Monday, July 30, 2012

Some bad, some good

With nothing worth stopping in for I got out straight after tea reasoning I might as well sit in the sun with a couple of rods out as anything. With the radio I took my time setting up. The rudd head section was cast out to the right on the long leger link usual rig and two dendrobenas went out on a Bellars-type rig.

The bad is that the set up I was using tangles with soft hook links. I don't know if it tangles and stays tangled or if it unravels when you get a take because I've not had a take on it. I always hated the rig for pike fishing, so why I'm trying it for eels is one of life's great mysteries. I think it's because eel anglers seem to rate the more complicated Dyson rig. There is a way to avoid the tangling. I'll make the alteration next time I give the rig a go. If there is a next time!

Not expecting anything until the light started to fade I spent my time shivering in the cool wind and watching swallows and martins hunting in a large flock over a hay meadow. Their aerial agility at the speeds they fly is amazing. Some came close and I could hardly track them as they twisted and jinked over the water. When they congregate like this it's a clue that autumn is getting closer. The reddening berries on the hawthorns are another.

It's a funny thing, that when fishing a spot a couple times a week I don't notice the changes taking place but if my visits are a couple of weeks apart they are obvious. It's like the way you don't notice close friends ageing, but people you see once a year look much older every time you see them. So it was that as I watched the reed warblers busily working through the reeds I realised the chiffchaffs weren't singing.

Maybe it was the wind ruffling the water or something else that stopped the small fish topping. There wasn't much surface activity at all, just a few marginal bubbles to give me hope that eels might be active. The moon, nearing full, was in the sky well before the sun had set.

The good was that the first run, and it was a run, came to the deadbait well before dark too. More importantly I landed the eel. A small one of around a pound. I had hardly settled back in the chair after recasting when another run developed to the same rod. I landed that one too. The second eel was a bit smaller. After missing a third take to the leger I swapped the hooklink on the Bellars to a toothproof one and hooked on a rudd tail. One more missed run to the bottom bait a few minutes after the third was my lot.

Not quite a hectic session, and no big fish caught, it still restored my confidence. Was it the fresher baits or the choice of swim that saved me from a third successive blank? Perhaps it was the moon?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Pond PBs

Another 'perfect' evening, warm and muggy, proved just as 'perfect' as the one before. I fished a completely different stretch and tried worm on one rod, fished on a Dyson rig in the hope that a bootlace would take a nibble. The bobbins didn't so much as jiggle. I packed it in early. It's more than possible the eels have taken to feeding later. Or maybe earlier!

A roach among the rudd
Today started wet, then the sun came out. Having little to do I thought I'd go catch some small fish to stock up the freezer. I knew just the place. Trouble was it was packed with bivvies. Not to worry. I knew another place...

It had tried to spit with rain as I arrived but it was brief shower. There were plenty of small fish topping in various spots around the small pond. First cast and I got one. A small, just right, roach. From then on it was a bite a chuck. Every one a rudd. They ranged from perch-bait size to zander-bait size with an odd pike-bait. The tiny ones and the big ones got returned.

The atmposphere by the pond was one of high summer. Lush plant growth filled with chirruping grasshoppers. Swifts screaming high overhead, and swallows swooping down to take a sip from the pond. It was a good afternoon for dragonfly watching too. There were numerous blue and blue-tailed damsels skimming the surface around my float and the marginal rushes. A brown hawker hawked up and down wind. A lone common darter darted past and an emperor put in an appearance. The highlight was a single male banded demoiselle which flew by. The first I've seen at this pond.

The bites slowed after three quarters of an hour. There had been a couple of small perch and another roach amongst the rudd. I made contact again by casting downwind. It seemed that when a light breeze had sprung up the small fish had followed it. I moved closer to them and began to get bites more frequently again.

Out of the blue one of the bites found the fish swim out into the pond instead of skimming straight in before being swung to hand. A flash of bronze had me confused. When it got closer I thought it was a crucian, but once in my hand it clearly wasn't. I'm guessing it was a brown goldfish, there are fancy goldfish in the pond - some with elaborate tails. Whatever it was it was a personal best!

A few more rudd and perch were caught before I once more found myself connected to a fish that needed playing out. Another brown goldfish, but a bit bigger. Two PBs in less than an hour!

