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Fly Fishing Tips: Fishing and Watercress

Photo of watercress in a Missouri streamIf you have ever spent any time on one of Missouri’s Ozark trout streams you have noticed patches of bright green plants growing in the spring branches or along isolated gravel bars.   That plant is Watercress, the same herb you can sometimes buy at the local grocery store.

Watercress is not native to North America.  It is a hardy European perennial herb,  Nasturtium officinale, that is now widely distributed in cool spring fed streams.  Watercress is part of the mustard family and has a pungent peppery taste that makes a nice addition to a salad or as a garnish.   My first encounter with watercress as a part of a meal was while doing some fishing in Russia.  My host served a salad of local wild greens, including watercress, with a sour cream dressing.  For us trout fisherman, watercress has another use.

Photo of fly fishing in a stream with watercressA patch of watercress is a sure sign that you need to stop and fish.   Watercress needs cool clean water to develop and grow, and a watercress patch is a good indication that ground water is entering the river either as a small underwater spring or, more likely as ground water seepage over a wider area.   In our Ozark streams that seepage is important year round but in the late spring through early fall it is the cool seepage  that keeps the water temperatures within the trout’s safety range.

Don’t forget the culinary aspect of watercress!  Next time you find it on the stream, pick some and bring it home to try in this salmon spread.  If you don’t want to make it yourself coming fishing with us.   The following recipe is one of  STREAM SIDE ADVENTURES’s  lunch specials:

Salmon, Goat Cheese, and Watercress Spread


8 oz skinned salmon fillet cut into 1 inch cubes – salt to taste
two small shallots
juice of quarter lemon
Lemon zest
1 tablespoon butter
Sufficient white wine, of your choice, to poach salmon
4 oz goat cheese
1 cup chopped and loosely packed watercress.

Rinse watercress several times in clean water.  Pick over carefully to remove any remaining  sowbugs or scuds.  Chop coarsely.

Melt butter in pan and sauté finely chopped shallots.  Add cubed salmon, lemon juice and wine.  Bring to a simmer and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes.   Remove from pan and let cool.

Flake the salmon and add the goat cheese and chopped watercress and mix gently to blend ingredients.  Add lemon zest and correct seasoning as needed.

Serve on bagel slices or on slices of crusty French Bread.  Garnish with the saved sowbugs and scuds if desired.






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