The tight finish in the opening Ashes test match left me needing to chill. I rigged up two of my latest eel rods, sorted the gear, put the worms I'd bought last week into a bucket and set off. There was no rush, I wasn't expecting any action until half nine on a still, hot, and sunny day. After a short look around I took the easy option and started setting up in the peg nearest the car park.
My approach hadn't changed from last year. the running paternoster was dropped close in to my right, the running leger cast out close to the pads. What had change were the hooklinks. Both were much shorter than in earlier years. I've been reducing the length of my eel hooklinks for some time, but now they are only about four to five inches long. It's quite tricky tying such short hooklinks in any material, but the Hard Nylon I'm favouring is a bugger to knot at any length. It can be done. More on that later.
By 8.30 I was all set up and settled in listening the the birdsong and watching the sun sink low enough to stop dazzling me. Bang on cue, an hour later, I had a take on the legered worm and soon swung my first eel of the year in. Only about a pound, probably less, it was still a start.
The second eel took the off-bottom worms at ten past ten. One eel each to the new rods on their first outing. So much for the new tackle jinx! From then on indications came regularly. Some the annoying twitches that resulted in pinched worms, some proper runs that spun the reel spool. Most were coming to the leger rig.
It was half past eleven before I landed another one, half an hour more until the third, and ten past midnight when the smallest of the evening came in. All to the bottom fished worms. I packed up twenty minutes later to the sound of a distant owl hooting.
One of the eels had mangled my hooklink forcing me to tie up a replacement. This didn't go well in the dark. First of all I had run out of the size 6 hooks I'd been using. Go larger or go smaller? I went smaller for an eight. The first knot was messy. So was the second. Eventually I got a rig tied up. Then I had a light-bulb moment. I'd used the hard mono to make lead links by crimping it. Why hadn't I thought of crimping it to use as hooklinks? D'oh!
Wednesday morning saw me sat at my desk crimping up hooklinks. I couldn't find my cup-to-cup crimping tool so used the one I'd bought for crimping wire traces with single barrel crimps. It's not supposed to work on double barrel crimps but I couldn't pull the mono out. With a few hooklinks made up I rigged up my third new rod and swapped all my hooklinks to the crimped ones with size 8 hook.
Another empty car park saw me take a longer walk to look at swims. One looked really inviting but cramped for three rods. It could wait for another night. In the end I chose one where I could cover a lot of water with the baits spread out. As I was setting up a very loud bird sang briefly in a hawthorn behind the swim. Not a song I recognised but I guessed it to be a warbler. Once more it was the paternoster in the right hand margin, the two legers out to pad edges.
Another thought I had during my first session was that a semi-fixed leger might be worth a try. Nothing ventured, nothing gained I had one in operation on the longest cast. After a later start I was fishing by 8.45 only having to wait half an hour until the spool spun on the off-bottom margin rod. I failed to connect.
A couple more times I was startled by the loud birdsong. Eventually I caught a glimpse of a little brown job flitting away. I made a note in my diary about the call, a visual interpretation of it that only I could understand,, and resolved to search Youtube to find it.
It was shortly before ten when the indications started to come frequently and a sub-pound eel fell for to the paternoster rod. Twitched, runs, and everything in between. eventually the takes dried up and I packed away the rods at midnight. the semi-fixed rig hadn't been a success. Winding it in for recasts the three dendrobenas had disappeared every time. Stick with it or not?
Thursday morning I was on Youtube searching for 'warbler sons UK'. I found one video that claimed to haev the songs of every British warbler and clicked 'play'. I decided not to watch it but just listen. A few song in there it was! I replayed it. Yes, that was the song. I searched for other videos and other sites for the bird's song just to be sure. No doubt about it. I'd heard and seen my first Cetti's warbler! Not too uncommon a bird these days, in the right places. It was still a new one for me.
In the afternoon I did my 'big shop', calling in at the tackle shop near the supermarket to see if they had a pair of pukka crimping pliers before ordering a pair off the interwebby. They did. And they were cheaper! With the freezer filled for another month, and my bank account depleted by more than I expected (that's food inflation for you) I set about making up another batch of hooklinks. Tea eaten, the miserable Archers saga listened to (if only Helen could have a freak chess-making accident to put an end to it), I was eager to try my rigs out.
A couple of vehicles in the car park this time but nobody in sight in the area I fancied. I still had a look around before climbing down into another peg which offered a range of opportunities. This time the running paternoster was cast to my left, to a gap in the pads. The running leger went straight out to a pad edge, and the semi-fixed rig was cast the farthest to a gap between to lots of pads. I must have been keen because it was only eight o'clock! As I was setting the rods up I heard the Cetti's Warbler again. Not having been on this spring I'm left wondering if it has been around for long.
An early start didn't bring early action. Well, not too early. ten past nine saw a proper run to the running leger. Fishing three small worms I always wonder if it is an eel that has taken the bait when I strike at these runs. Anything is liable to pick up worms and there have been quite a few carp mooching about.
Ten minutes later the only sign of action to the semi-fixed rod was very small twitches of the rod top. Even with my Delkim on maximum sensitivity there was no sound and the bobbin moved not a millimeter. I picked the rod up and... There was an eel on the end, neatly hooked in the bottom lip! I stuck with the rig as the only way to judge its efficacy is to give it a long enough trial. I know other eel anglers are making it work.
After ten the action picked up apace. I landed five more, yet again all a few ounces either side of a pound at a guess, bar the final one which was most definitely a bootlace. Around eleven I had three takes at once and missed all of them. All the takes cam to legered worms, and one on the semi-fixed rig was a proper 'screamer'. I was sure there'd be a carp on the end when I lifted the rod!
All told an interesting few sessions. Eleven eels is a good start in terms of numbers. Not so good on teh specimen hunting scale though. The short stiff hooklinks are working a treat. The small hooks haven't proved detrimental. Quite the opposite. Semi-fixed rigs do work. Not much action to the off-bottom bait, which is unusual. Eels do have the ability to make you think. The rods have all been christened, but are yet to be tested with something worthy of landing net, let alone a photo session.
The next step? Get some different baits. Fishing three rods with worms is boring!