Editor’s Note: ‘Along the Trail’ is a weekly column written by David Hewitt of Switzerland County; and covers all things dealing with the outdoors, from hunting and fishing to woodsmanship.
The rain swollen river had backed up the bottoms.
The creek was licking out of its banks and starting to make its way into the low lying fields. “Carp will follow the rising water,” went through my head as I drove on to work.
Behind my desk, I made return phone calls and gleaned through emails, the typical daily grind, but my mind was on the muddy river and the slow rise and bowfishing. The day dragged by, but quitting time at last.
Crossing the bridge on the county road, I could see that the water had indeed risen slowly into the edge of the field. The weeds had filter out much of the sediment and the backwater was almost crystal clear. Perfect for spawning, spring carp, but I wasn’t sure how the fish would react to the high water in the summer.
I raced home, threw on some old clothes and a pair of knock around sneakers and grabbed a bow that I had rigged up especially for this moment.
The old recurve wasn’t just any bow. It was a 1956 Bear Kodiak recurve. The exact same kind of bow that Fred Bear and several of his cohorts had used on their famed ‘Little Delta hunts’ in Alaska for moose, caribou and sheep. The old bow I held in my hand had been dubbed “The Pass Around Bow” and was the brain child of one of my pals and fellow Compton Traditional Bowhunters board member.
The idea was to pass the historical bow around to traditional bowhunters from all around the country to use at various times. The bow landed in my lap at the recent rendezvous I attended and since it wasn’t deer or turkey season, the next best hunting or shooting option for me was to rig the old stick for bow fishing. I could only hope that high water would come our way and it sure did.
I hoped the bridge railing and slid my way down the steep embankment towards the field. The recent rains and standing water gave way to a boom in the mosquito hatch. I swatted swarms of the blood suckers from my neck and arms and finally stepped into the cool backwaters. Deeper than I expected, the water took my breath as I waded into my waist.
The wait was on.
Unlike the spring spawn, the few carp I saw were swimming in the deeper water, just at the edge of the creek’s bank. No tailing or rolling, these fish were cruising in and out of the backwater weeds, occasionally feeding on something along the bottom. Adding the challenge of clear water and this bowfishing stint would be a hunt for certain. I stood statue still waiting for one of the orange and gray shadows to come into range of the Kodiak.
A solid 10-pound fish slowly swam by.
At 10 yards, the old bow’s string came back and I launched the heavy fiberglass arrow towards my target.
The water exploded as the carp dashed for deeper water. The line at the end of the arrow was slack and I wound it back onto the hoop reel that I had taped to the bow. A quarter-sized scale hung onto to point of the arrow.
A narrow miss and a lucky carp!
I waited for another hour, the fish teasing me just outside of the reach of the old recurve and the 15 yards of braided string on her reel. I caught myself looking at the bow and it’s worn leather grip and the tired looking strike plate. “I wonder how many arrows have been shot across its rest” I silently ask myself.
If this bow could talk, the hunts it could share over its 60 years.
A slight ripple just to my right catches my attention. A large V shaped tail is near the surface as the fish feeds along the bottom. I squint through my polarized glasses and slowly, the fishes form is revealed. Close enough for a shot, I focus under the carp to account for the water’s refraction.
The arrow finds it’s mark and the fight is on!
A few seconds later and a five-pound minnow is dragged to the bank. The bony fishes orange and gray scales shine in the evening’s sunlight and contrast against the bright green weeds of the flooded field.
I place the fish in a five-gallon bucket, its tail flopping over the edge and stumble my way back up the embankment towards the truck. The carp will be on its way to becoming bait for a future catfishing excursion and the old Bear Kodiak will be on its way to the next waiting hunter to hopefully enjoy as much as the brief time I had with her.
- David Hewitt