City Carp

Eleven floors above K Street in a nondescript office building in downtown Washington DC, the minute hand crawls slowly vertical. That sacred hour arrives, lunchtime. A time to stretch the legs, wolf down a sandwich, and catch some fish. Yes, time to catch some fish. The countdown begins. Three minutes elapse when I reach my bike. No time to change clothes, the slacks and loafers must remain. One mile and a few close calls later, I evade traffic and reach Georgetown. The historic C&O Canal holds my quarry: the common carp. Forty minutes until I must be back in the office. The reel and rod are rigged, the fly tied to my line, the fish right in front of me. The first cast is good and the fish inhales the fly. I almost feel bad about deceiving such a willing creature, using my lunchtime to interrupt it’s own lunchtime. I almost feel bad, but the feeling passes as quickly as it arrives. There are more pressing matters to attend to, like the fish on the end of my line and the receding lunch hour. The fish eventually tires, but not before a new problem arises. The water level in the canal is low and from the ledge I am standing on, my net cannot reach the fish. My line is too weak to lift the 12lb carp clear out of the water and my options are running out. At a stalemate, I desperately look around trying to conceive a plan that doesn’t involve me and my dress pants waist deep in urban runoff. As I mentally debate cutting my line, losing fish along with fly, the solution jogs right up to me. My request catches her off guard, but the jogger graciously accepts and I hand over my fishing rod. Strangers no more than 30 seconds ago, we are now fishing partners. She is at the helm and I am laying face down on the dirt path, my torso hovering above the water with net in hand. “Keep the rod tip up and slowly walk backwards,” I instruct while trying to avoid sliding headfirst into the murky brown water. She executes flawlessly and the fish is in the net, high fives ensue. A quick photo together and the fish is thrown back. There is no need to explain to her why she found me spending my lunch break fishing for slimy fish in slimier water. The smile on her face is rivaled only by the smile on my own. She understands; we both do. Twelve minutes before 2:00pm and I must say goodbye. I arrive back at the office with just enough time to brush the dirt off my pants, and wash the fish off my hands. Back at my desk, I reflect on the events transpired. The hour is gone, but the memory remains.