One summer my brother and I were walking up the river Gele when we spied some older boys with guns. They each had a powerful air pistol. As they walked up the stream in the water they’d stop periodically, lift a rock and fire a shot into the water. At their belts they’d tied a bouquet of twitching dead eels.

Hoping they wouldn’t shoot us, we plucked up enough courage to go a talk to them. They said they were selling the eels to a local fishmonger and shooting them through the head was the fastest way to catch eels.

My dad had a scar on his finger from a bite an eel gave him when he was tickling for trout, with his arm up to his armpits under a rooty riverbank.

We hated it when eels fouled up our night lines. We set them to catch trout. Hoping to pull up a fat trout in the morning we’d detest it when a slimy writhing eel was wrapping itself in yards of monofilament.

Once we decided to cook one to see what it tasted like, once and for all. Gutting an eel is no fun. Having done that though, we cut it into one-inch sections to get it into the aluminium  billy can on the Camping Gaz  burner.

“Oh my God, it’s still alive!” I shouted to my brother. The sections of frying eel were twitching and curling in the pan.

The smell was hyper-fishy and as we nervously bit into the yellowish flesh, I can still remember that bony, rubbery fishy foulness that exploded in my mouth.  And I swear the beast gave one last wiggle as it slid down my throat.

1972 cook-out at Paul Watkins's
1972 cook-out at Paul Watkins's

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