Gonna wait till the midnight hour (barbel article, entry 258)

‘Gonna wait till the midnight hour’ is the title of a well-known song by the soul man Wilson Pickett. Little did he realise just how significant those lyrics would be for British anglers many years into the future, as we count the days down to midnight on June 15 and the start of a new river season. And just like countless other fishermen I was pitched up at the waterside waiting for the glorious 16th to muscle its way onto the scene and push the 15th back into anonymity where it belongs.

Indecision ought to be my middle name though, as even in the days leading up to the Sunday, I changed my mind more times than I ended up casting out once I finally did some fishing. With several rivers, not to mention countless stretches, that I kept switching between I realised how Imelda Marcos must have felt when she had to choose which pair of shoes she was going to wear. But eventually I settled on the middle Severn for barbel and set off in the evening to give me plenty of time to pitch up.

 

The season comes early for some

The stretch I was on didn’t have a single angler on it. Not so the opposite bank though. Apologies to all the decent people that live in the south-east, but if I describe the three anglers who were already fishing (and looked like they had been so for some time as well) as ‘loud-mouthed, foul-mouthed, Cockney-geezer types’ you get the picture.

They had a bivvy set up in a tight swim and had more rods out than a small tackle shop has on display for sale. They were obviously expecting a chilly night as they had started what I can only describe as a bonfire and if you were watching a John Wayne movie you’d have been impressed at the smoke signals being sent out.

Needless to say I moved well upstream and left them to their crates of cheap alcohol and loud music. Not my scene at all.

 

 

 

A clearance in the nettles

Clearing out the jungle

The peg that I chose to set up in was covered in dense vegetation, mostly nettles. I was just glad that I was wearing trousers and not shorts otherwise you wouldn’t have seen my legs for nettle rash. I got to work with the landing net pole and eventually I cleared out a spot big enough to pitch my Fox Evolution shelter in. The river was very low but the place where I was based was excellent and all the boxes were ticked such as night fishing safety, access to rods when you get a bite, netting the fish etc.

If you are not an experienced night angler, then the safety factor cannot be emphasised enough. And even if you are, then you still cannot get complacent, but obviously the wisdom that ought to come with experience is invaluable. Although the hours of darkness are great for specimen angling you cannot put your own life at risk just for the opportunity of catching a decent fish or two. Don’t gamble and so even if it means fishing in a second-choice swim, then for the sake of safety, do it.

 

 

Tip of the week

Night fishing offers excellent potential for specimen fish. But don’t take risks. Choose a lesser swim if it is safer.

Fishing can be what we want it to be

Although the river was very low the small section that I was fishing offers some reasonably deep water and so I was confident that I would get a fish. I am often a slow starter whenever I switch species or venues, so I was going to be happy with just one fish. And anyway, as someone who always goes for quality over quantity, one 10lb barbel is always my choice over twenty 5lb fish. And of course, that’s the beauty of angling. There is no right or wrong, it can be for us what we want it to be.

I baited up two spots, one directly in front and the other downstream and just off a cluster of overhanging willow trees. The minimal flow meant that I was able to hold bottom comfortably with a 1.5 ounce lead. My baiting was done courtesy of a small bucket of seeds, with brown crumb to hold everything together. My only concern about the splashes was that one of the Wide boys further downstream would think there was excessive fish activity going on and they would uproot their camp and settle opposite me. But they didn’t and so I was able to continue in peace.

 

The exciting world of flowing water

As the day drew to an end it felt really good to be back on flowing water once more. I do truly appreciate all venues but I do have a love for rivers. They feature so much in my angling that it is easy to forget sometimes that is not the case for everyone. There is a whole generation of anglers coming through who have never ventured beyond the manicured lawn of a commercial fishery.

I am not anti-commercial, far from it. They have a very important role to play in angling and I would even venture so far as to say that defining a commercial fishery isn’t as black-and-white as some anglers would have us believe. But my point is if that is all you know, there is another world out there. The exciting world of the river, the stream and even the brook.

 

Off the mark with a barbel

 

A nice start to the new season

My opening night was quiet, but I find that’s the norm for the first few weeks of the season anyway. But I did get a fish and so was happy enough to get off the mark at 2.10am with a feisty barbel that put up a good fight. I gave it plenty of time to recover, which is important with barbel anyway but particularly so at this time of the year with lower oxygen levels. Spend as much time as you need to with any fish prior to releasing them. Let them go too early and they will belly-up and die.

 

 

 

The week ahead

I’m intending to visit the lower Severn for a two-night session and so am looking forward to that already. Usually I am there for barbel but this season I intend to specifically target carp. As well as the native fish, there was a big top-up last year courtesy of the floods.

In addition I want to do some summer zander fishing so will make my mind up as to what I fish for closer to the time. Remember, my middle name is ‘indecision’!

(Originally published June 2008)

 

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