I will start this tale at the beginning so as to get everything straight so that we all may share in the blame equally and especially so that the main culprits can be properly chastised for their behavior. I cannot name them by their real names as I may wish one day to rejoin them if I am forgiven, but I am not holding my breath on that one. One fine day we ran into a bunch of carp fishermen in a competition who were trying to out chum each other, out cast each other and catch the biggest carp in the river or at least prevent the others from catching anything big at all, this looked like a lot of fun. At this particularly public competition a chap approached me and asked with a funny accent if we happened to be fishing for carp. Indeed, he had read about the event in the newspapers and read more about it on the world wide web. He prattled on about being from the UK and having just moved to the states for a new job he also wanted to go carp fishing. He may have felt a little ignored as I was in the middle of a big blank while my neighbors were hauling them in left and right but I guess he figured I was the least busy so the best to play 20 questions with. It soon turned out that Simon was an exceptionally fine character and truly had carp fever. He returned the next day, liscense in hand and a cheap Sports-Mart rod that he said would have to do until he had all his carp fishing gear shipped over from the UK and that was going to cost him a pretty penny. Carp gear shipped in? This guy must really be into carp fishing I thought, as you can pack all my carp gear up in a paper box and mail it off for next to nothing. Its always a treat to find such a fine gentleman to share his fishing tackle with you if you are willing to put him onto some fish. We were more than willing.
I introduced Simon to the Principal. The principal and friends had a beautiful lake filled they said with so many 30 pound carp that they didnít waste film on anything under 40 pounds. I will not divulge the location of this lake as I would not want to send them any new meat to abuse. Indeed this story is more to clear my own conscious and warn others of following the same footprints. The principal and crew were a typical good bunch of carp fishers. They chummed as far as they could throw out with a scoop, they loved to night fish and were no harassed by the local police, many of whom also joined them at the bank with rod and reel. If some idiot kept running his boat over our lines the principal would mention it casually to one of the lakes cops and the boater would get a ticket and a firm reprimand to respect fishermen on the lake. It was a great setup and both Simon and I were invited to join in.
Our first night on the lake was as fine as any I can remember. It was just cool enough that you needed a jacket and you could see carp jumping all over the lake. We were given choice pegs as visitors and our hosts filled us in on how to get a 30 from their lake, we obviously didnít look like we were capable of handling the lakes 40 pounders! Simon had his gear shipped over and we enviously eyed his rods, reels, bite alarms, rod pods, an automatic boilie needle and boilie warmers. Simon had everything, two of some things, and things we couldnít imagine would be useful to catch a carp. He showed us all his bits and pieces as he called them and gave each of us something from his kit just for inviting him here to fish. As I say, Simon was truly a carping gentleman. We soon found out that Simon would be the first to jump up in the middle of the night to net a fish for anyone, which was bad because that meant we would have to return the favor.
As the night wore on and the bullfrogs croaked through the night Simon made his ultimate mistake which would lead to his undoing and my invited departure. He being from the UK didnít know the last thing you do in the USA is to tell your fishing partners and friends any of your fears or weaknesses. If you are afraid of UFOs donít ever mention it or they will wrap a Frisbee in aluminum foil, wake you up in the middle of the night and throw it at you to see how far they can make you run. This kind of fun in the middle of the night is not exactly due to meanness but is a normal part of night fishing in the USA. We are all used to it and if we were afraid of Bigfoot we wouldnít ever mention it even if a Bigfoot was standing on our tent as we knew one day we would be night fishing with this bunch again and one of them would find a Bigfoot foot and chase you through the woods with it. Simon didnít know any of this, he thought he had found a right good set of blokes to share the bank with at night. I didnít realize what Simon was about to blurt out until it was too late and then I knew he was a goner, there is no way to take it back, there is no way to pretend you were just kidding, you could try to say that with a hearty laugh but you just knew you were going to be tested one day. Simon casually let it slip that he couldnít stand snakes. Couldnít stand to see them, couldnít stand to be near to them, couldnít even stand to think about how much he hated snakes. They gave him the willies and in a momentary lapse of reason and male bonding he spilled this all out into the open.
