Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Hot days, short nights

I've never been a hot weather person. And the current hot weather is melting what little drive I have to do anything. My 'can't be arsed' quotient has reached an all time high! The shortest mights of the year haven't helped my enthusiasm for either side of sunset sessions either. No sooner has it got properly dark than it's time to get to bed or risk stopping all night with no sleep. It's no wonder I usually leave the eels alone until July when the nights start to draw in a little.

All that aside the evenings and nights, when it's cooled down somewhat are great to be out in. Even cloudless skies make for atmospheric sunsets that seem to last for hours. What I have noticed on both of my latest eel sessions is that runs are coming later. Not just later by the clock but later by the sun and stars. There has been a little interest in my baits in the half hour before dark, but it's picked up over an hour after the light has gone as much as it will go before dawn. This doesn't help me get home for sleep.

I'd had a few missed and aborted takes before I started to pack up at twelve thirty on the first session, then I foul hooked a small eel, which slimed the leader good and proper. While I was sorting the mess out I had another run which I missed. If I hadn't drained the last of my bottle of pop I might have stopped a bit longer. However I did plan to start and finish later on my next session.

It was nine fifteen when the latest eel session got under way. Apart from making the tramp to the swim a little cooler it also cut out the waiting time to the start of the action. Even around ten there had been carp cruising the surface and apart from some worm nibbling the eels didn't make their presence known until eleven.

It was the usual story of twitchy takes, pinched baits, and short aborted runs. Either there are small eels pestering me or my presentation is up the Swanee. I suspect the former. While I was getting action it was sporadic. Either stick it out until late in the hope of a good one or pack in around one and get some shut eye. After missing a proper run I connected with one at twelve thirty. Not big enough to tax my new 50" landing net, or trouble the scales. But it did make me think that later might be better if I can muster the enthusiasm for an overnighter. At one I packed up and sweated my way home.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Unpredictable results

As with election results these days it's almost impossible to predict how an eel session will pan out. A short evening session last week produced one eel but quite a few takes. The next session on Sunday, despite my expectations, resulted in just one run when I was a bout to pack up. And that was missed, at least in part because the rig was tangled. Despite being keen to get an overnight session in the weather was against me. I really don''t fancy spending a night in the rain jumping in and out of the bivvy as I try to hit takes. Election night was set to be dry with some rain in the morning. If the weather forecast was right I'd be able to pack up after sun up and get back home in the dry. So it proved.

I was set up in good time but even the worm was left alone as the sun began to sink.It was quarter to ten when the right hand deadbait absolutely tore off. Eels one, me nil. Over an hour and a half passed without any indications. The signs were that it could be a night of infrequent action but the chance of a big eel. Then the right hand rod was away again. This time I hooked the culprit. and it was doing so little it felt like I'd hooked a soft snag. Something was slowly coming towards me against the pressure of the rod. I threw the landing net in the edge and tried to push it forward to sink the mesh. Damn. It was caught on something. Keeping the rod bent I managed to untangle the mesh with my left hand. The eel was then easily netted. It wasn't as large as I'd hoped. Later I started pulling weed in from the same area and wondered if the eel had wrapped its tail around a clump.

A fresh bait was hooked up and cast out. This was picked up after 25 minutes. Another missed take. And so the usual selection of dropped and missed runs proceeded at very infrequent intervals. So infrequent I managed to nod off a time or two. Even if not for long. A couple of fish were bumped off on the strike. All the action coming to deadbaits, which was unusual.

Although the night wasn't warm it didn't feel cold either despite the heavy dew in the morning. It was a noisy night though. All night reed warblers were warbling their scratchy song, possibly because of the bright full moon, a water rail or two spent a mad ten minutes squealing, and what I took to be a snipe flew by making it's strange whirring sound. Thankfully there were no ratty rustlings in the reeds and the only rodent that made its presence known was a wood mouse. As we approach the solstice the nights are short. The sky to the north hardly got dark at all. Which only gives a few hours of  'eel time'. It was still good to be out after dark on such a night.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

No Sleep Till Breakfast

I was going to put in an overnighter on Monday night, but it started raining when I was going to get me gear sorted out. Tuesday night would do. It rained after I'd got most of the gear in my car. Then the sky brightened and off I went. The temperature had dropped from my previous session but even a north westerly wasn't too chilling. I still fancied having the wind off my back but nowhere like that at Peacock Pool looked inviting. Eventfully I got set up with the brolly at an angle to the rods where I could just about see my rods from the bedchair.

