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OUTDOORS COLUMN: And if you believe that one ...

Herald Outdoors Columnist

Herald Outdoors Columnist

My mama taught me lying is wrong. I have to admit I agree, at least in theory. Honesty is usually indeed the best policy and most of the time we should all tell the truth.

On the other hand, there are fishermen. Anglers, as it is well known, often find legitimate need to waive the old maxims of truthfulness. Forget all that moral forthrightness. Heck, for a fisherman lying is a genetic requirement. It ranks right up there with knowing the difference between spinning and baitcasting. Fishermen can no more refrain from lying than from cussing deep-water snags that eat their ten-dollar lures.

Fishermen tell lies for various reasons. One is necessity. Example: You get up before daybreak and take off on a weekend angling excursion, leaving your significant other to handle such inane pursuits as lawn mowing, gardening and bill-paying. Your partner, to say the least, isn’t thrilled with your running away.

You spend two days in a rundown fishing camp drinking beer, eating your own cooking, and trying vainly to start your outboard motor. By the final afternoon you’re unwashed, unshaven, and haven’t laid eyes on a fish.

You now face the prospect of returning home to someone who has spent the weekend alone (you hope) with chores and responsibilities with which he or she thinks you should actually be concerned. How, pray tell, do you explain these two days spent catching nothing except dysentery? Not to mention spending the rent money and the car payment.

Now, there are fools who would tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth and spend the next 6 months cleaning carports, hoeing flower beds and sleeping on the sofa. These poor misguided souls give fishermen, and liars, a bad name.

The innovative liar, on the other hand, avoids retaliation by stopping at a late-hours fish market and stocking his ice chest at $10.99 a pound. If you’ve never done this before and wish to try it, make sure you purchase a species native to wherever you were fishing. Even the most hopelessly naïve among those you’re attempting to deceive will know you didn’t catch a 20-pound grouper from the Chattahoochee River. As for the rest of the money you frittered away, just tell ‘em you gave it to a buddy to help out with his upcoming colonoscopy. Everyone loveth a cheerful giver.

Spend awhile telling such hide-saving fishing lies, and one day you may become good enough to lie even when you don’t have to. Such accomplished prevaricators are the most admirable liars of all.

The greatest no-purpose liar I know is my buddy Cletus Monroe. I relate the following with his permission and, should you like to tell it yourself, go ahead. Be forewarned, though. When Clete challenges you on it, you must make up your own lie to avoid a physical confrontation.

According to Clete, he was fishing a slough off Lake Seminole one fine spring morning and saw a tremendous largemouth bass explosively break the surface and snatch a small squirrel from a low stump near the bank. Astonished, he kept his eye on the spot as another bushytail slowly and cautiously made his way across the mud flat, mounted the same stump, and started pawing through some round objects scattered on top of the woody structure. As soon as that rodent relaxed his guard, the same fish (at least 12 pounds, Clete said) burst forth and swallowed him in a repeat performance.

My friend watched this scenario repeated four times before the big bass ate her fill and swam leisurely away.

“I tell you, Hoss,” Clete said to me later, “You shoulda been there. That was the dang’dest thing I ever saw in my life.”

“Why?” I asked. “It’s not unusual for a big bass to eat small mammals. Haven’t you seen those lures that look like mice and chipmunks?”

“Sure I have,” Clete replied. “But that ain’t what I’m talkin’ about. The thing that got to me so is that I never could figure out where that dadgum fish got them acorns she was baitin’ that stump with!”

Ah, yes. Even years later I must bow my head in reverence. I was in the presence of a master.