One out of three ain’t bad
Even though they have yielded just one barbel between them, I have thoroughly enjoyed my two articles’ worth of sessions on the River Sow since the season started. But with the prolonged dry spell continuing and the river in need of some serious topping up, I decided to switch not only species but venue. At the best of times the Sow is not much more than a decent stream in places, and in the current conditions it’s definitely struggling. The positive side of the coin though is that it does respond well to rain and whilst some rivers hardly seem to change with a downpour or two, the Sow is one that can suddenly come to life with a little watery encouragement from above.
I’m actually enjoying the current dry and warm spell, so instead of doing a rain dance and trying to change the weather, I opted to head for the local canal and get the eel gear out. I had already done four sessions on the Staffs/Worcs Canal this year after the species, resulting in one fish and several runs. Only one trip out the four remained totally lifeless, so as we are now a month on, it was with a positive frame of mind that I again set up in the same spot. I didn’t bother arriving until well into dusk, by which time all boats had been moored for the night and walkers, joggers and cyclists had also departed elsewhere. I had the canal to myself and that’s how I like it.
One eel out of three sessions ain’t bad!
Although we think of canals as stillwaters, they do have a definite flow – and not just when the locks are opened either. On this session, as with many others, it was more akin to fishing a slow moving river rather than a canal. Although I must say a very slow moving river indeed, as I wouldn’t want to give the impression that I should be trotting. After all I held bottom with a tiny 1/8th of an ounce lead so that says it all really in terms of bringing everything into perspective. The first thing that I did on arrival was to bait two areas with dead maggots using brown crumb as the carrier. The swim is a popular pleasure angler’s peg and although there was no-one there when I arrived, no doubt someone had been there earlier as I find most pack away well before dark. Plenty of bait going in equals lots of eels in the area once the sun sets.
At around 10.00pm, when I had cast both rods out, the water temperature was 18.3C and the air temperature almost 20C. I was comfortable in a short-sleeved shirt and I was still in that at 4.00am when I finished, although it was a little cooler then. That was the reason why I had chosen to go for eels – warm summer nights were definitely made for the species. I had just the one fish – but as far as eels are concerned, one is always a result in my book. It was a nice enough eel, hooked cleanly in the lip and so avoiding what I always dislike – a deep hooked fish. The bait was a tail section of a very small roach while the other rod, which was a tail section of a small gudgeon, failed to produce.
Not much space to fish from!
Making the most of my time and the conditions, I was back on the Staffs/Worcs Canal the very next night. With my rods set up and ready to cast, and eel fishing not requiring any elaborate preparations whilst on the bank, I didn’t arrive until almost 10.00pm. I was fishing within minutes – now that’s a change from my usual style so it certainly is refreshing. It was a new section – as far as eel fishing is concerned anyway – although I have been there before for other species. As I wanted to fish a particular feature (a cut-out for mooring boats) I was very limited in where I could settle. And with just a few inches of grass between the towpath and the canal I had to set my rods parallel to the water! And the other side of the towpath didn’t give that much space either and I found my bedchair being pushed well into the hedge. My Fox Evolution shelter was out of the question and so bog-standard umbrella it was.
I again fished small fish sections but this time round the canal refused to yield any of its inhabitants. I did have a few bleeps on the alarms but they weren’t from eels. Fish swimming into the line will cause the alarm to sound and of course small fish will often pick up the bait and drop it. But the quarry that I was after appeared to be absent from the scene. Blanking is part of big fish angling anyway but some species are more prone to handing out punishment than others, and as far as I’m concerned the eel must be somewhere near the top of the pile. The saying ‘You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink’ appears to me to be very suitable indeed when describing eel fishing!
The canal at dawn
As the end of the week drew near and I had a final session to squeeze in, predicted rain had me considering a barbel trip to the River Sow. In fact I even changed my tackle bag and had everything ready to load in the car. But there’s rain and there’s rain and it didn’t stop from mid-afternoon right through till late evening, plus it was torrential at times. So by the time I realised that flash floods would make a river session a difficult proposition, I had gone back to my original plan of an overnighter for eels on the canal. And that’s exactly where I found myself on a wet but very humid evening.
The conditions were perfect and I fully expected to catch at least one eel, particularly as I was back in a spot where I have had them from before. But as the night passed and dawn broke I ended with not even a dropped run! It’s a funny thing fishing. The number of times you set out and when you arrive at the water’s edge, if it wasn’t for the fact that you are there so you may as well give it a go, you wouldn’t have bothered if you knew what the conditions were really like. And then you have a great session. Yet other times your confidence is sky high, and rightly so. And you blank. But for me the great mystery of not knowing is one of the attractions of angling. Imagine if we knew what we would catch, when and how big. It wouldn’t be half as much fun would it?
(click icon above for this week’s video)
(Originally published July 2009)