A last minute cancellation by the brickie saw me dashing to the river to squeeze a short session in. I had a swim in mind, and it being a Monday night was certain it would be free. It wasn't it was occupied by two Barbel Bite Alarm Billies. Never mind. The swim I'd caught from last time out on this length was vacant.
The river was still low, despite the rain earlier, and I droppered out some pellets to the channel then out with the baits. I had less than an hour of daylight with not much to watch apart from a flock of sheep on the opposite bank. And they weren't very entertaining. The two anglers downstream were for ever tweaking their alarms. I found this mildly irritating. I have nothing against using bite alarms for barbel fishing, or any other fishing, as I use them. In fact I had my rods resting on two. The difference being that mine were switched off. They'd remain that way until I started to feel sleepy, which was unlikely on this occasion as I was only fishing until midnight.
The sky was quite clear, the air temperature falling after dark and dampness accumulating on the rods and my fleece. I put my waterproof jacket on to keep the damp out. It's hard to imagine that twenty-four hours earlier I had been sweating under a cleared sky, it was definitely more like autumn. With no rain forecast until the early hours the brolly was stashed at home.
Unusually I only had one chub/eel bite before the light went, and none after. As I'd seen the anglers below me catch a couple of eels in daylight I was surprised at that. By eleven I was resigned to a blank. The eyelids were drooping and I almost switched on the alarms.
Walking to the swim through the rain soaked nettles and balsam my bait bucket gathered a couple of small white slugs. As the session wore on I found one on the butt of a rod - which was unpleasant. Finding another had crawled into a fleecy handwarmer pocket of my jacket was more unpleasant still.
I thought the flow had picked up a little, but the darkness made it hard to tell. Then I noticed that the flat rock by the water was no longer dry. I shone my head torch on it and, sure enough, the river had risen a few inches. The rigs were still holding station but that probably explained the intermittent bleeping I was hearing from down river.
Alarms or no alarms I was in no doubt when the downstream rod signalled a bite. Barbel have an amazing ability to impersonate a snag at times. They manage to hang there, apparently glued to the river bed. Keep the pressure on and they move eventually. Once they do shift they know how to pull back. This one scrapped well, but even having been hooked in six or more feet of water I managed to make it swirl on the surface. After a couple of dicey moments near the marginal rocks, and a lot of splashing around on the top, I netted a thickset fish that weighed spot on eight pounds.
Minor chaos had ensued as I unhooked and returned the fish. During which time a small white slug had slithered on to my chair. With everything back to normal I sat and relaxed again, the blank having been saved. I'm due a blank on the river, so it wouldn't have been too painful to endure. I'd only gone fishing because I could, the sole barbel of the night really had been a bonus.
It was getting on for half past eleven by now. I felt a spot of rain. Then another. Then more hissed on the river's surface. I put my hood up. There was no malice in the rain. It was hardly even drizzle and soon gone. Nonetheless when the church clock chimed twelve I packed up - discovering a small white slug on my rucksack. When I was loading the car to return home I found another small white slug. I bet the car's full of the slimy blighters now.