For a major part of my life, I have been a carp angler. Lakes, ponds, tanks, dams had plenty of large sized carps to keep the occasional angler more than interested. In and around Kolkata, Calcutta then, had some great fishing spots. That weekend we were set to fish in one of the private ponds located some thirty odd km away in a village.
The flurry of activities preceding carp fishing starts building up a couple of days before the actual fishing, reaching a feverish pitch by time one reaches the waters edge and then an absolute calm takes over.
The previous day was spent in getting ground and hook bait ready.
An entire book can be put together describing the variety of ground bait that I am aware of which may roughly be 5% of all ground bait used by anglers in Bengal. And then there are hook baits.
The basic ground bait is 1 kg Ekangi/Ekanki,( bark of a certain tree and very fragrant, like cinnamon), 50 grams of green cardamom, bay leaf, 1 kg grated coconut, 1.5 liter of coconut oil/ ghee (clarified butter), 250 grams sugar.
The Ekangi and whole garam masala is gently roasted over low heat till it turns golden brown and then cooled and ground finely. The grated coconut too is roasted over low flame, till fully dry and cooled. Oil/ghee is heated and both the roasted ingredients are added. Cooked over low flame till the fat leaves the mixture the sugar is then stirred in. Once fully cooled the gooey mixture is stuffed into a plastic jar. The mixture does not cover more than half the jar and topped off with rum, yes RUM, till the mixture is fully covered. Left aside in a warm dry place, but not directly under the sun, for 6-8 weeks, ensuring that the rum is periodically topped off so that the mixture never comes is contact with air. In about 8 weeks your basic ground bait is ready. When you have to bait a swim, mix this ground bait with about 2/3 kg of powdered mustard cake, roasted till golden brown. Make the entire mixture into golf ball sized roundels and use.
Anyway, next morning we reached the lake at about 8.00 am. It was a beautiful 10 odd acre lake with an island in the middle. There was an old temple in ruin with trees and creepers all over the brick work. The lake was clean and the water was deep and dark. I tested the depth before ground baiting. There were overhanging branches from some really old mango trees providing shade from the blazing sun, a couple of cormorants were busy fishing, a common kingfisher was keeping vigil and a light breeze was forming ripples in the water. I could see some big carps move towards my left between lily pods.
I got three rods ready and made the bread paste hook bait. Once all three rods were in the water, I checked the time; 8.25 am!
Within the next half an hour I could see the presence of fish in the swim. At such times, the body goes taut, lips and throat dry in anticipation, imagination plays games with the mind. However since I got into catch and release, I am much more relaxed as the fear of loosing a fish is gone. I guess I am a better angler for that.
Soon the float started to quiver and then was bobbing ever so gently. This gentle dance went on for about a quarter of an hour and then woosh! the float went under: HIT! The reel started singing as the line started to peel off. Fish on! After about 50 yards of mad rush, the fish turned left – towards the island. I could see branches from sunken trees sticking out and the lily pod was not too far away. Too many snags to handle with a 8lb line. As the fish was still moving rapidly, I dropped the rod towards the right, which had the desired effect ‚Äì the fish turned. The next 15 odd minutes saw the fish being reeled in to about 5 meters of the shore and then he would again make a run for it. At such times it is critically important to keep the drag loose. This happened a couple of times till I guided the fish into the waiting landing net. It was a beautiful 12lb+ rohu, red and orange intermingled with the silver. It was not until a decade and a half later that I was onto catch and release so this one went straight into the keep net. A very good beginning to the day.