A Fish Tale

There are some things in life that one just does not do.  I think that there is a country song written about that.  I want to just mention a couple.

First, you never show up late for a fishing trip.  You may show up late for dinner from time to time, you may occasionally be late to school and community functions, but you never, ever show up late to go fishing.

Do you remember the movie, “A River Runs Through it?”  They guess correctly that the boyfriend would not only show up late but also that he would bring worms…they even named the brand of coffee can the worms would be in.    To quote the movie, “In Montana, three things we’re never late for: church, work and fishing.”

I know that it is difficult to imagine something more grievous than showing up late for a fishing trip, but I discovered something just this last weekend.

Now, for you to really understand the seriousness of this crime, you must first have a picture of the perpetrator.   There is no better man than Colt.  He truly is the salt of the earth.  He will give you the shirt off his back.  He will help you put in sprinklers or dig your garden.  If you need help with anything, anything at all, just let Colt know it and he will be there elbow deep working alongside of you.  Furthermore, he is an honorable man.  If he says it, you can count on it!

You may ask how a person so near perfection could ever commit any heinous act.  Unfortunately, like everybody, Colt has his weaknesses.  You see, Colt loves fly fishing.  I don’t mean that he likes fishing and goes frequently.   No, Colt really loves fly fishing, with the kind of deep passion that has the potential to get somebody into trouble…. And so it was this weekend.

We had a family reunion up on Cedar Mountain.  Camp just happened to be a short distance from Panguich Lake.  Colt and I made arrangements to sneak away from the family reunion for a few hours.  I had gone up on Friday night and Colt was to swing by and pick me up at the crack of dawn Saturday.  I knew Colt well, so I was up long before the sun.  I knew that he would never let me live it down if I was not ready when he showed up.  Who wants to start the day off on the wrong foot and miss the best fishing hour of the day?  I sure didn’t and I knew that Colt was not even capable of imagining such a thing.

When mid-morning had come and gone, and Colt had not yet shown up, I knew something was dreadfully wrong.  As I began to prepare to drive down off the mountain, and search for his wrecked truck, lo and behold, here came Colt.   Before I could ask a thing, his huge grin betrayed him.  He had done something far more grievous that show up late for a fishing trip.  He had forsaken his fishing buddy and gone straight to the lake alone.  I don’t know which was worse: my sorrow at missing out on what he described as one of the best fishing mornings of all time, or my befuddlement that such a man could fall so far, so fast, as to break one of the cardinal rules of fishing and desert a buddy.

The stories that he told of that morning would have been classified as ‘fish tales’ anywhere by anybody.   However, the photographic evidence on his phone was quite convincing.   Trying to regain some grace, he quickly offered to go back out to the lake, as soon as lunch was over.

After a quick lunch, we were off to the lake.  As we drove, the morning’s catch grew in size and quantity.  The stories were told and retold, of the glassy water only being disturbed by giant trout sipping his flies and then dancing across the lake as pitted their strength against his experience.

Upon arriving at the lake, I learned the sad truth that the Colt’s addiction had progressed much farther than I could have ever imagined.

The fish tales that he had been telling us appeared to be just that: tales!  As I pushed myself through the frigid wind, making my way down to the shore, I could see the white caps that covered the lake.

We waded out thigh deep and began fishing.   We flailed at the water.  We fought the wind.  We hooked ourselves. We froze to death.  We did just about anything a person might do at the lake, other than get a bite.

Suddenly, Colt reported a take… Dang! He missed it.

Then… a lady in a boat in front of us hooked up and started reeling in a fish.  Perhaps there is hope.  Perhaps we will catch something…

Colt had another hit it and again he could not set the hook.

(I still hadn’t experienced any evidence that fish even lived there)

Finally Colt connected and the fight was on.  As I watched from a distance, I noticed that things looked a little ‘off.’  I waded out of the cold water and approached Colt as he was unhooking the fish.  To my utter horror, I noticed that Colt was unhooking the fish, but not from his line.  Rather from another line, that he must have planted earlier.

How could he have fallen this far.  I had previously heard stories of addiction.   I knew that one’s tolerance would increase over time and then everything would come crashing down.   This was, however, the first time that I had ever witnessed it myself.  Right before my eyes, was a man transformed.  He had sunken so low in the addiction of fly fishing that not only would he abandon his fishing buddy and tell him tall tales of the morning’s fishing trip, but also he had to secure fish before taking another fishing, for fear that they might learn the truth.

When we arrived back to the parking lot, things didn’t get better.  I saw the lady that had caught the fish in front of Colt and when over to see how their day had been.  To my amazement, the only fish that she had caught was the one directly in front of Colt.  Furthermore, it hadn’t taken her bait.  Rather she had snagged something and pulled it out.  Her fish too was on the end of somebody else’s hook!

Colt HAD had a busy morning after all.


Editor’s (me) notes:  The only things in the story that are not true are: I was never worried about Colt nor preparing to look for him nor did he plant the fish that he caught.  He just snagged some poor suckers line that had broken off that day.  Also the lady that had snagged a rod with a fish on it hadn’t done so in front of Colt and he did not plant it either.  However, both she and Colt did snag lines with live fish on them….

Panguitch Lake

The lake that Colt described, not the one we ended up fishing.

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