Saturday, June 19, 2021

Downhill all the way

Full of new-found enthusiasm I couldn't wait to get back after the eels. Two nights later I was walking round looking for a swim to fish. one problem with this particular place is that most of the swims are made to accommodate someone sat on a seat box fishing a single rod. If set up to fish 'carp style' with self hooking rigs and rods on pods this isn't an issue as the fish hang themselves and sat up on the bank you can still get to the rods without fish dropping the bait. Same for piking really when even an 'instant' strike doesn't have to be as instant as striking  a quick dip on a float from a shy biting rudd.

Eel fishing for me is all about striking takes quickly. I don't seem to get the non-stop runs that I used to. even when I did a smart strike might be required to hook an eel before it found sanctuary. when I first fished the canal for eels I was casting baits tight to far bank reed beds. By the time I could grab a rod the eel would be deep in the reeds and everything was solid. I switched to fishing my baits under the rod tops to give me time to strike before sanctuary could be reached. Even sitting close to the rods some eels still made it all the way over the far side!

As the pegs here are all nicely stoned getting individual banksticks in, my preferred way of fishing, it has to be a pod. Some of the pegs aren't even wide enough for that, let alone have room to put up a chair. This all limits my choices. I didn't want to fish the same swim as my first session so ended up dithering between one I've never fished for eels and one I have caught from. The one with previous got the nod.

Conditions were similar to two nights before and I was soon having to replace missing worms. The eels were active again. As predicted my initial success was not to be matched and the average size of the four I landed was well down. I was catching though, which was encouraging. Despite some activity to the deadbait it was the worms getting the majority of the action, both on and off the bottom. By half twelve my stock of worms was getting down to the regs so I packed up satisfied and planning to restock at the earliest opportunity.

That opportunity came on Friday. Get worms in the morning, fish in the evening. Sorted. That was the plan until my car packed up on the way to the tackle shop. Bugger. I was going to change the motor last year but when Covid arrived there wasn't much point as I wouldn't be using it much. Anyway, long story short the car was fixable but the garage had one in that suited my needs and budget. Rather than spend money fixing the Zafira I chopped it in. problem was I couldn't get my hands on the replacement until this Thursday.

A whole week later than planned I was heading back to the lake. Normally I'm not keen on Friday night sessions as it can see carpers setting up for the weekend but as there was a football match of some sort being mentioned all over the internet and news media I thought I might have the place to myself. As it turned out there was one carp angler setting up near a swim I really fancied. I fished my second choice instead.

It was a few degrees cooler than the previous week, but still plenty warm enough as I arranged my gear in one of the more accommodating swims. This one gave me a good choice of features from pads to marginal rush and open water. All easily fishable from a pod.

Baits out by quarter to nine and the bleeps and twitches started soon after. This time it was a night of frustration as even the steady runs were missed. Fishing the off bottom bait close in my strikes almost saw the rig flying out of the water at me a couple of times! Plenty of takes from twitches to runs but no eels landed.

After my first session I'd been rethinking my rigs. In particular my hooklinks. While I like the Kevlar catfish braid I've been using for worm baits it is a bit tangle prone. Rooting in my eel/catfish box I thought it might be worth tying up a couple of hooklinks with the 20lb Mason's Hard Mono I used to use for making pike fly leaders (the bit before the wire leader the flies are attached to before you get the wrong idea...). It's tough, abrasion resistant and stiff. Not easy to knot though. While I was at it I had a change of hook pattern to a shorter shanked more round bend hook. Owner C-5X in fact. Using this hooklink on my leger rig caught me a couple of the small ones on my second session and damage to the mono was negligible. Certainly an option worth persisting with to see if it does significantly reduce tangles.

This is the rig I use for fishing off bottom. The boom is glued into a drilled out John Roberts Paternoster Boom, the end of the boom being flared over after heating to stop it pulling right through. The lead link is heavy and stiff mono for a couple of feet ending in a loop to which I tie a weaker link to take the lead. The length of the hooklink is shorter than the boom to go some way to reducing tangles on the cast. I've been using 70lb Kevlar catfish braid for the hooklinks when using worm baits, but when this does tangle it can be a real bad tangle. I'll be giving 20lb Mason's Hard Mono a try next time out.


Whether the blank session was a result of some change in conditions, the presence of only small eels in the swim or a new tackle curse I'm not sure. Does a 'new' car count as tackle? if not maybe it was the new box I'd got to keep my spare batteries in. It's a neater solution than the box I used to use. takes up less room and stops the batteries rattling about. Although it's designed to hold four PP3 batteries the slots in the rubber insert will take two AAs for my radio and just about three AAAs for my head torch. I was glad of the PP3s when the sounder for my Delkims started making the low battery noise.

Now I'm stocked up with worms I'll be out eeling again soon. I have two swims in mind which I have yet to fish which I think might produce. At least they'll be a change of scenery!

On the rod building front I've had a few unusual builds to keep my interest up and which are options for future consideration.

