Bologna sandwich costs angler a trophy fish

Paul Smith
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I love bologna. I don’t eat large quantities or huge portions of it anymore, not near as much as I gobbled down in my younger years.

Nowadays, the general medical and dietary consensus is that bologna, that wonderful meaty delicacy gifted to us humans from the gods, clogs our mortal arteries, and may shorten our Earthly fishing time.

I bet the gods still eat their bologna sandwiches; they’ve no blood-filled arteries to block with cholesterol or fatty deposits.

My mother took really good care of me, fed me the best food, as far as she knew, made sure I wore my long johns, and never let me venture outside in winter without a stocking cap, knit tight and warm by her own hands.

She was the champion knitter of Spaniard’s Bay, took first and second prize at the fall fair in Harbour Grace the one time she entered her work. Baby clothing was the category if memory serves.

Anyway, she would have never served me bologna if she had any suspicion of it harming my health. Now let me tell you this for sure and certain; my mom cooked up a wicked feed of bologna gravy and spuds.

There are people, even those abiding right here in Newfoundland, who know nothing of bologna gravy. Outrageous I know, but sadly true. I’ve met them.

So for the sake of those few, and folks from abroad, mainland Canada and beyond, I will describe the dish. It’s a simple meal, not likely to be profiled on the Food Network.

You simply sauté some onion, actually lots of onion, preferably a full Spanish one, in butter, real butter, not margarine. Cube up some Maple Leaf into cubes, about an inch or so, and toss them into the pan when the onion is just beginning to brown.

Fry the bologna to taste and then add some water and flour-based roux to create gravy of the desired consistency. While all this action is progressing, a pot full of floury spuds is boiling away on the rear burner.

You get the picture I’m sure, potatoes and bologna gravy, and a can of green peas for good measure. It’s a fine stick-to-your-ribs camp meal. The odd feed of bologna won’t kill you, especially after walking in the woods all day. However, you might want to consult with your family doctor beforehand.

Is there anything more satisfying than eating a bologna sandwich by the side of a trout stream?

Well I suppose puffing a Cuban cigar on the Pinware comes in a close second. It’s been a long cold winter and I’ve been doing hardly any fly fishing at all.

There really hasn’t been much in the way of open water to cast a line upon. I usually begin fishing the Waterford River at the beginning of February, but for most of this winter it has been far too cold.

This past Saturday I broke out the fly rods and made myself a big fat bologna sandwich, complete with cheddar cheese, and Russian mustard.

The cheese was unprocessed, and the bread of the non-GMO variety. I know it’s silly, might as well splurge on the white bread and plastic-wrapped slices. Go for it, you say. But I find an odd sort of satisfaction in dietary Yin and Yang, like fries with my moose or salad with a hot dog.

I picked up that special Russian mustard at a little roadside store in Murmansk. My salmon fishing buddies introduced me to it and I just had to smuggle some home.

Conditions on the Waterford River were absolutely perfect. The water was just murky enough so as to veil comfort over wary trout.

Then again, not excessively clouded, so that trout might not see my dead drifted offering of fur and hackle. The current was not so swift as to prevent my fly from moving tantalizingly slow.

The sun was not apparent, hidden in totality by a low cloud ceiling and a hazy misty sky. I expected to catch many fat feisty trout. But it was not meant to be.

Not one trout did we catch. The water was void of life. I figured all the trout were gone to sea, to fatten in the waters of St. John’s harbour and beyond.

I pondered the circumstances while I ate my bologna sandwich and drank hot green tea from my thermos. It’s almost April. I never fish this late on the Waterford. By now I’m usually hunting trout in Shearstown Pond and South River’s Motion Pond.

This is such a late spring. Those places are still frozen solid. My timing is messed up by this incessant global warming. Maybe I’ll go winter camping or ice fishing next weekend.

A bologna sandwich once cost me a gargantuan seatrout, a massive fish that would have scored me a personal best. It was around this time of year, before global warming, so the ice was gone off the ponds so much earlier. Paul Kearley and I were out on the weekend hunt for seatrout.

It was a foggy, wet Saturday morning and we were river hopping all over Conception Bay, searching for the right mix of tide and wind conditions. By midday we had hooked and landed just a few smaller trout. We had wet our waders in just about every seatrout hole from Salmon Cove to Seal Cove.

Paul and I returned to where we had observed the most promising swirls. I can’t divulge exactly where for health reasons. Paul Kearley would put a price on my head. Suffice to say, no more than a half hour’s drive from Spaniard’s Bay. Paul jumped out of the car and assembled his rod.

It’s near impossible to get ahead of him. I was craving bologna, and OK with letting him have the first crack. That sandwich was playing on my mind, nice and soggy by now, mustard seeping into porous bread just the way I like.

And besides, at this pond, Paul and I typically fish designated spots. Before Paul bored with his fishing hole, I’d have my sandwich gone and still have my own water left undisturbed and all to myself. Or so I thought.

I munched and sipped a coke while Paul meticulously and thoroughly covered his berth. He leaves nothing to chance, pays attention to every detail. That’s why he’s probably the best seatrout fisherman on The Rock.

A very nice trout broke the surface over on my turf.  “Did you see that?” I accidentally blurted out with a full mouth. “Where?” Kearley’s keen eyes scanned the surface. “About 40 feet directly in front of me,” says I, now realizing the gravity of my error.

I really should have kept my mouth shut, but hey, the cat was already out of the bag. After all, we are fishing buddies and selfishness over fish among friends is so unvirtuous. And tossing a bologna sandwich is certainly some kind of sin. “Have a crack at him,” I muttered reluctantly.

So I finished off my sandwich as Paul walked over to my spot and made the first cast.

Two casts and nothing stirred in the dark water. There was hope. Paul would move back to his usual perch and I’d get a cast at that big trout. I didn’t fill in the details on just how big that trout looked.

If I did he’d never leave. My last bite of bologna, cheese and mustard went down with a swig of Coke while Paul’s indicator drifted undisturbed in the falling tide. In a flash it disappeared.

Paul lifted his rod skyward forcing a tight to the cork bend in a very robust stick of graphite. He was clearly into something very heavy, my lunker no doubt. Damn that bologna sandwich!

Paul Smith, a native of Spaniard’s Bay, fishes and wanders the outdoors at every opportunity. He can be contacted at or follow him on twitter at @flyfishtherock

Organizations: GMO

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Waterford River, Canada Maple Leaf Murmansk South River Conception Bay Salmon Cove Seal Cove

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Recent comments

  • Oisin McMahon
    April 05, 2014 - 11:29

    Mr. Smith, You have promoted fishing on the Waterford River for some time now and it is sad to say that this river is now totally devoid of life. What you used to say was that the Waterford had the highest concentration of brown trout in North America. Well, if this was the case I'd hate to see any of the other places. Could it be that the constant popularizing of this river has had an effect, I would say so. Does it lead to over fishing, most certainly. Bologna may not taste the greatest but it must have a bitter taste when there's no trout to be found in a river that you have written so much about.

    • Paul Smith
      April 12, 2014 - 15:03

      Oisin, The Waterford River has never been a secret. It flows right through the middle of St. John's. So I don't believe me writing about it has much to do with fishing pressure. The people who fish there all practice hook and release. At least I've never seen anybody retaining trout there. To say that my promotion of the Waterford River has caused its demise is absolutely ridiculous. While not devoid of trout, trout numbers do appear to be down. The decline started after Hurricane Igor. I think that flood did a lot of damage to both the river's spawning potential and the trout stocks themselves. That said, there were folks who had good catches of trout this past winter. Remember, they are seatrout, and at any given time could be out in the salt.