Night fever - by David O'Sullivan
They say the night is for owls, bats and ladies of negotiable affection, but what about eel anglers? The mysterious, nocturnal hunters of the night.
The Night Stalker
The day is just an endless blank
Until the dying of lighted skies,
And just before the sun has sunk
A magic dances in my eyes.
It’s like a strange, magnetic force
That brings me here at night.
But what alters my normal course
Is beneath me out of sight.
To dream here is to wake,
And to be consumed by this place,
To touch the surface of the lake
And to calm a troubled face.
I hear the eel rolling upon its side.
Its music won’t let me forget.
The echoes from the depths you hide.
And your beauty that graced my net.
It must be the kid in me, but I’ve always liked staying up late. There is something surreal or just plain mad about sitting alone at the bank side in the dead of night.
It once occurred to me that it would be really good and much more considerate if eels fed more during the day or were more active in the winter months. But would I want to miss out on all those warm, summer nights- not likely!
I am free, not only am I at one with nature, but spiritually I’m on another level. A peace descends, but quickly disappears as daylight breaks.
People think you can’t see at night, but it’s amazing, once your eyes adjust to the darkness there’s no problem. For me there is no better atmosphere on the bank side at night; everything comes alive- the undergrowth is so noisy, fish splash wildly on the surface and no two nights are the same.
God the artist does not put his brush away after the sun has set. Time and scenery do not stand still, for a hanging picture is not His will.
There are no green, rolling fields, or endless pale blue sky. He works on after dusk as the heavy clouds form and disappear and the stars pierce the violet canopy overhead with the moon watching on, soulfully smiling on the lonely angler below. (Bloody full moon- why don’t I ever remember to check the moon phases!!)
I read with interest in the NAC magazine about short sessions, because they suit me fine. I like to be off before the dawn (not that I have to return to my coffin or anything!) but I’ve got to be able to function properly the next day. I have to have a smile on my face and not be grumpy, or this little avenue of pleasure may forever be cordoned off. When you blank you seem to be more tired- something I know too well. But I’ve perfected the art of “automatic pilot” conversation when people talk to me the next day and generally say yes and nod in the right places.
I’ve lain in the bath at 4.30am covered in eel slime after catching a 3lb 10oz from the canal and a week later I caught an eel of exactly 4 lb from the same spot.
Again, more slime and bubble bath.
It’s amazing but the next day I was on such a high at a mate’s barbeque -not from the excitement of catching such a good eel the night before, but more from the fumes of the Christmas aftershave I’d soaked myself in to get rid of the eel smell. The point is I wasn’t at all tired, but everyone else was after listening to me all afternoon.
Now for the other side of midnight…..
Falling in is the obvious thing- been there and bought the tee-shirt…and then used it to dry myself off with.
My shoe is still in that farm pond somewhere. Dog muck in the dark - it’s always going to be me so don’t anybody else bother checking their shoes. It’s been on the end of the rod, I’ve sat in it, walked in it - it’s been everywhere - in fact I can still smell it now.
I nearly took my eye out once when the bomb flew back and caught me. Trying to pull it free from the bushes is like going back to the firework after you’ve lit the blue touch paper or staring down the end of the hosepipe wondering why the water’s taking so long. My brother-in-law asked me what I was doing, fumbling about on the towpath in the dark. “I’m looking for my eye,” was my genuine reply, as I couldn’t see for quite a while. There’s a picture of me somewhere with a 2lb 8oz eel and a 6lb 8oz zander and a really big black eye. My brother in law insisted that we go to Warwick hospital, which isn’t wise at 2.00am on a Saturday morning. It was full of drunks and I was amazed at how many girls in short skirts were throwing up in those funny looking grey hats.
We were watching Argentinean football until half past five in the morning in the waiting room and all that was left in there was a scruffy looking bloke, with a fat black eye, who smelled like Grimsby fish market on a hot day. The doctor didn’t believe I’d been fishing that night and thought I was up to no good.
I’ve seen some very dodgy characters and some funny goings on whilst night fishing and some of them have come with me.
The most recent disaster was a canal boat full of drunken idiots wedging the boat under a bridge for half an hour whilst they tried to turn it round and letting off fireworks at the same time…and all this 30 yards from where I was sitting. If a brass band and majorette team had marched down the towpath practicing their big show number, they’d have made less noise than that boat load of halfwits. When I was approached at night by a rather big bloke I thought he was going to ask to borrow my wallet, but instead he started to ask what fish were in there.
Turns out he’d just taken up fishing and was looking for new locations. When this big bloke said, “You’ve got some bottle, fishing out here on your own,” it did make me think - if he’s nervous and would never think about doing that kind of thing, I suddenly felt a bit vulnerable. But that’s the nature of eel fishing and I’ll take my chances with the bats and the owls, but the ladies of negotiable affection are off limits.
The Eel Men
They move in mysterious ways,
Where obsession elusively strays.
And they closely guard a secret
That comes to life with the sunset.
The sun descends into the ground,
Like a golden coffin without a sound.
And then the two shadowy figures appear,
And I alone know they are there.
There are no voices from the muggy shade,
Just a light whisper the breeze has made.
And yet far across the moonless bank side,
I know the strangers freely hide.
I cast a knowing and kindred eye,
Then leave under a darkened sky.
I return again at first light,
Only to find them gone in the night.
My life seems like an endless maze,
How I wish I walked in mysterious ways.
And the water looks like one big grave,
Because there’s no magical dream to save.