What The Hell Are They Eating?

Trying to crack the culinary code of feeding fish is an integral part of this game we all enjoy. Better anglers than I have more knowledge of entomology, and I learn a great deal listening to their suppositions, theories and predictions. I am sure both my dad and The Professor can tell you exactly what this fish ate when I caught it and exactly what size fly I used to trick it. I can’t remember. I just recall how great it felt to get a decent cast to it after I had already offered up several marginal casts. I was damn excited about this fish.


Afterwards we eased down onto another pod of eagerly feeding fish. I was content with fishing and pretty hungry myself so I was kicked back in the back of the boat, more concerned with when I was going to have dinner than what these trout might be eating. Unlike my undiscerning fish, these trout were a great deal more particular. My dad tried and tried. The Professor tried and tried.

What the hell are they eating?

Finally the professor exclaimed to the skies, “I am such a dumbass! I know what they are eating!” He changed flies one more time…cast one more time…and voila! Like Mikey on the LIFE Cereal commercials, “He Likes It!”


Looking back on the weeks I spent in Montana this summer, I realize almost every waking hour was consumed with consumption. We were either concerned with what the fish might be eating, or what we were going to be eating. Of course there are a thousand people, blogs and flyshops who can tell you what they fish were eating, so I will spare you an outdated hatch report and instead offer something more useful should you travel the same paths in the 406.

Here’s a quick list of what we were eating out in Montana this summer:

1. Pretty much anything at Bandito’s in Virgnia City. Carne Asada, Chile Relleno and the Southwest Cobb Salad were highlights.


2. Burgers at The Melrose Bar


3. Whatever they had at The Trout Shop Cafe in Craig. I am so excited that The Trout Shop is once again open for dinner. Each night is a different lineup for the menu, and it’s all good. For the Professor’s birthday dinner we feasted on burgers, grilled sausage, chicken and Texas-style brisket that was dynamite.


4. Now on this point, I must be clear. I am not a Wing person. Sorry, I’m simply not. I see the wing craze happening in suburban strip malls all around. Upscale fast food restaurants that are dedicated to serving chicken wings. I live in Texas where gigantic cuts of bare barbecued meat speak for themselves, so I don’t really get the magic of gnawing off teeny bits of meat that are drowned in so much sauce.

That said…..given my anti-wing stance…I will say with unabashed enthusiasm that the chicken wings at Trouthunter in Island Park Idaho may have changed my mind and opened my heart to the whole wing world magic. They were really really good.

5. Chicken Fontina at Izaaks in Craig. I have pretty much worked my way through the menu at Izaaks and I usually have a favorite that I gravitate to each season. Last year I loved the pasta with the sausage in a light creamy tomato sauce. This summer the Chicken Fontina was my go-to dish.

6. The Mexican Food bus in Dillon. If you think I was harsh in my Overblown Righteous Texasness when talking about chicken wings, don’t get me started on Mexican food. In my opinion, they can’t even seem to get it right in Mexico. But I will wholeheartedly endorse the TexMex fare served in this fabulous little bus in Dillon. It’s delish.

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7. The Pickle Barrel in Bozeman. Not sure what this fabulous sandwich was all about but I loved it. We were there in early June and were lucky enough to meet the proprietor who joined us for lunch and could not have been more entertaining. He even treated me to a cupcake in his bakery next door! I am a huge fan of the Pickle Barrel.

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8. Turkey Sandwich with Provolone at Montana Wheat in Three Forks.

9. FFC’s Probably Never-Going-To-Be-Famous Tuna Salad. To date I think I have only shared one other recipe with yall, but I found that one on the internet. This one is a bonafide original — and quite a crowd-pleaser if I do say so myself.

It was somewhat accidental. I was in charge of packing the lunch cooler but we were running low on premium sandwich meats. And the loaf of bread I’d picked up at Montana Wheat was almost gone. So I decided the streamside lunch was going to be tuna salad in tortillas. We had eggs, so I chopped up a hard-boiled egg and added it to the tuna salad which I like with lots of pepper, no salt, and very little mayonnaise. A lot of people like chopped celery in their tuna for a little green & a little crunch, but celery makes me want to die of boredom. So I diced up jalapeno into the tuna salad instead. Deee-lightful!!

Tuna salad with a kick. We’ve made it a few times since and it really spices up an otherwise mundane classic. If you can handle a little firepower, I recommend you give it a try.

This list merely scratches the surface as I do seem to root out delicious food almost everywhere I go, whether it be the gourmet fare at Healing Waters or a corn dog at the Town Pump in Townsend. What can I say? Fishing makes me hungry. And apparently…thirsty. I like the mystery person off to the right of this picture who seems to know I likee the vino rojo.


Cin Cin!

8 Responses to “What The Hell Are They Eating?”
  1. Matty J says:

    That sandwich from the PB looks like one of their cheese steaks. Way back in the early eighties I was lucky enough to land a job at the Pickle Barrel. And over the years I worked there I must have cooked up thousands of them. Ken and his wife Kerry are two of the greatest people on earth.

    When Ken heard I was interested in fly fishing he took me over to Andersons shop in Deadrock and loaned me the cash to get all set up… we drove back to Bozone where proceeded to teach me the basics of casting in the center grass median of S. 8th Street with cars whizzing by. I swear he could double haul that old 6 weight a whole block.

    Next time you hit the Bzone get Ken to share some of his “secret” leech patterns….he’s a wizard on the fly bench.

  2. Get Out!! GREAT story, Matty. thanks for sharing. Will definitely look for Ken (and another Pickle Barrel sandwich) on my next trip to Bozeman

  3. Harry says:

    Welcome back!

    Love the Trouthunter, one of my favorite places to stay. Walk off the patio and a few feet to the river for the evening hatch. Fun! Next time you are in Dillon try Sparky’s Garage down by the college. Cold, cold beer and good food.

  4. CW Mark says:

    FFC, next time you’re here in Bozeman you need to hit two other places – Main Street Over Easy for breakfast (we’ll buy) and Mark’s in Livingston for a burger and tots. Both are local icons that have to be on the list…..

  5. Monty Montana says:

    That explains the smile.

  6. I think I have had breakfast at Main Street Over Easy! Maybe even a few times. Has it been there awhile? Either way, THANK YOU and I am thrilled. But only if I can reciprocate sometime. Regrettably I haven’t spent much time in Livingston area but am always looking to change that….Mark’s sounds like a reason to get over that way

    Hope yall are doing well. I am back in MT in 18 days!!! keep the fish happy for me….

  7. Scott says:

    I just heard that The Trout Shop Cafe is no longer open to the public due to a permitting issue. That makes me very sad as breakfast at The Trout Shop was always part of our trips to Craig.

  8. Matty J says:

    BTW FFC you might get a kick out of checking out nectarmagazine.com Issue 2 feature salt water guide Amanda Switzer

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