There’s an inherit propensity for reinterpreting the truth in fishing. Fish grow moments after they have been netted, experiencing substantial gains in size and duration of fight. That’s just part of the game. It’s not a lie by the standard definition; it’s adrenaline and enthusiasm for the hobby lending a more fantastic color pallet to the stories we paint for our fellow fishermen. It’s a tradition as old as the sport itself. No one faults the angler for his enthusiasm in retelling his adventures with an ever so slight dusting of fiction.
But there are circumstances where you just flat out lie. Period.
“Where’d you find that guy?” is a question I get when I’m sharing photos of my trips. I never seem to have a good alternative to the truth on deck, so I stammer to direct the conversation off my honey hole. Sometimes I’ll go idiot, like I spaced out and my canoe just drifted up onto this spot like Gulliver finding all those little bastards. Other times I’ll go vague, leaving out important details that render my description completely useless (“you know that bit of the river by the rocks with a tree?”).
But sometimes, on very rare occasions, I’ll just lie. I don’t do it on purpose; it’s a protective instinct, like when mother bears charge to guard their young or when my wife won’t let the kids watch The Walking Dead with me. It’s not done out of malice, I don’t get any joy from this, and I feel dirty when it’s all over.
For me, fishing is equal parts adventure and cognitive ability. You read the water, you interpret conditions, and you apply your knowledge of the target species to find an answer to the question, “how do I get a fish in my hand?” But more than anything else, you’re a lucky bastard floating in a boat in some of the most beautiful country you can find. So when you find a spot, you’ve made an investment. It’s yours. And with ownership comes responsibility. You don’t want that pristine stretch of water to turn into a Starbucks for anglers, with lines from bank to bank chucking string at the fish you worked so hard to find. You want to preserve it, not just for you, but for the sake of all humanity. Actually that’s not true, sorry; you want to preserve it for you. To say it any other way is just adding to the bullshit on my ledger.
Most important of all the reasons to guard your spot, you’ve made a connection. Something speaks to your soul when you find that perfect spot. To add a bit of cheese to this description, you’re the one with what matters in this world when you’re on this holy ground. That spot is the journey to Mecca, the Lakota’s Vision Quest, and Enlightenment all rolled into one. And you found it. Anytime you need to recharge your soul, you know it’s there for you. It doesn’t work like a drug, where you’re eternally chasing that initial high; it’s incredible and inspiring every time you visit. With each visit you gain more insight, pick up more details in the beauty that surrounds you, and become a better angler, no, a better man because of this journey.
With all this spiritual crap on the table about becoming a better person, it seems kind of odd that the premise of this article is that I lie about where I fish. I get that. So here’s the solution I’m working on:
I’m classifying my spots; what’s what, who’s who, and who gets where (make sense?). And when I say “spots,” I mean specific, detailed locations, not just, “yeah, that was in the river.” The three categories are as follows, in descending order of importance to my happiness and general well being.
3. “The Vending Machine”- This is a spot that’s just spitting out fish. It’s like a high volume production facility for angling bliss. Often these are a pain in the ass to get to or aren’t exactly gorgeous country, but it’s first quality fishing.
2. “The Honey Hole”- Pretty self-explanatory. Deviates from the above in that it’s beautiful and often more off the beaten path from a Vending Machine. Gives your soul some elbow room and your rod a habitual bend. Nice fishing by any standard.
1. “Nirvana”- Great band, even better spot. Absolutely gorgeous, remote and isolated, and mind blowingly good fishing. If there is someone else there when you arrive, he’s lost and doesn’t know what he’s on. They’re probably taking pictures, not fishing, because this place is what it’s all about. This place is the reason you go places you’ve never been before in the hopes that you’d stumble on this rainbow unicorn of a fishing spot. It’s a place that simply makes sense in a way that is so rare and important that for the rest of your life your moral compass will use it as a reference point in all the decisions you will make. This place matters, and your connection to it defines you more and more with each visit.
So here’s how the new system gets implemented. Ask me where I got a fish and it’s from a Vending Machine, I’ll give it to you. Fly Fisherman and bait chuckers alike. I don’t think you can do too much damage and I love to encourage the sport, so have at it.
If it’s from a Honey Hole, I’ll take a fly fisherman there, but you’ll have to take notes if you want to ever find it again. Bait chuckers of a higher bro status I’ll take, but again, no directions. And the bro status needs to be pretty high. I’d prefer people without boats, or people who don’t have an overwhelming sense of adventure because I know they won’t become regulars. I’ll also take non -fisherman who just want to get out in the thick of all that beauty and really plug into the world around them. A decent level of bro status needed for that, too. Mainly because I don’t want to be stuck in a boat with a dick for a few hours.
If it’s from a Nirvana, well, first of all you hacked my phone because I don’t post pictures of these places. Secondly…I guess there isn’t a secondly, really. This is where my system begins to break down. I’m just going to lie. You can’t have it. I’ve taken my daughter to a few and I will continue to do so, but I think that’s where I’m going to put the line. It’s not that I want to hoard nature, which I realize is sort of the antithesis of this attitude of preservation and naturalism that defines my life, it’s that I need this place, and I need it just how it is.
I remember during Katrina there was a subtle distinction drawn between looting and scavenging: one was a necessity for survival, the other was a reprehensible crime. I’m looking for a similar distinction in the little white lies I tell when people ask me where I fish. I don’t see it as malice or a flaw of character, it’s an effort to preserve the things that matter most to me, the things that ground me, and the things that illuminate all the blessings that this world has to offer.
So if pressed, best case scenario you’re walking away with a Honey Hole and a Vending Machine, maybe two Honey Holes if you’re lucky. Just take it; it’s a good deal. It’s going to have to be up to you find your own Nirvana.