushrooms.

I need better lighting in my kitchen

I cut the belly into strips, popped them in the simmering broth for a minute, then tossed in the reserved meat, added some more fish sauce, and added lots of lime juice.

Not as surprising as salmon head soup, but entirely edible

If I had a bottle of Chang, were sitting in a plastic lawn chair, there were geckos on the wall, and the air smelled vaguely of wet towel, this would be pretty Thai.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Chasing silver in SE AK

The only thing to do during the transition period between open water and frozen lakes, of course, is to go fishing elsewhere. Todd (who you met in the moose hunt post) and I took a long weekend in Haines two weeks ago, looking to hit the end of the coho run on the Chilkat. The peak of things tends to be around Thanksgiving, but that also tends to be when Haines and the Chilkat are overrun with drunk Canadians flinging pixies. We hoped to avoid the crowds, but still get into fish.

Chilkat River

There's a lot about salmon fishing I don't know. The Chilkat is a biggish, brownish, braided river, so there's lots of water and it's tricky to read. Salmon don't really act like stream-resident fish (I don't think), and they're not feeding anyway, so you're chasing unusual fish that take some special voodoo to make bite. My understanding of coho is that they tend to hang out in slower-moving pools, and that they're most likely to bite when your fly is moving quickly and they're coaxed into chasing it. Another feature of the Chikat, that's either a blessing or a curse, depending on how you feel about it, is that it's got a healthy run of chum salmon, concurrent with coho.

We started in an upriver spot, that we'd had good reports on from a friend of a friend. It was packed with salmon, but they were all chum, and they all looked pretty much like this:

Senescent salmon

After a bit of scouting, we managed to spot a couple of silvery-looking fish in amongst a mass of scuzzy chum, and took turns swinging flies at specific fish. It was a pretty useful exercise - I'd stand downstream of Todd and watch the fly and the fish while he swung through the school - it gave me a better understanding of how flies swing and how fish react to them. After a bit of work, we each managed to hook the fish we were looking at, but they weren't quite as silvery as they'd looked in the water.

May not be good to eat, but they've got great patterns

After a few chum, we headed further downstream in search of coho (or, at least, fresher chum). We stopped for the evening at the closest run to the estuary, and got into good numbers of fresh chum, a couple of which Todd kept. They were pretty silver, but the flesh was already starting to get soft - they'll be edible, I'm sure, but I wouldn't keep any chum less fresh than these:

An eater (depending on who you ask)

Bright chum

It's impressive how much more of a fight you get out of fresh fish - you tend to be able to call how long a fish has been in the river before you can even see it, by how much line it's taking. These silver chum fought pretty well.

The next day was rainy, cold and windy as hell. Out in the main river flats, casting even with my 8/9 switch was useless. Back at the downstream run we'd worked the night before, we concentrated on little troughs of slow current close to shore, in the lee of shoreline forest. Almost right away, I got into a fish that took line so fast I skinned my knuckles on the reel handle while trying to get hold of it. After a great fight - success, a bright coho buck.


Almost immediately afterward, I hooked and landed a slightly darker jack coho, and Todd snagged a big bright hen in the tail. Much consternation at having missed the opportunity to fairly hook (and consequently, keep) this fish.

Todd is less pleased than he looks

After that, nothing more on the coho front. I suspect it was a small pulse of fresh fish in from the salt, from which we picked off a few as they passed by. The two that I caught certainly kept to the coho wisdom I'd been given - they were in slow water, and hit a (big pink) fly as I was actively stripping it in. I've got a good recipe for coho flies, by the way, which I'm looking to modify for steelhead use - they look incredible when they're swimming, and they swing really nicely (and nearly every fish we caught the first two days was on the pink version). Another post.

The last day, we slowly worked our way upriver as we headed toward the pass and Yukon. Well upriver, we found a clear pool packed with coho and Dolly Varden, which were too irresistable to pass up (despite being pretty dark). Fish like this are fun to look at, but not to eat - after catching a few, we left them be. I tried, and failed, to catch one of the (really quite big) Dollies.

More where this one came from

Overall, a good trip, though I'd try earlier next year to catch the bulk of the run. The river was deserted while we were there, I could probably put up with a few more people for a few more fish.

So, what to do with a bright Chilkat coho? Salmon head soup!

I need to clean my counter

This is really good.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Transition period

The transition from open-water fishing to icefishing is always an impatient time for me. This year, though, I managed to reduce it to about its minimum.

Scout Lake - 23 Oct
22" x 12" rainbow

Fish Lake - 5 November
29" x 13" lake trout

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Product review: knife sharpening kit

Our household knives are dull. My hunting knives are the epitome of dull. (This is where I normally would put in some definition-dictionary joke: but I will refrain). Just know that it would require effort to draw blood from flesh in their current condition.

For a month Kim and I have been looking for places to get our knives sharpened. On the interweb there are more cautionary tales than recommendations making it difficult to find a reputable place in Edmonton. Then as luck would have it, Jeremy (an alumni of Kim's lab) was visiting from California and has been sharpening knives as a hobby for the past couple years. The above kit is his.

Accordingly, a venison dinner - knife sharpening transaction ensued.

Jeremy's kit was ~$275, but there are a variety online for as low as $100. They come with a series of stones and can do all the necessary angles. I am sold on it, or at least the idea. You will likely save money in lifetime sharpening costs, have really f**king sharp knives (I already cut myself), and be able to sharpen knives in exchange for beer + food. Jeremy made it look easy and our knives were as good as new.

On a secondary product placement note, my Gerber took an edge way better than my Buck knife.