I hadn't planned to fish, but late on I got the urge. The flask and pellet bucket were hastily filled, the brolly removed from the quiver to cut down on weight, and off I went. I headed downstream of where I had fished last time out. Although the river had dropped a foot or so, was still falling and quite clear, I was strangely confident.
I was low on S-Pellets so had thrown in some near two year old Dynamite Oyster and Mussel shelf-life boilies for a change, and one went on the downstream rod with a single 8mm crab Pellet-O on the upstream rod. There was hardly any breeze disturbing the leaves or the few clouds in the blue sky. A great evening to be by the river. All that was needed now was a fish or two.
Only half an hour in the upstream rod was away. Almost literally! The rod rest hadn't been pushed in too well and toppled forward as the rod headed towards the river. The fish was lively but not too big. As it reached the net the hooklink parted. Cut off near the hook. Damn. Just one of those things and nothing to get too upset about. I was sorting the rig out when the boilie rod signalled a tap-tappy take. This felt like a much better fish. Just as I was planning the photo session everything went slack as a large swirl appeared on the surface of the river. The upper, mono, section of my hooklink had gone at the knot. And I'd checked all my knots before casting out. Double damn.
The rod was thrown up the bank, not in anger but to get it out of the way, and I went back to sorting out the first rod. Not having any small bait rigs tied up I looped on a boilie rig and cast this rod downstream before tying up some new rigs and retackling the rod that was out of action.
I'd not long recast both baits a little further across before that burst of activity, but now I was wondering if the lost fish would have killed the swim. The pva bag stock was topped up. The sky clouded over. Should I move swims? When the upstream rod went again I thought I might stick around. Only a little one, but third time lucky. Twenty five minutes later I was perking up when another gentle take to the small pellet resulted in fish that pulled a fair bit which, once in the net, looked like a scale and potential camera job.
The fish was left in the net while I wetted the sling and zeroed the scales. With the fish on the bank I was confused. I was certain I'd caught it on the pellet rod, but there was a boilie hanging from it's bottom lip. It was the fish I'd lost earlier! Both hooks were removed, lifting my spirits as I felt I was righting a wrong. The Avon's needle stopped short of vertical, but I wasn't disappointed. Ten minutes later another fish was landed on the same rod. Things were picking up.
Cloud cover was breaking up and reforming. Constellations appearing and disappearing. Dew was forming on my tackle box and bucket lids, the grass and my woolly hat. The light from my headlamp was growing dim and flickery. In the even dimmer light from my spare I fitted new batteries. Now I could see much better to slide pellet stops into small hair loops.
This was one of those nights when I was glad of the red filter on the Petzl too. Midges were drawn to the white light and getting up my nose. Not metaphorically up it. Up it! Insects had been a nuisance when playing fish too. One daddy long legs in particular. Fluttering and crawling over my specs. With all this bat food on the wing it was no surprise that Nora and her sisters were out in force. As well as getting the adrenaline flowing by flying into the lines between real bites they were also hitting the line when fish were being played. A disconcerting sensation.
A greedy scampette of about a pound was the next fish to pick up the 15mm boilie. This was followed by a second eight pounder to the same bait. I was beginning to think packing the boilies had been a good move. Five minutes later a fish fell off. Were things going to go to the dogs again? When another nine pounder was landed to the pellet rod at quarter to twelve I put such foolish thoughts to the back of my mind. While the action was continuing I'd stop later than planned. The next fish I landed had already seen the inside of my net this month. It was the kinky one. I'm sure most of these barbel get caught over and over again, only the easily recognisable ones being noted.
I read Casting at the Sun by Chris Yates last week. His wacky ways must have infected me because I found myself thinking that it was some kind of piscatorial karma that was the cause of my upturn in 'luck' since removing that lost hook. Really it was that the barbel were havin' it!
Half an hour without a bite and I was planning my departure. The small flask was emptying fast. My stomach beginning to demand a top up. Another fish came along to the crab Pellet-O. The first chunky looking fish of the season. Most of the fish are still looking a little lean and tatty but not this one. I guessed it would be the third nine of the night, but I was wrong. I popped her in the sack and set up the tripod.
Two test shots to get the framing then do it for real. One shot was fired off and I moved forward to better fill the frame accidentally taking a second shot. Ready for the proper pics and the bulb release failed. I checked it and it was deflated. I removed the bulb from the tube and it filled with air again. Another try and nothing. A squeeze of the bulb revealed a draught coming from it. It had split. The fish was slipped back.
Come what may I'd give it another thirty minutes, but I'd tidy the inessentials away. With the rucksack packed the downstream rod woke up. This fish was more typical in appearance. Quite skinny, but longer than the previous one and only three ounces lighter. I couldn't face messing with the self timer so photographed her by the rod. Was there more to come?
As it turned out, by the time the flask was finally drained, there wasn't. I packed up, again, and tramped my merry way back to the car through damp grass and cowpats. Then home for a slice of toast and a mug of hot chocolate before bed to dream of a large golden fish in a small pond. I blame Chris Yates.