It was getting towards home time so I told myself one more fish and I'd go. The float dipped and for a third time I hooked a goldfish. I packed up and went.

Ponds like this can throw up surprises aside from dumped pond and aquarium species. I used to fish one that only produced rudd. Fish up to hand size at the most. Seemingly suddenly I'd catch an occasional perch of similar size. It was a small and very weedy pond with just a central clear area and a couple of channels through the bistort. Some of the bigger rudd would make it to the bistort stems when fishing the float tight to the leaves. One day I hooked something much more powerful than anything I'd hooked there before. I have no idea what it was. I'm guessing either a larger than average perch, or maybe an eel. It could have been a 'monster' rudd, or even a goldfish for all I know. But it was completely unexpected.

The pond I fished today could hold a similar surprise. There are known carp in it, just a few to maybe 12 pounds, but the small perch have been spawned by larger ones. There were plenty of fry in one spot, and the smallest of the rudd I caught would be easy prey to a perch of almost any size. I might give it a try come autumn. I'm also wondering if there are any eels in the place. Just one biggun would do...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Bad day at the office

I had some rods that needed varnishing in a hurry. That was the cue for my drying motor to pack up. Only one thing for it. Go old skool and turn the rods by hand. It's labour intensive and thoroughly boring but the finish is just as good as leaving the rods to spin under power.

If you don't have a motorised dryer and want to use two pack epoxy occasionally this is the way to do it. Find a large cardboard box, cut 'V' notches in the tops of two opposing sides, put it somewhere level, and rest the rod sections in the notches. As the varnish runs down turn the rod section through 180°. Repeat until the varnish has cured sufficiently to stop running. Depending on the ambient temperature this can take anything up to six hours. I told you it is a tedious and boring way of doing things!

With that job out of the way I set off late for an eel session.

My first choice swim was blocked by floating weed. My second choice was blocked by a moored barge. I set up in a swim I'd fished before. As ever the float rod was in use to start with. As ever it was a struggle to get bites. When I did hook a fish it was too big for bait, and dropped off anyway.

With the day having been bright and warm, and the evening having turned overcast and muggy, I was confident. Especially as there were eelish bubbles coming up in the margins. I put the eel rods out early. A rudd head to the far bank and a sandeel head, as an experiment, in the channel. It was then I realised that in my haste to get ready I had neglected to put anything to drink in the rucksack. When I switched the radio on, to find it dead, I realised I had no spare batteries for it. It could be a long session.

Eventually I landed a couple of hybrids on the float rod. Both were just a bit too big. They might be a nice size for the match and pleasure anglers to fill their keepnets with, but they're no blooming use to me at the moment. Come October and I might see them differently. Then again they might do a disappearing act when the weather cools down.

It was still warm enough to sit without the fleece on when I packed the float rod away, and it stayed warm enough for that until ten. As the light started to fade the reed warblers began their chatter. I've heard them throw snatches of other birds songs and calls into their racket before. Yesterday at least one was mimicking the oystercatchers which habituate the area.

The air was still, the sky overcast, it was the warmest it's been for a while, everything seemed perfect for an eel or two. The bobbins didn't twitch once. Nothing. Was it the baits? Was it the choice of swim? Was it just one of those things? I'll have to try again to see if I can find out.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A faithful servant

There was a lack of motivation last week. This was partly the result of that same weather pattern bringing dull cool evenings after warm afternoons.That and a lack of bait. Tuesday (I think) I took an evening trip to the canal without the float rod. Only to find small fish shoaled up a rod length out and definitely catchable. There were too many people around too, so I went home without getting the rods out of the car.

The following evening remained warm and sunny. Until I got to my swim when it turned cold. I struggled to get a bite. One tiny, tiny perch was hooked and returned. One bootlace took the maggot as I ws setting up the first eel rod. The bootlace made good its escape in some weed. I had bites to the deadbaits, one being dropped due to a tangled rig, one was a proper run with the baitrunner spinning madly. That one was struck at and missed without feeling a thing.  That session did for me.

