Fishing stories are the kinds of things that get better every time you tell them. They take on a life of their own, Dad used to say. And by that, he meant that they start out small and grow up quite big. They often go out on their own and meet other people. My dad actually had somebody recount one of my dad’s own fishing stories at him one time, acting as if it were his own. And while I’d like to believe that this guy just had a similar experience, I’d be hard pressed to believe that he broke down on the way home just like my dad and paid the tow truck driver in fish. Or that the tow truck driver’s rig was nicknamed, “The One Who Got Away,” just like his prize fish did when he had to hand it over in order to pay for a new alternator. I have no problem believing in coincidences, but that one is a little too word-for-word, even for me.
There is one ‘local’ neighbor that I sit around and tell stories with nearly every day. If I ever catch a few ladyfish, I hand them over to him. He makes some great fishcakes, and we’ll sit outside and eat them and talk a bunch of nonsense. Personally, I can’t be bothered with ladyfish—so many bones. I tend to use them as bait instead. But if he’s going to go through all that trouble and I get to eat some good fishcakes, that’s fine by me. I always figure I get the better end of the deal anyway.
The best fishing stories start out fairly close to being true. This gives you a base to build your credibility on. For example, I’m going to tell you a story about how I caught a decent-sized wahoo. Now, I did do that, so I’ve got the great beginning to a story. There are some memorable details. Like the fact that I saw it jump halfway out of the water to attack my lure and it yanked my arm something good. That’s OK, but that’s not a great story. So now I layer in some better details that are very possibly true as well: instead of it being a decent sized wahoo, it’s the biggest one I’ve ever seen. How are you going to argue with that? Do you know what the biggest wahoo I’ve ever seen looks like? Of course not. Now that the fish is bigger, it couldn’t believably just yanked my arm. So now I have to recalibrate the story. So now maybe it doesn’t yank my arm, maybe it nearly knocks me overboard—again, since I didn’t actually go overboard, who’s going to argue with me? And now, of course, because it’s a huge wahoo, it probably didn’t jump halfway out of the water—it was too heavy to do that. So now maybe when it tried to jump only a third of it was able to break the surface. Then you add in some other fun details, like maybe it started to rain, or a storm was coming, or he nearly got away a few times. Something to make it memorable.
And that’s how a fishing story is born!