Still buzzing with the eel fishing I'd got my mind set on a late Sunday evening session after the crowds had departed. The gear was checked over and all I had to do was throw it in the car around nine thirty. That was when I spotted the flat tyre. Bang went that plan. Well, not literally 'bang'!
I put things forward 24 hours and hit the lake on Monday around quarter to ten. Arriving that late gave me a better choice of swims and I chose one I'd not fished before. It was warm and still, with the threat of rain which arrived in the form of a drizzle that sounded worse than it was on the brolly.
Despite the conditions it felt like an age before the first take to a sandeel head cast well out came at ten thirty. It was an age before the next missed run at quarter to twelve to the same bait. With a tail section cast out producing a dropped run ten minutes later I moved the margin squid bait away from the bank for it to be taken after ten minutes. I missed that run. Then it went dead again. The whole lake felt devoid of fish. I had been going to stop late but the lack of runs compared to previous sessions had seen me drinking tea to pass the time and the flask was getting empty. I wrapped up at quarter to one.
After that blank session I almost lost interest and didn't bother turning out on Tuesday or Wednesday. By Thursday I was determined not to be beaten and returned to the area which has given me the most eels so far. It was nine o'clock on a mild evening, the full moon already up in the sky, a kingfisher piping its call as it flew across the lake. I'm sure I saw a fish in its beak.
This session started even more slowly than the previous one. No hint of a run before dark, unlike other sessions in the area. The tedium was broken when I heard a woman calling for her pet across the lake. Her cries grew louder as she got closer. I could hear meowing opposite me. Footsteps approached and then, "Bloody hell!! A buxom blonde loomed out of the dark, "My cat's stuck up a tree and I can't find him." I pointed across the water, "He's over there." The small hairy doormat of a dog that was following her sniffed my rucksack and got shooed away before it cocked its leg. The pair melted into the darkness and all was quiet and still again.
By eleven I was getting so despondent that I was plotting a change of venue. Fifteen minutes later the squid left the margin at a rate of knots. No prizes for guessing the outcome. A fresh chunk was hooked up and cast back out. After ten minutes it was picked up and dropped. I wound the line back on the spool and it was soon running out again. I held the line and could feel the eel tugging. Usually when I have done this a strike has connected. Usually.
My hopes were rising. Unfortunately so was a light mist from the water. This never fills me with confidence. As the mist thickened towards midnight so I contemplated packing up. I like to leave the baits out as long as possible when leaving. to this end I tidy the rucksack, putting the sounder box in it's pocket, first. Then I take the rods from the pod and lie them on the deck with the line tight to the slack 'runner. The pod is dismantled, its bars folded up in my chair along with my cool bag. One rod is wound in and put in the quiver, then the second rod and finally the net is rolled up and slid into the front pocket.
The first rod had been unbaited and the joint separated when I heard a continuous buzzing. The squid had been taken again. The broken down rod was dumped and the other one picked up. Line was still being taken. I folded my left hand round the spool and struck.Something was wrong. There was a fish on!
In my head I was telling myself to take it steady, that there was no rush. I kept the pressure on rather than bully the eel while I got the net sunk. I had all night, so let the fish keep on trying to swim backwards on a tight line, gradually pumping it towards me. It's head appeared and it looked decent, but not huge. Possibly another two pounder. With the eel close to the net I had to try and judge where its tail was. Mist was swirling in the light from the Petzl making it difficult to see what was going on. being high above the water puts an awkward angle on the net frame, reducing its effective length and netting fish more difficult than it ought to be. I'm getting my excuses in early..
I had a sense of foreboding the instant I hooked the eel. That's why I was consciously taking my time. Probably why it all went so horribly, horribly Pete Tong. Probably why there were no histrionics when the inevitable happened. Because it had been inevitable.
Flying treble hooks I can understand getting caught in landing net meshes. Singles? I think the mesh mush have been floating because when I came to remove the hook from it it was in the outside, a few inches from the net cord. The eel's head can't have been over the net when it got stuck and wriggled free. Out of habit I recast the bait for a few more minutes while I put the other rod away knowing it was a waste of time. That eel wouldn't be coming back. I felt as flat as my tyre had been on Sunday.