The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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February 27, 2013

Opening Day best time to test new trout recipes

JOPLIN, Mo. — Some years back, I had hopes of fly fishing in Slough Creek in the northeast corner of Yellowstone National Park. Slough Creek is world-famous for cutthroat trout, but its popularity makes it a tough place to get a backcountry permit for overnight camping.

Even the wilderness has to be rationed in a kind of lottery.

Looking for alternatives, I talked with a backcountry ranger about Rescue Creek, which is in the northwest corner of the park. Because it's a much smaller creek, I specifically asked whether it sustained a trout population. She assured me that it did, although it didn't have a reputation for fat fish, and anything I might catch there would probably be small, she advised.

OK by me, I thought. So, I got the permit and before long was hiking through the sagebrush country. A few hours later, I was sure I had arrived at the right place, but something didn't fit. I found the designated backcountry camping site easily enough, but if I wasn't in the wrong place, then the creek was. Not only were there no trout, there was no water.

I hiked up a nearby ridge. Still nothing. Oh well, the site was beautiful, dusk was at hand, and since this was one of the few backcountry sites in the park that allowed a fire, I opted to forget about it and just enjoy the moment.

In the middle of the night as I tried to take my mind off the fact that I was surrounded by critters that were higher than me on the food chain, it occurred to me I hadn't asked enough questions. I had hiked to the far upper end of Rescue Creek during a dry summer, while the fish -- not to mention the water -- were in the lower end. There might have been water running through here in the spring, but there was none now. Lesson learned, I thought.

I hiked out that next day and satisfied my hunger with a trout dinner at Roosevelt Lodge.

Not long ago, I again applied for a permit at Slough Creek and got picked for a backcountry site in the lottery, but I had to cancel that trip for some reason. ... a relative's wedding or a family reunion. I can't even remember.

Slough Creek is still on my life list, and I'll make it there some day. Soon, I hope. In the meantime, I'll just have to be content with the trout fishing closer at hand.

Roaring River's catch-and-keep season begins Friday, and although we avoid Opening Day, my family tries to get down there once a month. We have a ritual that includes stopping for doughnuts around 4:30 a.m. as we're leaving town, fishing a few favorite holes, going for a hike later in the morning or early in the afternoon, and fueling up with ice cream for the trip home.

Dinner means trout.

Following are two of my favorite recipes as well as two others I found recently.

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