Who am I?

An individual, of no great importance, who is unable to see the natural world as a place for competition. I catch fish, watch birds, derive immense pleasure from simply looking at butterflies, moths, bumble-bees, etc - without the need for rules! I am Dylan and this is my blog - if my opinions offend? Don't bother logging on again - simple!


Tuesday 27 October 2015

Eels - a rambling jumble of thoughts

I never have, and never will, be a great fan of Anguilla anguilla - The Freshwater Eel. They have proven to be a constant pain since I returned to speccy hunting in November 2011. I'm not talking about a situation that I encountered on the Fenland drains in the 1980's - hoards of ravenous "bootlaces" No such luck - the eels of the East Kent river and drain systems are of a decent average size and active all year round. It doesn't matter whether I'm Barbel fishing during the summer or Pike fishing in the winter - eels are always there, causing problems.

This fish, of 3 lbs 6 oz - taken on a 14mm Halibut pellet - whilst Carp/Tench fishing, was
the catalyst for my project. A comment by Darren Roberts stating that such a specimen
would "make his season" speaks volumes about the viability of my challenge - I replied that it "ruined mine!"
It has only been since I became aware of the "Critically Endangered" status placed upon this species that I've made any attempt to deliberately target them. I have no idea as to how much longer the water quality of my local fisheries will be such that eels are able to prosper; so it is this single factor that swayed my thinking and I set about specifically fishing for them. My research has not been extensive, my venues are chosen for their remote intimacy, not the size of the fish they contain. The wisdom of, the late, John Sidley has provided my basic instructions and I've used some additional stuff from Jim Gibbinson and Mickey Bowles.

One of the very early Tiddenfoot cats - 12 lbs 3 oz
 (On a hair-rigged cat food & Trout Pellet boily with a size 1/0 Au Lion d'or hook)
Straight away I was drawn to the many similarities that Eels share with Wels Catfish, Silurus glanis, a species which had been such a major influence in my angling journey of the 80's - 90's. Especially the quest for minimal resistence bite detection and the rig mechanics which we employed during that exciting period of discovery. Back then, a 30 was a huge Catfish and all of the speccy boys, of that era, were limited to a very small number of venues. This was the arena where a certain Kevin Maddocks and I met head on - let's say I was a nuisance, but one that couldn't be ignored (so very much like these bloody eels!) He went his way, I mine - but I'd like to think that we both made our mark on each other?

My bait presentation using a braided hook link and hair rig.
The hook is positioned just so, because I don't want to have my un-hooking hindered
by the bait being in the way. Eels have relatively small mouths and I am not happy
to start poking around with forceps, in the light of a head torch, attempting
to locate a hook that is masked by my bait.
So back to this recent excursion into the after-dark arts. Jim Gibbinson (Modern Specimen Hunting - Beekay Publishing 1983 ISBN 0-9507598-7-2) makes comment that eels are most active during the first couple of hours after sun-set and I have to say that my efforts have been very much governed by this statement. I haven't considered putting in a full over-nighter in the quest for these fascinating creatures. My results, so much as they are, would tend to support Jim's theory and as such, I'm happy with my approach, and results, without feeling I have missed something.
During October 2015, I have had four sessions after these fish, all four resulting in eels being landed. I've taken five fish from seven bites - two things here? One - eels are still very plentiful in the waterways of East Kent or, Two - they are very easy to catch? I would like the former statement to be the reality - as I'm already planning another campaign for 2016.

The fact that my approach has been fashioned upon ideas that John Sidley and Jim Gibbinson had described in 1979 & 1983, respectively, speaks volumes about my desire to remain faithful to the "old school" type of speccy hunting and all that Dick Walker & Co stood for. I will make no apologies for this - I appreciate how the National Anguilla Club have "developed" the sport -but  I have to do this my way or not at all. This is not to say that I have frowned upon modern advances in terminal tackle; I am only too happy to embrace anything which will assist my cause by being "the best" available. As with all the other species I now seek, modern hooks and hook-link materials are streets ahead of those products which were available in the 80's and I use them willingly. It is the methodology which I must adhere to - my focus is all about how I tempt my prize and not how big it is. (Although I'd be a liar if I said that size didn't play any role in my angling; otherwise it would hardly be "Specimen Hunting"?)

