To provide a big enough mouthful to interest a decent sized eel I went for a maggot clip. I'm sure there is a packet lurking somewhere in one of my tackle boxes but as I was passing the tackle shop I popped in and bought another one. Waiting to pay for the clips I wondered if they might have other uses. I think they could....
Back home I tied a rig up using 25lb Quicksilver. I'd have preferred heavier but couldn't find it in the clutter of tackle boxes and junk! That done I threw a third rod in the quiver to tackle up when I got to the water. Two deadbaits went out as usual before I rigged up the third rod with a simple feeder rig and the maggot clip. This was lobbed out just beyond the weed edge.
Barely fifteen minutes had passed when the bobbin was off the maggot rod, the line flying from the spool and I was bundling a small eel into the landing net.
As the evening wore on the maggot rod was almost constantly in action. Almost as soon as the feeder hit the bottom something would pounce on the bait. Not all the takes were like the first one though.
I was getting twitches, short aborted runs, fliers which were missed. The lot. I did land two more eels. Both bootlaces. I reckon I'd answered my question. There are a lot of small eels in this water. It was peculiar how the last time I fished the feeder with a single maggot on a size 20 I had one bite in a few hours, yet a big bunch of reds was getting pestered all the time.
When the light faded the action switched to the left hand deadbait rod. It was the same old story of dropped and missed takes and pinched baits. My stash of deads was dwindling so I resorted to cutting even the smallest baits in half. Eventually I landed one to the deadbait rod, another small one. Later on after a particularly finicky take which was almost a tug of war with me and the fish (it taking line and dropping the bait, me taking up the slack, the fish picking up the bait again...) I wound in thinking the bait was covered in weed only to see another smallish eel spin and let go of the bait in the margin. Unusually the deadbait fished further out only got picked up and dropped the once.
The maggot experiment had proved valuable. If I persevere on this water I think it will be with bigger than usual deadbaits. That might deter the bootlaces, even if it means more blank sessions. Alternatively I could go fish elsewhere, maybe for something else. But where? And for what?