fish tales from the towpath

By Susan B. Price, originally published in "The Canal Times" in 2007

Changing Perspective at Lock 32

My plan to become a fishing diva is stalled. No boat, no skills, no fishing buddies on this summer morning. But I’m restless. Need someplace new, someplace close.

I grab my carton of worms, throw my fishing kit into the trunk, and head for the Erie Canal.

Lock 32 in Pittsford: runners and Rollerbladers fly by. A misfit, I sit on the grass to assemble my rod and reel – familiar with the straight-ahead world of towpath workouts, mystified by where to start fishing. Between me and the water is a five-foot drop, dense with shrubbery. At water’s edge, a fat carp surfaces. Adventure calls. I could slip off the towpath through a break in the greenery and find footing on the narrow edge. But what if I can’t get back up? What if I make an fool of myself in front of all these power-walkers and suburban cyclists? 

The carp swims out, drawing my eyes across the water to the heelpath. From the giant green doors of the lock a long jetty extends downstream. Behind it is a pool, made by the spillway. Fishermen! Two young men sit close to the lock, legs dangling over the water. A third is working his way around the pool. 

I hike back up to Clover and cross the bridge. To the west, signs point to a whitewater course. What’s this? I discover a twenty-foot waterfall and a kayak course rising like a dragon from the flume. Has this always been here? Have I never left the towpath long enough to notice? 

To the east, a flight of concrete stairs leads down to the fishing spot. Across the canal the joggers and dog-walkers continue their parade, eyes focused ahead, each wondering if they’ve gone the distance yet.

On my side, the focus is not horizontal but vertical. Instead of having someplace to go, I throw in a line and sit waiting to be got, waiting for the carp to yank my line. 

A fish leaps from the water at the edge of my vision. Wait a minute – do carp jump? This fishing diva better study up. Nothing is what it seems to be.


Drop me a line!