On the Dolly Parton shift (Eel, entry 525) Plus video

With the weather hitting heatwave proportions, everything pointed to my first eel outings of the year. Overnight lows of double figure temperatures (C) plus zero chance of rain meant it was perfect for a late arrival with the minimum of gear. Hence the reference to Dolly Parton. Some of you will remember the song 9-5, well I was on the pm-am shift.

The attractor ingredients
The attractor ingredients

Mashing some fish by hand before I even left home, I then added some SBS predator mix. This goes back to the Des Taylor days and isn’t currently available from Hungary. Finally I added some groundbait. Although I used Sweetfruit, anything will do, it’s just a carrier. The predator liquid and the fish easily overwhelm whatever flavour you use. Cheap and cheerful brown crumb is more than suitable.

Then on arrival at the venues I mixed in water to form balls of bait. Depending on where I fished as depths varied this week, I made the balls firmer or otherwise. My approach was the same for each session this week from bait to rigs. Having a bait freezer at home meant I was able to draw on my supply of roach, bleak, minnows etc. A small fish cut in half provides two baits – a head and a tail section.

Mixing at the water's edge
Mixing at the water’s edge

Session one saw me on a huge gravel pit. I’ve never had an eel from there before, but I have fished it for other species. That’s one of the attractions of eel fishing – the mystery. Just fished for by a tiny percentage of anglers, they can be found anywhere, but unlike other fish they don’t give themselves away. Like me on the gravel pit, the best way to find out eel potential is to fish!

The thing with eels as well is they are elusive, and that’s how it proved. I didn’t even get the excitement of a few seconds burst on the alarm. Never done any eel fishing and thinking of giving it a go? Be prepared for lots of inactivity. It’s not for the angler who gets bored if he hasn’t had a bite for ten minutes. But in many ways that’s a statement about specimen angling in general.

Session one on a gravel pit
Session one on a gravel pit

The great thing about these dusk to dawn sessions is I can get home early, grab a couple of hours sleep, and still be up at a reasonable time to face the day. It’s just like ‘normal’ people and their lives, except my bed is next to water, that’s all. Plus I have an understanding wife. And that’s a massive ingredient for the mix!

Session two and I’m on a smaller venue, a pool that I have fished before for eels. And caught as well. Never anything big but it is a confidence place. It’s as close as I get to an eel runs water. So, as I cast out and settled back under the stars (no shelter required this week) I was very hopeful indeed of a fish or two. I’ve also picked up a few carp here as well so in addition to my target species I was expecting those to maybe put in an appearance.

The world's smallest eel
The world’s smallest eel

I had an eel on before it was dark. It was just a tiny one though and came off as I lifted it from the water. A lost fish can either deflate you or encourage you. I’m always the latter, the fish are out there and they’re feeding. Now for something bigger on the bank! There were obviously lots of smaller eels on the prowl as I had loads of short bursts on my alarms

It was like fishing the lower Severn in summer. It wasn’t until 1.30am though that I finally banked one. Caught on a roach tail, that’s it above, a tiny one, but at least it was caught fair and square. Whether 10lb or 10oz they all count. That’s the pool I was on by the way in the photo below, taken at dusk as I embarked on the session.

Session two on a pool
Session two on a pool

The next eel, although still small, was an improvement on the first one. Caught on a roach head at 2.45am, I was still in my tee-shirt and enjoying the cooler evening. After a day where the temperature sizzled to 26C, it was nice to fish through the night at a much more comfortable 16C. However, regardless of the weather, you’ll never find me complaining. Just commenting, that’s all.

Still in tee-shirt at 2.45 am
Still in tee-shirt at 2.45 am

My next three sessions all drew blanks. I did two of them on an 100 acre reservoir and the other on the local canal. The common denominator was that I saw no action at all. So with just one night to go to round off the entry, I headed back to my ‘runs’ venue. I decided to film the session as well, so with a fish on the bank a good idea for an angling video, I was hopeful.

I had a number of plucks and enquiries and one real screamer into dark. Well, I didn’t catch a carp on my first visit as I thought – but I did this time. That’s it below. It was caught on a minnow section. As well as catching them on single-hook deadbaits when after eels, I once had a good double on a 2x treble-hook set-up and a sprat. So much for rig finesse!

A carp on my final outing
A carp on my final outing

Following my final session carp I then banked an eel. Just a small one, but like the others, at least it was caught by design. Caught early on, I was hopeful that more would follow. Sadly though, that was it. It has been a tough week on the fishing front – lots of time put in but with little reward. That’s eel fishing for you though, probably more than most species. However, I enjoyed myself, and that’s what really counts. (Published August 3 2013)

Watch the accompanying video HERE