To the river it was, another evening session where I hoped to meet up with some of its fighting fit barbel, no doubt still hiding themselves away from the afternoon sun. The river was still painfully low and clear, even more so than last time, but I felt that a bite or two would be possible if I fished into darkness. The thing I am learning to appreciate about barbel fishing in these conditions is that time seems to tick away a lot slower than usual. This is not to say that it drags, not at all, but the session can be planned and executed with an almost Germanic precision. A bit like bream fishing.
Bait can be mixed properly and allowed plenty of time to rest. The perfect constancy achieved. This can then be casually fed, a bed of bait laid down in readiness for a few hungry fish to be mesmerised by, then once more simply left to fester for an hour or two. Plenty of time for the rods to be tackled up, rigs tied carefully, and of course, a cup or three of tea consumed. Its quite incredible how much more you can notice when given this extra time. The flora and fauna, the nuances of the river itself, and the the setting it is a part of. How I tried to unsuccessfully blend in, on numerous occasions trout spooking from the shallow margins, alerted by tiny movements from an angler sticking out like a sore thumb.
I made my first cast around eight o’clock, a running rig, light ledger weight, and very long hook length sent two thirds of the way across the river. I’d started fishing with a few casters hoping that I may pick up a chub or two while waiting for the barbel. The fish had other ideas and not a tap registered on the tip.
With the light blue sky starting to darken, dusk was not far away, so the rig was reeled in and the hookbait changed to pellets. Still presented on a short hair in case any big chevins fancied some supper. The swim was topped up with regular helpings of small pellets and it was simply a case of sitting patiently and awaiting the gloom. The sun had been below the horizon for twenty minutes and the sky held on to what was left if its blueness. The rod was yanked savagely. Line began to melt from the spool. The first barbel had been hooked and was heading, turbo charged, up river. Thankfully this direction was away from any visible snags and once I had made up the line, the barbel came in quite placidly, waking up only when in the net. Resting in the margins recovering, was a very healthy looking barbel, a respectably sized one too. What a great result.
It must have been ten minutes before I recast, having made sure that the fish swam away strongly, but no sooner had the lead touched down than the rod was heading upstream once more. The fish lunged more aggressively than the last but fought less frantic, and at the point where the other fish turned, this one kept going. Faster and faster, clutch spinning, heart rate increasing. I managed to turn the fish, gaining several yards of line in the process, before another surging run pulled the rod over. In seconds, twenty yards were lost. Raw power. Heavy weight. I tightened the clutch a tiny amount and ping.
The fish was lost. It was a lot heavier than the first and I feared it may have been a big barbel. The feeling in the pit of my stomach one every angler experiences. One of complete hollow disappointment, fuel for the future though, I tried to convince myself. I had a consolation barbel an hour later. A smaller example but a lovely looking fish. Rested, cared for and returned healthy to this magnificent river. One that obviously holds big fish. Boy, I would loved to have seen what I lost, and maybe I one day will.
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