Gone Carping

14 06 2012

“Shoot it, Dax!”

There, for a fleeting moment, the eyes of player and fan met, through a triangular gap in a crush of soccer players, home and visitor alike. There, in that instant, was the prime opportunity to strike, and to my disappointment, that moment was lost, with no goal try.

That’s when I knew that I “got” soccer.

Years later, I was in the seats for a minor-league hockey game, and one of my soccer friends (who now turned to hockey during the brief off-season) said that he had no idea I had any interest in hockey.

“Well,” I explained, “I got into watching hockey (post-divorce), and when I saw a blown scoring opportunity – and I knew it was a scoring opportunity – I knew I ‘got’ hockey.”

Now, years later still, soccer and hockey have faded into my past in favor of fishing.

For carp.

One morning, I sat waiting for a carp strike and thought about why it must be that carp fishing is apparently very popular in say, England as opposed to here in the USA.

Then I applied soccer commentary (mentally, so as not to spook the fish) to carp fishing and saw the allure. Hearing the roar of the crowd as the player charged to the penalty area – that is, as the fish teased near and around the baited hook. Hearing the groans as the ball was stripped away or went wide – that is, when the carp swam away from the hook or worse, picked it up and dropped it right away without so much as disturbing the bait.

But a blown “fish on” opportunity didn’t help me “get” fishing, let alone fishing for the hated common carp.

For me, and me alone, I think it came when I caught my first common carp, felt the thrill of the fight, landing the fish, removing the hook and posing for a photo. The equivalent of running down the pitch twirling my jersey over my head, yellow card be damned.

But then, I think it came when I studied the photo of the bare fish, freshly unhooked, perhaps pondering its fate. Swept up and out of the turgid pond, now its features could be examined and appreciated. How graceful these fish seem, even obscured in murky shallows. Swimming lazily along, exerting the least amount of energy to cover its turf, only to unleash the full extent of that energy in an ideally failed attempt to flee the hook, and capture. And indeed, how beautiful this “ugly” fish can be, with muted silvers and greys, or regal bronzes and golds.

Such thoughts and considerations do not seem to enter the heads of those that toss living carp aside on the bank, and leave them for dead. I found similar attitudes in those that didn’t care for soccer or hockey, and cast them aside for more popular or “acceptable” fare.

To each their own, I say, but wonder why a distaste for a thing must end in destruction, if not merely dismissal.

This may seem hyperbolic on its surface, but upon reflection, have I not heard people state their belief that a “boring” sport be not only ignored, but eradicated?

I thought “still fishing” was boring, and even after I caught my first carp I didn’t think I’d do it again, or if it did, it would be after a long dry spell fishing for other breeds, on other waters. Or maybe after I was burned out on catching other fish and wanting a palate cleanser.

But after watching carp videos (usually from the UK) and reading some more on the subject, I gave carp fishing another try and have found it to be immensely rewarding, much more than any other fish I have caught to date. The largest carp I have landed was 24 inches in length, and put up a whale of a fight. My adrenaline flowed, my muscles were tested, and my will to succeed challenged. In the end, a 23-inch carp was landed, photographed, and released quietly back to its pond.

I never got that sort of thrill from landing a tiny trout or a white bass.

And, as I remind myself often, my goal is to successfully land a Northern Pike.

Carp, I believe, is a good starting place for learning something about catching and landing larger prey.

Huge carp

I did notice that a couple fishing across the pond from me leaned in my direction to get a look at what I had hooked, and sank in their seats when a giant splash rose up as the carp neared the bank. They weren’t going to get that thrill catching whatever it was that they were fishing for, and it didn’t go unnoticed that they packed up and left when I hoisted a nearly 2-foot long fish out of the water (with my hands, not the hook).

On another sunny afternoon, it occurred to me that I was literally turning my back on a soccer game in favor of sitting idly by and watching swirls in a pond and a bevy of dorsal fins taking to my bait, and leaving me guessing as to which, if any, fish would fall prey to my hook.

It struck me as a metaphor for where my life has taken me these days.

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