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End of the Rainbow: Crooked River Rainbow Trout—Three Ways 

Some information and tips when it comes to catching and cooking fish.

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The brilliant white plates were a stark contrast to the colorful food that my fiancée Kristen and I had just placed atop them—food that we had worked hard to acquire and as a result were even more excited to consume.

The rainbow trout we’d caught earlier in the day did not disappoint. It was so good, in fact, that we used a few remaining pieces of grilled garlic bread to mop up what little remained on our plates at the end of the meal. Those last few bites marked the end of a circle of life that started on a local stream and ended in trout three ways—with lemon & dill, smoked paprika and maple, and foil-baked on the grill.

The meal, and the experience that led up to eating it, was a reminder of a New Year’s resolution I made and intend to keep this year—to enjoy the fruits, or fish as the case may be, of my labors more often.

Here’s why you should consider this, too, when it comes to fish. Somewhere between strictly catch and release and over-harvesting a fishery is a sustainable balance. A point where fish populations still thrive, and we can enjoy putting food on the table that we procured from somewhere other than the market.

Central Oregon is full of such places, and one of my favorites is the Crooked River. In addition to scenic beauty, the Crooked offers ample opportunity to fish for healthy, wild Rainbows that taste far superior to farmed fish raised eating pellets in a pond.

The Crooked River is also a rewarding spot for fishermen of all levels of expertise: It’s accessible year-round, the wading is relatively easy, the scenery is breathtaking and the fish are plentiful.

And so, with a locavore meets Elmer Fudd mentality, Kristen and I loaded our gear into the car, stopped by The Patient Angler fly shop for some advice, and headed out for an afternoon of fishing under overcast skies.

The Patient Angler, which is typically my go-to source for fishing reports and information, had once again been right on with their recommendations of which flies to use and which spots to fish along the river. For those of you who don’t fish often or don’t have gear, they’ll even rent you what you need for the day.

When the cloud cover held, Kristen and I consistently found trout willing to take an imitation Blue Wing Olive fly drifted across the surface. But the fishing was sporadic at best, and it wasn’t until we switched to a small salmon egg fly drifted along the bottom of the river that we were able to find some bigger fish. All told we landed five nice Rainbows, three of which made their way back to the car for dinner.

Back at home with the fish cleaned and filleted, we were ready to start grilling with minimal prep work. We opted for three different recipes partly for variety and partly because neither of us could make up our minds.

For the prep, the grilling and the eating, a glass or two of Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc might have been the perfect accompaniment. But we opted instead for the Chainbreaker White IPA from Deschutes Brewery. The citrus flavors and aroma of this brew perfectly complement grilled fish. Besides, trout just seems to taste better with a cold beer rather than a glass of wine.

It’s easy to overcook fish, particularly smaller fillets such as those from a 14-inch rainbow trout. Left unattended for more than a few minutes, it can become a dry, flaky and unsavory mess. It’s important to keep a close eye on the grilling process, and to remove the fish from the heat as soon as you begin to see the fish’s natural oils and fats coming to the surface.

In this case, it was only a matter of minutes before the fish was off the grill to cool and set.  Fast forward 20 minutes and we were left right where this little story started, mopping up the remnants and reminiscing about the day’s events.

When all was said and done, it had been a successful fishing adventure capped off with a perfect meal, and we were left with a newfound appreciation for the trout that inhabit these waters. That, and a sense of accomplishment knowing we had outsmarted a few beautiful fish—this time.


I prefer to cook trout on a grill rather than in a pan or the oven, for the added smokiness that it imparts to the fish. I cook with a medium-hot gas grill, but a charcoal grill would
add even more smokiness to the meat. I also prefer to cook fish on foil coated with
non-stick spray, which minimizes the mess and the cleanup.

Rainbow Trout with Lemon & Dill

One 12-16” Rainbow Trout, filleted

Two lemons, one thinly sliced crosswise, one reserved

One bunch dill

Salt & pepper to taste

Spray foil with non-stick cooking spray. Lay fish onto foil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover fish entirely with lemon slices. Top with dill. Cook, tented with additional foil, over medium-hot grill for five to seven minutes, just until fish begins to flake. Remove fish from grill and discard lemon and dill. Serve with additional lemon wedges and garnish with dill.

Rainbow Trout with Smoked Paprika

One 12-16” Rainbow Trout, filleted

2 TBSP Pearl St. Plank Rub (available at Savory Spice Shop)

2 TBSP pure maple syrup

Spray foil with non-stick cooking spray. Lay fish onto foil and cover generously with Pearl St. Plank Rub. Cook, tented with additional foil, over medium-hot grill for five to seven minutes until fish just begins to flake. Remove fish from grill and drizzle with maple syrup.

Pot of Gold Rainbow Trout

One 12-16” Rainbow Trout, filleted

12 small Yukon Gold or fingerling potatoes, halved

1/2 Walla Walla or other sweet onion, coarsely chopped

Salt & pepper to taste

Prepare potatoes, place in microwave safe bowl, cover, and cook for eight to 10 minutes until tender. Spray foil with non-stick cooking spray. Lay 1/2 of fish onto foil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Transfer 1/2 of potatoes and onions, spreading evenly on and around fish. Wrap in foil to create tight seal for steaming. Repeat with other 1/2 of fish and cook over medium-hot grill for seven to 10 minutes. Place foil packets onto plates to serve, cutting foil lengthwise with a knife and being careful of escaping steam.


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