I appreciate irony. I appreciate the irony that nowadays, I catch fish. And I'm always thankful to do so -- to just avoid tires and turtles. I guess maybe I was getting cocky. Catching too many fish. Too many un-skunked days. Must have been something like that.
I've learned that I should never doubt Jay -- not his advice, direction, or expectations of me. As we grabbed our rods from the back of the truck, he asked "now, what's been your best day carping?"
"Two I think," I said, spitting out a cherry pit.
"Huh. Well, this is going to be your best day yet."
He had a feeling, he said.
"We'll see, eh?" I said, rubbing my thumb up and down, massaging the cork like a jockey prepping a racehorse for the track -- prepping myself for the flats. Getting the muscles ready. And in the end Jay was right, I had my best day yet, catching eight, and this should be a post about carp fishing. But it's not going to be. Not completely. Mostly, it's going to be about irony.
Tails. Backs out of water. Mud balls. Oh yes, we caught carp. The third one I landed was different though, distinct, "He's missing part of his tail!" I yelled to Jay, what I'm sure he could already see. Why do we still, after toddler-hood feel the need to state the obvious? It still looked a little red, the carp's tail. Healed, but sore. And I wondered, what could have done this. Oh sure, there's aggression during spawning. Bumps, bruises and missing scales. But nothing like this. Half the tail...what in the world could have done this? Jay took a photo and started stalking further down the bank. I followed, and didn't think about that tail again....
.....at least for a little while.
It was getting late now, and we'd been fishing for eight hours straight. "One last cast over in that corner, ok?" Jay asked, knowing my answer would be, "ok!," and knowing full well that with us, there was no way it would be just one more.
Tailing carp. Cast......cast....we were both next to nice ones. I missed, but kept stripping in. Then thwuump. Everything stopped hard. "Got him?" Jay asked, concentrating on his last cast. "Nah, a snag," and I began pulling in line, heavy with dead weight.
But then -- then I saw a head, and heard Jay yelling "Erin, that's a snapper!!!"
I started laughing in disbelief, while at the same time being utterly petrified. Jay yelled again, "Crap! I've got a carp on!" I think it might be the only time in his life he has ever been disappointed at this. "You've got to hold that snapper!" Oh please, just cut the line....cut the line! But then I thought -- no, no I need to, for irony's sake. So I bucked up, faced fate, and embraced the irony.
And then he walked away like a Tonka Truck -- back to play in the sandbox...
It's a rite of passage for carp fishermen, Jay tells me. You have to fish for carp and snappers in the same way, and you have to be good to catch either. Not many fly fishermen have caught snappers who've actually eaten the fly, he says. A legit catch. I guess snapping turtles like backstabbers too.
Perhaps yes, this was rite of passage. Perhaps. But it just felt like irony to me -- the fates reminding me not to get too cocky, not too used to fishing and actually catching fish. They can always curse me back to tires and turtles.
"You know," said Jay later that evening, "that one you caught with the chunk out of its tail? I was thinking...." We looked at each other and grinned. It all makes sense now.