White painted rod tops are not my thing but I get requests for them on a fairly regular basis. After many years I've got a technique sorted for doing them which I am happy with. It's time consuming but gives a good looking result. I still can't decide if white tips look better with white thread on any rings that go on it or with the same thread colour/s as used on the rest of the rod. This one has two small isotopes added. The customer went with the black/copper thread option.

At he other end of a rod, in this case a lure rod for bass fishing, I came up with a way to fit a full shrink tube handle to a slim blank and make a Fuji butt cap fit and look good. Again a bit of a faff but worth it. Putting the shrink over a hard Duplon cone at the back of the reel seat is another neat and functional touch, I think. If I ever rebuild my trusty P-5s I'll be going for something like this for the handles, only with plain rather than X-weave shrink tube.

Finally, don't ask me to build float rods. Not only do I hate fitting all the fiddly little rings while trying not to break the delicate tip sections I can't find a set of rings which meet my aesthetic preferences. Thankfully I only get asked to build one or two a year, so reducing this to none at all, ever, won't be much of a loss!

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

My garage smells of eels

There's no doubt about it. These days I am very much a fair weather angler. If May hadn't been so bloody wet I might have made a start on my eel fishing a while ago, although an early start can see me burned out before the slimy things are really active. With the temperatures risen and settled I made the trip to the tackle shop for a tub of worms on Friday. Even so my long lay off saw me reluctant to make the small effort to fish after the close of play in the first test match of the summer. Monday was different. It was an easy job to load the car, once I'd remembered to swap my pike boxes for my eel box in my rucksack. At the last minute I remembered the pack of deadbaits I'd bought and I was on my way.

Although there's almost a week of June gone by already there are still some hawthorn blossoms to be seen. Most of those remaining are turning pink and ready to carpet the ground below like a sprinkling of untimely snow. A bitter cold April and the wet May has put everything back, but things are catching up fast with the sudden rise to summer temperatures. Other umbellifers are joining the fading cow parsley along the sides of the path round the lake and at its edge, the guelder rose is out too. Would the eels be stirring from their torpor?

A wander round the almost deserted lake didn't offer much in the way of inspiration when it came to swim selection. So after returning to the car for my gear I settled for comfort and previous track record as my starting point for this summer's eel campaign. Although snags and margins are often cited as the places to fish for eels I feel as if I've had more success fishing my baits in open water on this particular venue. When using three rods one bait gets fished close in, close to reeds, pads or overhanging bushes if there are any. But the open water baits are the ones that seem to get picked up more regularly.

My approach was the usual one. An off bottom worm bait, a legered bunch of worms and a legered deadbait. The dead went to my left on the end of a reed spit, the legered worms into no-man's-land, and the off bottom worms towards a lily bed which has thrown up a few eels for me in the past. All three rods were fishing by quarter to nine. I thought it would be an hour or so before I'd get any action. Plenty of time to relax and take in the world.

I'd seen a whitehroat as I left the car park and the chifchaffs were singing their repetitive song. A grebe was cruising and mallards skulking. Small fish topped in the edge as a carp cruised by. while it was bright the sun was mostly behind cloud and the wind from the north west was cool in my face but hardly rippling the water's surface.

After just half an hour chilling out the right hand Delkim went mad. To my utter amazement when I struck I could feel an eel wriggling it's way to my left. Not for long though. Never mind. It was still daylight and that was one more take than I'd had on the last eel session I put in last year. The off bottom bait had worked again.

It wasn't long before I had twitches to the same bait, and a strikeable (but missed) run to the legered worms. All this in daylight. It was still light at ten o'clock when the off bottom bait was off again. Another good run which I connected with. This didn't feel as heavy as the one that had dropped off at first. The closer it came the heavier it seemed and the first sight of it on the surface had me hoping it stayed attached. Which it did. Making a 50 inch landing net has been one of the best eeling moves I've made! Had the girth of the eel's belly carried on to its vent it would have merited a self take, as it was I was happy to record it laid alongside my rod and scales. With an eel like this as the first of the year it can only be downhill from now on!

 For the next hour it was the traditional experience of small twitches to various baits. At eleven fifteen I connected with one to the off bottom bait to find a bootlace eel foul hooked near its tail. Baffling. Ten minutes later things got hectic.

The off bottom rod produced a pounder. Five minutes later, before I had the off bottom bait back out, I was unhooking a smaller eel which had taken the legered worms when line tore off the reel with the deadbait on the hook. I forgot I'd rested the worm rod across the rod pod when I struck and it went flying as I struck. The run was  missed... With the mess of rods sorted out and all three baits back in the water it went quiet again.

At midnight it was decision time. Give it an hour or wrap up for an 'early' night? A trace tangling bootlace to the off bottom worms at half past made the decision for me. I couldn't be bothered making up a new hooklink in the dark. There were other things which needed sorting out before my next session too, so I packed up pondering as I walked back to the car if eels are crepuscular rather than nocturnal. There does often seem to be a peak of activity either side of nightfall tailing off as the night grows darker.