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THE OUTDOORS ALMANAC | CAMPFIRE TALE

Outwitted

The chipmunk had no idea.

September 16, 2003

"SEVERAL YEARS AGO, WHILE FISHING IN A REMOTE stream in the Adirondacks, I witnessed what I'm sure was a most rare sight.

"At around noon I set aside my rod and made myself comfortable under an old hemlock to rest and eat my lunch. I soon noticed a fat chipmunk cautiously climbing down a tree branch that extended well out over the stream. It was a rather thin branch and the chipmunk swayed to and fro, dipping ever closer to the surface, as he ventured out on the limb. It seemed peculiar behavior. Shortly, he backtracked up that limb and started down another, slipping and swaying as before in this seemingly pointless exercise. Having tried several limbs to no avail, the chipmunk now returned to the original branch and again crept to its outermost twigs. He seemed to be focusing on something below him, and I studied the water for some clue. Only then did I notice, lying on the edge of a flat rock in center stream, a single fat acorn.

"After much hesitation in crouching, leaning, looking down and looking up, he jumped to the rock. He gathered up the acorn, worked it into his cheek and looked up for the branch he had abandoned. The branch, of course, loomed 6 feet above the rock and well beyond his leaping range. I swear he had a puzzled look as he searched overhead for a suitable exit. I could see there was no dry route home for the little fellow, and it soon dawned on the chipmunk too.

"Again the hesitation, the distance to each bank mentally gauged, again the crouching and swaying. The decision finally made, he hurled himself into the air toward the far shore and began swimming furiously. Had I not seen what happened next I would not have believed it. The largest brown trout I had ever seen appeared from the depths and snatched the chipmunk as if it were a hatching mayfly.

"Logic told me that a brown trout, however large, could not devour a chipmunk. I soon saw the trout's dorsal fin and the top of the broad tail slowly break the surface as it swam upstream. I figured that it must have been injured during the encounter because it moved sluggishly. Then the trout paused and seemed to rest, and, gills flared, rolled on its side. I quietly rose to watch the final moments of this splendid fish. Rather than dying, however, it raised its great head out of the water and ever so gently placed another acorn on the rock."

This story has made the rounds for years. Edward Laine of Charlotte, N.C., posted this version on an Internet fly-fishing Web site.

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