The Boat House - by David O'Sullivan
As you said you were desperate for articles, I thought this might be my only chance of ever getting anything published……
We are sitting in the pub: myself, Andrea- my wife, Helen and Lofty, Mark, Dave and Debbie. We have a holiday cottage brochure. The purpose of the evening is to pick a location for a long weekend away. Some of the group like the idea of staying in a lighthouse, and some an elegant country house in the middle of nowhere. But me- I’m on a mission; I have an ulterior motive- a secret agenda. I have to sell this location.
“Has anyone seen this one?” I ask, knowing Helen already liked the look of it. Slippery Sully is now in full flow.
“It’s a Grade II listed detached property, occupying a stunning lakeside position in the grounds of Westwood Park, on the edge of Droitwich Spa.” (Don’t mention the eels! Don’t mention John Sidley! You’re doing fine- they like it so don’t blow it!)
“Guests are welcome to swim from the jetty or bring their own rowing boat. There is also a wooden hide for bird watching. You have a 60 acre lake to yourself in unique, stunning surroundings.”
Then Lofty spots that it says you are welcome to fish the lake as well. I reply (looking as guilty as a puppy sitting next to a pile of poo) “Oh! I didn’t see that bit.”
My cunning, subtle plan is in tatters and the game is up. And yet, we all decide to book it. I then say, “I’ll get the drinks in!” which leaves everyone in stunned silence.
After many years of dreaming of fishing Westwood Park, this was my chance to walk in the footsteps of giants who have gone before and add my tribute to all the great eel fishermen who know just how good this particular water was and what monsters it may still hold.
Mid April 2008, and we’re racing up the M42 on a Friday afternoon- like a small boy waiting for Christmas morning I had to be the first one there- and bagsy the best bedroom to boot. While my wife valiantly brought in the cases from the car, I was already up the jetty with my fishing gear setting up. I was full of cold, it was wet, windy and hardly good eeling conditions but that wasn’t going to stop me, and by the time we left on Monday I had the worst man flu in history.
The rest of the group arrived soon after, and we ventured in to cosmopolitan Droitwich nearby for a curry and a beer. Saturday morning I’m up at the crack of early, fishing with man-flu and a hangover, and Lofty trying hard to catch small silver fish. Several cups of tea and a hearty breakfast later, I managed to land an 8lb pike on roach head. The weather improved slightly in the afternoon, and we walked along the dam wall to the other end of the lake. Standing on the dam wall, I became very emotional and a little verse came to me.
What secrets, what nights he has known,
What hope, what light he has shown.
And on those lakes of Heaven,
He’s done one better than eleven.
John Sidley was here. I even showed his book to my friends, on that very same dam wall.
Saturday night, we had a Film theme night. Previous themes have been cowboys, horror, and Star Wars- this time it was Medieval, and everyone dressed as ladies or Knights of the Round Table. I went as a giant cockerel. (As I had proposed to my wife whilst dressed in a 6 ft badger suit, it seemed like the right thing to do and no-one was unduly surprised)
Whilst reading the guest book, I saw tales of eels spotted by other guests, in the reeds just outside our bedroom window. Sadly this was the closest I came to an eel on this trip, and although I got many bites on Sunday night, in gale force conditions, I blanked.
(my rods can just be seen next to the red lifebelt outside the window- my priorities are right- wife in the bedroom and I‘m outside fishing)
On Monday morning, we packed and left for home with no regrets at all. I’d fulfilled a dream I never thought I would get to do- I’d fished Westwood Park! What a start to the season- it could only get better from here. I had my enthusiasm back at last. 2007 had been a hard season. I’d put in more rod hours, having more time now my kids are growing up, but it never kicked off and in my frustration my wife even had to stop me from throwing a rod in the canal at 1.00am one time- I kid you not!
In 2008 I caught my normal quota of bootlaces, but also better eels of 2lb 11oz, 3llb and 4lb 2oz- and more importantly I enjoyed every second. We tried to book the Boathouse again, but sadly it’s no longer available as the owners have moved back in. But I’ve got my eye on a cottage by a gravel pit for April next year- if I can slip this one under the radar as well.