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Red Letter Day - by Tony Smith

          During 2011, Nick Rose caught two magnificent Eels of 9.02 and 8.02 from a Southern Gravel pit (Nick's capture is recorded here). As expected Nick's Eels where widely publicized in the Angling Press, some stating that Nick's Eels where the the largest brace in history... However we thought that another brace had been caught, larger still than Nick's Eels. Tony Smith wrote to the weeklies and explained that actually he had been fortunate enough to have caught an amazing brace even bigger than Nick's. We asked Tony to give us an insight into his capture...


          I first became aware of the lake when “Angling Times” ran a report of a young angler who had a 9lb+ eel, while carp fishing. I usually find if a water has been fished by eel anglers it becomes difficult, but if an eel is caught accidentally, it doesn't have the same effect, so I filed it away in my eel folder.

          It must have been about a year later, while talking to Kevin Clifford, I mentioned the big eel and always remember his words, “Get yourself over there, Tony”. Around June 2004, I decided to have a look and did a 250 miles round trip, just to take a look at the water!As there was no night fishing, I decided to have a go later in the year, as I feel eels sometimes feed more in the daytime later in the year.

          It was Saturday 18th September 2004 when I went to fish; looking at my diary, I see I have written, “Set up 3pm”. I decided to fish about the middle of the lake, the reason being that I hoped my groundbait would draw any eels from either end of the lake, with it not been too large a water.I chopped some fish up and about twenty lobs and dried it off with marine halibut groundbait, which was then catapulted out. Two rods were put out, both identical, 10lb Maxima main line, 25lb Quicksilver hook links, size 3 Raptor hooks, 2oz free running flat pair leads. The bait was the same on both rods, roach head lip-hooked.

          I had plenty of movement on the bobbins, which I put down to carp moving through, anyway about 5.30pm I had a nice steady run on the right-hand rod. I knew it was a good fish, but it was not until I got it to the net, that I realized it was something special. I had one heart stopping moment, when I was not sure that it had gone into the net or backed over the rim. Anyway, I was relieved when lifting the net to see the eel; this was the 8lb 11oz fish.

          I sacked the fish up, while I decided what to do, then I rang Kevin Clifford to see if he could come over and take some photos. Unfortunately, Kevin had trapped one of his fingers that afternoon and was in hospital. I can't remember if I had my tripod with me that day, I usually do self take photos (actually I always take slides), anyway, the owner of the lake took some photos with my camera, unfortunately he was too far away, even though I kept telling him to come closer and zoom in ! I had about five or six shots left on my camera and I told him to use them all, as I never expected to catch anything to match that fish the same day or any other day for that matter. (One thing I found out over the years, you really do need somebody who is used to taking big fish shots with a camera).The eel was then returned to the water, so I never had both eels together on the bank at the same time.

          About 6.30pm I had another run on the left-hand rod, this eel felt more powerful and shot off to the right, I could hardly believe it, when I saw it and I thought this looks bigger than the 8, it weighed 9lb 4ozs!  By now word had got around about the big eels and quite a crowd gathered round, it reminded me of Jim Gibbinson's favourite photo in his book “Carp Fishing”. What did surprise me was the reaction of another angler fishing about 25 yards away, when somebody shouted to him, “Come on and look at this!” and he said, “I don't like eels, you can keep them!” and never even came to look!  I would have driven 100 miles just to see a fish like that.

          I asked the owner if I could sack the fish up overnight, while I got somebody to take the photos, but he was reluctant to let me. Anyway, somebody came up with a camera and took a couple of poor photos, so I never got a good photo of either eel.
          As you can see from my diary page written that day, I measured the eels and I fished on for a short while, but had no other runs.The 125 miles home passed in a daze, my main memory is playing a track on a CD called “Red Letter Day” over and over again!I returned about a week later, but did not have any runs, so I only fished there twice.

          I must be honest and say I would not have reported the catch, as I did not want the publicity, but the owner rang “Angling Times” to report my catch. Since then I have not done a lot of eel fishing, as I am very much an all-round big fish angler, but last year I called to see a friend of mine, who looks after a lake and he said, “I'm glad you called. A 10lb+ eel came out two weeks ago, to a casual carp angler.”
          Again this year, I was walking around another lake and I asked a pleasure angler if there are any eels in, he looked up and said, “My mate had an 8lb eel last week, I'll show you the photo on my mobile.” (7lb certainly, 8lb maybe). So the big fish are out there.I haven't fished either water yet, but one day.

          Well, that's about all I can remember about that special day, but I hope it inspires NAC members, to get out there and enjoy the adventure. I hope to see one day, the 11lb 2oz record fall to an NAC member, as I feel that is where it belongs.

Don't let me down guys!

Tight lines

Tony Smith
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