Although I really fancied a change from chasing barbel on the river I couldn't think of anything else to do. The prospect of rising before the sun to go piking filled me with dread, although I do like the idea of sitting in one swim all day making brews and frying bacon. So it was that after a swift lunch, I slapped some corned beef in two buttered rolls and set off to spend a sunny afternoon by the river. Originally I had thought of returning to last night's stretch but something was drawing me to Buzzard Bend.
The car park was almost full. A game angler thrashing the water to a foam gave me hope that there might be more of his kind out and about making the most of the extra water before the salmon season ends. And so it was. Two others were wafting rods for spotty things, and two more were float fishing with success. The other angler I passed was into a barbel, so my hopes rose. They rose further when, after leaving my gear by a swim I have had my eye on for a while, I walked upstream to find a good swim free. I gave it a good look and decided that it was eminently fishable. The flow was manageable, the river was still nicely coloured though obviously lower than yesterday. Only the leaves on the surface might cause problems.
I returned with my tackle and commenced to setting up. Although I had put half a dozen big leads in the bag this time I cast out with a three ounce square pear on the upstream boilie rod, and a four ounce planing lead on the downstream pellet rod. A big bag of mixed pellets was applied to each hook and the rigs cast well out to the deeper run. They both held so I left them where they were and began tying up fresh rigs and mesh bags.
With the sky a vivid blue the sun had warmed the day more than the thermometer suggested and I had worked up a sweat walking up river wearing my bunny suit. I'd be glad of it later though. There were midges forming clouds over the remains of the balsam and the drying skeletons of hogweed. I tried to take some arty photos of the backlit flora.
With half an hour or so of good light left, and 'Count Arthur Strong' about to commence on the wireless I wound each rod in in turn to rebait and recast to avoid having to listen to him. The boilie rod first, then the pellet rod, tensioning the tips against the leads. I sat down and my eye was drawn to the upstream rod falling arrow straight. The line was hanging limp. As I reached for the handle the tip twitched. I took up the slack and a steady pull caused the line to pluck off something, and again. Then it went briefly solid before another pluck and the snag moved off.
The fish pulled well in the flow but didn't look anything special when it rolled on the surface, it's deep flank revealing its true size when it rolled into the net and stared up at me accusingly. I threw the weighsling into the net as I rested the fish while mat and scales were sorted out. After the weighing ceremony, when the needle spun on past the vertical, the fish was sacked. While affixing the bulb release bracket to the camera I heard the zzzzzzzziiipppp of a baitrunner. This barbel felt much smaller, in fact it didn't feel much like a barbel at all. Hardly surprising as it was a chub. With the chub released I took the sack from the water, took some self-takes then took the barbel upstream for release. For a moment she lay still, but upright, before waddling slowly out into the flow, diving deep and out of sight.
Back in my swim I cast back out and sorted out the carnage of camera box and bait tubs, towel and landing net. Time for a brew. Sitting drinking it I saw two kingfishers flying downstream calling. The leading bird had a small silvery fish in it's beak. They both landed in a tangle of fallen branches and brambles where they argued for a while before flying off.
With darkness setting in the stars appeared, but no moon and no mist over the water. These came later. The mist wasn't too thick. I was still confident. A sharp chub bite to the pellet wasn't connected with. It was growing chilly. I'd caught my biggest barbel of the season, my second biggest off the river. I could leave happy. At nine o'clock I tidied the rucksack then went to wring out the sling. The Petzl light sparkled on the mat. The sling was crispy. Definitely a good time to leave. In the car the thermometer read 5.5. Damn these bright sunny, almost windless, days!
Brock was on the track again and ran ahead of me to the lane. Still lacking imagination or inspiration for a new challenge I considered carrying on barbelling to see how many I could clock up by the end of the season. It was a thought, but one probably doomed to disappoint. Nonetheless I expect I'll have the barbel rods in action again before too long. After all, they are set up, the bait is sorted, and it doesn't require an early start.