As the sun set the wind died right away and the sky cleared. The crescent moon was so bright that it cast a shadow. The incessant bleeps and blips of the previous session were notably absent. The first take I had, just before ten, to a deadbait, was a proper run. I still failed to connect. This didn't signal the start of more madness. It was fifteen minutes before the next run came. Which was also missed. After another quiet thirty odd minutes I connected with an eel to the off bottom worm. It fell off. The eel that picked up the left hand deadbait at eleven stayed hooked all the way into the net. Not one worth sliming up the weigh sling, but a start.

A combination of the slower pace of activity and the conditions made me think that there was a chance of a better than average fish. When the bootlaces are playing the bigger eels seem to get beaten to the baits.

It was still frustrating. I'd miss a run. Recast. Then sit waiting for action. When I gave up hope I'd curl up under the bedchair cover. The eels seemed to know when I was getting snug and starting to nod off. I'd leap out to the rods and miss another run. Rinse and repeat!

So it went until ten past two when a deadbait on a longer chuck was tearing off. Half way in it began to bulldog. It felt pretty reasonable as I held it on a tight line while I fiddled around trying to switch my headtorch from red to white without it flashing red. Safely netted at the second attempt and the sling and camera were going to be required. I didn't feel like a wrestling contest so I put the fish back after a couple of 'sling shots'.

With a fresh bait out I got an hour's rest before the takes picked up frequency again. By then the sky was showing some light and a sedge warbler woke up. Soon the dawn chorus began in earnest, accompanied by the occasional distant cock crow. The takes became less frequent. Not expecting any action once the sun was in the sky I began to tidy my stuff away. Then I had two runs in quick succession. Which I missed. Of course.  Quarter past five would be home time.

I was well knackered as I pushed my barrow load of gear back to the car. That's the trouble with all night eel fishing. It's often impossible to get any sleep unless you don't bother checking to see if they've pinched your baits when you get a dropped run!

What had been encouraging was that the takes were peeling line from the baitrunners, even with the rod tips at an angle to the baits. Like most fish, I suppose, even eels have days when they aren't bothered by resistance. Or is that a myth?

The sun was rising casting it's beams through the mist swirling off the water promising a warm day to come. It'll be meteorological summer tomorrow. So it'll probably snow.

Friday, May 26, 2017

The maddening eel

After my eel session I determined to get myself some worms before having another go. There were still a few deadbaits and some squid in the freezer but lobs would give me another option on the off-bottom rig. When the worms arrived, on the hottest day of the year so far and with the warmest night promised it seemed like too good an opportunity to miss.

Even arriving after eight in the evening it was still red hot. There was hardly a breath of wind to ruffle the surface and even in the shade of the lowering sun it was t-shirt warm. I spent a good ten minutes drilling holes for my rear banksticks before casting out a head and a tail and then rigging up the worm rod. The rig was all set up and just needed a bomb to finish it off when I couldn't find a bomb. I was sure there were some in the rucksack, but no. For some reason the eel box had three back leads in it. I pulled the clip off one, tied a uni-knot in the end of the lead link and tightened it down on the backlead's stalk. I was in business!

Why you can't buy simple hooks like you used to remains a mystery to me. Drennan used to do a long shank hook which I liked for fishing worms, but long shanked hooks with simple O'Shaughnessy or round bends have all been replaced by 'carp' hooks. The closest to what I'd like that I've found so far are Varivas 'Semi Circle' hooks which I bought late last summer after my eeling was over. The eyes are a bit small, but wire or Kevlar braid will go through even on the size four. As I didn't seem to have any eel traces made up I've put these hooks on my dedbait traces too. The wire of the size fours is a bit finer than I'd like, but the 1/0s are spot on. I hope!

By eight thirty Fred and I were sat watching the rods and listening to the radio as the evening failed to cool down any. We weren't expecting any action until well after nine in any event. Sure enough it was almost ten, still t-shirt warm, when the head section fished to my left tore off. And so the madness began. I didn't keep a note of how many twitchy takes and dropped or missed runs I got. There were lots. As soon as the marginal off-bottom worms were discovered that bobbin was never still until the worms had gone. I ended up fishing just a single lob on that rig with the same result. Almost constant activity but nothing to connect with.

