The baits are convenient too. Nice dry pellets and shelf-life boilies. even frozen boilies don't go soggy and drip bodily fluids all over like deadbaits do. Two rods is plenty so no need to carry heavy rod quivers. The only downside are the long walks, but not everywhere requires one.
Then there's the valley and its wildlife and plant life. Not only does the river change with the rain, the surroundings change with the seasons, and with the light. At this time of year the trees are darkened waiting to turn to their autumn colours, yet when the last rays of the setting sun strike their tops they glow as brightly as the new leaves of spring. sinking below the wooded banks the sunset can set the river itself afire.
Even with the river rushing through and well coloured a kingfisher was catching its supper last night. I was hoping that there might be a few barbel in close like the fry. The level dropped while I was there, the marginal flow becoming steadier and less swirly, but apart from two sharp chub raps to a monster bait I had no other indications.
With the light at that point where colours turn monochrome and binoculars start to become ineffective I hard a mallard making a lengthy alarm call. I'd seen a female with a late brood earlier and wondered if she was defending them against an otter. Sure enough I made out a dark snubby head moving out from the bank. A few minutes after the commotion I heard the alarm call again and saw the duck flying upstream. She must have had good night vision because I couldn't make out anything for her to scold. I did see an otter swim rapidly down with the flow in mid river about five minutes after the duck had returned to her family.
My first otter sighting on the river had come a few days earlier on another stretch. Having been away from the river for a few years this was a novelty for me. I had heard that in my time away otters have become a frequent sight for anglers, even during daylight, and are present all along the river. By many accounts the barbel fishing isn't what it was. My limited experience this season suggests that overall numbers are down. Admittedly two sessions in known areas and one on a new-to-me stretch are not much to go by. At least the average size has been reasonable,
The weekend session saw me managing to get the swim I wanted despite there being four other anglers on the length. The level was up a touch when I set up and fell gradually throuh out my few hours fishing. I had put the big leads in my lead bag before setting off, intending to swap over the lighter ones as I settled in to the swim. I emptied the rucksack to no avail. I'd left them behind. Luckily I'd left a box of 'eel' leads in the rucky. Not many and only a couple of ounces, but they'd have to do should I lose the ones already on the rods.
The usual script for this area is to cast as far across river as possible. That's what the other anglers wer doing, dropping their leads close to the far margin. Not wanting to risk my light leads failing to hold and bounce into snags I settled for casting to mid river with one rod and about three rod lengths out with the other. This wasn't as futile a plan as it might seem as I knew from past experience that when carrying extra water, and also after dark, barbel will move into shallower water in this sort of area.
It was a lovely warm night, just right for midges to bite. if it hadn't been for one of the anglers upstream being scared of the dark and shining a powerful torch along the far bank, behind him and in my direction, it would have felt like being miles from anywhere. I didn't let that annoyance affect me and remained confident.
Shortly before eleven the tip of the downstream rod, fishing three 8mm pellets in shallower water sprang back as the lead lifted positively from the river bed. It did it again and I was in no doubt that weed wasn't the culprit. After a dogged fight the barbel was in the net and the guessing game was played. It had felt doubleish in the flow, but looked eightish. It was not-quire-nineish on the scales. The half moon had been bright but disappeared behind cloud when I called it a night an hour later.