Foraging for Food in or Near Streams

There's a lot of wild food in or near streams: trout fishing, puffballs, silverweed, oyster plant, stewed salsify, and slippery or river elm.

| May/June 1972

  • foraging in streams
    A stream provides plenty of food to the alert forager.

  • foraging in streams

If there's anything as appealing as a boulder-washing, log-leaping stream flowing through a tall evergreen forest in the spring, I've yet to encounter it. Especially when that stream is full of brook trout. I often go to such a creek in northern Wisconsin and live for a few days breathing the fresh May and June air, drinking unpolluted water and foraging food.

On the first day of such a trip I always skip the morning meal to put myself in the proper mood for finding wild fare. It's surprising how a little hunger sharpens the eye for the delicious goodies found near a rushing creek.

Scattered here and there along the stream's banks, I usually find the white, ghost-like leaves of the silverweed . . . and starlike salsify grows in the fields of an abandoned farm that the creek flows through. Both plants are ready to yield their good food to a hungry forager. Every now and then, if I'm lucky, I'll also stumble across the football-sized mushroom called the giant puffball while on my way to make camp by a stand of slippery elm trees. And once in camp, I generally brew some elm tea to refresh my system for whatever adventures await me further along the waterway.

On my trip this year, however, plant collecting will be only a secondary occupation as I'm primarily out to fish for the trout in my private little stretch of fast water.

Fishing for Trout

These trout are wild and bright-colored and must be approached with caution and finesse. But they're worth the effort because they supply large amounts of protein to go with the vitamins and minerals found in the plants that I'll eat with them. I pull the fish from their hiding places with tiny hooks festooned with bait found along the creek banks and underneath rocks.

One good bait, of course, is the earthworm . . . found (as every small boy knows) at the foot of manure piles or on the edge of damp places. Night crawlers—huge cousins of the angleworm found on top of the ground, expecially on rainy spring nights—make fine natural fishing lures too . . . although some are too big for brook trout to take.


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