Takes to the deadbaits were more sporadic. The tail section cast well out disappeared from a single bleep. I replaced that with a lobworm and it was pounced on immediately. Every now and then the right hand alarm would signal a positive run. Some were missed, one was connected with until whatever was on the hook came off it a rod length out. Anyone who strikes at the slightest hint of a take this would have ended up in a strait-jacket! Being of a less intense nature I can eventually tune myself to respond only to positive runs.

The run that came to the head section rod at five to midnight was the sort that wasn't going to stop. At last I hooked one. Plainly not pulling back very hard, at least it was an eel. I left it in the landing net while I packed the other rods and everything else away. When I came to lift the net ashore the eel had done the decent thing and unhooked itself.

Back at the car the thermometer was reading 18 degrees. I removed the sweatshirt I'd put on an hour earlier and drove home with the window wound right down on a still and sultry night.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Easing into eeling

After another evening chucking topwaters around, for one small fish and a missed take, I got the urge to rig the eel rods up on Wednesday. While the days have been warm the temperature was soon dropping if there was a clear sky at dusk. I was glad I'd taken a fleece.

Even though I'd intended to arrive around eight impatience got the better of me and I spent two and a half hours before, right on time as the light began to edge towards needing a torch to pack up, the right hand alarm sounded making that tell-tale short burst of sound that accompanies a pinched eel bait.

Typically there were fish topping and bubbling all over the swim I'd selected. I'm sure I'd have caught a few fish if I'd taken non-fishy baits with me. That saw me torn between having another go for eels or taking some pellets and corn and seeing what might be daft enough to pick those up. I hate making decisions. As the eel rods are rigged up and the tench/bream rods aren't it might be an easy choice though.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017


My lure fishing comeback tour continued yesterday. In the morning I'd visited the local DIY shop, which also sells household goods, with the intention of purchasing a tupperware type box to take over from the unstable bucket my lures have been rattling around in. I had one lined up but then noticed some storage boxes. Not air/watertight but that isn't a problem. The lidless bucket was hardly that. Best of all the box was large enough to get my unhooking tools in as well as the lures, and half the price of the tupperware type box!

Eager to try out the box I filled it with my junk, put it in the Korum mat/sling thing. And headed out into the warm spring evening. The sun was bright, the sky almost cloudless but there was a chilly north-easterly blowing.  Not ideal, but I do prefer a ripple on the water when I'm surface fishing. Particularly if I can cast downwind and work the lures back over the wavelets. I think the ripple makes a lures artificiality less obvious and it creates more noise from a bait.

My plan was to work my way in the opposite direction to last time. No real reason except I fancied seeing if this time I could nail the fish I'd raised late on. No joy in the first swim so on to the next one. Here the water was in shade, but more rippled with the wind in my face. I cast over the places the takes came from on my previous visit with no success. Then I flicked the Blackpot out to my right. Nothing. Another cast a bit closer to the margin and two thirds of the way back there was a satisfying take. Not the splashy take of a small jack. Not the modest 'boom' of a high single. But a proper ka-boom! The resistance was more than the prototype rod had had to put up with before too.

Even so the fight was similar to all the others, except on a bigger scale. Wallowing and head shaking rather than runs. As I could see that the lure was outside the pike's mouth, just the tail hook connected, I feared the worst. A single point snout hook-up all to often leads to a shake of the head that sends the lure flying free. That was why I reached for the net rather than risk letting the fish tire before hand grabbing it. There had been no need to worry. The hook had taken hold well inside the top jaw, but was easily removed.

The scales I had with me were a little optimistic for pike fishing, reading up to 120lb. Being out of practice with my pike weight guesstimates I was amazed to see where the needle settled. A fair few degrees further round the dial than I'd expected.

A two pounder would have done to save a blank, but this fish meant I could have packed up there and then. I carried on though. Either I've scared all the jacks with the Jackpot, or they weren't up for it, because I didn't raise another fish for over an hour. In fact it was getting close to home time when a rooter in a swim I hadn't worked a lure through last time out went airborne with the bait between its teeth. the same old story, the first or second cast getting any interest there is. Then it was back to fishing what seemed like fishless water.

Despite a long lay off from surface fishing my little ruses are coming back to me. Making the lure walk around pads with hard taps followed by gentle ones so it doesn't come along a straight line. Dropping the lure short on a downwind cast and letting it drift up to the pads or reeds. Constantly shifting my position to alter the direction of the retrieve slightly to manoeuvre the lure. breaking up the metronomic taps with pauses. Sometimes these things work. Mostly they keep me thinking. Next time out, if I have the patience, I might start out with a surface crawler.