The test match was over for the day, rod repairs spinning while they dried, my only prospect was some paperwork - so I filled a flask and left the paperwork behind. For a reasonably nice Saturday evening in July the roads were quiet. As I neared the river a barn owl flew across my path. Being out so early it probably has young to feed.
For the first time this season a familiar van was in the car park. I checked the bucket of feeder mix that had been in the back of the car since Tuesday night and was pleased to see it hadn't gone mouldy. So the feeder would be my first line of attack with bags of pellets the back up if the feeder mix ran out.
To my surprise the owner of the van was packing up having caught one barbel from the heavily coloured, but falling, river. I didn't need much encouragement to drop in the swim being vacated as it was the one I fancied fishing anyway. The river had been a lot higher, about four or five feet higher by the looks of things, and the bank below the 'tideline' was quite slippy. Even worse where it had already been trampled. I set my chair up on reasonably safe ground.
It wasn't long before the marauding ducks arrived. They are growing fast and as greedy as ever. Unluckily for them I had no spare bait, but threw them a few crumbs of feeder mix anyway. They were soon rooting around, scrabbling over my landing net pole and bumping into my rods and reels providing an entertaining warm-up act before the top of the bill rattled my rod tips.
The headline act made it's entrance after an hour. The upstream rod tip, the bait cast to a long crease, started to bounce slowly. I picked the rod up to feel the line and the bouncing continued. So I wound down and bent into whatever it was. Certainly not a chub. The S-Pellet had scored again - and the 'dodgy' S5 hook. As has been the case most of the time this season the barbel took its time to wake up, being little more than a heavy weight until it neared the net. At this stage I was on slippy ground and not too keen on shifting my feet in case I slid, or fell, into the river. This meant I had to net the now irate fish using the full length of my nine foot landing net pole. So it took a bit longer than normal. Clearly a fish in need of the scales - and a photo next to the scales might be called for. Those scales called for the sack and tripod.
While taking three quick snaps I saw the downstream rod had pulled over and was pointing well downstream of where the feeder had been cast. After walking downstream a few yards to release the fish from firm ground I picked up the second rod and leant into another dogged weight. This turned out to be a real surprise, and a new river best. Possibly a personal best as I can't recall having caught one with such length and depth before.
With both rods sorted and recast after that burst of activity I needed a brew. Forty minutes later, at nine o'clock, the upstream rod was away again. Another nodding bite rather than a four foot twitch. This fish was into the flow straight away and got carried downstream, so it fought a bit harder than the first barbel had in the initial stages, but once in the slower water it came in easily. As I was going to carry it to the release spot in the weighlsing I clocked it's weight at over eight pounds.
The evening was cloudy but dry. Cloudy enough to keep the stars in bed and make darkness arrive earlier. There was a wind blowing from the west that died after dark so the night was mild enough. At quarter to eleven, after a series of rattles and pulls to both rods, the downstream rod tip imitated the actions of the two bites I'd had on the upstream rod. A barbel that I put at around six pounds was quickly netted - after it had tried to drag me into the river as my feet lost grip in the now very slippy mud at the water's edge. Again I was to carry it to the water for return in the sling, so I weighed it out of curiosity. Seven pounds. When you stop weighing smaller fish you get out of practice with the guestimates I suppose.
Quarter of an hour later I had a repeat bite on the downstream rod. This felt like a smallish barbel on the way in, so I was confused at how slim it was at the net. Hmm. Eel. As I started to tidy my gear prior to a midnight finish a light drizzle made its presence felt. Good timing.