Miscellany — From the December 2016 issue

So Subtle a Catch

The illicit attraction of the lowly carp

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In April of last year, under the crisp light of an embryonic English spring, Darren Wakenell pulled his Citroën hatchback onto the gravel driveway of Timberland, a private fishery nestled improbably among stratospheric smokestacks on an industrial estate about an hour’s drive from London. Wakenell is a postman turned fishery-enforcement officer with the U.K.’s Environment Agency, and Timberland is one of some 300 fisheries that he and his partner, Stephen Robinson, patrol.

Along the ramshackle banks of Timberland’s Mystery Lake, one of five waters the fishery comprises, Wakenell parked his car within sight of a few wispy-haired men lounging on deck chairs. Each seat was surrounded by a jumble of angling equipment and grubby Tupperware, and was separated from the others by enough distance to spare the men, and their dogs, the necessity of interaction. Robinson, a former military-police officer in khaki pants and a knife-proof vest, led the approach. “If it all kicks off with one of these guys,” Wakenell warned me in a whisper, “just walk back to the car. We’ll handle it.” He fingered an extendable truncheon that hung from his belt and strode toward a middle-aged man who was patiently ignoring our presence.

Illustrations by Matthew Richardson

Illustrations by Matthew Richardson

After a few minutes, the man looked up from a margarine tub full of writhing maggots and offered a conciliatory smile. “Nice to see the Environment Agency showing a presence round these parts,” he said, drawing his rod license from his wallet without being asked. “They’ve had a lot of problems, haven’t they? People keep taking the carp.”

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is a British journalist and the author of Death by Video Game (Melville House).

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