Eel on a Rapala
with Allan Burgess
I had been fishing a Rapala Countdown bibbed minnow close to the bank hoping to lure a good-sized brown trout from its daytime hideout. I wouldn’t usually try this with Rapala lures due to my unfortunate habit of losing them with wayward casts. Fished this way though casting is almost unnecessary. You don’t need to cast out far. Just a rod length or two is all that is required. You can also just point your rod tip at the water and let out line allowing the current on the lure to pull off a couple of metres of line. Let the lure swing into the bank and fish it as close to the overhanging bank as possible.
It is essential to tread softly when employing this technique. Don’t crash about or you will scare away the fish. Often a big trout will be right at your feet without you realising it. Has this ever happened to you? You park the car, get your rod out of the boot, then walk over to the river bank for a look only to immediately spook the biggest fish you will see that day!
Depending on the stream or river you are fishing it doesn’t pay to fish too light. If there are a lot of willows and other obstructions along the river bank you may have to play and land any hooked fish from a stationary position. I typically use 6 lb monofilament which is good in most situations. There have been plenty of times when I wished I had spooled up with a heavier line!
Overhanging banks can be high above the water. Here a net with a long handle is very useful. There are some trout nets available that have extending telescopic handles which are great when fishing from high riverbanks. You need to get into the habit of thinking about how you will play and land any fish before you start casting. I have lost plenty of good fish in tight situations where they have wrapped the line around obstructions like tree stumps and bridge piles!
The Rapala Countdown is weighted so that it almost floats. The flow of the stream will be sufficient to impart a very lifelike movement to the lure. It looks just like a small fish holding in the current. I have also caught many trout with this method using a fly rod and feathered lures. But the advantage of the Rapala is that it swims enticingly while remaining in the same spot provided the stream is moving fast enough. This allows you to prospect along the edge without snagging.
There is, however, one drawback with this spinning technique. Every so often a large freshwater eel will dart out and grab your lure instead of the targeted brown trout. This can be a mixed blessing. It’s great if you are pleased to catch eels as well as trout.
After all, eel is excellent eating particularly when smoked. It is also good if you are fishing with kids. Most of whom seem just as happy to catch a big eel as they are a trout!
On the downside, Rapala’s are relatively expensive and you don’t really want to be feeding them to eels. Another lure that I have used for this style of spin fishing is the soft plastic eel. These have been around for many years. They work very well with a realistic swimming action. On spinning gear, a small lead in the form of split-shot may be needed to get the soft plastic eel to sink to the right depth depending on the speed of the current. The idea is to use the absolute minimum of lead and no more or you will kill the lure’s action or have it snag on the bottom!
It is amazing just how life-like these little soft plastic eels are when in the water. Your gaze soon becomes transfixed as the slightest twitch of your rod tip causes the lure to change direction. Polaroids are essential to steer your little eel away from snags. If you give this a go it is just a matter of time before something big will pounce!