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6.9.02 Carping

My goal for the summer -- I decided this today -- is to learn how to fish for carp. This means, yes, actually catching one. Fishing for carp isn't as glamorous as trout or salmon or as convivial as bass but it has a great advantage -- carp can actually be seen from shore within 20 minutes from my house. They are also as wily as any game fish. I know this because I haven't caught one yet. They are big and I have to admit size matters. Call me unimaginative, but I can't get excited about hauling in a 5-inch perch. Where is the story in that?

My first fishing sortie of the season was an exercise in frustration. Three casts into the Erie Canal, three lost rigs. The park was full of families and friends reveling in the sunshine and there I was -- alone -- being silently tortured by some small canal demon snatching my hooks. I left there thinking how much more enjoyable biking was than fishing. Biking is all you -- nothing below the surface, no tricky beasts to confront.

But yesterday I decided to give it another go. The weather was too gorgeous for indoors and my legs were already tired from a 12-mile bike ride on Friday. I headed up to Lake Ontario with few expectations besides lovely scenery. There were other fisherfolk on the long pier and we all caught perch.

Toward the end of my session, I moved closer to shore, where a fly fisherman had been -- he said -- trying to catch carp. My jaw dropped when I saw them -- 2, 3, 6, then a dozen big ones lazily circling around the shallows and -- just at the edge of visibility -- a gold one, maybe an escapee from someone's Japanese goldfish pond. They snubbed my offer of worms, but they still excited and inspired me.

At home I checked the internet for carp baits. The carp enthusiasts seem to be mostly English. I settled on Strawberry Snack de Carpio, basically corn meal, strawberry jello and marshmallows cooked into a gooey mess. Apparently carp in the Thames are wild for it.

Lake Ontario carp were standoffish. I tried to seduce them with it this morning. They circled around, cool as the lake breeze, ignoring my gift. After watching them for an hour I decided they weren't feeding on anything at all. Wrong time of day? I'll be back, you cool Grace Kellys you.

(Malone told me that the wondrous schooling carp I saw in the shallows were spawning and would never be in the mood for the carp candy I'd made.)

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