With all the work I could get done out of the way, and the T20 World Cup finals over in short time I was getting twitchy as I hadn't wet a line since Monday. In anticipation I'd prepared some hemp and fancying a dusk into dark session thought I'd fish the feeder for a change, so I'd tipped in some crushed halibut pellets to soak up the hemp juice and form a binding, and attractive, mush. Originally I'd planned to set off around eight, but by the time the Archers was over I could stand it no more. An hour later I was walking the banks of a deserted stretch of river that didn't seem to have been fished much during the first few days of the season.
The river was painfully low, bare rocks showing that are usually betrayed by the disturbance they create on the surface, and hardly any flow on the bend. Small fish were topping and splashing, so it didn't look as 'dead' as it can. The level had obviously been higher judging by the damp line on the rocks and there was a slight peaty tinge. I wasn't expecting action until dark so took my time setting up.
I'd tried to travel light by leaving the rucksack behind and putting everything in my bait carry-all. It didn't really work and I felt more disorganised than usual. By quarter past eight I had two feeders out, one fishing an 8mm crab Pellet O and the other a piece of fake maize for a change. It wasn't long before the maize was replaced by a 10mm Tuna Wrap. I'll save the plastic baits for a time I know there are plenty of barbel to be caught.
The wind was light and the sky cloudy, but it being the day of the Summer Solstice darkness was a long time coming. At eleven it was as dark as it would get. Few bats were seen, and fewer chub pulls. Unusual. My intention was to fish until about one. By midnight my hopes were starting to fade when I heard the sweet sound of a baitrunner spool spinning and saw the downstream pellet rod arced over for the first time this season. There was a satisfying steady pull on the end of the line, it felt like it might be half decent. A couple of runs and I was starting to play the 'guess the weight' game. When the fish hit the light from the Petzl it looked smaller than it felt. In the net I wasn't sure. Three months since I'd last seen or weighed a barbel and my powers of weight estimation had deserted me.
The scales revealed the answer, just on nine pounds, maybe a shade over. Not a bad way to kick off the river season and nice to get a bend in a rod again after a couple of blank tench sessions. Would there be more barbel to come?
As it turned out there wouldn't. There was a slight sign of hope when the same baitrunner burst into life when the adrenaline had worn off and my eyelids were starting to droop half an hour after returning the barbel. That turned out to be a chub of some three or four pounds that soon gave up the fight. By one I was wide awake again and decided to give it another hour. By quarter to two I'd had enough and began to tidy the inessentials away. As I did so drizzle started to fall. Time for bed.
Driving away I turned into the village to hear a loud metallic rattling and screeching sound coming form some part of the car. I pulled over and shone the head torch underneath expecting to see something dragging on the road. There was nothing. I set off again and the noise quietened until I turned another corner when it came back only to fade away on the straight. At the next bend, crossing a bridge, the screeching started as I turned the wheel, then shut up and came back as I turned the other way over the bridge. Once more I pulled over for a look. Nothing to be seen. Having had a wheel bearing fitted last week I decided to take the wheel off. None the wiser I put it back. I'd set off again and if the noise was there I'd call the AA. Off I went, there was a bit of a squeal then it went. Round some bends and silence. I drove home expecting a wheel to fall off at any moment. By the time my head hit the pillow at 3.30 dawn was cracking a smile
Back to the mechanic today for an inspection I think. Cars? Can't live with them, can't fish without them. The most important bit of tackle you have.