If I would have been pulled over, the cop would have yanked me out of Ethyl’s window and put my cheek firmly on the asphalt with a knee in my back. What the previous night’s occasion was I can’t quite recall, but the booze was seeping out of my pores that morning. As I navigated my sometimes undependable ’62 Chevy to my favorite urban pond, I tried to feel steady enough to keep breakfast down.
It was already hot. Even at 8 a.m. it was too bright for my tender eyes, but I had the need to get out of the house and carp fish. I pulled into the deeply rutted parking lot among enormous cottonwoods and a couple other sketchy vehicles. Their windows tented with only silhouettes of strangers inside. This eerie parking lot is not marked and definitely not maintained. The potholes could swallow a Prius, and enormous limbs lay where they fell.
The lot is off a highway in the middle of town, but you’d miss it if you blinked. Some brave folks park there to ride bikes along the Clear Creek bike trail. But based on most cars here, it feels more like a place for creepers who’ve met on Craigslist to hook up. Every time I pull in, I do a lot of looking over my shoulder when rigging up, as I feel like I’m trying to avoid a monster under my truck waiting to grab my ankle. It’s a place that receives almost zero fishing pressure, so all the fear-based rushing around is worth it, and probably unnecessary.
Just behind the parking lot is an overgrown portion of Clear Creek and across the bike path from it, a small spring fed pond maybe a hundred yards long and thirty wide. The bank on one of the long sides is steep up to the road and the other is choked with shaggy elms. There is a large sand bar where the spring bubbles and allows for a decent back cast. I discovered the pond on an urban fishing trip on Clear Creek years before. It is home to bluegill, green sunfish, smallmouth, largemouth, crappie, carp, and a trampoline.
The poor little pond has no name, so based on the questionable dudes behind tinted windows and the hair standing up on the back of my neck when rigging up, it is fondly named The Rapist Pond. I have fished it countless times with no sexual encounters. Besides the trampoline, the amazing amount of trash and debris from the highway is depressing. The six-foot weeds catch most of junk so the water only contains larger items like the trampoline and I’m guessing a healthy amount of criminal evidence.
When I finally fought my way through the thistle and beer cans the water churned under lazy tails just off the bank. I double checked the 2X tippet. Yep, a little frayed but I wasn’t going to swap it out. I tied on a sparkly orange carp fly from Charlie’s Fly Box that Jay Zimmerman had developed years ago. The weight is opposite the pointy end so the hook points up and it is designed to scoot along the bottom just under a carp’s nose. I casted out into the center of the water that is deeper than it looks and stripped back in with a crappie chase as the sun creeped above a giant electronic billboard advertising a law firm that would “get you the money you deserve”.
I shifted my position and casted perpendicular to the steep bank below a tree thinking I might trick a bass, but there was nothing doing. On the retrieve three large carp swam towards the bank in front of me and started stirring up the mud. I lifted the fly out of the water with barely any fly line out of the eye and lightly dropped it into the swirling mass of fishiness. The big one grabbed it and I trout-set the hook as hard as I could, remembering the tough leathery yellow mouth that can easily throw a hook. The big-brained beast threw water on my bare legs and shot like a heavy missile across the length of the pond ripping line off the reel. There has been only once that I recall being taken into my backing and that was in swift water with a hook undoubtedly in a large fish’s butthole. Luckily for that fish it popped out and he’d have to explain himself to the proctologist. That morning I would see my backing no less than five times as the yellow hog took line all over the pond as I tried to gain ground, sweating Modelo.
After about twenty minutes into what was likely to be a losing battle, two bait fishermen appeared on the far bank and started drowning worms as I focused on not losing such a fish with a growing audience. Strength-wise, I have never battled such a fish. Every time I thought I was about to win the fight, it would turn and effortlessly take out forty yards of line in one steady run. My wife called me at one point in the struggle and I fumbled with my phone holding the rod with the other, knee deep in the water.
I hit speaker and shoved it in my breast pocket so I could talk and not lose the fish. “What the hell are you doing?” she asked. I can’t remember what genius horse shit came out of my mouth, but it must have been perfect because she replied: “Just break it off and come home!” I know I disagreed and hung up. What I had expected to be an hour had turned into well over two at this point. The guys on the other side pretended not to pay attention but I knew they were taking bets. Another 30 minutes in a scorching sun and without water and few brain cells left, I finally started to feel like I was gaining ground.
All I could do was to start pulling the weight as the rod bent to an uncomfortable point. Being an obvious genius, I just started walking backwards dragging him into shallow water. I could now tell this fish was enormous. I had a small trout landing net for some stupid reason and I draped it around his head and grabbed the tail with the other hand literally drug him onto the bank. The hook came out too easily for the 150 minutes it had been in his lip. He was close to 30” long and easily 20 pounds. I know, because I faced my audience on the other side of the pond and hoisted the bastard above my head like a pro wrestler and yelled something Mensa worthy. One of them nodded. Just fucking nodded, like “Good for you, dipshit. You caught a carp.”
I expected enthusiasm that would match mine and I got a simple nod. A pathetic dropping of the chin. I was top of the fishing world, hung over, and very sunburned on the left side of my face and these lowly bait fishermen couldn’t even muster the energy for a thumb raise. Swallowing my pride, I pushed one helluva fish into the pond and watched it enthusiastically bolt away like it hadn’t just put up the fight of its life. There have been full trot lines of articles written about targeting these “freshwater bonefish” on the fly maybe to romanticize them or to get people off of trout streams, but until you have gone toe to toe with one while coping with a severe hangover and an audience of master baiters then you haven’t suffered appropriately as a fisherman.
Since then the parking lot has been fenced off and started to return to nature, looking a lot like Chernobyl. I’m not sure where the creepers have gone; it’s not a topic I dwell on much, but now when I visit the Rapist Pond I have to park a good distance away in an Auto Zone parking lot and Frogger my way across the highway, so I guess it is still dangerous, just not quite as exhilarating.