Had I just committed a sin? My mind said maybe, but my belly loudly, said "No." The fish’s cooked, white eye stared up at me, its ribs bare and protruding like a phalanx from its spine. My girlfriend and I huddled around the fire, gorged on potatoes, mushroom soup, and fresh Rainbow Trout. Our breath rose with the smoke and vanished into the night.
Since my birth into the fly-fishing world, catch and release fishing was inherent. Trout are rare in Missouri, and wild trout are practically nonexistent. The first, official, wild trout I caught was in Washington State. I removed the hook and dropped that jewel back into the mine without batting an eye. My friends, most of whom are non-fishermen, seemed shocked by my lack of desire to eat the fish I caught. Eventually, it became a point of pride. “Eat them? Why would I want to eat something so beautiful and rare? Eating one’s catch is for bait-fishermen and Neanderthals.” Then I ate one at a restaurant. It was fed pellets its whole life, injected with pink dye, and it was delicious. This is what I had been missing? Maybe I could try it just once.
My girlfriend and I scrambled over the rocks. It was twilight in the canyon, and I had yet to catch our dinner. I needed a patch of deep, sunlit water to drop my caddis larva into. A perpetual string of bubbles marked the line I needed to match. Plop! My Czech nymph rig sank quickly to the bottom of the hole. I felt the tic, tic, tic of my flies bouncing along the bottom. My line left the bubble trail momentarily and up went my rod
. A few head shakes and short runs later, the fish was in my net. We dispatched it quickly and hustled up to our campsite. I filled the belly of the trout with lemon, butter, and a dash of lemon pepper. Wrapped in his tinfoil casket, onto the coals he went. Before long the butter was sizzling and our bellies were rumbling. We scarfed that thing down in about ten seconds. Had I just committed a sin? Maybe. But I’d do it again in a heartbeat.