I couldnít help but to tell Simon that he was standing in the worst area be afraid of snakes. The hillsides above us literally rattled with rattlesnakes, you couldnít take a leak in the woods without getting one wet. And the water snakes, when you hate snakes a harmless non-venomous water snake might as well be a king cobra, were thick enough at night that people with a clue didnít wade into the lake without a big stick to shoo the snakes away. It was clear from the looks on the principals eyes that Simon was going to be tested, to see if he really could fit in with this crowd, to see if a real Brit could hand out on the banks of an American lake in the middle of the night fishing like real Americans. With a smile on his face the principal told Simon that snakes were rare in this area, that they were so small that they were sometimes mistaken for worms and that the snakes in this area hibernated in the summer to keep away from the heat even though they had a great big lake to cool off in. Simon took this news with a big sign of relief, he said he didnít know if he could stand fishing around a bunch of snakes. Little did he know what a knot of snakes he has just landed it.
The principal and crew all had the latest tackle available in the states but couldnít hold a penny to the gadgets and doohickeys that Simon had. One thing they all shared was a fishing chair that doubled as a cot and with a sleeping bag kept you cozy and warm. I preferred to typical American style of setting on my 5 gallon chum bucket all night, this I have learned keeps me awake all night and allows me to hit nibbles while my fishing partners sleep through the better part of the night. The chum does give off some residual heat so it is almost like having a seat warmer so its not too bad. As is typical, the call of nature soon began its song and the local bushes were watered all night long. On one call, Simon got up to visit his bush, the principal jumped up, rummaged in his tackle box and whipped out a toy snake, I think he never leaves home without one. The snake was put in Simons sleeping bag at the bottom. Simon returned from his duties and told us once again what a great bunch of guys we were for inviting him to the great lake full of carp. We all smiled. Simon didnít have a clue that we were all awake on purpose and not just to be sure he returned safely from his trip. As Simon took off his shoes the principal asked him if he had seen any snakes, he was just curious and didnít want to get Simon excited he said. Simon told us that if he had seen a snake he probably would have pooped himself silly instead of just watering a bush. Simon got snuggled into his sleeping bag, that is until his feet touched the snake. Having a snake in his sleeping bag was the furthest thing from Simons mind, and since he was afraid of them you can be he had never actually held one to see what they really felt like. Simon reached into the bottom of his bag to pull this annoyance out. The rubber snake popped out and wiggled in the light of a lantern, Simon wiggled in the light of the lantern. Simon shot out of the sleeping bag and was digging furrows into the ground trying to get traction even before the snake landed on the ground. Roaring around the lake like a bat out of hell, Simon did several laps before he ran out of wind and returned to camp, with a big stick, a really big stick. We told Simon that we had killed the snake and threw it into the lake where a big carp had come up out of the depths and ate it. Simon thanked us for killing the snake and thanked the carp for eating it. Simon carried the big stick with him all night but abandoned it at daybreak. First thing I did was to hide his stick in case he figured out what we had done, it took two of us to lift it into the woods.
The next weekend found us all at the lake again, this time we were considered just a part of the mob so we had to take whatever swim we could. As it turned out Simon got the end swim, not a good swim to have if you have a thing about snakes. Simon showed up with a genuine snake catchers stick, he said if he saw any snakes this weekend he was going to catch them and kill them as he didnít want to go roaring and running all about the lake in the middle of the night. We commented on what a fine and long snake catching stick it was as we set up for the night. Simon thanked us for not poking fun at him running away from a little snake in the middle of the night, we told him it was ok and not to worry about it, he was a Brit and a city boy and couldnít be expected to know anything about snakes. It was the Old Mans turn tonight. He had an new snake that had a bright orange belly and while Simon was tending to his biological needs the Old Man tossed the snake into Simons landing net and hid it among the folds of the net. We all waited patiently for a run, by a fish and by Simon. Soon the siren of a Delkim bite alarm rang and a fine carp was brought near the bank. Simon jumped up and grabbed his net, always the first to be of help, and he thrust his net into the water awaiting the fish. The Old Man shined his light into the net and onto the snake. Simon saw the snake, let the handle of the net fly and before the handle of the net hit the ground Simon had picked up his snake catching stick. Then he threw the snake catching stick at the snake and took off ripping and roaring around the lake. This time he went around the lake two more times than on the first snake sighting. Once again we told Simon that we had killed the snake for him, stomped on the remains and threw them out into the lake. Simon thanked us again and said he was almost ashamed of his behavior. We told him not to worry, none of us was perfect and if any of us was a city boy we would probably act the same way. We didnít want to loose Simon, if the fishing became slow we could always chase him around the lake for fun.
