High pressure and low, crystal clear water with the river being described as 'hit and miss' at best. Not my favourite end of season conditions and I was under some pressure to get a result as I had a little boy coming with a view to catching his first barbel. I say 'little boy', Richard is actually in his 40's, well over six feet tall and has size 15 feet! But when it comes to enthusiasm and just plain old excitement he's on a par with a ten year old on Christmas Eve :-) He's been constantly emailing me with hundreds of questions for about three months, each one seeing him bubbling with nervous anticipation so failure was not an option.
On Sunday afternoon in glorious Spring sunshine, Neil and I set off for the river to get the feel of it before Richard's arrival. I had two or three swims in mind but, as so often happens when you turn up at the river, others had similar ideas and although my chosen spot wasn't occupied there were people nearby. I figured that if I dropped in there and caught, there'd be a queue to fish it next morning. Plan B was put into action and I headed for an out of the way spot that, due to winter conditions, wouldn't have seen any action for several months.
Neil fished downstream, me at the head of the pool and we set about searching for fish. The sun dropped below the tree line and took with it the warmth, it got very cold but, as the light faded Neil was into a barbel - excellent, there were fish here to be caught. I ended the session with a decent chub and it was off to the pub for a swift one and an early night.
I have no doubt the Richard will cover his day in full on his own excellent blog (see the link to Richard's slant on life on my blog page), so I will let him express his emotional journey but suffice to say the day went about as well as can be expected. A barbel after 30 or 40 minutes certainly took the pressure off and with fish coming slowly but spread throughout the day, it was near perfect. Being present when somebody catches their first barbel is always a privilege and when that person has been on tenterhooks for several months the relief was palpable.
The moment of the day came after we had rested the swim for an hour or so. A guy was 'gardening' on the far bank, trimming every willow shoot that may interrupt the back-cast of his salmon anglers, so we had a dabble elsewhere in an attempt to get a grayling. That attempt failed unfortunately but I did tell Richard that resting a swim will get the fish feeding on all the scraps left behind and can build their confidence. We returned to our positions, Richard cast, sat down and immediately struck into another hard fighting barbel. Looking shocked and totally dumbstruck at the speed of events he just sat there, rod bent, staring at me with his eyes as wide as saucers and his mouth open in a sort 'O'. I laughed and said something supportive like 'don't just sit there get the bloody thing away from those rocks' and he shook himself back in control and landed the fish after a good scrap. I would love to have caught that image on film. Each of the three fish Richard landed was followed by a sit down and a spot of head shaking, I gathered he was having a good time.
I decided to have a dabble later in the day and soon took a barbel and lost another behind a rock. I sat there just savouring the moment, I felt truly privileged to have shared the day and to have watched someone take the first step to becoming a barbel angler. I sat back in my chair and thought "Y'know, one more barbel will do me for the season". I didn't really want to go out on a lost fish and just one more would bring my day to a perfect conclusion, then the rod leaned forward and the clutch began to give line......