There are exceptions to all rules, but as a rule I should not advise an angler to waste much time in carp fishing-life is too short and the art of catching carp takes too long to learn, and there are so many other fishes waiting to be caught. " Sour grapes," I think I hear some enthusiastic carp angler say. No, I mean what I say as the highest compliment I can pay to the fish, for he is So wary and cunning that it is simply waste of time to devote hours, days, weeks to his capture. In some waters well stocked with carp you may count on getting a fish or two now and then, but such places are the exceptions, and the capture of a 10 or 15 lb. fish is a good reward for the expenditure of much patience and skill.
The carp is supposed to have first appeared in the waters of Asia, where the largest members of the family are still to be found; gradually it was transported over Europe, and probably brought to this country by the monks. Within the last five-and-twenty years it was imported into North America from Germany, and has so increased and multiplied in many rivers that it threatens to exterminate many of the native fish-by crowding them out. The complaints of American anglers are loud and long; they care nothing for the carp as a game or food fish, and in waters where the fish increases so rapidly in size and number there is no difficulty in catching it. I hope our friends in New Zealand will take a lesson from the experience of the Americans, and not run the risk of having their beautiful clear trout streams turned into muddy carp waters.
In this country carp, although enormously prolific, are never plentiful in our rivers, because their spawn is devoured by other fish. All over Germany and Austria carp farms abound, and millions are bred for the market.
The carp is a very handsome fish when well fed and in good condition. It is said to have the largest brain of any fish, which accounts for the cunning manner in which it will avoid taking the most dainty bait, and the difficulty of catching it with the net, which it frequently escapes, either by jumping over the top or burrowing under the bottom.
When hooked, a large fish makes a grand fight, and if the angler is not ready and cool, will smash the line either in the first grand rush, which often takes the fish right across the lake-I have had them go like an arrow for fifty yards straight into a bed of flags on the opposite side-or by boring with head down and rolling about cut the gut against the toothed ray1 in the strong back fin. I am not sure that they do this on purpose or by accident, but can well believe that an old carp would do it with intent.
Probably one of the most skilful and enthusiastic carp anglers in the world is Mr. Otto Overbeck, of Grimsby. I was told, by a mutual friend, of the great carp which he caught in some private water to which he has access, and I got Mr. Overbeck to write a description of his carp fishing for the Fishing Gazette. The tackle he uses for the capture of large carp, and he has killed them over 17 lbs., consists of a fine undrawn gut line, stained to imitate the colour of the bottom. At the end of the gut trace is a flat lead (to enable the angler to cast out a good way), a foot from the lead a very small triangle hook on a foot of gut is attached to the trace, with a shot pinched on the trace above and below the junction of the hook gut, and one on the latter. A foot above this another very small triangle is put on in the same way; the trace is securely fastened to a fine running line on a large Nottingham reel. The line should be at least one hundred yards in length, and stained a dirty light-green weed-like colour. The rod may be a light whole cane or a split cane, or even an 8-ounce fly-rod, for that is what Mr. Overbeck killed his i7$-lb. carp on, and grand sport it must have been. No float is used, as the whole of the line must lie sunk on the bottom. To bait the tackle, prepare some ordinary bread paste and put a flattened good-sized lump of it over the lead, and a similar, but smaller bit, over the three shots; this is to act as ground bait and assist in deluding the carp, as they find it harmless. For the hook bait, Mr. Overbeck uses sweet paste made of stale bread crumb worked up with dry powdered loaf sugar and honey, well kneaded with clean hands, and not. made so tenacious as to hinder hooking or so soft as to soak off. It is semi-transparent, and when the hooks are baited with it they must be dipped in pure honey. All being ready, the line is drawn off the reel and carefully coiled on the bank or on a mackintosh at the feet of the angler, so that it may run out freely when the cast is made. The cast must be a steady swing without jerk, or the baits will be torn off. Noting well where the baits fall, the angler then casts as near as possible to the hooks some balls of ground bait, made of a mixture of boiled potatoes and mud and brewer's grains. The rod, after making the cast, should lie with its whole length on the bank so that no vibration from it can be given to the line. The angler must then follow the example of his rod and lie down on the bank beside it, perfectly motionless, and wait for a bite. Mr. Overbeck recommends the carp angler to have a book of a kind to aid the mind in being peaceful and patient; and no wonder, for he says you may wait-" Wait, as I have done, for three or even more days on end, from 3 a.m. till dark, without a bite." I think with a good supply of books and tobacco I would not mind trying for three days, just for once, to get a great carp (I have never caught one over 10 lbs.), but I think that would be enough to spare from possible days with salmon, or trout, or grayling.
1 This toothed or serrated ray is the third of the bony ray of the back fin and the same in the anal fin.
The carp pond Mr. Overbeck fishes teems with them, so it is an exceptionally good fishing place; he has, through a little opening in the weeds, counted no less than two hundred, from fish of 8 lbs. up to monsters, compared with which his I7£-Ib. fish seemed a very " medium size." He says that when swimming about near the top, which they only do on warm days, if frightened the carp does not dart away as pike, perch, roach, and other fish do. It simply dives and hides in the mud, and he points out that the soft fringe on the edges of the gill-cover evidently acts as a washer to keep out mud and to enable the fish to hold his breath for a long time, and to live out of water much longer than fish which have not got it and do not bury themselves in the mud. Mr. Overbeck says in wading in the pond he fishes he has several times stepped on a carp fully a foot under the mud, and the "sudden shivering squirm of the fish and 'let down' has not been pleasant. I have been nearly upset by stepping on a salmon which was lying between two big stones, and have experienced the creepy sensation of stepping on a big eel when wading with naked feet.