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Archive for Sunday, September 19, 2004

Trout laughing too hard to catch a fly

September 19, 2004

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There comes a time when a man must go into the wilderness and face one of mankind's oldest, and most feared, enemies: trout.

For me, that time came recently in Idaho, where I go every summer. Many people think Idaho is nothing but potato farms, but nothing could be farther from the truth: There are also beet farms.

No, seriously, Idaho is a beautiful state that offers -- to quote Emerson -- "nature out the bazooty." This includes many rivers and streams that allegedly teem with trout. I say "allegedly" because until recently I never saw an actual trout, teeming or otherwise. People were always pointing at the water and saying, "Look! Trout!" But I saw nothing. I wondered if these people were like that creepy little boy in the movie "The Sixth Sense" who had the supernatural ability to see trout.

Anyway, on this Idaho trip, my friend Ron Ungerman -- and "Ungerman" is NOT a funny name, so let's not draw undue attention to it -- persuaded me to go trout fishing. We purchased fishing licenses and hired a guide named Susanne, who is German but promised us that she would not be too strict.

Susanne had me and Ron Ungerman (Ha ha!) put on rubber waders, which serve two important purposes: (1) they cause your legs to sweat; and (2) they make you look like Nerd Boy from the Planet Dork. Then we hiked through roughly 83 miles of aromatic muck to a spot on the Wood River that literally throbbed with trout. I of course did not see them, but I did see a lot of blooping on the water surface, which Susanne assured us was caused by trout.

But there was a problem. To catch trout, you have to engage in "fly casting," a kind of fishing that is very challenging, and here I am using "challenging" in the sense of "idiotic." When I was a boy, I fished with a worm on a hook, and it always worked, and I will tell you why: Fish are not rocket scientists. They see a worm, and in their tiny brains they think, "Huh! This is something I have never seen before underwater! I had better eat it!"

But with "fly casting," you wade into the river and attempt to place a "fly" -- a furry little hook thingy weighing slightly less than a hydrogen atom -- on top of the water right where the trout are blooping. You do this by waving your fishing rod back and forth, using the following rhythm, as explained to us (I am not making this up) by Susanne: "CO-ca CO-la, CO-ca CO-la." On your third CO-la, you point your arm forward, and the "fly," in a perfect imitation of nature, lands on your head. Or sometimes it forms itself into a snarl that cannot be untangled without the aid of a chainsaw AND a flamethrower.

At least that's what kept happening to me and my friend Ron Ungerman. (Yes! "Ungerman!") We stood there for hours, waving our rods and going CO-ca CO-la, but most of the time we were not getting our flies anywhere near the blooping. The trout were laughing so hard at us that they considered evolving legs so they could crawl onto land and catch their breath.

But Susanne was a good teacher, and very patient, and finally, just when I thought I would never ever catch a trout, it happened: I got a citation for not having my fishing license with me. Really. I left the license back in the car. The Idaho Fish and Game official who cited me was very polite, and so was I, because he was wearing a sidearm. I considered asking him if I could borrow it to shoot a trout, but there's probably some rule against THAT, too. As the day wore on, our efforts -- "CO-ca CO-la; CO-ca CO-la" -- took on an air of desperation, because it was becoming clear that Susanne, a true professional, was NOT going to let us leave until we caught a blooping fish. So you can imagine how blooping happy we were when Ron (Ungerman) finally managed to haul in a trout. It was not a large trout. It was the length of a standard Cheeto. But it WAS a trout, dammit, and it meant we could stop.

Later, Ron and I agreed that it had been a lot of fun and we would definitely never do it again. So to any trout reading this column, I say: You are safe from us. And to the Idaho Fish and Game Department, I say: You'll never take me alive.

-- Dave Barry is a humor columnist for the Miami Herald.

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