Angling Times (UK)

Encounters with big eels stay with you for a lifetime


THERE’S something magical about eels. Enigmatic, inspiring, and all too rare these days, it’s a privilege to be able to see them in the pages of Angling Times each season.

It’s an even bigger honour to be able to catch them, and I know those who target them hold them in the highest regard.

As Martin Bowler reveals in his latest adventure, it’s those nights when it’s too muggy to sleep when it’s ideal to be on the bank in search of a specimen. Like many, he can’t wait to do battle with the most secretive of our predatory fish.

He’s not the only one fishing for a monster, though – Dom Garnett had me in stitches with his latest column. I won’t spoil it, but be ready to meet Kevin, the politest of eels.

My first experience, which led to a small obsession with them, started on a family holiday at the coast when I was still in short pants. I can remember clapping my eyes on a wetsuit-clad chap walking along a boat jetty, clearly back from a successful dive.

He had a gloved hand inside a conger’s mouth and the rest of the fish draped over his shoulder and down his back, with at least two feet of eel dragging on the ground! I don’t think I’ve ever been so wide-eyed at seeing such an incredible fish. It was just a shame it was bound for the table. However, it did spark something of a fascinatio­n in me which led to many trips in search of eels in my teenage years.

Back then it seemed they were in every river and farm pond, and I recall sessions on an awkward to fish swim on the River Dee which resulted in large numbers of them.

There was a deep spot in the peg which always seemed to come alive as dusk set in, and you could catch a lot of 2lb-plus fish on a bunch of red maggots.

Eel numbers have dwindled markedly, but their stature hasn’t diminished – a truly incredible creature.

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