They are all into it these days; I should go fly-fishing
for carp. Hell, we all should. I think every magazine
and TV program and all the guru's are hot and bothered
about carp. Not me.
I feel a bit badly about having to say this now, one of
our featured columns this week is about them, but I
can't help myself. Carp fishing is not for me.
Now before you start e-mailing me and punching the
buttons on your cell-phones, give me a minute to try
to explain. It's not my fault. It's Vernie's; I confess,
he did it. And my dad went along with it too!
Ones childhood memories should be about nice things,
at least that is what I try to tell myself, mine
include carp. Big, fat, yellow, slimy, stinky,
bug-eyed, slippery, ugly as hell, 'freshly speared
carp!' No kid should have had to endure what I had
gleefully accepted. The offer of a whole damn wagon
load of them.
I lived in Michigan, near Lake Huron, well Saginaw
Bay actually. An enterprising little squirt right
from the start, I would pick 'night-crawlers' and
set up a small stand on a road thru town and try
to sell them to passing motorists, sales were notably
slow; nothing like a box of 'the day before yesterdays'
left over bait to disgust a guy. Door-to-door sales
were fun too. I got into making small plaques out
of plaster with a little picture cut from a magazine
stuck to them. Sold a few of those as well. Of course
I had a 'paper-route' but, didn't everybody? But, of
all my ventures, the carp were a complete flop.
It was during one of the summers of my misspent youth,
I was about ten or so and naive as a puppy but game
as hell for anything that might make me a buck. On
day my dad's buddy Vern (everyone called him Vernie)
stopped by our house with a load of carp. He had been
out in the marshes by the bay and had speared a whole
mess of them. I was small and the carp were big, hell,
I was impressed. In fact, I was usually impressed
with anything Vernie did, he was a 'cool' guy, hunted
and fished with my dad a lot.
I also remember the time he told us to go out to the
marsh one bitter cold Thanksgiving day and 'paddle'
frogs. They had not yet burrowed into the mud for the
winter and an off-shore wind had blown all the water
out. The frogs were laying exposed on the sand and all
we had to do was smack them with a special wooden paddle
(that naturally Vernie had invented). We went, mom,
dad and I and got a big gunny sack full.
Dad called Vernie when we got home and asked what the
next step should be. He told us to put them by the
furnace (coal fired, heat producing, large appliance
in the basement) so they could thaw out, it would make
it easier to clean them. Wrong! Not! We practically
had to sit on the bag to keep it from leaping around
the room. (I should have known better when Vernie
showed up with the darn carp, but, like I said,
I didn't.) By the way, a pair of scissors does
get the frogs cleaned rather expediently. And,
really, they were fine eating.
But, back to the carp. The day was sunny and hot
(I will not forget the 'hot' part) as I trundled
off to ply my trade, that of peddler of 'Freshly
Speared Carp.' I spent the whole afternoon and
early evening pestering the neighbors of every
street in the neighborhood. In desperation I
finally offered the things for free. But, alas,
it was not to be. I returned a saddened, dejected
kid. A complete failure at fish-mongering. And to
make matters even worse, I still had to figure out
how to dispose of the ugly fish and somehow get
my wagon clean if ever possible.
Dad came to my rescue with an idea, bury them under
mom's roses. More work, but not too bad, I at least
could take the wagon from plant to plant as I got
rid of them. Mom's flowers did very well that season
as I recall but, somehow my red wagon never again
seemed to be the same.
I think somehow the whole experience may have made
a lasting impression on me which seems to have
remained to this day. Even years later when I
was offered some 'smoked carp,' delicious I was
told, I took their word for it. I have eaten some
odd foods over the years, horse (during the second
world war), bear, muskrat and even rattlesnake.
I will pass on the carp, thank you.
Now, please don't get me wrong here. I think it is
just dandy for you to fly-fish for the things. But,
for me? I think I will pass.
~ James Castwell