Work is frustrating at the moment and has every chance of stopping me getting out this coming week. So, after applying a first coat of varnish to some rods I spent a few minutes this afternoon playing around with a camera and some flashguns trying to make a portrait of an old friend. One of my earliest Abu Ambassadeurs. So well used, firstly as a lure reel then for bait fishing, that the chrome has worn off where my thumb rests on the cage.

Monday, July 16, 2012

A simple plan

It was all so straightforward. Buy maggots on Saturday morning. Use them to catch a ruck of small fish in the afternoon/evening. Use a couple for bait for the eels and throw the rest in the freezer for future eel sessions. So what went wrong? The weather

Of late the pattern seems have been that sunny days turn cool and cloudy round about tea time. I should have realised this and done my bait snatching during the day when the small fish are active in the surface layers. At least then I might have had a chance of success. As it was the sun was obscured by the time I set up around six on Saturday. Worse still there was a cool breeze blowing in my face as I sat there wrapped up as if it were October. Bites were few and far between. I managed on bait sized fish and another that was too big before I packed in. I tried another spot, got a perfectly sized roach second chuck, then nothing. I'd lasted all of two hours. I couldn't even face putting the eel rods out.

Like a fool I started late again on Sunday. Again the sun had done its disappearing trick. I looked at one spot only to find a canal cruiser moored in the swim I had in mind. The second spot was weeded up from my last session there and by the time I got back to the car rain was falling. What was propped up in the garage? The umbrella. I drove to another water to see if that looked worth a chuck for a few small fish. I wasn't inspired. Where next? home James, and don't spare the horses.

On the way back home my mood changed. The rain had stopped and the sky looked a little brighter. I called in for a look at another place. After a walk to check a couple of spots I got the gear out and set off. Why I picked the swim I did I have no idea. It was a bad move. The wind was straight in my face and cold. The float rod was in action, but the float didn't do much. Then it rained. Not much, and not for long. I started to get tentative bites.

Too big...
Just as I did a mistle thrush alighted in a dead looking oak, accompanied by a family of whitethroat. The thrush flew into a tangled old blackthorn and began to sing. The sun peeped through the clouds but failed to look warm. The float sank and I connected with a hybrid. Too big for eel bait it went back.

Time was getting on and I was getting cold. Two pegs away it felt an overcoat warmer. There was some shelter from the wind there so I moved. The rain had passed over and there was a feeble attempt at a sunset as I set the eel rods up. Still short of bait I put a couple of worms out to the right and cast a roach tail to my left. Or tried to. The braid had caught in the spool's line clip and the cast stopped with a jerk, sending the bait flying off the hook. Not a good start when you are short of bait. I put the head section on the hook.

Almost straight away the worms were under attack. It wasn't long before twitches started on the deadbait rod either. Some ended up with a dropped bait, others I struck at and missed. Eventually I connected with what felt like a small eel. It fell off in the edge. I tried fishing straight off the baitrunner to no avail. I fed line off an open spool. This didn't work at first, but eventually one take kept going and I hooked an eel. The smallest so far on a deadbait.

This little eel tends to confirm my suspicions that most of the tentative takes and twitches have been coming from fish of this sort of size. It's the possibility that larger eels are also giving takes like the small ones that makes it frustrating. Wait for the run to develop or try and hit everything? It's a quandary all right.

I packed the gear away feeling quite warm as the wind had dropped. Arriving home I unloaded the car. With the landing net hung up to dry I opened up my rucksack and removed my jacket which I had crammed in on top of everything else. A shower of red and white maggots flew through the air. The lid had come off the bait tub and they were all over the inside of the rucksack!

Maggots love to crawl into dark nooks and crannies, and the Korum Ruckbag is full of nooks and crannies. I found nooks and crannies I didn't know it had as I tried to rid it of the infestation. I'm pretty sure I've cleared the maggots from all the obvious places, but the bag's stopping in the garage until the few I haven't winkled out turn into flies.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Attack of the bootlaces

There was plenty of fish activity as I selected my swim. Not so much fish topping but bubbles. The first bite came quickly but was not the anticipated skimmer, it was a ruffe. These peculiar little fish were unheard of from this canal in my youth. They were unheard of until a few years ago, in truth. Where they have come from is anyone's guess, but hardly a session fishing maggot goes by without one or two making an appearance these days.

