The Colonel — his real name is Frank but we all know him as The Colonel — lives across the street from us. He is a 93 years old but no one has really taken the time to explain to him how a 93 year old man is supposed to act so you can’t blame him for his ignorance. Frank is healthy, active, sharp as a tack and lives alone in the same house he has owned since he and his late wife bought it in the 1970’s — well, that is saying he lives alone for those rare occasions that he’s actually at home. Because even when he is home — referring to being in town — he’s rarely at his house. Frank hates staying home and when he is actually in the area he’ll pull out of the garage early in the morning, wave goodbye, pick up his sixty year old girlfriend and head out for the day. I would say in a given year Frank spends possibly four, maybe five months of it even in town and when he is, he only sleeps at his house.

It’s a depressing fact The Colonel has a far more active social life than anyone else on the street. Bar none. And most of us are four or five decades younger than he is.

Now, Frank is known as The Colonel, because that’s simply what he is. A retired World War II Air Force Colonel and he is only given this title behind his back. If you do slip up and refer to him as The Colonel to his face, he will quickly correct you.

“Please,” he’d smile. “Just call me Frank.”

Frank drives his own car. He plays golf — he actually participates in several senior golf tournaments every year — he competes in poker tournaments and he skeet shoots. But Frank’s true passion, what The Colonel truly enjoys more than anything, is fly fishing. Frank loves fly fishing and he goes on several major fly fishing trips a year. For weeks at a time he will fly into Maine or New Hampshire or Alaska and meet a friend or one of his sons and fly fish.

Trout and Salmon fear The Colonel.

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Now fly fishing is a gentlemen’s sport and is somewhat different than the hook and line variety the majority of us barbarians practice. There is an art to fly fishing, a grace, that is missing in conventional fishing. And once I asked Frank if he kept that fish that he caught.

“Naw,” Frank would say. “I just like giving them a sore mouth and sending them on their way.”

But occasionally, if they have a large group of people that are fishing with that  need to feed, The Colonel will end up eating a few of the salmon or trout that he catches.

Even if you fish occasionally, even if you fish once in a great while, there will come the times when you will want to keep a few of the fish you catch. And when I say keep, I mean eat. So you’ll need to know how to gut a fish.


Go outdoors. Cleaning fish is messy business. Even with a skilled fisherman the smell will remain so this is done outdoors, preferably where you have water available. A makeshift table —- even a piece of wood between two saw horses with a garden hose works well.

Scale the fish. Hold the fish by the head and with the back end of a knife — you can also use a butter knife or a spoon — scrape against the scales to remove them. You want these strokes to be smooth and even otherwise you’ll cut into the meat of the fish.

Rinse the fish. This is also a good time to check and verify that all the scales are off.

Cut open the fish. With the fish belly up, make a clean cut from the bottom of the mouth to just below the tail.

Open the fish and remove the entrails. This is the messiest part of the process but it doesn’t last long. Simply pull everything out and then cut anything remaining. When you think it’s complete, rinse the fish.

Remove the head. Depending on the type of fish you caught as well as the type of cooking you’ll be doing, you can remove the head. If you’re cooking over the fire, it might make sense to leave the heads on. A simple stick placed through the inside and mouth of the fish will make for a great way to smoke the day’s catch over a fire. Also, trout cooks well with the heads left one — as well as the scales left on. Pan fish or anything deep fried you’ll want the heads and tails off.

And that’s it. Once you’ve done this a few times you’ll be a pro.


Everett De Morier has appeared on CNN, Fox News Network, NPR, ABC, as well as in The New York Times and The London Times. He is the author of Crib Notes for the First Year of Marriage: A...