The Big One that Got Away

The anticipation of the hunt. The christening of a new lodge. A gathering of outdoor communicators and conservationists hand selected by a great guy.

“Of course I’ll be there! It‘s an honor, Brandon, thanks for the invite!” I said.

For nearly two months all I could think about was seeing this new place that my friend had acquired and trying my hand at bagging a Missouri Buck. The place also has a stream flowing through it that allegedly is home to some smallmouth bass. My curiosity was piqued. Two months of daydreaming of catching bass on a fly under autumn colors or waiting in silence as a perfectly matched ten pointer paused within range until the two things seemed more like a decision, a choice to be made.

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My time was limited so I wanted to get as much fun in as possible. But, you know, the most fun is always the campfire time. Those times in camp when the crackle of the fire is both the background to some great conversation and the foreground to a Frederic Remington-esque painting. At least that’s the way the memories make you feel. Everything about this weekend was looking like it was shaping up to be one of those hunts of a lifetime. A gathering of all the right people for that time, in that place, where memories would be made and new campfire stories born.

When we had the original conversation this great convergence was to occur in the middle of November. One walked away from the conversation thinking the weekend of the 10th, 11th & 12th. The other went away with the 17th, 18th, and 19th marked on the calendar. As time went by emails and texts were exchanged among the crew. Introductions were made, menus and grocery lists were discussed, even a few teaser pics from the on-property trail cam were shared. Never once did I think to verify the date. It’s the middle of November. “That has to be the 18th & 19th,” I thought since that first day.

Which brings me to present time (Nov. 9th). As I sat here half-watching the NFL pregame, as it has booted my evening bout of Jeopardy off the air for the night, I made small talk with my wife about how excited I was for next week’s trip. I told her of the caribou spaghetti that was planned for Friday night and the paddlefish fry that was happening Saturday (allegedly in honor of some guy who goes by the nickname Paddle Don). Then there was the venison steaks on Sunday that I could almost taste in my imagination. She feigned interest and indulged my banter for a few minutes. She’s pretty tolerant for a vegetarian. It’s about this time the phone rings and the caller ID says it’s the aforementioned buddy. “Hey man, how ya doin’?”, he says. “On the road yet?”

Me: “Umm, yeah, right. I’ve got a week to get there. It’s all taken care of.”

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Him: “What do you mean? You’re messing with me, right? You DO realize its this weekend? Three dudes are already there!”

Me: “Uhhhh…Dammit.”

Always double check EVERYTHING.

I owe a huge apology to Brent Wheat as I provided the details to him and we planned to co-op on the trip. Hey Brent, I’m free if you want to go hunting or fishing somewhere next weekend?

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In the mean time, may the outside of your waders be often wet, and the inside always dry…and double check everything.

Editors note: No apology necessary Don!

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Don Cranfill
A native Hoosier, and son of a tournament fisherman, Don literally grew up on the water. Early in life he developed a passion for two things, paddling and fly fishing. Don can often be found stalking the limestone creeks of southern Indiana for Smallmouth Bass, while the off seasons are spent crafting custom hardwood canoe and kayak paddles, making figured-wood fly tying bases and developing the ultimate fly. Contact: or at


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