So what's on display here?
I'll start with  my lead arrangement - a 1oz square pear on a free running boom with a large ring swivel on
my main line, which is stopped by a rubber bead slid over a swivel connected to a Kwik Linq. The hook link is a
combi rig made from 12lbs b.s. Korda Subline and Kryston Silkworm with a barbless (crushed) size 9
Kamasan Barbel Maxx.
I connect my hook links to my main line via the Kwik Linq to assist my unhooking process. I am able to leave the
fish in my landing net by unclipping the rig and getting a bait back in the swim before I take the fish from the water.
By doing this, I only have one piece of line to concentrate on and that makes things so much easier for a dumb arse like me! 
As part of my quest for knowledge/inspiration, I visited the NAC website and had a look at some of their stuff - as you'd expect; all very eely! Two things struck me. One - what's up with modern anglers? (Not just eel anglers) Why do they feel the need to thrust their captures towards the lens - the images are ridiculous, out of proportion, wasted opportunities, in my opinion. Two, and far more intriguing - my PB would sit at number 26= in the club top 50. It would, however, be the only one taken on live bait - have no other large eels ever been taken accidently in this manner? I'm sure they have and am at a loss to understand why modern eel anglers haven't pursued this avenue - maybe they have.? When we used to pike and zander fish on the Fenland drains, our live baits were regularly targeted by the eel population. Screaming takes, strike into thin air and recover a headless live bait - now dead! Obviously, our baits were far too big, but there must be some mileage in scaled down tactics?

Just to finish this off - I am no expert on eels or anything eel related. My opinions are simply that and are posted as such. If you feel that I've missed a trick or mislead, in any way, please feel free to voice your point of view via the comment facility. I stated, right at the start of this post that I'm not a fan - doesn't mean that I'm not fascinated by the challenge the species represents!


  1. Did enjoy my eel fishing back in the 80's. Haven't got time to fit it all in now, but perhaps next year. Did all mine in the daytime back then. In fact I gave probably only done a full night about 5 times for anything ever. My best eel came on half a tiny rudd fished on the full fly rod, reel and line combo as a take anywhere, fish down the edge method. It was 5.06 and I also had a tench on the set up too that day.

    1. Thanks for this. I can't honestly say that I enjoy my time spent eel fishing, because I don't! What I am doing, is testing myself and my angling abilities against a quarry that might not be around for too much longer? It is this single factor that has me gripped - cos when they're gone; that's it! Being such a slow growing species, I won't be around to see any renaissance. I'm fascinated by the similarities with my approach and that which I spent considerable effort working on for the Wels Catfish during the mid 80's.
      Many of my ideas are a direct spin off from that particular time of my life - and that was extremely enjoyable!
      I am impressed by the "fly rod" story - Rudd! Now there's a coincidence? My PB also fell to a small Rudd, however, mine was a free-lined, lip-hooked, lively; on a size 2 single and wire trace. What I had assumed to be a pike, was showering a shoal of Rudd in a small culvert on the Somerset Levels. I flicked out my small live bait and the line didn't stop trickling off the spool - a 7lbs 1oz eel being the result! It was a scorching day and, as such, completely a freak capture for which I can take no more credit than being there. Take care & tight lines - Dylan

  2. Well done Dylan, I think most full time eel anglers would be pleased with those results especially in October.

    I'm hoping for a better eel campaign next year, far too many distractions this time around. After fluking an eel on a live roach whilst targetting zander, I will be targetting them with minnows and small silvers on my local river.

    Hopefully your pike season will be as productive mate.

    1. Cheers for the comment Darren - my pike fishing should commence shortly, although the weekend temperatures are predicted to be 20C so not particularly seasonal and definitely not pike angling conditions? Under the circumstances I might just have another eel session - could be well worth a try? As for eels on live baits - I'm convinced that, very much as catfish do, eels take a lot of live prey. Our time on the Fens was a period when eels were plentiful in these waters and our live bait rigs (Dyson rigs for the most part) were regularly the focus of eel activity. In 2015, I will not use live fish as bait - purely my choice. There has to be, however, some scope for pushing the boundaries of eel angling by exploring these possibilities. As you will see in my reply to "Bureboy" - my own PB came on a lip-hooked live Rudd, fished on a large single and wire trace because I thought I was casting to a feeding pike!
      Take care and tight lines - Dylan

  3. Thomas - I'm not too sure that there's much to be "thanked" for? I ended up fishing for eels over the entire winter of 2015/16 and succeeded in catching fish in every month. My final thoughts and conclusions are in a post from 14th March 2016 and demonstrate how far off the mark these original tactics turned out to be.