Fly fishermen are known to constantly hone their skills. They will travel miles to shows for casting demonstrations, pay for instructors to critique and correct their techniques, and hang out at club meetings or fly shops trying to suck up useful morsels of knowledge. Yet they take for granted perhaps the most important skill for fly fishermen, namely, lying well.
Lying is a well-honored tradition among fishermen and works in any situation. It tends to be practiced ever more greatly as the day progresses and is lubricated by fermented beverages.
So should you want to refine your own skills, I’ll share a few principles of lying well.
Perhaps most important is the quality of the lie. In my experience, at least three categories of lies are typically used by fishermen. The first group I classify as “almost the whole truth.”
Clearly, this type of lie won’t work on the witness stand because courts anticipate fishermen ending up there. So they make you swear this is “the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” That’s why so few fishermen are called as expert witnesses.
Now imagine that you have been trout fishing all day. It’s a cold spring day and the trout are hugging the bottom. You drift nymphs, bumping the trouts’ noses, but not opening their mouths. Finally, you have a bite, you hook the fish, it zigs and zags, takes a little line and finally comes to the net. It’s a three-pound sucker.
You release it and fish on. Darkness starts creeping in on the river so you pack up and walk back to the truck, not skunked but close enough you can smell it.
As you sit on the tailgate to remove your waders, another fisherman passing by asks, “Catch anything?”
Not wanting to show your incompetence, you reply, “One three-pounder.”
“Nice,” he says as he walks on.
In the technicalities of fishing lies, you sort of didn’t. Only on the witness stand would you have been ratted out in cross examination.
Other lies in this category include the following answers to common fishing questions.
“Yes, caught some of the biggest fish I ever have,” when your best is about a foot long.
“Where did I catch them? Up around the bend.” You leave out the part where you would add that it’s about four miles around the bend to be more specific.
“What’s my favorite stream? Humility Creek.” Which happens to be the code name your family uses for one of the best trout streams you know of and don’t want to add fishing pressure to.
The second category of lies that novices overuse I refer to as “whoppers.” Beginners tend to think fishermen are expected to lie so they just make stuff up. Nothing could be further from the truth. Fishermen are expected to lie, I agree, but the objective is to get away with it.
A beginner might be asked if he caught anything and could reply, “You wouldn’t believe the day I had. (True). I caught ten or twelve rainbows and none were under twenty inches. The only fly they would bite was this secret pattern that only I tie. I spent three years developing this fly and it finally paid off.”
The person hearing these lies wouldn’t believe them for a minute and no one this novice had fished with would either. They have all seen him fish and his cast most closely resembles the toss of a lariat by an inebriated calf roper.
Furthermore, they have all seen inside his fly box and it’s full of woolly buggers that still have their “Tied in China” labels on them. In fact, if they didn’t say “woolly bugger” on the label you would think they are little blobs of mange he was taking to the vet for a diagnosis on his now hairless dog.
Luckily, novices can learn from experience and evolve into relying on lies I classify as in the third category, “colorful whoppers.” These are essentially lies that are so entertaining that everyone knows they are untruthful but nobody cares. Better yet, listeners often ask more questions as this is the kind of entertainment that normally comes with a cover charge and a two-drink minimum.
For example, if you wanted to claim a trophy catch you may not have actually caught, try something like this.
“I was yanking a six-inch Butt Monkey back across the hole just before dark. A giant brown made a run at the streamer and I hooked him in the corner of his mouth. He took off like a greased otter, actually passed an ungreased otter, and continued on so fast he beached himself.
He then flipped back in, sulked on the bottom, bulldogging his head back and forth. Worried he might gnaw my line in two, I waded in after him and he spooked and ran through a submerged brush pile, spooking a family of beavers. My leader broke off on the sticks but the old brown was wedged inside the beaver lodge. I was able to reach in, grab him by the tail, and retrieve my Butt Monkey. Then I let him go.”
When they ask if you got a photo, your response is always, “No, dang it, I left my camera in the truck. But I did get my fly back.”
At this point you hold up the six-inch Butt Monkey, which seems to confirm your story but all it really means is that you carry an oversized streamer just for this purpose.
No one in their right mind believes one of these stories, but since fishermen rarely fit this description, most of them will. In any event, they will give you style points and maybe buy the next round.
To summarize the principles of lying well, you first have to discern the quality of lie most appropriate for the situation. Once you decide, then you should do it well, either by getting close enough to the truth the listener jumps the rest of the way or by making the leap for them with such a colorful lie they come along for the ride.
Of course, you may find that in some circumstances the truth will even work. It would certainly be a novel approach for a fisherman.
But I know if I found myself it that situation, I’d lie.
Jim Mize only lies about fishing and other life-critical matters. You can find his award-winning books of humor and nostalgia for outdoorsmen on Amazon or at www.acreektricklesthroughit.com. You can find his award-winning books on Amazon or purchase autographed copies at www.acreektricklesthroughit.com. You can also purchase his books You may also purchase his books here by clicking on the RIVERS AND FEATHERS “BOOKS” page.