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One species that I have neglected so far this summer has been the eel. Not that the neglect has been deliberate or intentional and certainly nothing personal. It’s just that as far as fishing is concerned I’m easily distracted and with carp, perch and barbel all vying for my attention, not to mention roach and crucian carp it has been difficult to fit everything in. Even for an angler like myself who fishes more than average, at the end of the day I’m not omnipresent and can’t be in more than one place at a time.
But with the warmer months starting to run out I wanted a crack at an eel or two before autumn set in and my attentions were again focused on other species. My first session saw me on the Staffs/Worcs Canal for an overnighter. Even now, although it’s still summer, the nights are longer than they were back in June. And with eels being pretty much a nocturnal feeding species, that suited me as I was fishing with a realistic chance of a take from 9.00pm onwards.
I have fished the area before – and caught eels – but this was a new spot for me. That wasn’t a concern at all though, it’s not like eels sit in one place. Once darkness descends and they become active they will cover a wide area of water. You can see my mix in the accompanying video and that went out on arrival. I already use the SBS predator groundbait mix for perch, albeit ‘diluted’ by brown crumb, but this time it was neat. Once the liquid mixer was added it really did smell attractive. To an eel that is. To a human it’s one of the smelliest things you could come across in angling.
I fished 10lb line with a free-running 1/4oz bomb. Hook length was QuickSilver and hook size 4 contributed to a simple set-up. The rods were on bank sticks as you can see in photograph 1 but to minimise resistance I used a small hanger with everything removed so the only weight was the plastic body. Combined with the bale arm off, everything was set for an eel to run and not feel any pull, although having said that it is more a change of resistance rather than none at all that we have to take into account. I prefer both ie minimal felt on the pick-up and minimal on the run.
As it was I caught roach and perch but no eels. With worm on the hook you are always going to tempt something else, although even with a fish bait you can pick up other species as well. I’ve had numerous carp while deadbaiting for eels.. But as my wife said to me as I rolled in at 6.00am the next morning, ‘At least you’re not a blanker’. Well actually she told me off first, said I was ‘bursting in the bedroom’ waking her. Well I had been out all night, I was hungry and I wanted breakfast. (If this were a forum at this point a smiley face gets inserted).
Session two and it’s back to the canal and the same place. Everything was identical apart from the session just going till midnight as opposed to right through till dawn. With the nation in the grip of riots, looting and lawlessness, as I arrived I met an elderly cyclist who told me he had just escaped from a gang of around twenty masked youths who tried to catch him. I have been sharing my thoughts on my twitter/facebook pages regarding all this so there’s no need to repeat myself here what I thought about it all.
Well the session itself was peaceful, no feral youths but no fish either, although I did have the occasional beep on the alarm. But with several common pipistrelle bats working low over the canal, although I couldn’t see them hit the line, that was the likely reason for the red light showing. No eels to show after two visits but anyone who fishes for them knows just how unpredictable they are.
Would it be a case of ‘third time lucky’ as I headed off for a different venue for my final session of the week? Well yes it was, as you have already gathered by the title and of course the photograph at the top of the page. After a couple of trips to the local canal I decided to hit a pool for what would be my final eel session of the year. I can hardly call it a campaign but still enjoyed the week nevertheless. With eels being such a mysterious fish, the capture of any stillwater fish by design has got to be an achievement.
The pool in question has the reputation of being haunted by a headless something or another. Well, as we know, all the best ghosts are headless. Usually on a horse as well although apparently this one goes round on foot. Hardly surprising that whenever I have visited this place the only time I have encountered other anglers is when they are on the way back to the carp park while I’m heading down the hill to the water. Although I believe in the supernatural – after all I am a Christian and so fully aware of a spiritual world out there – it’s a logical understanding, if that makes sense. I think it’s funny how people who dismiss the idea of God readily believe in all sorts of mumbo jumbo.
I understand why people get spooked though because this particular pool is hemmed in by tall, dense woodland and is always very dark once the sun sets. Then there were the numerous tawny owls that shattered the silence with their calls. Not to mention the many noises coming from the dense undergrowth all around. Of course as a naturalist I identified them as badgers, foxes and a distant muntjac deer. But once your mind starts to lead you down a path I see why grown men have confessed to me that they have never done a night’s fishing in their life as just the thought terrifies them.
I was into fish from the off and my worm hookbait was picked up by the roach that you can see in photograph 2. The pool does have a large head of carp and I knew these would be on the menu as the moment I threw in my groundbait mix the surface resembled a jacuzzi as the fish got to work on the buffet that had suddenly appeared from nowhere. I had numerous carp throughout the night, caught on both worm and roach sections. Those are two of the fish in photographs 3 and 5.
But of course it was an eel that I was really after and in the early hours of the morning I had a run that resulted in the fish above on the bank. Not a monster as you can see but in my book any stillwater eel is a result. Hence the title of the article. After a kiss and a photograph it was returned back to the water. You might not want to kiss any eel you catch, I understand that of course, but please make sure that you return them. They are a species in decline and the days of taking one for the pot, the cat or whatever should be exactly that – for the past and not the present.
This week’s video features, for the first time, some photographs of other anglers. I recently started on my facebook page an album called ‘Fishy facebook friends’ with the intention of not only creating a gallery for others to show their fish but also to include some in my Angling Journal. So if you want to be included then ‘like’ my facebook page and go to the album where the instructions can be found. I know a lot of people follow my Angling Journal and I’m looking at ways of interaction. I appreciate everyone and including photographs in the videos is a small way of connecting. And in turn, if you like my articles and videos then share them with your friends via e-mail, YouTube, twitter, facebook etc. Thanks. (Article published August 27 2011)