Fish and FungiMichael Condon
A week ago we enjoyed a beautiful and warm Saturday. This time of year each day like that could be the last such day for many months.
There was only one thing for me to do. Load up the dog and head out fishing.
There is very little time left before stream fishing season closes for the year so I decided to skip the hot action offered by so many of our local lakes right now, and I headed for the Middle Fork of the Feather River.
Fall offers another opportunity that I enjoy taking advantage of. It is mushroom season. I am not a real serious mushroom hunter, but I do enjoy it. So I packed my mushroom field guide along with my fishing gear.
I had picked a few edible mushrooms here locally while working in the woods back in the 70’s and 80’s. Then I moved to the rainforest of Southeast Alaska.
Moose hunting is a big deal in Alaska. There were even businesses that closed for moose season in the small town we lived in. So naturally I went moose hunting too.
Moose hunting is slow. A lot of time is spent sitting near a good trail…waiting. And waiting. What I noticed while sitting and waiting for my bull moose, was that the area had an incredible variety of mushrooms. More shapes, colors, and sizes than I ever imagined.
A mushroom field guide quickly became part of my hunting gear. Keying out mushrooms may not be the best way to keep focused on ones quarry while hunting, but it made the whole experience that much more rewarding.
I love being in the woods. I was fortunate to spend much of my career working on the woods. But when you are working, you need to be focused on your work. You are getting paid to produce, not to stop and smell the roses.
This is where fishing, hunting, and yes, even mushroom hunting come in. What these pursuits have in common is that they all require you to slow down and observe your surroundings. The more observant you are, the more successful you are likely to be. And better still, the more observant you are, the more you understand and appreciate your surroundings. The whole outdoor experience becomes more rewarding.
So off I went for a day of stream fishing and mushroom hunting.
The place I park to access one of my favorite stretches of the Middle Fork requires a short walk through the woods. I changed my short walk into a slightly longer walk and much slower walk.
Mushrooms aren’t always readily visible. They are best spotted by looking for little domes where they push up the leaves and needles on the forest floor without quite breaking through. That is where the careful observation comes in.
Some of our local mushrooms are real table delicacies. There are three types of mushrooms found locally that I am comfortable enough with my ability to identify that I will bring them home to cook. They are absolutely delicious.
I am pretty sure that a couple of the ones I found that day were edible. But I won’t try eating a new type of mushroom until I can get someone more experienced than myself to verify that I have correctly identified the mushroom.
That is the most fundamental thing to remember if you give mushroom collecting a try. There are many species and it can be easy to confuse an edible mushroom with one that can make you very sick.
I would encourage anyone to get a field guide and try your hand at mushroom hunting. A great pocket field guide is “All That the Rain Promises and More…” by David Arora. A far more comprehensive guide (although some might consider it too large to pack around in the woods) is “Mushrooms Demystified” by the same author.
Mushroom hunting is rewarding even if you never eat one. But if you do eat one, get an expert opinion to make sure it is an edible variety first.
I eventually found my way to the river. I was surprised by the number of grasshoppers along the stream bank. I normally don’t bother with hopper patterns in November. But this was a warm sunny day with enough of a breeze to blow an occasional unlucky grasshopper into the river and into the mouth of an eager trout.
I tied on a hopper pattern and began fishing. The action wasn’t exactly fast and furious. I did manage to catch some fish. What they lacked in size and numbers, they made up for in feistiness and gorgeous color. These were clearly native fish so I returned them to the river.
That trout dinner with a side of sautéed mushrooms would have to wait for another day. I was happy with that. I could not have asked for finer day.
The Middle Fork of the Feather River has been fishing well. Any of the bridge accesses along the river should offer good fishing according to the folks at Mountain Hardware and Sports in Blairsden (530 836 – 2589). The Middle Fork of the Feather River near Two Rivers has produced fish up to 18" lately. (Just not for me!)