There is, perhaps, nothing more important when fishing than coming up with a tall tale to go along with the adventure. After all, catching a fish is fun, telling a good story to go along with the adventure—now that is legendary.
Do you remember the time I battled a 20 pound walleye, only to have it snap my line when Brandon couldn’t handle a net?
How about the time when a northern the size of a freakin’ hammerhead shark chomped down on a crappie right as I was about to land it in the boat? We lost them both, but we almost got the classic two-for-one switcheroo in the process.
Did you ever hear about the time that Nick forgot to fill up the boat with gas and we were stranded in the middle of Otter Tail Lake with only a paddle in pouring rain. Oh yeah, we also had to paddle up hill both ways with the wind and snow blowing in our face to get to shore.
Alas, open water fishing season is upon us and it is time to start brushing up on your storytelling skills. It’s a lesson that is nearly as important as tying a fishing knot or how to get the hook out of the mouth of a walleye or sun fish without cutting your hands.
Of course, many of these tall tales come without pictures, which is a bit hard to believe given the access to technology in today’s world. The stories are sprinkled with the truth, while being heavy on the embellishments. After all, as someone once told me, “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.”
As a semi-dedicated, fair weather fisherman, I have a few of my own stories to tell from over the years. When I was in high school I lived near the Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota border, which meant we got to go fishing two weeks earlier than everyone else on the border waters.
For several years in a row a group of us would go fishing on the Mustinka River near Wheaton, Minn. In those days we were more concerned about the food we brought, chugging Mountain Dew and stuffing our faces with junk food than actually catching fish.
One year in particular we got sick of fishing after an hour or so of not getting a bite, and decided to jump off the nearby bridge that felt like it was 100 feet in the air (might be a bit of an embellishment, but who’s counting). We called the old rickety bridge the “Silver Bridge” based on its color, we were really creative back in those days.
Anyone who thought jumping off the bridge was a good idea should have been hit with a dose of reality when you realized you needed to drop a rock the size of a small boulder off the bridge and into the water before jumping in to scare off the fish.
Perhaps the best fishing story I ever had, other than going to Lake of the Woods up north, was on one of my first ever fishing trips with my grandpa. A group of us fished a small lake in southwestern Minnesota for hours. To be honest I don’t remember if we actually caught a fish at all up until we tried to get our boat back on the trailer to go home.
As with many good stories there was a twist, this being a group of, lets call them idiots, who struggled to get their boat back on their trailer to leave. After sitting in line for what seemed like forever, we made one more pass to see if we could get a bite. My grandpa’s patience was good, but never something to write home about.
That’s when a northern took the line on my old Zebco fishing pole and swam away. Had it not been for my grandpa’s planning ahead of time, he tied a rope around our fishing pole to his fishing boat, the fish would have taken the rod right out of my hand. Convinced we just caught another rock we stopped the boat and I tried to reel in whatever had my line. I was younger than 10 at the time and after reeling for a good 10 minutes or so, I handed the pole to someone else who tried to reel in the fish.
I bet we battled this 30 inch freakin’ monster for half an hour (in fishing time and length of course) before we finally got it to the side of the boat. When we got back to our house we had one heck of a story to tell my parents and took more than a few pictures, which featured me struggling to hold the fish up.
Of course, I can’t find that picture right now that had been in our entryway for years, so I guess you will just have to believe me that the fish was at least 30 inches long and looked like a whale (I wanted to use the word freakin’ again but thought twice, make it three times would be enough for one column).
And that’s the joy of fishing. The time on the boat, the catch, the open water and the stories that you can tell afterwards—which are sprinkled with small nuggets of the truth.