As I have mentioned before, one of my favourite haunts was Teynham Marshes. We loved wandering along the streams and across the fields. In those days owls built their nests in holes in the willow trees at the edge of the streams. These were fresh water streams and unpolluted, so we never went thirsty. Watercress grew in abundance in the stream near Frognal.
One of our activities was eel fishing or ‘eeling’ as we called it. The only equipment required was one of Dad’s straightest bean sticks, a pin from Mum’s workbox and a short length of string. With these, along with a tin of freshly dug worms, away we went.
The eels buried themselves, tail first, in the mud of the stream bed. As this left a small indentation, we looked for these tell tale signs and dangled our bait in the small holes.
This poem is actually true, it happened on one of my early expeditions; I must have been all of ten years old at the time. Such freedom we had, how lucky we were to have lived in those days. The eel, by the way, did fly through the air, only to fall in another small stream. It must have been it’s lucky day!!
The One that got Away
The Teynham Main Stream
Was a schoolboy’s dream
As it flowed from Frognal to Conyer.
In the shade of a willow
With a root for a pillow
Just to lie on the bank and ponder.
You know, I once caught an eel
On a rod with no reel
With some string and a little bent pin,
The bait was a worm
That would wiggle and squirm
While it waited for me to cast in.
I first found a hole
Then reached for my pole
To dangle the bait in the mud,
As it suddenly sank
I gave an almighty yank
And fell in a heap with a thud.
The eel flew through the air
Left my little hook bare
“Cor this is ‘gonna’ be slaughter!”
It came down again
In a little side drain
And slithered away in the water!!!