When our editors dreamed up a feature called "The summer pleasures of fresh trout" (see page 102 of our July 2009 issue), stylist Jan Gautro was in charge of finding the perfect stream. "We needed a spot that looks like a scene from 'A River Runs Through It,'" she said in the email she sent to various fly-fishing outfitters.
Jan found no shortage of trout streams pretty enough for a photo shoot. But there was one big catch. She needed to find a place that allows guests to keep--and cook--their fish. (Many outfitters are strictly catch-and-release.) After all, what's the point of teasing readers with appetizing trout recipes and dreamy images of a fishing spot that's not catch-and-filet?
Jan was lucky to stumble across Trout Bums, a small business based on Rock Creek, a blue-ribbon trout stream in the Montana Rockies. Not only was this location picture-perfect, it was also cook-friendly. And in a stroke of fortune, owner Deb Peltier turned out to be an avid Cooking Light subscriber who cooks from the magazine every month and owns a library of CL cookbooks. Her reply to Jan's email: "Is this a hoax?"
It wasn't, of course. It was the first step in the complicated process that culminates in a successful on-location photo shoot. We only do a few such shoots a year, because they can be quite a production. From nailing down the location to finding models (in this case, real-life people who lived and fished here) and buying and shipping props (16 boxes' worth), it's no small feat. "I even researched trout fishing," Jan says, "to keep the shoot authentic."
Deb at Trout Bums proved instrumental. She helped arrange lodging for six staffers, cooked meals for the team (the nearest restaurant was an hour's drive), and found locals to model for the shoot. Her husband, Joe, caught a cutthroat trout that our stylists cooked and prepped for the story (page 107). She made sure our staffers had the chance to don waders and learn how to cast a dry fly before they went home. It was a first for many.
Deb talks about fishing with the unbridled enthusiasm other women reserve for shoes."When people go on vacation, it usually takes two weeks for them to come down," Deb says. "When you're out fishing, you can't think of anything else. It's just you and the water and the fish." She feels lucky to have made her passion a business, though it does have its drawbacks. "It makes me want to be an irresponsible business person," Deb says. "Put the Gone Fishing sign on the door. Like I did yesterday."
Deb's favorite way to cook trout? Leave the skin on the fillet. Spray the flesh side with cooking spray. Sprinkle flesh side with coarse salt, coarse cracked pepper, and dried dill weed. Grill on medium heat, flesh side first, then flip and grill the skin side. While the fish cooks, grill cut lemon halves that you've sprayed with oil. Squeeze the warm lemon juice over your fish just before eating. (If you get skunked on your next fishing trip, Deb suggests our Asparagus and Chicken Carbonara.)
Travel info: Want to plan a vacation here? Trout Bums offers lodging, a small fly shop, and can arrange for guides. The seven cabins range from a 1-bedroom rustic cabin (no TV, no phone; $95 per night) to a a lodge that sleeps 12 ($595 per night) and have a minimum 2-night stay. Self-guided anglers are welcome, but you can also pay $450 to $500 for a guided trip. The nearest airport, in Missoula is about 35 miles away. Call (406) 825-6146 or visit Trout Bums online for more info.