Merwin: Memorable Fishing Lunches

When I think about fall fishing, I'm remembering not just the fish but also some really memorable lunches. A noontime fire in a September rain can be the day's highlight, no matter how well the fish are biting. It's all part of what many anglers eventually learn, which is that the whole fishing experience turns out to be at least as important as simply catching a fish.

Yes, most often I throw a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich and a bottle of water into a pack or the boat when I head out. And yes, that's in no way memorable. But there are a few things, like this Maine landlocked salmon grilling by a lakeside fire, that have stuck with me for a long time. There was also apple pie fresh that morning from the camp kitchen, potatoes and onions to boil, a cucumber on the side, and a big pot of cowboy coffee hot enough so I stopped worrying about the rain seeping around my shirt collar.

There was another day far away from the first, when a good lunch was a matter of rebellion. Fishing with a guide in northern Colorado, a friend and I looked dismally at what were called "guide lunches." These were white paper bags, each holding a bologna sandwich on stale white bread, a bag of chips, and a candy bar. We guessed it was better than nothing, but not a hell of a lot better.

So that night we went to a supermarket and bought some lettuce, tomatoes, avocados, cold fried chicken, fresh rolls, and some bottles of wine. The next morning everything went in a cooler in the guide's truck as we also quietly asked that the white bags just be forgotten.

It was raining gently. The fishing was just great. Little olive mayflies rode the gray currents for a long time before being able to get dry enough to fly. The trout sipped and slurped. We caught our share, and then sat on the riverbank, sipping and slurping wine and chicken and salad, while at the same time telling our guide that we'd be just as happy to never see a little white lunch bag again....