Treading water until the glorious 16th (eel article, entry 151)

Last season I did hardly any barbel fishing, but come June I intend to hit the rivers with a vengeance. However, with the 16th not quite upon us yet, I fancied pursuing eels. Living as I do on the edge of the Black Country, the area has numerous canals running through it, thanks to the great industrial heritage of the area. In fact, did you know that Birmingham has more canal miles than Venice?

Heading into the Black Country itself, I tackled a venue that has thrown up eels in the last couple of seasons. Of course, when it comes to the species, you never know where they will be found. They are probably the last fish that can truly be pioneered in this country. No named fish or known densities as far as the eel is concerned – it still caries a genuine air of mystery.

The area I fished was hardly picturesque – an industrial estate behind and one in front is hardly what you would call pleasant. And with rats running along the far bank, it was the sort of setting that would grace any movie on the Horror Channel. But the only monsters that were of concern to me were the ones beneath the murky water.

Deciding to fish until after midnight, that still gave me the best part of three hours of darkness. Not much, but due to work commitments I couldn’t stay out all night and so I had to make the most of what was available. The problem with this time of the year is that the nights are so short. And if your chosen species is strictly nocturnal, then you are quite limited with fishing time.

So that’s my excuse for blanking and I am sticking with it! However when I also blanked the next two nights, I was really beginning to wonder if there were any eels around! I was fishing two rods, one with lobworm and the other a gudgeon section – both certainly top class baits. If they won’t catch, then nothing will. I didn’t even get a run, and even though they were short sessions, the combined number of hours on two rods certainly meant that I ought to have had a few enquires at least.

Continuing with the canal, I switched to a rural venue for the next session. I haven’t fished the stretch before but had mentally marked it as one that showed eel potential. But my judgement was way off the mark (well, going on one session anyway) as I again blanked. Packing away at just before midnight I was wondering what I had to do to catch an eel. Even a bootlace would have been welcome!

With just one more shot at avoiding a total blank, I decided to fish a Worcestershire pool that has been kind to me in the past. Making the most of the trip I arrived with the sun still high in the sky and did some bird watching in the local woods. With the car park being along a remote track I knew that my tackle would be safe in the car. I didn’t see anything particularly unusual, but still enjoyed the time spent in a new environment.

As the sun began to set I set up in my chosen swim (I was the only angler on the pool) and then cast out both rods, this time fishing gudgeon on both. With no pike at all in the pool I fished Quick Silver hook length, hooks themselves being size 4 and a 3/8 ounce bomb being sufficient in terms of weight. Fishing light hangers, I set up the rods and lay back to await some action.

Normally when you are night fishing and you don’t get any sleep that is a good thing. However, I was constantly out of the sleeping bag, not for eels, but because carp kept taking the bait! Not that I have anything against the species, but most of them dropped the bait after a few seconds – but held it long enough to disturb my sweet dreams.

The best carp though was a low double, so I suppose I shouldn’t be complaining, which of course I’m not really. But it is ironic that I could describe the species as a nuisance one. It makes a change from carp anglers doing the moaning about bream, tench and the other fish that pick up their boilies in the middle of the night. The reality is that in my book there is no such thing as a nuisance fish – but it’s still nice to catch your chosen species though.

But the carp rescued me from a totally blank week, so in a way they were a godsend. Not one eel graced my net although I did think I had one as the sun began to rise. Instead though it was a really lean common carp. By then I was ready to pack away and head for home. I had a splitting headache all night and on top of that I felt sick. It’s not often that I say that I am glad to leave the water behind, but this was one of those times. Not even the singing wood warbler in the trees behind me could bring a cheer to my heart.

Looking back I analysed the week and felt that the weather was very much against me. With continual northerly winds and temperatures barely above four or five degrees, it wasn’t ideal for eel fishing. I much prefer those hot and balmy summer nights when you can fish in your shorts and tee-shirt, as opposed to being tucked up in a sleeping bag clad in layers of clothing. And even more so, after the four sessions this week, I feel I’m treading water until the glorious 16th comes round!

(Originally published June 2006)

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