The next weekend rolled around and we all gathered at the lake wondering if Simon would join us again in this snake-infested lake. It was pointed out that it was my turn, my test to see if I was worthy of fishing with this bunch would be to see if I could get Simon to run around the two more times than he did the last weekend. It will surprise the reader that I told the principal that I hadnít thought of doing any such thing to poor Simon, a guest to our country and one of the finest examples of gentleman fishers you would ever meet. Actually, those that know me would have been surprised that I had said that. The true facts are that I was waiting for my turn with barely concealed anticipation. All week at work while I was supposed to be working I made my plans. What I had planned would crown me as champion snaker of the lake and reserve a spot of respect for me beside the lake for all time, or at least through the end of the season. My plan was foolproof and I was just to fool to prove it.
Simon showed up with slightly less enthusiasm than before. He explained that he was embarrassed by his fear of snakes and that this weekend he had brought a big bowie knife with him to cut the basturds in half with. Simon also had purchased a pair of big snake proof boots, I was concerned that they would tire him out running around the lake but he refused to take them off and slept with them on. I told Simon to take the swim next to mine and that I would watch out for snakes for him all night, after all if you set on a bucket all night you have to watch for things crawling around your feet all night. Simon drifted off into a fitful sleep, all the more fitful knowing he was in the company of snakes but peaceful that he had friends around to keep him safe. After Simon was soundly asleep I made my rig up. I tied my four-foot long floating snake with a red head to a piece of 30 pound green braid. Then I made a loop and attached it to Simons snake proof boot. My rig all set and everyone asleep, I jiggled Simons Delkim bite alarm, just enough for one tone, one little beep. Simon, the principal and everyone woke up. Simon looked up to see if he was still getting a bit and I told him it looked like a stick had drifted into his line. Simon got up to clear his line, I shined my light out in the water to help him find the stick. He saw the snake and laughed, it wasnít going to get him, he would stomp its head in and chop it up for his breakfast. All the same Simon backed away from the waters edge, the snake followed coming closer. Simon grabbed his bowie knife and threw it at the snake but it did not good as the snake kept advancing. I backed away from the snake at the same time as Simon. Simon backed away faster and the snake came at him even faster. Simon turned to run away from the snake but it followed him. Not looking back at the snake anymore Simon simply set a beeline straight up the state highway and we could hear him roaring all the way to the top of the next mountain pass.
I had certainly made my mark on the trip and was awaiting my congratulations and acceptance into the fold, but it was not to be. I have always had trouble seeing where the line was, and this time I not only stepped across it but I had jumped across it with both feet and a pole-vault. I was asked to leave after picking up all the gear that Simon had spread over the lake in his flee from the snake. Simon I heard never came back and his carp fishing gear was shipped back to his parents in the UK for him. I have not heard anything from Simon since then. I think the heavy snake proof boots must have slowed him down a few miles up the road and he must have figured might as well let the snake bite him as chase him all over the country and up and down the road. I can imagine the look on his face as the snake slowed down as he slowed down, the look of puzzlement on his cheery face as he wondered if the snake had finally given up on biting him, the look of befuddlement on his face when he tripped over the braid attaching the snake to him. I can imagine the look on his face as he calmly buys a gun and a big box of bullets so I must say it will probably bee a long time before I venture to the lake again.