Bret W. Lester

Obsession or Hobie?

My inner sensor says this post is a bad idea because I have my doubts about whether anyone would find it interesting, but my mind is on it, so here goes.

This post is about fishing. If that isn't your cup of tea then, be gone sir!

I'm a bit obsessed with carp fishing. It's an odd thing to be obsessed with, even among fishermen. In the U.S., carp (talking common carp here) are generally thought of as an invasive species, "trash fish", and poor table fare. They've got a bad rep in the States. It's perfectly legal to shoot them with a bow and arrow and kill them senselessly. And there's no bag limit.

In Europe, however, they're highly regarded game fish. And I can understand why. They get pretty big, pound-for-pound they fight harder than just about any other freshwater fish, and they're incredibly prolific; they can survive and thrive in almost any water conditions.

Have you heard of koi (the big beautiful goldfish)? Carp are just koi without the genetic mutation that makes them colorful.

Anyway, I'm a bit obsessed with figuring out how to catch them on my local lake. There are tonnes of them in there but I haven't caught one since early June despite making may trips to the bank since then. There's something otherworldly about that moment when you see a carp suck up your bait with their big protruding lips and then go ballistic when it realizes it's hooked. That is the moment when they have their most explosive burst of energy. It's difficult to describe how it feels in that moment but I've heard one British carp anger describe it like "time stops and it's as if you're watching it all happen from outside your body".

I still remember the first time it happened at the creek by my house when I was a kid. I plopped my worm in front of a few big carp that I could see swimming along. One of them slurped it up and went absolutely mental, and promptly snapped my line. I was inexperienced then and probably didn't have my drag set properly (an absolute must when it comes to carp angling).

What I just described is only applicable to sight fishing, or stalking, which is only relevant at certain times of the year. You can sight fish for carp in the spring and early summer. As the summer progresses however, they become extremely weary and move to deeper water--just out of sight of someone walking along the bank. Which leads us to my current obsession: catching them in late summer--something I've been unsuccessful with so far.

Late summer carpin' is an entirely different game and it's more passive, which I don't like. It's basically throwing a bait out in the water and waiting for a fish to take it. There are so many more variables than stalking. But since I'm obsessed, I can't let it go. I've been doing some drone reconnaissance (which keeps things interesting), and I can see those bastards, happily foraging just out of sight--as if they know the perfect distance. Knowing that they're there keeps me interested. If it wasn't for the drone footage, I'd probably lose interest. Sighting them with the drone is like a proverbial breadcrumb on the path to catching one. Without it, I'd probably just wait until next spring.

I don't know if I'll catch a late summer carp, but I'll probably keep trying. From what I've heard, they get a little stupid again in the fall, so there's always that possibility. I'm still learning. At the end of the day it's all problem solving; a challenge with an exciting reward at the end for finding the solution.


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