Shore Lunches

Mark Twain is often credited with having made the astute observation that, “Nothing improves scenery like ham and eggs.” Twain at times stretched the truth. But I can personally attest that ham and eggs does improve almost any landscape.

I don’t know if Mr. Twain was a fishermen but if he was he certainly must have appreciated one of fishing’s most delightful fringe benefits. I’m talking about shore lunches.

My personal version of the shore lunch is basically a sandwich, apple and bottle of water stuffed into the rear pouch of my vest. Not the most creative of lunches but filling none the less.

Several years ago my late father-in-law, Wallace Peebles, and his wife along with two friends made a trip from their home in Missouri to Arkansas’ Norfork River for a couple of days of trout fishing. I never doubted that the story was true even though it was somewhat hard for me to imagine. Wallace loved to fish but he rarely traveled far from home to do it.

They caught plenty of trout and generally had a fine time. But the thing he seemed to remember most vividly from the trip was the shore lunch; something I assume he’d never before experienced. After a morning on the river the guide nosed the boat into the bank, cleaned the trout, opened a couple of cans of beans, cut up a pile of potatoes, threw in some onions and generously poured on the pepper. He then fired up a portable stove, skillet-fried the spuds, warmed the beans and deep fried the trout. The group feasted in the warm sunshine on the banks of that beautiful river. It became the memory of the trip.

Maybe shore lunches were invented in Arkansas. I recently returned from a trip to Arkansas’ White River where the trout fishing was fantastic. The outing was hosted by Gaston’s White River Resort and the fishing action varied from good to phenomenal depending on if the fishing tactic was fly, hard baits or baited shrimp.

Even this, however, was overshadowed by the shore lunch prepared by one of the resort’s cooks, Dennis Coker (pictured), and two assistants. They served up piles of trout, chicken, biscuits, friend potatoes and baked beans; topped by cherry cobbler. Nothing elaborate nor fancy but hot, delicious and plenty of it. Between the fishermen, guides and cooks 33 men eventually bellied up to the table. No one left hungry.

Sometime the fish bite (they did on the White). Other times they don’t Regardless, the meal on the river is usually the linchpin that pulls it all together.

It was not my first shore lunch. I pray it won’t be my last.