2010-06-26 00:00

ANGLERS are a mystical lot. They can’t help it, the only way they have of guesssing what goes on beneath the mysterious surface of the water is by reading signals coming up a single strand of nylon one-fifth of a millimetre thick. If you’re really good at imagination you can imagine mermaids down there, but usually it’s a nice big one of your chosen fish species, energetic and tasty. That’s why I never really took to dam fishing; unless you have all the elitist tackle for bass, the only species you can apply your imagination to are carp and barbel, both of which have the character of old hot-water bottles gone cold, a great floppy belly hung below a row of vertebrae, full of poor drowned things and bits of detritus from shagged-out trees along the bank. And about as tasty as styrofoam. In the matter of muscle, now, marine species are living torpedoes, they inhabit Great Nature’s gym, never mind getting dash’d in pieces on the rocks if they try to catch 40 winks, as soon as they shut their eyes somebody just a bit bigger than themselves will burst from ’mongst the bubbles and swallow them whole. That’s why they have no eyelids. It has always surprised me that carp have no eyelids either. They seem to be asleep all the time.

But how can I free myself from this ugly prejudice? How can I thus scorn these fish if I have never eaten one, let alone capture it? The angling magazines say the carp are going crazy in the Dageraad Dam other side of Wakkerstroom near the KZN/Mpumalanga border, just follow the signs along the R534, and that’s what I do. I find myself in Moegoesdorp where a sign at the tea room says every kind of carp bait is made there, fresh daily: kerriepap, vlapap, and a house special made with minced-up earthworms, brandewyn some cents extra, and as I contemplate these enticements an ou with the physique of a hot-air balloon heaves into view, his navel like a blue whale’s blowhole peeping out between his shirt buttons. His name, says he, is Poetoe. Hell nou, ou maat! seg ou Poetoe , hauling a plastic bag of flying ants from his pocket for mincing up in today’s pap. You come with me to the Beeskak Dam now, we got a camp there with tents and I’ll show you carp, man! Seg ou Poetoe.

So that’s where we go, and that’s where the ouens are already into the Klippies-en-damwater at 11am. because it’s bliksems cold, I tell you, so I have one myself as I rig up my tackle as demonstrated. Ou Poetoe says that the tea room makes its uphuthu with water from this dam, it must match the water the carp live in, see? They mince up the flying ants with the mealie meal and custard powder before cooking. Or Marmite. Now you put a nice ball of it on a skelm hook like that needle the doctors use for sewing people up, and you chuck it far out where the water is nice and deep. All these things I do. My cast is a bit short, seg ou Poetoe, because of my sea tackle, but I can still be lucky. I notice all the ouens here have rods perched horizontal on two Y-shaped sticks, with a little lump of pap stuck on the line a metre­ or so from the rod. It is called a p oliesieman. When it jumps up and down you know a carp is tasting your bait down below. Some have a thing with a torch battery with wires clipped to the line, and when a carp tastes your bait a little light comes on or a buzzer buzzes, so you can concentrate on the Klippies.

Poetoe makes a moerse cast and the pap falls off his hook. Twice. He needs to get to the deep water. Maria! he yells. There’s a stirring in the tent behind us. It seems fully furnished, this tent. There’s a big bed with posts pressing against the canvas, and a wardrobe. The entrance flap opens and out steps another hot-air balloon, female. Warm, from the bed. Poetoe puts a baited hook in her hand and points at the dam. She bravely steps forth, up to her middle. She stops. Poetoe shakes his head, she steps further forth and stops again. He waves her on, she’s up to her armpits, holding the baited hook above her head. Further waving. She’s up to her chin now and he gives a thumbs-up. She drops the bait and heads for home, blue, convulsed with cold, hypothermic, her cotton threads stuck to her body, her great fried egg nipples showing mauve and erect through her dripping nightie. Poetoe can scarce place his rod on the two Y-sticks he’s so jags, man. He follows her back to the tent and steeks her stupid. The furniture shudders, the tent sways about to the great hippo-humping and cries of glee.

He emerges after five minutes or so. Any barts­? says he.

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