Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Tail of Two Fishies (or, Best-Titled Story Ever)

So a while back I mentioned the big brookie and the carp I caught by hand. They're connected by similar mysterious behavior.

The brookie was more dramatic. I was fishing my favorite trout stream, and trying to work some pocket water that I was always sure held trout but could never find any in. Something big hit my nymph and took off. I set myself for a tough fight, especially given the tricky footing and quick water. Very soon after the hookset, though, I saw my line angle toward a small boulder and then go tight under it. I could still feel the fish throbbing on my line, so I kept slack out and waded to the boulder.

I've caught fish before (usually bass) where I've had to free the line from tangles or wait for the fish to back out of weeds (sometimes you can induce this, at least on spinning gear, by plucking your line like a guitar string). This fish, though, had just cannonballed right under a boulder and stopped. When I reached it, I reached down and grabbed it near the tail and pulled it out. To my surprise, it was a gorgeous brookie about 15 inches long. Somehow it had wedged its head under the boulder and seemed unsure how to get out. I turned it loose and it seemed fine. I'm not sure how bright it was (especially given that it managed to get itself caught by me), but I'm not sure why else it would end up in such a predicament.

The carp was a little stranger, and I feel like I probably did something wrong. I was smallmouth fishing in my home county, working a stretch of water with Dad that, while productive, was more notable for the climb involved in exiting the river. I was upstream from him a ways when I caught site of a carp with its head in some weeds. I couldn't figure out how to make a cast, given that it's head was in the weeds.

I crept closer, and it didn't move. It was wiggling a little bit, or I'd have thought it was dead. I got close enough to poke it with my rod tip, but it didn't respond. I clambered up on a rock next to it and couldn't figure it out. It looked stuck. As far as I could tell, it wasn't spawning or anything. It just had managed to get its head (and gills, if I remember right) stuck on some weeds. I grabbed it by the tail and under the belly and lifted it up and back out of the weeds. I helped it revive, and watched it swim off. Then it struck me that I had perhaps intervened in some natural event I shouldn't have, but I'm not sure what that could have been (other than imminent death).

I'd be happy to hear any thoughts on this situation.

There it is. Two fish that managed to get their heads stuck. One a big brook trout in a cold, fast stream while hooked; the other an average-sized carp in a slow, warm river, apparently on its own. I still think both were a little weird.

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