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Second Nature

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When I was seventeen in 1959, the lake was as wild a place as I knew. My friend Jeremy Hooker and I would arrive there at around four a.m. in early summer, ditch our bikes in the tangle of rhododendrons, and pick out the narrow path by torchlight as we tiptoed, in existentialist duffel coats, through the brush. Still a long way from the water, we moved like burglars, since we attributed to the carp extraordinary sagacity and guile, along with an extreme aversion to human trespassers on its habitat. Crouched on our knees, speaking in whispers, we assembled our split-cane rods. In the windless dark, the lake’s dim ebony sheen was at once sinister and promising. Somewhere out there, deep down, lay Leviathan, or at least his shy but powerful cyprinid cousin.

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