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How to catch a record Eel-  by David O'Sullivan

How to catch a record eel-
It’s easy if you try.
You dream the impossible dream
And then it’s time to die.

          Well that sums it up for me, I really should stop here but alas, I must waffle on and waffle on I must. On the NAC member’s profile, Question 20 asked:

          Do you think the existing record of 11lb 2oz will be broken in the near future? If so, what type of venue do you think it will be and will it be to an eel angler, or to another angler fishing for another species?

I answered:
          I would love to hear of the record going to an eel angler, and God willing it will. The least expected time and the least likely location- cometh the monster! So why not a canal or river, rather than a carp water? It would be good for eel angling and the fresh water eel if a kindred spirit broke the record. God bless us all.

         There are many theories as to why an eel angler hasn’t broken the record, but for me we are just a small band of anglers at the outposts of the fishing world. We are a drop in the ocean, a grain of sand on an endless beach compared to the total annual rod hours put in by anglers who fish for other species. The odds, statistics and the rule book are against us. And yet, I keep the faith. Unsought, unplanned and unexpected - a moment in time when Steve Terry back in June 1978 smashed Alan Dart’s record out of sight. The target species was of course Carp. So many big eels have been caught accidentally by carp and pike anglers over the years that it’s about time we put all this to bed.


         Reading John Sidley’s book he describes losing an eel at Earlswood lakes that he estimated between 15-20 lb. He said it made his 7lb 1oz eel he caught earlier in the night look like a mere bootlace. He got the monster up on the bank but it managed to climb out of the net and slipped back in to the water. It would have been great if John had landed the first double figure eel in Great Britain, but sadly it was not to be. I’ve always said if I ever caught then lost an eel that big I would be like Captain Darling from the last episode of Blackadder Goes Forth and simply note it in my diary as “BUGGER” and move on…..or would I?!

Earlswood revisited- Me and my boy, Liam

          So let’s quickly look at the record. It’s one of the longest standing records in freshwater angling. At the age of 12 when I first heard about the new record I remember being totally blown away and knowing how significant it was even then. It was like Bob Beamans’ long jump record in the 1968 Mexico Olympics- extraordinary, amazing and almost unbelievable but there it was for all to see. I heard some eel anglers even gave up once they heard how big the new record fish was-what was the point now? But Beamans’ record fell and so will this.


So it’s up to us all, but how does one start? Another one of my poems emphasises what it means to me…


11:02 will mean nothing to the majority of you
Yet it’s frustrating and delighting to the chosen few
In reality never the ‘twain shall meet
Yet in fantasy the world is at your feet.

We are shrewdly observed by our adversary
Yet, we are only allowed a glimpse of its mystery
For alone at the final frontier we wait
Because scepticism has a record to obliterate

The Golden Season is now a dark obsession
And the implications are frightening with such passion
For the ultimate sacrifice has its cost
When dates, times and locations are lost

What hope then? In truth there is none.
It died when the dream had begun.
So far from the complex, thickening plot
11:02 still haunts my lonely spot.


          Make any sense? I hope not! I can’t speak for any one else but I have dreamed about catching a record eel. I’ve had many different weights in my head, I’ve had my articles written and my speeches made, I’ve described the battle with the giant to myself many times- what a whimsical world, but I’d have it no other way.

Oh..!...... Happy Nights

But in reality ….

Do I fish the right waters?
Probably not!
Do I put enough rod hours in?
Definitely not!
Do I put myself out enough?
Not a great traveller me and certainly a fine weather fisherman - one would say a tad lazy.
Do I really think if I was lucky enough to hook a record breaker that I could land it?
Not a chance, I’d be like a boxer holding onto his opponent for dear life. I would be trying to stop him hitting me, just like Rigsby when he fought Philip in Rising Damp! Panic would set in and the eel and I would part company with it disappearing faster than the free booze at my works Christmas do! So, I’ll just have to leave it to the professionals out there. But then again, I find eeling quite spiritual, it’s my calling and my destiny-I won’t go into too much depth but ………….. I believe!

        Anyway, back to the real world there was news of a carp angler landing a 13lb eel back in 2005. Sadly it never saw the light of day; the potential significance of that catch was neither understood nor appreciated.


The Great Pretender:
On a bank side so quiet and secluded
I remain unseen and unheard
But the night has been concluded
And my destiny hasn’t said a word

It’s the end of the Anguilla kings reign
And the end of a whimsical dream
For my net has remained dry again
And the monster is nowhere to be seen

The frailest of hopes die in the morning
As obsession takes me by the hand
For a fruitless session leaves me yawning
Yet still I pretend to be the best in the land.

          So what am I on about &who cares! Well that’s one of Arthur C. Clark’s great mysteries I think. I wish you all a fantastic season. Everybody has different ambitions, goals & dreams and that is the beauty of it all. Everybody has something to bring to the party & celebration that we call eel fishing-big or small! Each of us plays our part, & I may only bring a bottle of cheap Bulgarian table wine & a packet of Twiglets, but you still make me feel very welcome. Thank you for that. Do I dream alone? Well no! Hope one of you blows the record away this coming season, & if not I hope you all break your personal bests. But most importantly enjoy the best sport of all- women’s naked jelly wrestling! Oops, sorry, I mean eel fishing! Long live Anguilla, (I’m actually going to finish now)

David O'Sullivan

Thanks to Andrea & Loz for typing this up

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