Last carp of the year. Probably.


To be honest, I didn’t think I had a shot. He was in the skinny stuff, tight to the bank under the drooping crown of a dying hickory. It would have to be a dap, although even that was an unlikely proposition given the maze of branches and twigs to be negotiated. By no means a sure thing.  And anyway, I was certain the boat would ground before I could close the gap.
One thing though – an important thing- he was nose down and feeding, which was in my favor. Kicking up billows of creamy mud flecked with dark bits of detritus. I mean feeding. Absolutely hogging it up. Carp are wary as hell, but a carp hard at the trough is a carp willing to make a mistake. I gave the boat one more soft bump with the paddle and hoped the breeze would push me the rest of the way.

Sometimes I'll have an idea in my head of how a thing should play out and it miraculously goes right along exactly that way. A rarity but it does happen. The light breeze slowly, gently nudged the boat forward. As the distance closed I leaned as far as I dared and, threading the rod tip through the woody fingers of the hickory, dropped the fly onto the carp's dinner plate. He tipped right up and ate it. Just like that. Sometimes it seems so simple.  Sometimes the wind blows your way and the gap closes as you had hoped and you put the fly in front of the fish and he eats it exactly like all of the books say he should.

Then you set the hook, maybe out of pure reflex rather than anything resembling skill or ability and the carp for his part goes absolutely ape-shit in that dangerous shallow water, tearing the place up more than somewhat before surging directly under the boat, not at the stern or the bow, but dead center where you can’t work the line free in the few inches of water that separate the bottom muck from the hull, the four weight bending and bending and bending until you imagine that you can actually feel the graphite fibers separating through the cork and so you pay out line like a man gone insane, ripping it from the reel in long desperate looping strips until the rod finally eases into a manageable parabola, still bucking and throbbing to the frantic pull of the carp on the other end.
This is a true story that happened. Ultimately I stuck the blade into the muck, pushed the boat toward deeper water, the paddle wobbling awkwardly in one hand and the rod jumping in the other. Somehow I lost my anchor and thirty feet of rope in this circus. I took a picture only because I felt obligated given the theatrics and level of effort. My hat is slightly askew. I look disheveled and a little stunned. And rightly so.