The long hot days of summer are spent hunting solitary common carp.
The coming of summer brings a change to my morning commute. Gone are the days of heading to school early in the morning and chasing salmonids on my days off. With high temperatures and a summer drought, trout are off the menu. The long hot days of summer are spent hunting solitary common carp. Ever since my first slab of gold, I have become hopelessly addicted to the golden ghost, as do most who stalk them with a fly rod. After all, why target a fish that is measured in inches, when one could stalk and sight fish to a fish measured in pounds and fights like a bonefish? It is a game where my profession changes from teacher to student and even though school is out, class is still in session. This summer I am hoping to earn my PhD with some graduate-level carping by catching my nemesis: the ever elusive canal carp.
As I speed along to my destination, the sun's rays are slowly creeping over the horizon, piercing through a vast blanket of fog. With an empty pull-off ahead, the world around is still asleep and the streets resemble a ghost town. Exiting the fish mobile, the morning's battleground is displayed in all its glory. The coliseum of dark, placid water reflects the immediate surroundings, creating a mirage of green, hiding what lies beneath. My pot of gold at the end of the rainbow: Cyprinus carpio. A fitting name that creates visions of an ancient Roman gladiator that makes quick work of visiting fly fishermen. These carp are wild, ten to thirty-pound torpedoes that are battle hardened from a life spent evading predators. On a daily basis, they face fishermen of all skill levels that vary from bow hunters to an eighty year old woman who has been known to gives her catches to a local Chinese restaurant. After a year of trial and error, heartache and tears, it has been discovered that the only possible time to catch them on the fly is in the morning gloom of first light.
As in all fly fishing situations, this is easier said than done due to a variety of conditions I like to call carp blocks. These occur during three distinct time periods: before, during, and after hooking up. Before one even steps foot on the canal path, your fate can be predetermined by the resident canal junkie who is there for a morning stroll or to walk the dog. The moment the first person's vibrations are felt trudging down the path, or a resident turtle or waterfowl flees, the carp scurry for safety not to be seen again until the next morning. Often while stalking fish, joggers, dogs, and even old Grandma have carp blocked me. If you are fleet of foot, and successfully maneuver into position where you can get off a perfect cast, you have reached the point in time where the most can go wrong.
For one, you need to be fully focused on the task at hand to see through the deep water and locate the coffee mug mouth of a carp slurping your fly. While this process is played out, hundreds of marauding mosquitoes, seemingly immune to 100% deet, are boring their way into any exposed skin. In the thick of summer, especially after a hard rain, the mosquitoes have been known to force people back to their cars and send errant casts and curse words across the still waters. The next thing that could go wrong is every child's favorite: the sunfish. They are eager to pick off any and every viable food item that crosses their path. The most annoying of all carp blocks is when a hog johnson sized carp meanders over to your damsel only to have a three inch eating machine snatch it away at the last second. Once in a blue moon, one can successfully evade all carp blocks and become locked in mortal kombat with a creature from the black lagoon.
The path to the mountain top revealed, one of the final hurdles is the angler. One of the most fulfilling aspects of the sport is when one takes it upon himself to find out the answers to all the challenges fly fishing has to offer. Taking the time to solve the riddle, make the cast, hook and land the fish amongst flotsam and sunken debris is more than challenging. After I landed my first canal carp, I exited the water soaked through with a grin from ear to ear. As I walked down the canal path, the first beams of sun crept through the trees and onto the water. The first jogger of the morning ran down the path and gave me a look from head to toe. Little did she know, but I had just received my diploma. I had passed the test and broken down the proverbial wall, opening the door to more opportunities at achieving morning glory.