fish food

Before I floated down Oregon’s Grande Ronde River with chef and charcutier Elias Cairo, I would have figured that an angler who brought his own trout on a fishing trip to be sure to have something for the grill was not much of a fisherman at all. This was the first lesson of many.

The idea of joining a fly-fishing trip with Cairo came up as we were wrapping the cookbook we wrote together for his restaurant Olympia Provisions. “I’ve never seen anywhere quite like the Wallowas,” he had told me. “It’s a mountain range: 250,000 acres of public land, six thriving rivers, and Hells Canyon, America’s deepest gorge. Come out and fish sometime.” I went home and looked it up on Google Maps. Fishing wasn’t usually my thing, but this was coming from a guy who apprenticed for a murderers’ row of intimidating Swiss chefs and Jägermeisters, a former USA national team snowboarder who also has a vineyard in his backyard. In nine years, he turned his first business into a Portland mini empire: five restaurants and a massive salumeria, plus a hot dog cart for good measure. He is, in other words, not someone who half-asses anything he does.

The plans were forgotten until they weren’t, and all of a sudden I was in a Toyota Tacoma three hours down the road from Portland, with five more still to go. Cairo was driving me and two of his Olympia Provisions colleagues—and oldest friends—Tyler Gaston and Eric Moore, to a cellphone-signal-free retreat close to the Idaho border. Trips like this have been routine for Cairo and Moore since they were teenage snowboarders in Salt Lake City. “When I wasn’t at school or working at my parents’ diner, I’d borrow the car, and we’d escape to the river,” Cairo says. “We’d talk trash, drink beers, smoke, and fish.”

Not much has changed. One reason Cairo chose Portland as home was its proximity to wilderness. After a

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