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Theatre of Dreams - by Nick Duffy

          It all started last August, after Steve Ricketts caught his 9lb 10oz eel, plus others. He rang and asked if I would like to guest for a week on his Colne Valley lake, Broadwater. I’d had a few eels- 3’s and 4lb 5oz- so my season was rolling along like it normally does. Like anyone else would, I said, “If I must!”

          A date was set, gear was sorted and off I went from Birmingham. It’s a straight 110 miles, and one and a half hours later I was getting out of my car. I was presented with 250+acres of water in front of me. Steve turned up to meet me and off we went down to the end of the lake where Steve had caught his huge eel. To cut a long story short, Steve had 2 eels that weekend- a 4lb 6oz and a 5lb 14oz. I managed a pike of about 12lb that scared the crap out of me.

          For me, that weekend totally ruined my season. I wanted to go back, so when Steve rang again in November and said the bailiff thought I was a nice guy, and would I like to join as a ticket had become available, I bit his hand off!

           Roll on a few months and a hundred phone calls between us about what we thought might happen in the coming year. It was now May, and I’d fished the canal a few times with Sully, and luckily I had caught a 4lb 6oz on the 1st April, which we found funny as we are the club Muppets. But all the time I kept thinking about Broadwater.

          My first trip was also at the same time as the St. Ives fish-in, but however much I love a social; I had to go to Broadwater. The first trip was for 3 days. I got there about 10:00 pm on Thursday, and Steve had already caught a super 7lb 1oz (1oz bigger than my PB- awesome fish). But that was the only chance of a fish we had all weekend, and I totally blanked. However, that was what I came here for- crap or bust!
          I think the highlight of the weekend was my fellow Muppet, Sully, catching his 8lb 9oz eel. It still makes me laugh thinking of him trying to land it. Well done, Sully- you are a true legend now! On getting home, Steve rang to tell me of another member catching an 8lb 10oz in Steve’s swim, which Steve had just done 5 nights in. Gutted or what?!

          I didn’t intend to go again for another 3 weeks (or more like the wife wouldn’t let me). I’ve done a deal with her- no more 3 single night sessions every week so I can have 4 block nights once a month instead. I never thought it would be so hard not fishing. It is a drug, and the end of those 3 weeks couldn’t come quickly enough.

          I went from Sunday to Thursday this time. As normal, Steve had to sneak in there a night early (I’ll beat you there one day, mate) On getting to the lake, I found out that only the 8lb 10oz and 1 other small eel had been caught since we were last there. I was like a kid at Christmas and wanted to know if Steve had caught already. It was about 12.00 pm when I got to the pegs, and Steve popped his head out of his bivvy door to say, “Alright mate!” which he only ever does when he HAS caught.

       “How big?” I asked. “Only a boot,” he added (which could mean anything under 6lb). On pulling the sack in, I found he was right as it was only a 3lber, but at least it was an eel.

          The first night was a total blank for both of us, as the crayfish stripped every rod so I gave up and went to bed. Next morning, I woke up feeling very disappointed with myself. I should have stuck at it, but I had another 3 nights so I must try harder. How many times did my teacher write that on the bottom of my school books? I suppose when doing a long session the boredom takes over, and I always knew I would struggle because there isn’t much to do during the day. I couldn’t even fish the river, even though it was so close.
          Waiting for the eeling hour can be a really long time. After watching my boxed set of Dallas, out went the rods- 2 Dyson and 2 JS. I was ready to do battle with the crayfish, but they never showed. About 11ish I had a slow run on the bottom (Ed: You can get Imodium for that) which I missed. B*ll*x! Was that my chance gone? 7 nights on this water and I miss my first eel run! Maybe I am a Muppet. I lay on my bed thinking of the monster I had just missed, and dropped off to sleep. I was woken at 2:00 am by a gibbering wreck of a man!

“I think I might have broken my PB!”
“B*ll*x! Your PB is 9lb 10oz!”

          After I had given him a few slaps to bring him around, we walked down to his swim and there, lying in the cradle, was the biggest and most impressive thing I have ever seen (since I last went to the loo, that is).

“How big?”

“Don’t know! I can’t keep it still enough to weigh her”

           I took the scales off him, and up she went…8lb 9...10…11…12…13…14... and it stopped. 8lb 14oz- massive!

“Fancy waking me up for that!” I said.

          I used to think my children being born was the best thing I’ve ever seen, but not now. Back in to the sack, and back in the water she went, ready for her moment in front of the camera in the morning. Luckily enough Dougal, the bailiff, and Gary Newman were on the lake close by, and came to help with the pictures. I also got 15 minutes of video as well. It’s the first time I have ever had an alcoholic drink at 6:00am, but what else was there to do but celebrate? The pictures were taken and off she went, swimming strongly. I wanted one of those now.

          If I ever needed a kick up the backside, then this was it. This was what I had come all the way down here for. The day went by quickly for some reason. I found an Indian takeaway, and all my efforts to get tight-wad Ricketts to pay were not working. Fed and watered, I was ready to go again, so out went the rods. It was crayfish trouble-free. I read a perch article once where the guy used to fish a lake and if he got bothered by crayfish, he would move until he found a spot where there were none, and the perch would usually be there. Maybe it was the same here, and the crayfish were staying away because the eels were on the mooch.

          At midnight, I had another slow run on the JS rod. I thought at first it was another crayfish, then line started to come off the bait runner. I struck and quickly reeled in a 2lber. I was chuckling to myself as I recast, as I just knew it would be me that would catch the smallest eel in the lake. Ironically, the last time anyone caught a fish that small from this lake, Birmingham City were also in Europe.

          I didn’t have long to wait for my next chance either. Thirty minutes later, the Dyson was off. I struck and the rod hooped over and the clutch was going. Now I began to panic! After about 30 seconds she was in the net. 8 nights on a lake and I catch 2 eels within 30 minutes; but the other 7 nights were just a blur now. In the cradle she went, and on the scales she was 6lb 2 oz. She was my second biggest eel, and my first 6lber.

          I went to fetch Steve (who can’t half snore!) and tried to stay calm, but I was more than a little bit chuffed with myself. Steve looked and said, “Well done! Now go and catch yourself a bigger one.” He’s right, of course. I want what he had- an 8lber. Photos were done and measurements taken (42 ½ inches long and 9 ¼ girth) and off she went back to her home in the lake. What a 3 days! 4 eels caught-a 2lber, 3lber, 6lb 2oz and 8lb 14oz. This place is the real theatre of dreams, not Old Trafford.

Nick Duffy
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