Left to right: The Big Pool on the eel night… The first eel from the canal… Another view of the Big Pool… Another canal eel
As accurate as me when it comes to predicting
One of the problems that I have with my angling is not so much which species to target as which to leave out. I have a genuine love for all fish and I really want to give them all my best shot. Of course the reality of time means that is not possible, but one species that I have been putting off for too long this summer is the eel. And with a window of opportunity being opened via an ‘eel night’ at Dudmaston Hall on the Kinver Freeliners ticket, I simply had to grasp it with both hands. With a bright hot sunny day I left it till late before arriving, and even though it was late evening, I was sticky with perspiration by the time I completed the long walk to the peg.
With only a very limited number of nights allowed on the venue (3 this year), the Big Pool doesn’t have much eel form to go by. But in many ways that’s not only a challenge but it’s also quite exciting as well. I opted for a light rig approach, after all I was only fishing a length or so from the bank. A free running ¼ ounce lead, Nash Featherlite hangers with lead weights removed and a tiny gudgeon head and gudgeon tail bait on size 4 hooks meant everything was as sensitive as possible.
It was such a grand night I slept under the stars. Well under a pedunculate oak tree actually, as I was reminded when a dusk bird deposited its bowels over me. As for the fishing, apart from an obvious enquiry on one rod that didn’t develop, it was quiet. But then again, so it was for the other dozen or so anglers out on the pool as not one single eel put in an appearance as far as I was aware. Not that we ever delight in other’s misfortunes – far from it – but when everyone else has also blanked it helps you to see the big picture.
The session sparked me off though as far as eels were concerned and so a few days later I set off for the local Staffs/Worcs Canal. The spot is one where I have caught them before, so instantly that is a morale booster before even casting out. And as we know, confidence is such a big thing in fishing. But my previous visits have yielded less than one eel per session on average and that continued to be the statistic as I failed to connect with a slimy monster of any description. With it being such a mild night, and with the nights themselves being so short anyway, I decided to stay out till first light.
You do come across some unusual things while fishing and so when a couple of cars pulled up close to mine at 2.30am (I was parked alongside the road in a very rural spot), as I was fairly near to where they were, I pricked my ears to see what the score was. Two men got out and for the next twenty minutes had the most bland and mundane conversation you could ever imagine. Then they just got back in their cars and drove off. The middle of the night, the middle of nowhere and they seemingly met to have the most boring of exchanges. I thought there was at least going to be a drugs deal or something of a similar clandestine nature. It does show that you never know who is listening in to what you are saying though doesn’t it?
On my third session the only excitement was the sort I wanted: from eels. I landed two smaller fish and lost a bigger one with a hook pull. The one that got away, eh? It’s always the biggest isn’t it? Well sometimes it is; that’s why it got away. Both the eels caught were on a bunch of worms but the lost fish was tempted by a gudgeon tail. My wormery at home took a bit of a bashing from the harsh weather last winter, but like nature in general it has repaired itself and is on the mend. It was brilliant to net the fish though, and both gave confident bites. Hanger smashing against the rod, line peeling away like there’s no tomorrow – and they put up a good account of themselves once hooked.
I fished until 1.00am and then packed away, encountering a badger as I drove home, but a day later I was back on the canal and in the same spot. This was my final session of the article and I was raring to go. But would the eels feel the same? The simple answer was no, they wouldn’t. And they didn’t. I had a few plucks from what I suspected were roach though as there were silver fish topping in the swim through the session. The weather forecast was for storms and torrential rain, and it’s a good job I didn’t listen as neither came. It did rain but hardly anything to get excited about. A few spots of rain are hardly going to faze me at the best of times and least of all when it comes to fishing. As for the weather forecasters, as I say in the video, they are about as accurate as me when it comes to predicting.
Video number 33 on list
(Originally published July 2010)