It’s full of surprises (eel article and video, entry 306)



It’s full of surprises!

Most single species anglers like to think that their particular quarry is special. And in the right context, there’s nothing wrong with that. Whether the respect be aimed at barbel, carp, pike or whatever, if you’re dedicated to pursuing that one species, it is inevitable that it will hold a special place in your heart. But for me, speaking as an all-rounder, with a genuine love for all fish, there is one that must surely be admired even if only for its amazing life cycle. I’m talking about the eel. Beginning life in the Sargasso Sea (which is a region in the Atlantic Ocean close to Bermuda) they are then carried to our shores by the Gulf Stream.

Once they hit the British Isles they then make their way into our river estuaries and continue their journey. So for me, setting up on the towpath of the Staffs/Worcs Canal, I am fishing for eels that have travelled all the way from the Sargasso Sea, up the Bristol Channel, into the River Severn, over weirs, and at Stourport in Worcestershire entering the River Stour. Then another journey which eventually sees them settle down in the canal that runs close to the Stour for many miles. What a truly amazing fish the eel is! And to think how despised it is by so many anglers. If only they could see where the fish has come from to be where it is now, surely it would demand more respect than it does?


A slippery customer on session one

I arrived well into dusk and set up on a section of canal that I haven’t fished before. One of the attractions though was that I wasn’t far from the car. What’s the point of fishing a great spot but you don’t know whether your car will be there when you get back in the morning? I prefer to either be in close proximity to the car or else I park it somewhere safe and have a good walk. Fortunately, I’ve never had any issues with my vehicles over the years and I’m sure that’s because I have not taken any chances. Even on a quiet rural road, all it takes is for an opportunist thief to drive past and realise that there is an empty parked car there.

I was fishing by 9.00pm, baiting up with dead maggots and brown crumb and fishing a head section of a gudgeon on one rod and the tail on the other. I was fishing with a single hook, a size 4 Drennan Super Specialist. With showers predicted I was under my Fox Evolution shelter. It’s getting quite old and used now and sooner or later it will need replacing. But it’s been one of the best items of tackle I have ever bought. It’s important to be as comfortable and dry as you can but ultimately it’s what goes on beneath the water that really counts. And I was doing something right because at 10.30pm (I was here for the night) I struck into a fish on the gudgeon head that eventually saw me netting an eel. It was below 2lb but a nice enough fish to kick off the night with.


Who says perch don’t feed at night!

I thought that I was going to be in for a cracking night of non-stop action, but the next time I was into a fish was 3.00am (that’s why I look worn out in the photograph!) when I landed a big perch. It’s a well-know fact isn’t it, that perch don’t feed at night! Following on my from my recent mirror carp while roach fishing and eel whilst after perch, this was my third surprise, hence the title of the article this week! But I like surprises of this nature, that’s for sure! That’s the great thing about angling, you never really know what will turn up next. As I often write, I prefer to catch my chosen species, but when something else is thrown into the equation, I am not going to complain.

After such an enjoyable first session of the week I was back again a couple of days later. In the same spot and fishing the same tactics other than this time the bait was a very small roach, but cut in two with head on one rod and tail on the other. It was a dry night and so I dispensed with the shelter, going for bedchair and sleeping bag on the side of the towpath. I always feel ‘naked’ though when fishing like that. Even though it’s just a thin sheet of fabric, a shelter gives that sense of protection and covering. So I think in future, rain or not, it will be the shelter that travels with me as even under a standard umbrella it’s not the same. Unless I cannot get a shelter into a tight spot, then there’s no choice of course.

Bluebells in the hedgerow

I was expecting a good night for session two. But as is so often the case in angling, our expectations do not match with reality. I did have a screaming run on the right rod though before midnight. But alas, nothing on the strike. But knowing my wife was still awake at home it did give me the opportunity to call her and wish her a happy wedding anniversary! The chimes of the local village clock at midnight signalled a new day and our 22nd year of married life together. And happy years they have been too. I’m so privileged to have a wife who grasps exactly how important my angling is to me, and she has never once stood in the way of my fishing. I never really understand why some women are so prohibitive. After all isn’t it preferable that your husband prefers to spend a night out alone by the water’s edge than out with his mates clubbing? I’d have thought so anyway.

On both sessions this week I was away from the canal by 5.00pm and back home for a few hours sleep. The dawn chorus was stunning and you can hear some of it on the accompanying video clip. I really enjoy making these videos and the feedback has been very encouraging, as indeed it is for my Angling Journal as a whole. And as well as fishing I get to write about the whole nature package as well. Arriving late and leaving early didn’t give me much time to go mooching around this week for flowers but I spotted several bluebells in the hedgerow, almost smothered now by the common nettles that are shooting up everywhere. Anyway I will be back on the canal next week so who knows what surprises lie in store for me over the next seven days?


This week’s video (click icon above)


(Originally June 2009)

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