Today turned out better than expected - weather-wise and work-wise. By the time my courier called to collect I'd got the rods whipped up that needed doing and the sun was shining after a drizzly start to the morning! What's a boy to do on the final Tuesday of the river season? Butties were hastily made and gear hurled in the back of the car.
Driving into the valley the blue skies had a real springlike look to them. The sky was a warmer blue than of late. The grass in the fields was greening up and the trees hinting at buds with a less stark appearance. The river was up a good foot and carrying colour. That there were only three cars in the car park amazed me - especially as two were game anglers. I was purturbed to see the familiar figure of EH heading back to his van, though. It was only five o'clock and he'd had enough of blanking. Still, it meant I could fish his swim, over his bait!
I didn't race to cast out but it wasn't long before I had two rods out. Almost immediately I had a tentative enquiry to the downstream rod fishing my now obligatory single 8mm crab pellet. Five minutes later the rod top started bouncing and a small barbel of a couple or three pounds was soon returned. Of the months I've fished for them this season only December has been completely barbel-free. A small achievement - but much better than the lengthy barbel famine I endured last winter. Especially considering how cold this winter has been.
The woods opposite were alive with bird song of all sorts, including the first green woodpecker I've heard this year. Well before sunset the owls started their hootings. Sunset is coming later now, the heat went out of the day well before the sun had gone but when it stays light until after six-thirty it lifts my spirits. Once the clocks change it will be light until almost eight and spring really will be here. I even carry on working later when the evenings lengthen - which makes for more fishing time by getting more done each day.
As the sun set the stars came out in a crystal clear sky, not much later the moon shone brightly casting an eerie light across the fields and the tree tops. I was, of course, listening to the final test match from the West Indies and it was gripping stuff. As the tea break was coming to its end the downstream rod bounced again. This barbel was a little bit bigger than the first. The upstream rod had been motionless. Both remained immobile for another hour. Had it not been for the cricket I'd have packed in. The air temperature had dropped considerably to about 3.5c from the daylight high of over 10. The water temp was a pretty steady 6.7c, so action could have been more hectic.
I'd had a recast of both baits at eight. Ten minutes later the downstream rod came alive for a third time. This fish held station against the well bent Chimera 3, giving occasional thumps for a few seconds before everything went slack. It felt like the dreaded cut hooklink as I could still feel the lead as I wound in. But no. The hook was still attached. However the pellet had gone and the pellet stop was broken. I can only assume the fish had never been hooked and was pulling on the pellet lodged in the corner of its mouth.
A fresh bait was rigged on the hair, a new stop attached and the hook nicked into a PVA mesh bag of pellets. Again it was just ten minutes before the rod was bouncing. Another juvenile was netted and returned. By now all my gear was covered in dew and the moon was making me squint. Funnily enough I wasn't feeling cold. The test match reached its climax and I packed up.
Four more days of river fishing left for this season. Decisions, decisions...