Bites were coming frequently enough to keep my interest up. However not many of the fish were suitable eel baits. They were either too big, in the case of a couple of bream - one of which required the landing net, or they were ruffe or perch. No doubt eels will eat these two species, but they don't inspire confidence in me.

In amongst the potential baits were two bootlace eels. I wasn't sure if this was encouraging in as much as eels were feeding in broad daylight, or ominous in that they were small. It did fuel my suspicions that some of the dropped and finicky takes I get could be caused by these little chaps. They were the broad mouthed variety, so possibly partial to fish.

Although the day had been sunny and warm, by the time I got to the cut the weather had done its usual trick of changing for the cooler. The sky had filled with clouds and the wind picked up. The fleece went on early and I was hoping that the wind would ease as the sun set. Otherwise I was going home early as I had left both my brolly and jacket at home. Either of which would have given me some shelter from the wind.

There was the usual bird activity. It was nice to hear chiffchaffs still singing. The oystercatchers were thankfully silent however. At one point there was a loud engine noise and a very low flying Hercules rumbled westward. It looked like it was only a little above tree-top height, but obviously wasn't. Where it had come from, where it was going and what it was doing was a mystery.

The clouds to the west had a strange silky glow to them before the sun lowered sufficiently to turn them red. When it did get low enough the wind dropped and the clouds turned salmon pink, a powder blue sky showing in the breaks. The sunset lasted an age. It didn't impress the eels much.

I had put a couple of dendrobenas in the channel and a roach head to a gap in the reeds on the far shelf. The dead bait had been picked up and dropped. Or so I thought. I left it a while beofre winding in to recast when a floating mat of reeds drifted towards the line. When I picked up the rod and tightened to the bait I felt something briefly jag as if there had been a fish on. The bait was gone so I put on a tail section.

Nothing happened. Not a twitch or a anything. It looked like it was a bootlace day. I wondered if eels were like pike in that respect. Some days all you will catch are jacks, yet on others the small pike keep away and every pike is a good one.

Sitting there looking at the bobbins doing nothing, being distracted by the barn owl out hunting well before dark, my enthusiasm for this eel fishing lark was dwindling. I started thinking about places to go barbel fishing. Disconsolate, I decided to pack up early. The worm rod was first away. The worms had been nibbled. That could have been anything I guess. Bootlace eels, bream, ruffe. Everything was in the rucksack when I picked up the deadbait rod and felt it stuck fast. Then the weed the rig was plainly stuck in started to wriggle and writhe. There was an eel attached which was using the weed to its advantage. Steady pressure shifted it and in the open water of the boat channel it started to fight clean. This was no bootlace, and it felt stronger than the other eels I've had this year. I managed to get it in the net first time where a quick glance proved I'd be messing around with the tripod.

I got the sling out and zeroed the scales before lifting the net ashore and unhooking the eel. It proved to be the third biggest eel I've caught, but the most satisfying because it was caught, albeit flukily, while eel fishing, and because, at just over three pounds, I'd reached my initial target for the canal.

When I set out on 'campaigns' I try to have interim targets with an ultimate goal. I'd love to catch a six pound eel from the canal, or anywhere for that matter, but my first target is alway to do better than I've done before. The canal had given me a number of pound and a half eels in the past, but having hooked and lost one a fair bit bigger when piking, and having heard of one five that I'm pretty sure was genuine, I thought a three was a realistic weight to aim for at first, then a four, a five, and then...!

I left the eel wrapped in the damp sling as I set up the camera. This took longer than it should have because I'd forgotten the routine. Eventually I got it sorted. Then I calmed the eel. I got one shot before the bugger woke up. I calmed it again and checked the photo. Perfect. Apart from a load of dry grass stuck to the fish's tail. Aren't digital cameras great for fishing? I tried again. The eel was still lively. By the time I managed to get another decent shot it was well dark, and I was covered in slime! I must get some lessons in eel wrangling.

Mission One accomplished all thoughts of gullible river pigs were ousted from my mind as I walked back to the car racking my brains as to how to secure a good stock of eel baits.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Pond life

Today I spotted the first damselfly visiting the pond. A hawker flew over and away last autumn, but this blue-tailed damsel stuck around long enough for me to get a ropey photo of it. I'm assuming it's a visitor, but it might have come in with some weed as a nymph.

