Friday, July 22, 2005

Suicidal Trout

This is one I wish I had a picture for.

Better yet, I wish I had a video clip.

No one believes me when I tell this story, but I swear it's true. Even if it is a fish story.

I was camping up in the redwoods with my long suffering traveling companion and his friends. Long suffering traveling companion's idea of roughing it is going without high speed internet connection, so you can imagine how well sleeping in a tent went over. But he gamely bid his laptop goodbye and helped pack the car. (Besides, it was his friends we went with, so technically I was the good sport that went along on this one, but bringing that up seems to be an ISSUE with him, so we'll only mention it as a whispered aside. Shh! He's coming. Say nothing. Act casual.)

Anyway... His friends are nice, funny, intelligent, and great in measured doses. About half way through the second day, I decided I needed a break from Nice, Funny, Great, and especially Intelligent, so I grabbed a fishing pole and told them that I was going to fish. No one stumbled out of his lawn chair to come with, thank god, so I didn't have to make any excuses to get away.

(Note to self- losing Nice, Funny, Great, or specifically Intelligent in the woods is an option I must explore.)

(Second note to self - be sure to swipe their mobiles, GPS devices, and cookie crumbs before leading them into the woods.)

I hiked about twenty minutes away from camp through saplings and tiny redwoods. It was a hot day. Dust motes swarmed through shafts of sunlight coming through the trees. The air smelled like dust and pine sap, and I could hear the gurgle of water from a nearby stream. There was a decently wide pool in the stream, created by fallen logs. I waded in shallow part of the water to A) cool off, and, more importantly B) to let the fish know I was there, scare the bejeezus out of them, and insure that they would not bite.

I found a shady spot on a log, dropped a hook without bait into the water, and opened my book.

You might notice something here. I was actively trying to NOT CATCH A FISH.

Several reasons for that. First off, I'm not a fan of trout. I like salmon, but I've never really liked trout. Having grown up in Colorado, I've had my share of fresh trout pan fry, thanks.

Second - there were so many people back at camp that I'd have to catch eight fish to make dinner out of them. I wasn't allowed that many on my fishing license.

Third - I was on vacation. I didn't want to gut and scale eight fish. We were planning to hop in the cars and go out to the nearest log cabin bar for beer, dancing, and vittles that evening. Why would I screw up a perfectly sound plan like that by catching a fish?

So I settled in for an hour of solid peace. I listened to the wind in the trees. I listened to the water. I slapped at the vortex of small winged things that kept swarming into my hair. I breathed deeply and thought, "Ah, nature. Nice place to visit, wouldn't want to live here."

The sun was drowsy warm. I was reading some good smut by Greg Wharton, and pretending to fish. All was right in my little world.


And then world's only suicidal trout decided that was a good day to die. Stupid fucker swallowed my hook. Remember, I didn't put bait on the thing. I was using the hook more as a weight than anything serious. I didn't jiggle it or in any other way try to make it look enticing. But that damn trout had other ideas.

Cursing, I set aside my book. (I was to the pay off, the come shot, you masochistic little fish. You couldn't have waited another page?) I reeled in Mr. Rainbow. Eleven inches, uncut. For a fish, that wasn't bad.

It took forever to get the hook out of him, because I seriously didn't want to hurt him. The trout wasn't flopping much, which was good, because by then I had fish slime hands.

Now the part people can't believe.

I bent over to gently return him to the water, and he jumped suddenly over my head and into a pine tree. I grabbed for him, and he twisted and jumped again higher in the tree. Every time I tried to catch the fish, he climbed up a branch until I couldn't reach him anymore. Then he made a spectacular leap onto the trail beside the stream. Picture me running, stooped over, after a demented, suicidal trout as he twitched, flipped, and squiggled his way up the trail. Every time I bent down to grab him, he took off again. He finally boinked his head against a rock.

We both panted. I grabbed him to take him back to the water. Little fucker fought me every step of the way. His fins sliced my hands. Great - fish slime, stream water (read: nature's urinal) dirt, and an open cut. Can you say tetanus booster shot?

I finally got him back in the water. I rinsed fish stink off my hands, grabbed my book, and headed back for camp and the antibacterial ointment therein.

What would Hamlet have said? "Get thee to a city." Where the fish are sane and the living is easy.


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