brown wadersGuest Blogger: Joe Dellaria

Besides the joy of feeling a fish at the end of the line, fly fishing can provide the joy of a funny story that brings a smile to your face every time you think about it. This is one of those stories. It started in the most unsuspecting way.

A friend of mine had bugged me to take him fly fishing all season long. We’ll call him Harold (to protect the innocent, or guilty as the case may be). I love fishing through sun up. It is quiet and still. You can hear the gurgling of the stream, the chirp of every bird, and quiet buzz of insects trying to eat before they are eaten. Such was the morning of this beautiful summer day.

Harold was focusing intently on the river as he attempted to get his fly to the “hot spot” I had showed him. I was moving upstream to give him a little space when the quiet of the morning was suddenly shattered by a bawling sound. Initially, it was off in the woods, but it was clearly getting closer. A few seconds later a small calf poked its nose through the bushes below the tree line and let out another bawl.

The calf walked about half way between us and kept looking back and forth while intermittently bawling. Eventually I realized he was looking for mom. As he looked at the two of us, you could see him working through a choice. He was thinking, “Hmm, this one has green waders, but the other one has brown. Oh, mom is brown. I’ll go with the brown waders.”

Having made this important decision, he moved slowly towards Harold who stood with his back to me and the calf. He was still intently focused on the “hot spot.” I watched with curiosity as the calf closed in on Harold. The calf took the last few steps deliberately with its head low to the ground. Eventually, the calf’s head was right between Harold’s legs. Now I was really curious as I thought, “What on earth is this calf doing?”

Poor Harold was clueless as the calf proceeded to answer my question. By the time I realized what was going on it was too late to say anything. As I said, the calf’s head was between Harold’s legs and at the ground. In a flash, the calf raised his head and thunked Harold right between the legs. Having no idea this was coming, poor Harold jumped straight up while trying to turn around and see what happened.

The launch was pretty funny (if you weren’t Harold, which I wasn’t). The attempted landing was even more interesting. Imagine trying to land turned half-way around, with a calf’s head impeding your progress, with one foot hitting the shore, and the other landing in the stream a foot or so lower. Fortunately, Harold was a former linebacker and pretty athletic. He managed to stick the landing without killing himself. If he had been in the Olympics, it would have been a solid 1.5 out of ten for the jump and landing. My junior high coach often described something like this as “graceful as a ruptured walrus!”

By now I was rolling on the ground with laughter. Harold quickly pieced the whole picture together and was soon joining me in the hilarity of the moment. The poor calf was totally confused and bummed. He was expecting some breakfast. He had tried to bump Harold’s “utters” to get some milk.

Undeterred the little guy decided, “Brown isn’t good, I am going to give green a try.” Not being a mind reader, I thought the calf was coming to me for some consolation. I reached out to try and pet the little guy. But he walked right around me and went for my “knee pit” (you know, the back of your knee where it bends – that’s what our oldest son called it when he was two). No dice, no milk there either. He was fairly determined to get some milk. I had to turn him around and push him down the pasture. Poor little guy, no milk, no mom – what’s a calf to do? He slowly wandered back into the woods bawling.

We both hoped he would find his mom before finding another unsuspecting angler. The happy ending for Harold was a very nice trout just past the “hot spot.” Obviously, I enjoyed the entire scenario much more than Harold. It was well worth the experience just to remember this story and to be able to share it with you! So sometimes, fishing isn’t all about fishing. Sometimes it’s about a once-in-a-life experience you can share with others!

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