There were also a couple of spiders scurrying about on the surface with egg sacs in tow.

Two nice signs that the pond is becoming established.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Fox Adjusta Level Chair

I gave in to temptation and bought the low chair I'd seen on Thursday. Since my Nash Nomad gave up for good after being repaired I have been using an old Fox chair that Graham Slater 'kindly' gave me. It's a reworking of an old design that was around when I started out on the big fish trail - The Redmire sold by Trevor Moss's (now Neville Fickling's) The Tackle Shop. It's nice and light, which is great.

I should have known that Graham wouldn't give something away if it was really good. What I discovered, and Graham later confirmed, was that it's not very comfortable. The seat cover also slides back and the folding legs fall about when you pick it up.

As the photo below shows I took to securing the legs with a rod band for transport. Unlike the Nomad the seat and back covers are not connected, so you can't stuff jackets and fleeces in it to carry them. You can, but they tend to fall out before you get to your swim. The new Adjusta Level chair has addressed these faults. It has been made a couple of pounds heavier in the process, although under my arm the difference feels negligible.

What follows is not a review, more a comparison of old and new. I'll report back at a later date as to how the chair performs in real world situations.

Original chair on the left, new model on the right.
This photo also shows how much flatter the new chair folds up. This makes it easier to carry under one arm, and better for stuffing in the back of the car. The chair comes with a padded carry strap - which I attached for the photo below, then promptly removed and threw back in the garage. There are also adjustable buckle clips to stop the chair opening up when folded. This is handy if you do stuff clothing in it for transportation, which is possible because the cover is now one piece.

Folded chair showing carry strap.

Side clip
The back legs of the two chairs were lined up for this photograph
The cover is now padded, with a headrest - or, for tall people like me, a neck rest. Time will tell if this makes any difference to comfort. It is also extended at the front, making the seat area much longer which really does make the chair better for sitting in. I always felt like I was perching on the old chair and often put my feet on the cross rail to stop myself slipping off.

New leg design
The legs have been realigned and altered in the way they fold. In fact the frame has been almost entirely re-jigged while retaining the principle of the design. The overall height at the highest setting isn't much different. However, when set at their lowest the new chair is a touch higher.

Rear leg designs compared - note bolts in place of rivets making legs less 'floppy'
Height difference when low and longer 'seat' are of new chair compared
I'm not sure if the plastic things on the legs are meant to be non-slip feet, but when you fold both legs up they can be used to stop them falling down. If that is intentional, or why that might matter to you, I don't know. I thought I'd mention it anyway!

Legs locked together
Having only sat on the chair for a few hours so far it certainly seemed like an improvement over the previous model. Prolonged use will tell.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Still in the dark ages

A kestrel flew over head, prey grasped in its talons, as I loaded myself up for the walk along the canal towards the spot I fished last time out. When I got there I was greeted by the sight below.

Nobody would ever consider cutting the head off a perch or bream and chucking its body in the grass to rot, yet eels still get this treatment in the 21st century. It's not as if pike get a much better deal. I still see jacks floating in the canal from time to time. Either killed deliberately or dead through bad handling. I decided to fish a different swim.

As usual the first job was to get some baits caught. The first one took all of ten minutes. Then it got harder. Bites weren't lacking, it was just that the next fish was a hybrid that I just managed to swing to hand without the rod snapping. Then the tiny perch arrived. For some reason I don't fancy perch as bait for eels. They seemed to avoid eel attention when I used them as deadbait for pike in the Lake District, while herrings and mackerel would get ragged to bits. Which makes me consider trying mackerel for the eels. For some reason coarse fish are always thought of as eel baits, but sea deads are for pike. I've landed one or two eels on half herrings in my time. I should give it a go.

I missed quite a few bites because I was watching the birdlife. I'd heard a whitethroat rasping. They love tangles of bramble and briar, so it was no surprise to see one, maybe two, whitethroats in the patch opposite me and working through the hawthorn bush the thorny mess surrounded.

As it got towards eeling hour the bites on the float rod came more regularly and increased in confidence, but the fish were getting bigger. Roach and hybrids, one of which tried to drag the rod in while I was setting up the eel gear.

