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Cricket’s Big Fish

Are all fishermen liars? Or, when combined with our egos, are we are encouraged to make profound statements and then forced to back them up. Stretching the truth about a fish’s weight, girth, length and duration of struggle is not usually considered a lie by fishermen. Despite any unwieldy struggle a person interjects about catching a fish in their fable, I always sincerely want to believe them when they tell it and hope they believe me.

Am I gullible, no. But I have some stories of my own and can fabricate more quickly. I listen and find others’ tales interesting and educational. Maybe there is part of their story I can use on one of my fish successes or failures. Fishermen are not liars, we are just creative people who like the outdoors and can communicate their achievements and disappointments extremely well.

But there are those nonbelievers. It’s a small crowd of folks that always need proof or want to challenge the story. Cell phone cameras have helped substantiate truth in some stories, unless of course, it was left in the truck so as not to get ruined or waterlogged. That makes perfect sense to me, and the stories continue.

Not long ago I had the privilege of taking ‘a friend of a friend’s nephew on his mother’s side’ fly fishing. Seems the young man, named Cricket Davis, had a burning desire to try his hand at fly fishing. Always eager to make fly fishing introductions to young folks, I agreed to meet him at an appointed destination and time. And being a friend of a friend’s friend, I thought the day would go extremely well, coupled with his high expectations.

Finally, the planned day arrived. We met at the appointed location and began to wader up. I had previously asked if he needed any equipment, and he emphatically said ‘no,’ as he had borrowed some gear. Evidently, his wading shoes were too small, so he literally cut the front toe portion off, leaving 3 inches of naked neoprene booty sticking out, ready to personally meet stream rocks. I knew from that moment on it would be a day to remember.

I wish I hadn’t accidentally left my cell phone at home, otherwise, I would have taken a pic. Guess I could have borrowed his phone to take a pic of his protruding feet and texted myself, but that wouldn’t have looked professional.

Geared up, rods connected, and flies tied on, off we went. As we walked the path, I couldn’t help myself; I had to ask how he became known as “Cricket.” Seems he had been using the little critters to catch bream and sent the hook straight through the cricket and into his index finger past the barb several years prior. Cutting the monofilament from the hook eye, he wandered around the pond trying to find his buddies to help him. Finding them, he extended his finger revealing an embedded hook with a cricket kicking frantically to free itself.

He stated the first thing they did was laugh, then began taking pics. No sympathy was shown. He mentioned it was quite the round table discussion on extraction as one buddy pulled out his pocket knife ready for surgery. The hook was finally yanked out with monofilament and the cricket died. The nickname of “Cricket” has stuck with him ever since then. He wanted to learn to fly fish as he thought it would be a much safer and “cleaner” way to catch fish.

In the back of my mind I wished I would have prematurely asked more questions about “Cricket” before I agreed to take him fishing but we were here now and determined to make the best of it.

It was quite the afternoon. He was a natural and listened attentively with a willingness to learn. We caught some nice trout. Catching and releasing several in the 12-15” category taught him how to fight fish on the fly. As the afternoon waned, Cricket eyed one last area upstream he wanted to fish. We eased up there and he caught a few fish before landing a very nice rainbow on his last cast. I took pictures and thanked him for hanging with me.

The next day my phone rings and its Cricket, still excited about that last fish. Seems his friends doubted his newly acquired fly fishing prowess and his version of the story. Unbelievers again rising to the occasion. He asked me if I could assist and give him some kind of written statement about the fish and the trip. Pondering the thought, I decided to call one of my retired buddies who is or was, a Notary Public and could certify my statement. For a bottle of Makers Mark, he could be persuaded to sign anything. I composed a few paragraphs about the day spent fly fishing with Cricket and requested he notarize it. I hoped this professional document would quiet the masses on his achievement and shed some truth about his big fish. Below is a copy of my sworn statement.

I, Mike Watts, do solemnly swear on the life of the first buck I ever shot, the following statements are true and factual.

