Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Native Subterranean Carp

You read that correctly.

While researching a brief trip to Istanbul, I learned that the underground Basilica Cistern, an archeological attraction built by the emperor Justinian I in the 6th century, was full of carp. I stuffed an old 5wt and some proven patterns from my brother into my bag and prepared to thwart the Turkish polis in an attempt to land a carp in one of the most unique settings imaginable.

Sadly, the hoards of tourists and antiquities employees thwarted me instead. There were many more people than I anticipated willing to descend underground to see the engineering marvel that is the cistern. There were probably very few who were looking at the carp as hungrily as I was.

Justinian commissioned the cistern to provide a reliable water supply for the growing city, and specifically the newly constructed Hagia Sofia. The ceiling is held up by something close to 340 massive columns, collected from throughout the eastern Roman empire and brought back to the city, then known as Constantinople. Two of the columns are supported by gigantic medusa heads, the origins of which are unknown.

The cistern was abandoned when the city changed hands over the years, and not rediscovered until the 1950's, when archaeologists learned of residents catching fish by lowering baskets through holes in their floors, into the water stores below.

Hundreds of native golden ghosts cruise the darkness, feeding on who knows what. Most were less than 10lbs, but we observed the Hog Johnson of the cistern, and estimated it as probably pushing 30lbs. They were all mirrors, and very pale due to generations spent in near perpetual darkness.

The ghosts of the cistern may be untouchable to fly anglers, but actually seeing carp within their native range was something I felt very fortunate to experience, indeed.


Hagia Sofia - good luck doing that justice with a camera.

An actual whirling dervish... 

 The Blue Mosque

Antique carpets 

 Plundered columns

Hagia Sofia at night 

Blue Mosque indoors. Again, good luck. 

Enigmatic Medusa-headed column.


Feather Chucker said...

That is a really cool post.

Unknown said...

I have to ask...what do you do that takes you to all these exotic locations? I am infinitely envious of all the crazy places you fish...or get thwarted from in this case.

Unknown said...

What an experience! That is fantastic. Too bad you weren't able to stay... I'm sure a man of your focus could've found a way to accidentally land one of the pale mirrors...

Gregg said...

Guys, they are native to the Black Sea, delete all I said. Stupid me.


PdeW said...

The Basilica Cistern certainly is a wonderful and somewhat eerie place. The architecture, the light, the silence and ofcourse all those carp cruising in what looks like a foot of water all add to the magic of it. I was impressed when I visited it a few years ago.

Unknown said...

Wonderful, simply wonderful Adam.

James O Durbin II said...

Friggin awesome duded, what a cool experience. Totally jealous.