Caught by the River

Vodka & Carp Wedding Recipe

23rd July 2008

by Katie Thompson

The vodka drinking was into its second day and the English were getting grumpy. They’d been trying to keep up with the Poles to no avail. Now they were looking peaky and acting odd, and they still had another day of beer-drinking to go (the wedding party originally started in the second of the journey’s four airports, continuing through the two coach hops and the overnight hotel. Before we even arrived to see our pal wed his Polish miss, the group had toasted his’n’hers futures repeatedly with foaming lager and cocktails in tinnies).

By the time we’d reached the woodland hotel for the two-day ceremonial binge, many guests had already enjoyed the units allotted to them for weeks to come. They tried to sober up by walking the grounds, and that’s when we found the lake.

Apparently, this part of Northern Poland is famed for its large, natural lakes, surrounded by (and containing) rich wildlife. We walked downhill from the hotel and its log cabins through pine forest and groundscrub of wild blueberries to reach the sandy shores of this lake.

At teatime during the raucous wedding reception, I’d skipped out of the frenzy to catch some peace and quiet. I realise, now I’m teetotal, that I have to have some quiet-time in order to see the party through. So I caught dusk alone, with flies alighting on the calm waters, causing the fish inside to plip-plop.

The next day, it was as if the Polish had got an early night. They were up and at the beer-tap in the outdoor wedding reception barn by 9.15am. It took the Brits another hour to surface groggily. And another hour before they were able to face more booze. But they did.

Last night’s stories were rife. The bloke who’d been using this trip to celebrate 28 years with his wife had downed so much vodka that he’d ditched her in favour of feeling-up the prettier guests. When that turned bad, he’s stumbled into the woods to stake out ladies who were getting fresh air, moaning his randiness by moonlight like a horny boar.

By sundown on Day Two, the Brits were back in the swing but we straights – including the randy boar’s newly-estranged wife – weren’t enjoying the booze-soaked atmosphere. Bumping into the hotel landlady (who spoke excellent English) I enquired about the cheap telescopic rod in her hand. Although it was her daughter’s, she offered it immediately, even returning to the kitchen to find bread in a bag for bait. The hook looked massive but I wasn’t interested in catching anything. Just fishing would be enough to break up the group self-harming.

A gang of us prepared to troop off to the lakeside. Don, a master angler at home, had found some organic table decorations and stripped the red corn kernels off into a plastic cup as groundbait. As soon as we got to the lakeside, he started strafing the water with the grains. The outlook wasn’t great. Feeding seemed to have come to a standstill as there was no surface action and the flies had disappeared for the night.

The hook was too big for the bread-paste bait but still Don persisted. After a few casts 10m from the shore, the float bobbed sharpish and he struck. No luck. But we’d had a bite! Me and Don were charged, while the others naffed off to make a fire in the darkness, leaving our bit of the shore more silent than before.

He cast again, got bit again and struck. Still no action, although the corn groundbait seemed to have attracted some tiddlers. By now, the dark had descended totally and there was talk of returning to the party-barn. Last cast.

That did it. Don’s reflexes had sharpened enough to snag a little carp. As he pulled it from the lake, he identified it as a Crucian. The group was delighted. Don and me were satisfied and justified. We snapped it for posterity, and put it back. And the Polish wedding took on some extra magic because of the catch.