It wasn't much of a sunset in some ways, but the way it briefly brushed the tops of the grass and lit the delicate flowers of the meadowseet evoked the long, late summer evenings that are the nostalgic view of England at this time of year. In reality the period of glancing golden light is fleeting. We imagine it lasts longer than it does, and photographs turn moments into an age, which in turn becomes our memory of the experience.

Although there was cloud cover and the air temperature was high there was a breeze with enough north in it to bring a chill. There was no rain. Which made a change. I wasn't sure if I'd made the right swim selection though.

The first take came to the left hand  rod. A twitchy affair which I missed. The bait was taken almost immediately on the recast. Again the run was missed. Third time out the bobbin rose and dropped halfway back. When this happens I help it on its way by pulling the slack through the rings to realign the bobbin on its full drop. Except this time the slack was never ending. Either the line had been bitten through (possibly by a passing pike) or the lead was tangled and I had a slack-liner. I removed the bobbin from the line, picked up the rod and wound into a fish. This fish turned out to be a skinny jack not much heavier than the eels I've been catching!

That rod remained undisturbed, but the bites then commenced on the other one. Some twitchy takes that didn't develop, one an absolute screamer that had the baitrunner spinning. All were missed. Although frustrating, and the eels small (which might be part of the problem), I think it's the challenge that is keeping me interested for now. Although the thought of throwing a couple of boilies in a barbel river to get the rods bent without much effort is becoming increasingly attractive.

Friday, July 06, 2012


One of these days I'll learn to strike while the iron is hot. On my way to the tackle shop I called in at the canal for a look-see. There were small fish cruising and topping all over in the warm sun. Great. I'd nip back after tea and nab a few for bait, then stick a couple out for the eels.

The tackle shop almost tempted me with a new low chair, but I hadn't got enough cash on me. It might yet tempt me. I picked up a tub of dendrobenas in order that I could eke out my one remaining frozen fish in case I failed to catch anything for bait. I also picked up one of those Sonubaits buckets I mentioned a while back. I still can't understand what's so attractive about a bucket with a tray that clips in the top...

True to form, what had been a bright t-shirt day clouded over. After tea I did the unthinkable and cut the front grass. There were oak saplings sprouting amongst the horsetails. Then it started to spit with rain. I had the rods in the car but dithered over loading everything else. Then the sky began to look brighter and the rain stopped. Off I went.

I was soon dangling a maggot in the canal which was now seemingly devoid of fish. However, the float bobbed and dipped and a small bream, they seem as numerous as roach used to be when I was a lad, was popped in the bait storage facility. That was it. I struggled on until boredom made me set the eel rods up. A quick plumb around revealed little bottom weed so the baits went out.

I'd planned ahead and put then overtrousers on before setting off. When the rain arrived at nine thirty I put the brolly up. It was warm summer rain, falling gently. About as pleasant as rain can be. Not enough to warrant putting on the waterproof jacket. Still too warm to require the fleece.

Shortly before ten the bites started. Twitchy affairs that refused to develop. The bobbin would always reach the rod before dropping back again. Rig problems? More weed than I'd thought? Line bites? Bootlaces? I've no idea.

The rain eased, then stopped. I almost took the brolly down.

The bites continued. I hit one to feel a momentary thump and wriggle. Once a bait needed replacing. Then it rained.

I mean rained. Big, heavy drops. Lots of them. I put the jacket on and looked out to see no sign of respite. It was in for the night. Whatever I did, however long I waited, I was going to get wet. I planned my retreat carefully and everything was packed away quickly and efficiently. Water was running off everything.

In the car the windows misted up immediately and the wipers struggled to clear the windscreen. Rain filled the gutters and ran down the slightest of slopes in a torrent. When I arrived home, which took less than ten minutes, it had stopped. Pretty much. I was convinced that, with the wind being negligible, I had driven ahead of the cloud and the rain would arrive as I put the gear away. It didn't. The rain really had stopped. I'd got soaked for nothing. The waterproofs were hung in the bathroom to drip dry and I went to bed in a huff.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Dog day after tea

It was a funny day, weather-wise, yesterday. There were rain showers but it was warm enough between the short breaks to dry stuff on the washing line despite a lack of sunshine. Then there was a couple of thunderclaps in the afternoon before the rain left, according to the BBC weather page, for the rest of the day. A muggy night was predicted. It seemed like a good opportunity to try for an eel or two.

