Katherine “KK” Tatum, co-owner and NPL house-mother since 2007
This is a funny-peculiar subject. Here is our perspective and why we have always provided boat lunches over cooking a shore lunch and why we don’t believe in developed lunch locations. Boat lunches are brown bag affairs with a sandwich, pasta salad or potato salad, fruit, chips, and a snack. They are portable and prepared in a controlled environment by folks who have to comply with food service regulations…more on that in a moment.
Developed lunch locations, while park-like, don’t align with an outdoor experience. They corral your guide to having to arrange the fishing around the lunch location. The best fly fishing opportunities rarely happen this way. Our focus is the fishing and there are times we are moving slow and times we are moving fast based on a myriad of factors. River traffic, wade fishing, rising fish, the current hatch, water conditions, weather etc can all impact the pace you and guide will be traveling down the river. Developed locations stymie any spontaneity, that we feel, should be mandatory for a day of fishing. Guides who have fixed lunch locations have a program where they have to spend X amount of time in each run between here and the lunch spot. It contributes to over-fishing runs and degraded fishing. It is also demoralizing as a guide…we want to be able interact the best way we can with our guests and the fishery and this “program” kills creativity and the things we all find rewarding about fly fishing. That’s also why we shuttle guide rigs and trailers early…if the day dictates getting off of that section of river early and going to fish somewhere else, that’s what we do. That’s the beauty of our location and having our own shuttle service. There are so many fishing opportunities so close that we can make those change orders without sacrificing a bunch of your time.
We have an awesome crew of fly fishing guides. They are wildly capable in that realm but our interview process doesn’t include their culinary prowess…that isn’t their job. I started my guide career working for an outfitter that just provided supplies for sandwiches, boxes of cookies and big bags of chips. The guests made their own sandwich and everybody’s gross hands were reaching into the cookie box or chip bag. It saved the time and expense of preparing food and was relatively hassle free and didn’t eat up a bunch of time in the fishing day. The leftover supplies were used for the next group the next day and so on. This is fine for your family or friends but lets be honest, there are a good percentage of the guides who are pretty dirt baggy…do you really want them to be managing days and weeks worth of cold cuts that you are about to consume?
Shore lunches are a hot option cooked on the spot. This happens one of two ways. The guide carries a grill and raw meat in the boat or they stop at a developed location where a grill is present. We already covered the developed lunch spots so we’ll focus on the grill packing guide. The first and most obvious factor is that preparing a hot meal requires more time from your guide and less time the guests actually get to fish. The grill takes up more room in the boat, it can be stinky and attract flies. Remember the dirt bag guides? Yeah, it isn’t uncommon for them to have a problem with cleanliness and do you want them packing around raw chicken that you are about to consume? Guides are working their butts off and doing it for many days in a row, many days of the year. They get worn down and there are details they they’ll let slide as they get deeper into the season. I’ve known many fly fishing guides in my life and have a pretty good view of the general personality traits. As a rule, I do want them guiding me over a pod of rising trout, I don’t want them preparing a meal in a river side environment. Guides need a lunch break, too. We aren’t saving the expense of a prepared meal by putting it on the backs of our guide staff. Shore lunch is a cost saving option for outfitters. This might seem counterintuitive but it is true. Lunch is re-gen time for you and your guide so they will be in peak performance mode for the after lunch session. Guides don’t get a chance to recoup while preparing your food, cleaning and packing it up.
Many outfitters order lunches from a restaurant and have them delivered to their location to distribute to their guides. Good food and a valid option.
We have a commercial kitchen that many restaurants would be envious of and have permits that require us to comply with food service regulations. Our awesome staff prepares the food and put it in refrigeration. We provide ice to the guides so the lunch is immediately put on ice once it comes out of the fridge. Boat lunches are prepared daily. This costs a bunch more since we have facilities and kitchen staff employed for this purpose. We aren’t trying to wow you with the lunch. Our mission is to provide a hearty and fresh meal while you and your guide focus on having a bad ass day chasing trout and reveling in the outdoors. If you want to be wowed by food our North Platte Lodge chefs will take care of that at dinner service.