I turned around and saw a policeman standing on the bank. His car idled behind him.
“Are you in any kind of distress?” he asked. I stood there ankle-deep in the water, about 100 feet away and considered his question, puzzled.
“No sir, I’m fine!” I half said, half shouted across the slow moving water. I was wearing waders and a fishing vest, holding a fly rod. I was painfully aware I wasn’t paying attention to my soft hackle as it slowly drifted downstream.
“We got a call from somebody in this apartment building that somebody was in the water in distress,” said the policeman.
“Well, I’m definitely not in distress. I’m just fishing.”
He paused, staring at me. I suppose I was a strange sight, standing in the water, whipping my long fly rod around, talking to the fish like a crazy person.
The couple small greenies I’d caught earlier were probably too small to be seen from shore, so when I said “Oh hey there, I didn’t expect to find you here!” I could imagine how that could appear like I was talking to myself. The giggles probably didn’t improve things. I was just surprised and happy to catch them- I was fishing for carp!
I guess that’s fairly crazy too; it was 27° outside and snowing.
“So you’re not in any kind of distress, at all?” said the policeman, as if he didn’t believe me. My fly was now directly downstream of me. Ice was forming in all my guides.
“No sir, not at all.”
“You know.. that pipe? That’s from the waste water treatment plant,” he said. I could see him grimace.
“Yes sir- there are a lot of big fish right here!” I said enthusiastically. I gestured to the pipe and the comparatively warm water coming out of it. Just a few minutes earlier I’d seen at least four large carp near the surface.
“Well,” he said. “‘Far as I know it’s not illegal to fish there… You have a car?”
“Yes sir; I parked across the street at the public baseball field and walked over here. I noticed the ‘no trespassing’ and ‘no parking for non-residents’ signs at the apartment complex.”
“Ok,” he grabbed his police walkie-talkie thing and said something I couldn’t hear.
“Can I get your name?” He got out a notepad.
I told him. He even wanted my middle initial. Then he wanted my address and phone number, which I gave him. I hoped my shout-talking didn’t spook any of the fish.
I was, as far as I knew, not doing anything illegal. Obviously the people who called the cops didn’t know there were giant fish swimming around that pipe just waiting to be caught.
“Do you have some kind of permit or anything?” he asked.
“Yes sir, I’ve got a fishing license. Do you want to see it?”
A pause. “Naw, it’s ok.”
“Ok..” I said. We both stood there for a moment. “Thanks!” I said, not sure why I thanked him. Not arresting me for fly fishing for carp in December, I suppose. Good thing he was the Wood Dale police and not the Fly Fishing Purists police. At least I wasn’t using a snap swivel on my tippet like I do sometimes, I’m pretty sure even local police can arrest for that.
He got back in his car. I thought about how warm it probably was. My hands were completely numb, I wasn’t sure my toes were still there. Ice covered my rod, the guides, my fly line. Maybe I was crazy.
About ten minutes later I hooked into a carp. I looked back to see if anybody was watching. I wanted whoever called the cops to see I why I was out there.
This fish rocketed upstream, taking line off my reel like it was nothing. The reel spun around like crazy. It smacked my hand and would have hurt quite a bit if my fingers weren’t so frozen. After a fairly epic battle, I finally got a good look at the beast.
It was a nice carp; not the biggest I’d caught, but I think a respectable fish for the end of December. Just like the others I’d caught in this spot, he slurped up my unweighted #12 soft hackle fly, dead-drifted through the little eddy downstream of the warm water discharge. This fish fell to a white and red soft hackle instead of my usual orange/black/white variation.
The fly seemed incredibly tiny lodged in the mouth of such a large fish.
When I went to “land” the fish with my grippers, my 4 pound test line snapped and the fish was suddenly free. I quickly reached down and scooped up the surprisingly heavy fish.
I looked around again, hoping somebody was watching. I’m not crazy, really. This was why I was out there.