If everything went smoothly I'd be on the river by four. I had a couple of rods to pack up and send out today, and a few deliveries were due. I was up with the lark, the lark that gets up late, and had the rods packed and collection arranged before the first brew of the day. By eleven all my deliveries had turned up. The courier would be here by two, I could make some pack-up and fill the flask, then go to the Post Office and top up the petrol tank on my way to the river. By three I was reduced to doing the Hoovering...
When the courier eventually arrived the light was starting to show signs of fading. I did the Post Office and petrol run then thought, 'Sod it'. I knew I'd arrive in the dark but so what? Before I left I checked the 24hr weather forecast. It would go cold after dusk then warm up later. It was certainly getting colder and colder as I neared the river. It was just 2.5c when I got out of the car. I'd wrapped up well with an extra fleece, and I'd dug out my Osama Bin Pikin' balaclava which I pulled down over my ears, then put my usual woolly hat on top. Luckily there was nobody else on the river to see me looking more like a tramp than usual!
I took the water temperature and decided not to bother with a barbel rod. 3.8c isn't exactly barbel friendly conditions. That didn't bother me though, as the reason I wanted to fish was to get the benefit of my early Christmas present to myself that had arrived this morning. A blender. I burnt out the last one a couple of years ago trying to grind down halibut pellets. Now I had need of a new one to make liquidised bread. Eager to try the new toy out I'd liquidised half a loaf, and spiced the results up with some Hemp and Hali Crush. It looked the part. Not only did I want to try the bread out, I wanted to have another play with my new reel. We never grow up, do we?
The first couple of casts were made with a plain lead and a knob of cheese paste. Bites came straight away. After that I switched to a cage feeder and swapped between the paste and bread flake. The bites were quite short and sharp affairs. I've still not got the knack of this quiver-tipping lark. Then one bite was really positive - to the flake - and I landed a fish of about three pounds.
The sky was clear and there was a very gentle breeze blowing from the west. It was one of those nights when you could hear all sorts of noises. The first were jackdaws disturbed on their roost, closely followed by owls hooting. Then I heard something I hadn't heard on this stretch before. Coming from the wood on the far bank were the unmistakable grumbling grunts of badgers. It all adds to the great experience of being by a river after dark.
Just before seven cloud cover started to appear in the west, gradually moving closer and shrouding the stars. It began to warm up and I thought I might as well fish on until nine. More bites came to both baits, but I couldn't connect with them. A few minutes before nine I had a twitch to the paste that bounced the tip back. I'd been trying to fish for slack liners with a bend in the tip but it wasn't panning out right. I decided to leave the tip as it was and see if the extra bow in the line might encourage a hittable bite to develop. Seconds later it did just that. This chub was a plump one and weighed just under four pounds. I'd stop a bit longer and have another try with the slack line.
Again bites came shortly after the feeder hit the deck, but they were quick ones. I put my right hand on the rod and hooked my index finger under the line. I saw the tip twitch, felt a pluck on my finger tip and struck - all at once. The fish was hooked. When I switched my head torch on to land the fish I saw that a light precipitation was falling in the almost still night air. As soon as the fish was returned I called it a night. It had been fun, I felt like I'd made progress, and I'd christened my new reel. Not bad for three and a half hour's fishing.
Back in the car the air temperature had risen, as predicted, and rose even more by the time I arrived home. The forecast being so accurate really was a turn-up for the book. The weather's supposed to warm up a bit over the next few days, but it's going to take a while for the river to be warm enough for a good chance of barbel. I expect I'll be getting more chub fishing practice in next time I'm out.