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A Scottish fairy tale - by Chris Daphne

Where do I start?

.........Well, there is a loch not too far from my house, and for some reason I had this belief that there had to be a big Eel in there, lurking amongst the various remains of many accident, cars, vans and even a lorry. You wouldn’t think that it had so many secrets. It is not big water, although what it lacks in size it makes up for in depth - 120m at it’s deepest. I knew Eels were present because we had caught quite a few during electro-fishing operations on the outlet stream. The problem was getting permission to fish it as all waters here are fly only and angling is geared towards the native populations of Trout I had already gained access to another local water as it is part of a research project I set up. I asked the local angling club and they gave me permission not only for the loch in question but every water they had.

        I have had 3 sessions on my other water and was really pleased with fish of 2lb 5 oz, two at 1lb 4oz and another four smaller Eels. I felt it was only a matter of time before I would get a four pound fish (my target weight) as this was my first sort of pioneering year in the hunt for Eels. Now don’t get me wrong, I am no expert, my tackle and tactics aren’t the best as I am limited to the tackle available in the very few shops that stock anything resembling coarse tackle. I have picked a lot of stuff up from the Eel fishing forum, chatting with various members etc, what a great site and a great bunch of people.
          Anyway, to the night/day in question. June 15/16 2009. After speaking to a few guys on the phone, namely Scott (Ashy) and Mark (who kindly gave me Barry’s number) and Barry, who gave me a bit of advice on tackling some of these highland lochs (cheers mate) I felt the urge if you know what I mean. I decided to have another crack at my usual water but as I was travelling past the loch in question, it looked spot on. On with the brakes, half an hour later and I’m fishing. Trout head section on one rod, tail section on the other. I was fishing a point, so my rods were parallel to the roadside bank which was to my left. Rod 1 was cast 20 yards or so out but towards the road so in effect my bait would be on the steep slope in about 15-20 foot of water Rod 2 was just whacked out into the deep open water to my right.

          At 1 am I had a single beep on the alarm as the indicator rose slightly, I picked up the rod and felt a very slow nod, nod, nod. Something was definitely mouthing the bait. It then slowly and purposely moved off, the baitrunner gave that familiar tick tick tick as line started to slowly peel off. In sweeping movement engaged the reel and swept the rod back to which it replied by hoping right over. I knew then that it felt like a decent fish. It kept really deep, the rod just kept banging. It’s got to be four I kept saying. As it got closer it really started to pull back, I had the net ready but it wasn’t my big net, I wasn’t really expecting anything major. What a carry on trying to get it in, I couldn’t really see how big it was, all I know is that every time I thought it was in, it just backed out. I honestly thought I was going to lose it at any moment. But I didn’t, it flopped in. It was mine.
         I got up on the bank and had a look and I realised it was at least a four but I didn’t realise how big, it wasn’t a long fish but man it had some girth. All sorts was going through my mind, “things look bigger in the dark” (so the missus says) “Eels look bigger than they really are” etc etc. I thought, right I’ll hold it till the morning, get my boss who is the senior biologist, she can photograph and we will weigh it then. Sorted. I had numerous runs until about 0430 but to be honest with you, I couldn’t hit a barn door. I packed up at 0430 and put the sack/net into some deeper water in the shade so as not to stress it. I couldn’t do anything else until 0900. The missus checked that the sack was still there when she went to work (that’s devotion for you).
          Moment of truth. All this time I was thinking maybe it wasn’t that big, perhaps I was just getting over excited. I met the boss and off we went. We decided to anaesthetise the fish so as to not stress it any further; this would also make handling a lot safer for the fish as it was quite lively now.

In the anaesthetic

          By this time I was getting anxious, what did she weigh? Is she okay? Allsorts, finally we zeroed the scales, I had checked and double checked them at home, weighing various items of a known weight to make sure they were accurate.

         At first the scales went round to 6lb 4oz before settling at bang on 6lb 2oz. I looked, double checked, no way that’s near the Scottish record, no way. I weighed it again, got the boss to read it 6lb 2oz. I was ecstatic, my biggest ever Eel, first time on the water. Unbelievable. I still can’t believe it now as I write.

And here she is. A beautiful creature.

        To conclude, maybe I was lucky, right place right time. Who cares, you have got to be there and make your own luck. I just kept things simple, nothing fancy, straight running ledger to a size 4.
        Many good things will come out of this I hope, it has certainly got the tongues wagging in the village, if it raises the profile of this magnificent species then I don’t care whether it’s a record, she went back fine and strong and that’s all that matters. She was my dream fish.

Lastly can I just thank all the guys who I have spoken to in the last few weeks, for all your advice and help, you know who you are!  It’s hard going up here when nobody cares about these fish. And thanks also to the NAC for all the sterling work. Please, please keep it up.

Signing off Tired and happy.


Chris Daphne

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