On days like today when I’m trying to hide how extremely sleepy I am from my coworkers, I feel like I’m in some sort of secret club. Little do they know that I spent the early hours of the morning, a time when most of them were still asleep, trying to capture a fish. Just a few hours ago I was walking through the woods, down a path I have discovered on a previous reconnaissance mission. Through the poison ivy, bramble and most likely tick infested woods, I carry specialized equipment and a five-gallon bucket full of things people wouldn’t normally associate with fishing. Carp fishing takes you to strange places and causes you to do seemingly odd things. At the agricultural supplies store the cashier gives me a funny look when I ask him if I can open up a bag of pigeon pellets to see if they “sink in water”. Why someone like me needs 50 pounds of maize and an assortment of livestock supplies is anyone’s guess. In his mind I run a small petting zoo.
Most people don’t quite understand why someone would put so much effort into catching a fish only to release it, especially these fish. The early mornings, the preparation, the expense, the obsessing. Some have suggested to me that fishing is like a slot machine, a complete gamble that requires no skill but offers a continuous reward cycle. I don’t recall anything else in my life that I have worked so hard at. Then there are those types of people that post comments like “Those fish would put up a hell of a fight on the end of my arrow!” on YouTube. Frankly, those people terrify me. These are the same people I’ve seen impale a “game fish” to a tree out of boredom. Honestly, I can’t be bothered to explain myself these people or try to change how they feel. There is magic in carp fishing and unless you experience it, you will never understand.
Most of the carp anglers I know have a deep respect for their quarry. Respect is something I don’t see a lot in fishing in general. Sometimes I wonder if it doesn’t come from the weird, overly militarized, macho, bass fishing marketing machine. Instead of quietly approaching the bank, we blaze in with our over gunned bass boats. No matter what size fish it is, they get the grand slam hookset. I’m not saying there aren’t atrocities committed in carp fishing, but more often then not, carp anglers have a deep admiration for their beloved trash fish. You come to understand that catching a carp isn’t a trivial thing. Seeing fish and failing to catch, blanking for an entire summer, all these things can leave you feeling rather insignificant and lost. Catching a big one can make everything wrong in the world right again. Maybe I’m making too big of a deal of it. A fish is a fish is a fish, right? These are the thoughts that came to mind this morning when the bass guys drove their over powered boat from one end of the pond to right over where I was fishing. Apparently there are only bass here, in this one spot. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to drift in quietly? I watch them fumble around for a minute before one of them snags the bottom. In the mean time, I have a run. My rod buckles over and my reel sings DRRRRRRRRR DRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR. Out of the corner of my eye I see them watching me. I land the fish and release it, a small spawned out common. A few minutes later, the bass boat charges off again causing a huge wake on the small pond I am on.
With all the secrecy involved in chasing carp I often wonder if the first rule of carp club isn’t “You don’t talk about carp club”. Where I’m fishing, how I’m fishing, these are things I keep to myself and possibly just one or two other anglers. Maybe that’s a tad selfish but I think what it comes down to is self-preservation. I wanna protect this club I am in. From what I’m protecting it from exactly may only exist in my mind. Angling pressure? Destruction? Maybe I’m just not good at sharing.
By the time I am home from work, I am dead tired. Alas, it is not the time for sleep. There are chores to be done and toddlers to entertain. I vowed not to let my fishing life affect my family life and this means that if I want to fully enjoy both, I’d have to sleep less. My daughter hands me a small wooden center pin rod/reel she plays with. She wants to “play fishing”. I’m probably more excited about it than she realizes. Bedtime finally arrives and we put her to sleep. A few more small chores to do, then off to dream of big fish.