I’d like to preserve the myth that trout fishing is a mysterious, ethereal thing only fly fishing experts can master, but I can’t. Far too many people have seen me on trout streams with a cricket tube clipped to my fishing vest.
I never fish for trout without crickets, at least in a back-up role. I’ll put a live bug on a hand-tied dry fly in a heartbeat. Heck, when I’m really fish hungry I’ll shun flies altogether and fish crickets “nekkid.” I have no shame.
Trouble is, crickets can be mighty hard to come by in remote locations. And, when you can find them at all, they tend to be quite expensive.
Live bait purveyors in the mountains are a different breed. Take one old fellow I know for an example. I once asked him for 100 crickets and received a matter-of-fact reply.
“Ain’t got none,” he said. “Used to carry ‘em, but they sell out too dang fast. They’ll be gone in a day and a half and I hafta drive 22 miles to get some more. Just ain’t worth it.”
Now, I’m no mathematician and I’m a lousy businessman, but I’m thinking, say, 5,000 crickets at $5 a hundred amounts to $250 in a 36-hour time period. Subtract the wholesale cost and less than 10 bucks worth of fuel and, to me, that still seems pretty good, especially three or four days a week. Of course, such a thing does cut into the time spent sitting around the shop chewing tobacco and drinking beer with one’s buddies. All a matter of priorities, I suppose.
The few enterprising proprietors who do keep the chirping insects in stock have something of a cricket monopoly, and they know it. There’s a place on Lake Burton, for instance, that will gladly sell me crickets for $12 a hundred. That’s 12 cents per cricket, y’all. Or, if you prefer, almost a dollar for every eight that die or escape. That means I have to do without two whole cans of Vyeenees in my knapsack or cough up that extra buck, which I usually do, seeing as how I haven’t eaten crickets (living or dead) since I was four.
Mentally challenged though I am, I arrived at a solution to these dilemmas prior to my last high-country fishing excursion. I purchased 150 crickets for $5 in a local bait shop and simply carried them with me. True, I listened to their incessant “singing” for nearly 400 miles, but, hey, a bargain is a bargain. Actually I felt rather smug and quite proud of myself, despite the fact it took nearly 20 years for this economic advantage to dawn on me.
My eight fishing buddies, with whom I was sharing a mountain hideaway for a week, agreed that I was brilliant and insightful. They also supported my views when I mounted my soapbox and lamented poor business practices and cricket price gouging. They listened to me brag, rant and rave for three days, after which my audience, and their patience, appreciably dwindled. Shallow minds, it seems, have short attention spans when it comes to important issues.
They also have warped senses of humor. Two of my “friends” who returned home early stole my crickets. The bargain bugs of which I was so proud returned to south Georgia where, at my expense, they were no doubt happily and guiltlessly fed to bedding bluegills. Back in the mountains, 17 bucks (100 replacement crickets AND a new cage) later, I resumed fishing.
I know, I know. I probably deserved it. I realize I have a tendency to beat dead horses and get stuck in righteous wrath mode. I’m also guilty (call it advancing age or vocal diarrhea) of expounding upon the same subject over and over again. Lesson learned.
Still, guys, don’t you think tactfully telling me to shut up would have sufficiently put me in my place? Was cricket larceny really necessary to make your point?
Most importantly, don’t you think I am entitled to reparation? The way I see it, I have $22 and an apology coming. I won’t be a stickler over those two cans of Vyeenees, but that would be a nice gesture as well.
Please remit within 30 days or I’m naming names.