Unsure if my hip had recovered sufficiently to get me to the area I'd visited last week I set off to look at a spot with a track record. Many years ago I hooked the biggest eel I've seen in the canal there. It's a September day that I'll always remember. I had gone pike fishing and was paternostering livebaits. Baits about five inches long. I don't think any pike showed up but I did land a perch of a pound and a half, which was surprise enough. Then there was the eel. It wasn't massive but having caught and weighed bigger in the intervening years I'd say it was close to three pounds. Big enough for me for a canal eel.

The passage of time had changed things. Not so much for the worse, as the water still looked inviting, but for the inconvenient. Where there had been plenty of swims to give access through the marginal growth there were none. I had to fish closer to the car.

Gratuitous snail photo
The float rod was out first, but to little avail. It took almost an hour for the first bite to materialise. The first of the dogs didn't. Two thirteen week old beagles, all big paws, floppy ears and disobedience, came tumbling over themselves and each other. Friendly and inquisitive. I'd forgotten that this was a popular place for dog walkers. Reminded of this I checked my swim for turds I might miss when the light faded and I could be blundering around on my hands and knees with an eel. There was only one. I covered it with a scrap of wood I found lying around.

When the first bite came I was gawping at something or other. Turning my attention to the float it wasn't where it should have been. It was under the surface of the clear water travelling at a rate of knots! The resulting bream was borderline eel bait. Not having much in the way of frozen baits it got added to the stock. The second bite was more tentative. The bream too big to swing to hand and too big for bait. That was my lot.

Not being sure what the bottom would be like, with the water clear and it now July there was a strong possibility of it being covered in claggy weed. A few casts with an unbaited eel rig proved it to be fishable. As has now become my habit the long lead link rod was cast to the far side and the other dropped in the central channel. The light bobbins were put on long drops, the baitrunners set as slack as possible. Sit back and wait.

Two passing Labradors invaded my swim, sniffing for food. A mole burrowed its way along near my banksticks. I was sure I heard a cuckoo. I must have imagined it.

There wasn't much of a breeze. A very slight ripple was on the surface away to my right. Now we are past the longest day dusk is already coming noticeably earlier. The sky was thick with cloud making dusk come sooner still and last longer. There was no need for the fleece. More dogs went by. Ignoring me. Thankfully.

It was heading for ten, still light enough to live without the headtorch, when the right hand alarm sounded as the bobbin jumped up to the butt ring. It held there while the alarm continued to sound. The spool was stationary, which confused me, but the rod tip was pulling round. I lifted the rod and engaged the reel to feel an eel writhing. It wasn't a big one. I didn't weigh it. It did have me convinced I was getting the hang of things.

Eel with unusual eye 'defect'
The trace needed changing as I'd bent the hook while removing it. While rummaging in the rucksack for a fresh trace I was surrounded by a whirling mob of dogs that looked like they should have been pulling a sledge across the Arctic snows. And a collie. There were dozens of them. Or so it seemed as they milled around me. One had a crap. Two apologetic women appeared carrying plastic bags. The crap was removed.

Dog walkers on lakes are bad enough, but they usually do a circuit of the water so they only pass by the once. Here they walk from A to B and back again.. I had the dog pack to look forward to again. When they returned it was dark. At least the mutts had calmed down this time and they passed by without disturbing me. By now it was dark. There'd bee no more dogs. I could relax and wait for action.

Oh yeah? Half ten and another one appears. I like dogs, but I like peace and quiet more when I'm fishing. I'll think twice before fishing this stretch again. This time a boxer on a lead. The first dog to be under control all evening. On its way back the owner said he was looking forward to summer. It was drizzling again.

The left hand bobbin lurched upwards, stopped and dropped back. As so often seems to be the case, it wasn't long before the right hand bobbin did the same. So much for having the indication thing sorted. When I wound the baits in to pack up shortly afterwards they were both weeded. That probably explains why they got dropped. That's my excuse for now, at any rate.