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  • Writer's pictureAllen Crater

The Truth According to a Fisherman

Updated: Mar 1

man wearing camo and sunglasses holding large brown trout by the river

There's a placard hanging on the porch of the family cottage that reads "Headquarters for Hunters, Fishermen, Golfers, and other Liars." It’s never been confirmed, but I strongly suspect this "artwork" was hung by someone who doesn't hunt, fish, or golf.

antique sign about hunters, fisherman, and golfers

Having at least dabbled in a dalliance with all three of these pleasurable pastimes, I think it's fair to consider myself fitting of the label "Hunter, Fisherman, or Golfer." But a label I'd never consider myself deserving is "Liar." To an honest gentleman like me those doorways are only darkened by politicians, advertising copywriters, and rabble of equally ill repute, not those who value the finer points of such esteemed sporting traditions.

Sure, I may occasionally use a "foot wedge" if the little white ball ends up under a troublesome tree on the back nine, but that's just a commonly understood nuance of the game, right? And I may accidentally forget a putt or two (or three) when I hastily scribble another four on the scorecard, but that's not really lying, is it? Sometimes I just lose track in the heat of the moment. An honest mistake. So yes, I did shoot a 36, thank you very much.

Watch me shank a 290-yard drive three fairways to the left and you might wonder "How can this guy be a scratch golfer?" But I have a strategy, and what you may have missed was the "spectacular" follow-up shot that landed so near the hole it basically counted. And by basically, I mean it did count. That, friends, is what they call a birdie! Honestly, while I don't care much for golf, I'm pretty darn good at it. Just ask me.

man with whitetail deer and knife in Michigan

As for hunting, I really don't mean to brag, but I've taken my fair share of deer with arrow and lead and even harvested a healthy handful that I've considered worthy of the wall (in the garage). After so many of these trophies, I've become extremely selective in my hunting, lest my two-stall begin to look like a taxidermy studio gone haywire. To that end, I've instituted a strict "nothing-under-140-inch" rule that I self-enforce with the solemn stringency of an IRS-agent. Can I help it that the first deer that crosses my path almost every year reaches these preposterous proportions? Like I tell my jealous friends, it's all about the prep work, boot leather, and patient hours in the stand, none of which can be taught.

Have I ever actually measured these unbelievable ungulates, you might ask? Well, no, but as an experienced outdoorsman and accomplished garage-wall-trophy hunter, I damn well know a 140-inch deer when I see one. I mean look at this spectacular specimen over here above the toolbox – it might even be the new state record. I'm too humble to submit for such trivial recognition, of course, but surely it's close. Besides, you can't eat the antlers. At this point I'm either going to need a bigger garage or begin giving warning shots just to keep things fair.

Of the Big Three hobbies ostensibly occupied by liars, fishing tends to take up the greatest portion of my time (and storytelling). Again, at the risk of sounding braggadocious, I seem to catch only huge fish. Trout happen to be my favorite, and the techniques I have carefully crafted over the years simply don't attract the small salmonids other anglers get excited about. In fact, I can't recall a single trout under twenty inches finding the net in the last three seasons. And you should see the few that got away. All of thirty inches. Easily.

colorful brown trout in the net by a river

While my techniques may appear suspect to untrained eyes, pay attention and you might learn a thing or two. First of all, no, that wasn’t a pile cast; every great angler knows you work the water from closet to farthest away, and that fish just happened to be right at my feet. And yes, I intentionally left the next cast well-short of the grassy undercut bank. Why? Because experienced fisherman know that the truly big trout tend to hang just off the bow of the boat. And I hear your "mend it! mend it!", but clearly you've never witnessed me swing up a big brown on a waterlogged parachute Adams left on the dangle. It's something to behold.

I once heard a preacher say exaggeration was his spiritual gift and thought that was pretty funny. Remarkably, I have a family member, let's call him "Tom", that is known to share this same gift of the Spirit. In fact, we've instituted what's known as "The Tom Factor" just for him. It's not that he isn't good at math or that he's an intentionally dishonest person, it just seems that he's a bit challenged when it comes to using realistic units of measurement.

Say, for example, "Tom" tells you a job will take twenty minutes. Well, you can figure on a good hour or more. Probably two. In fact, you better call the wife and let her know you won't be home for dinner. Or let's say "Tom" shares with you that he saw 15 deer while out hunting that morning. You should probably divide that number by three. Actually, divide it by five and subtract two. Or maybe "Tom" pumped out 20 reps of 250 at the gym this afternoon. It's fair to assume it was closer to six reps. Of 120. And five years ago.

Once you understand the fundamentals of the formula you realize "Tom" isn't trying to be deceptive – he honestly believes what he's telling you. It's simply the way his brain translates the excitement of the moment into the telling of the story. And it happens to me too.

Am I liar? Well, not intentionally, but I might subconsciously be a "generous rounder-upper." Like "Tom," I'll blame it on the excitement of the moments.

man removing a large, colorful brown trout from a net by the river

This affliction has been known to apply itself to the fish I catch. I’ve probably caught some honest-to-goodness 20-inch trout over the years, but if you ask me how big anything that visually approaches 15 inches is in the moment, I’ll swear it's two-foot, likely more, and honestly believe it.

And my 20-inch trout are a lot like my 140-inch deer. Catch me after shooting something resembling a decent buck and I will tell you with a straight face and clean conscience, that I just harvested a 140-incher. Again. And would believe I was telling the truth while holding the antlers right in my hands. For a few days after you might even get a text from me with a picture of my "Booner."

In all likelihood I'll never see, let alone harvest, a 140-inch whitetail on the public land I hunt, and If I ever do, I'll probably need to be medivacked out due to a heart attack. At least they can say I died of natural causes.

I'm not decidedly dishonest, sometimes it just happens. Okay, okay, that's not entirely accurate. I did lie about golf. I’ll come clean; golf is what you do for the rest of eternity if you are bad and die. It is not in any way, shape, or form something that passes for a "pleasurable pastime." But the alliteration worked, so I kept it.

And that is the God's-honest truth, at least according to this fisherman.

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