Fly Fishing: Scaling Your Catch

If you’re fly fishing to eat your catch, rather than just for sport, you may be interested to know there’s more than one way to skin a cat – er, a fish, I mean.

A traditional way is to scale it and gut it. This method leaves the fish whole, and the head can either be cut off or left on. Small fish such as bream in fresh water and croaker in salt water are perfect for scaling, but bigger fish can be cleaned in other ways. And some cooking recipes are best with whole fish.

Keep fish wet until it's time to scale them, as this makes scale removal easier. You can do this by putting your catch in a live well, which is an aerated container filled with water for transporting fish. Alternatively, you can put your fish on a “stringer” in the water. A stringer is a cord with a pointed metal shaft on one end that slips through the gills. Usually a metal ring is fixed on one end to prevent the fish from sliding off. In any case, you  should loop the line back through the ring on the first fish to attach it securely. Better yet,  put the fish on ice as soon as you catch them to keep them moist and help preserve their flavor.

When you’re ready to scale the fish, lay it on its side and rub the edge of a dull knife or spoon against the grain of the scales, working from tail to head. Either hold the fish by its head or used a clip board to hold it. A gloved holding hand will keep the fish from slipping. The scales should peel off easily as you scrape. Work carefully around the fins so you do not stick one into your hand. Certain fish, like trout and flounder, have tiny scales that are difficult to remove. The skin can be removed after cooking, but it’s perfectly okay to eat the skin and scales too. So, you too can become the Gordon Ramsay of fly fishing.


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