By no means am I a knife freak, these days I’m striving towards minimalism, but there is still a folding knife kept in my hiking day pack, another spare blade in the hunting pack and of course my Buck 110 Hunter in its leather case that does it all from cutting green sticks for roasting hot dogs to gutting deer. I probably own nine or ten knives for my outdoor pursuits, but I only own one fillet knife. It goes everywhere with me, these days I keep my gear in a backpack, most of my fishing involves wading and it makes life easier than lugging around a tackle box. The fillet knife resides comfortably in a pocket, waiting to be used, though most of the fish I catch get released.
I was thirteen years old when I received my first fillet knife, a cherished Christmas or Birthday present, I can’t quite recall which, like I can’t remember if it was Mom and Dad or my late Uncle Norm who gifted it. One of over 100 million sold, it was the legendary Rapala Fish ‘n Fillet Knife with a 9 inch blade. Over twenty plus years it carved up many a pike, bass and assorted panfish along with some walleye and trout. For over two decades it rested in the bottom of the tackle box along with a stone for quick touch ups, waiting, always ready to perform.
The last I remember using that it was on a weekend trip to Catchmore Resort on the Trent River System, my buddy Scott and I broke out our Rapala blades to carve up a mixed stringer of perch, rock bass and pike. We were elected to fish cleaning duty because we were the only ones who knew the boneless method of filleting the firm, white meat of a northern. The other two fellas with us may have been inexperienced with pike, but they both had the instantly recognizable light brown leather cased, wood handled Rapala knife in their boxes. At some point between leaving Ontario and moving to British Columbia my Fish ‘n Fillet knife went missing. After cleaning a few rainbow trout and salmon with my hunting knife I quickly realized a new one was needed.
Matthew cleans a walleye with the infamous Rapala Fish n' Fillet.
Every store that hawks fishing tackle carries the Rapala Fish ‘n Fillet, I purchased my new one at Canadian Tire, this time buying the six inch model for that finer, delicate work. I haven’t had the opportunity to use it on anything truly large, the biggest being a few five pound pike, but the consensus so far is that the smaller blade is much nicer to work with. Now it just needs a couple of decades to get the leather darkened and the finish on the wood handle breaking down for that patina of use an experienced angler would recognize and know that there are a few stories behind. While there may be better fillet knives out there, it would be hard to argue against the notion that the Rapala Fish n' Fillet has cleaned more fish than any other. Remaining unchanged since it’s introduction, it just plain works, every time I dig it out it reminds me of watching Dad and Uncle Norm carve up the days catch at the cottage for a big ole fish fry and that is enough reason right there for me to continue using it.
See you on the water or the mountains.