Michigan Carp Fishing on Boardman River in Downtown Traverse City

Ever been fishing and hooked something so big it yanked the rod clean out of your hands? Ever lost a fishing rod that day? How about two in the same afternoon? Do you know the difference between “trotting” and “spodding”? Have you ever seen a “snowman rig”? Ever fish “the method” or use a “boilie” for bait? And speaking of bait, do you have books in your kitchen filled with recipes that call for hours over the stove, lots of measuring and mixing often hard-to-find ingredients like sesh, salmon pellets, and hand-crushed chilies? Ground hemp seed, maple peas, soya beans, oat groats, and maize? If you think fly fishermen spend a lot of time talking about tactics and messing around with their gear—if you think fly fishermen are the most enthusiastic and dedicated anglers on the water—then obviously you never met a carp fisherman.

The serious carp fisherman is an oddball, an eccentric, and, yes I suppose, weird—they stand apart from the crowd andeverything in fishing that is put-on and snooty, unoriginal and boring. They are the hardest of the hard-core bait fishermen.I’ve always loved fishing for carp and considered myself pretty good at it. But I walked away from my first encounter with The You Don’t Know Carp: Special baits made from secret recipes. Big rods and reels. And even bigger fish-safe nets. Think fly fishermen are crazy about their gear? You’ve never met a serious carp fisherman.

The serious carp fisherman is an oddball, an eccentric, and, yes I suppose, weird—they stand apart from the crowd andeverything in fishing that is put-on and snooty, unoriginal and boring. They are the hardest of the hard-core bait fishermen.I’ve always loved fishing for carp and considered myself pretty good at it. But I walked away from my first encounter with The British Guy feeling small-time, a real piker. I don’t recall every detail from our first conversation, but I do remember how, when I first walked up, he got the same drawn and tired look on his face that I now put on when some other angler approaches to ask the standard litany of questions.

“You catchin’ anything?”

When fishing for carp the most prudent answer to this is “not a thing” since replying in the affirmative inevitably lead toQuestion No. 2 (“Whatcha catchin?”), which then leads either to the usual derogatory remark or, even more annoying, some story about how they used to routinely catch 60-pounders when they were kids growing up in Detroit or Saginaw.

While carp do grow to over 50 pounds, they are old and cagey and harder to catch than a 20-inch brown trout on a dry fly. Most anglers are over-informed and under-practiced and wouldn’t know a five-pound fish if it tail-slapped them in the face. But mostly the stories irked me because the whole point, of course, was to imply that carp fishing is somehow bigger child’s play than all the rest.

“Are you fishing boilies?”

I decided to lead with the most “carpy” word in my lexicon, the carp angler’s verbal wink and nod. Boilies are a hand-prepared bait invented in England, where carp is king, and it’s actually the trout that provides second-class sport. Boilies is a word only another carp fisherman would know. At that The British Guy straightened up on the five-gallon bucket he was sitting on.

His face brightened. I remarked on his gear, which included two exquisite 12-foot European casting rods and two ginormous Fox bait-runner reels. Robert was casually clad in jeans and a trendy pair of Crocs. His rods rested off the concrete in a chrome contraption called a “pod,” complete with electronic rod alarms—serious hardware—for detecting the slightest strike.

When I told him I was a carp fisherman, too, he asked me what I was using for bait.

“Corn boiled in molasses,” I said.

“Dried or liquid molasses?”

“Liquid.”

“I like the dried molasses. Or mix in some ground chilies or a little red pepper. You should try it, mate.”

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