On Saturday, April 15, 2023, Cricket Davis was fishing with me in a secret, cold mountain stream located off a two-lane road in the mountains of North Carolina. During the morning, I watched him effortlessly hook, play, and release several nice rainbows in the 12-15” category. I could tell by the way he lifted the rod tip at hookset on each fish that they would be hooked in the upper corner of the mouth—true poetry in motion. If I remember correctly, I called them “ESPN” moments as my net slid like a grease fitting underneath each of them for a quick release.

It was around 2:00 in the afternoon and I just finished drinking a Dr Atkins Power drink along with snacking on a low-carb power bar. I know the exact time as I was starving and had looked at my watch, thinking about the Dairy Queen we would pass on the way home. My wife had put me on a diet and refused to cook anymore until I lost 15 lbs.

The previous night’s rain stained the river somewhat but began clearing up nicely after lunch.

Cricket kept eyeing this one long run ahead of where we were presently fishing. Watching the water tumble over a small waterfall creating nice riffles, he finally couldn’t stand it anymore. He had to fish it and I just humbly followed behind. I tried to keep up with him hastily racing to the “Spot.” The pace at which he was wading reminded me of the Daytona 500 last-lap finish. Unable to keep up, I was prepared to lag behind and net him if he slipped, fell in, and floated by.

Once there he quickly picked up two nice fish in the 15-18” range. They fought really well but were no match for Cricket and his 4X tippet. He had called his “riffle,” and it produced well. But he wasn’t through catching yet.

After these fish were released, he changed flies and wouldn’t show me what he had just put on. I knew it was one of mine that I had previously given him because he didn’t own any flies. He called this one his new secret fly. Holding the fly in his lips but not getting it stuck showed his maturity and fishing experience. He used both hands to create some type of special saltwater knot to cinch the fly. I was watching “Cricket” history being made.

With laser focus he roll cast effortlessly as instructed to the top rivers’ right eddy and held his rod tip high. This was like watching an outdoor fishing program with no commercials. I was in awe.

As the current drove the nymph underwater, the fly line jerked back violently, and Cricket lifted up.

Some form of river monster began to thrash and Cricket reeled up the extra hand-held fly line and confidently eased down below the fish. For the next 15 minutes, maybe longer, a fight ensued with Cricket slowly gaining back fly line. When the fish jumped, it reminded us of a submarine surfacing with his enormous body. Then it peeled his fly line off quickly as it attempted to find a way up the small waterfalls. Impressive, Cricket knew exactly how much pressure to apply and when to apply it. It was a textbook display.

He barked at me to ready my long-handled net and stand beside him. Being somewhat weak from lack of nutrition on this diet and lack of food, I have to tell you I was hesitant to stand in waist-deep water with that fast current, but I wanted to see this trophy fish up close and personal.

I made three attempts to slide my net underneath this behemoth before success. On each net miss, Cricket barked instructions in both English and profanity. He was the captain of this ship and (I feared for my life) I was feared if I broke this fish off with sloppy netting.

“Fish head’s up,” he yelled at me. “Net now, go underneath the fish quickly before he gets caught in that other current!” I followed his instructions and rapidly lifted the fish up. I can honestly state without hesitation that I was as worn out as this fish was. That Dairy Queen would see me shortly.

Finally, success! We stood there admiring this magnificent trophy trout. High fives and a few loud “Yeah Babies” were in order. Then of course it was picture time. I begged Cricket to take my picture holding “his” fish for bragging rights with my buddies, but with no luck.

With his left hand, he gently held the fish’s head into the current watching the gills move, slowly at first and then gathering strength. Its tail rode the current, swaying back and forth until it finally flicked with a massive kick and swam away.

I had goosebumps from excitement watching the show and the confidence of Cricket as he hooked and landed this monster.

There should be no reason to doubt any of the facts stated above. According to my memory, this is a true and accurate account of this day. The day my new friend, Cricket Davis, landed the big un.

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