It was time to get the old Shimano 3500's spooled up and head off to rekindle my beautiful relationship with the Great Ouse.
I'd got it into my head that I'd quite love to catch myself just one more Ouse barbel. Not an easy task, some Ouse barbellers go a whole season without a fish, they just aren't there in the numbers anymore. I wasn't going to let it stop me, I'm always up for the challenge.
I was to do my first night on this river for a few years and set about searching for the swim that had what I was looking for. I tend to stick to one swim when fishing two rods overnight, so choice is not to be hurried. There are certain criteria it must have, I eventually settled in a swim that ticked most boxes.
With fluffy seeds hurrying downstream with the flow, I sat bankside peering at two rod tips again. It had been a while. Was there anything out there?
A kingfisher cruised noisily about two feet above my head and swans grazed at the shallows. I was back on my beloved Ouse, at peace.
The flotsum made it easy to read the river, showing creases and eddies in enhanced detail. Did they harbour one of those fantastic nomads, were there any left?
I had placed my first hook bait on the far crease, in front of some rushes, and the second on the near crease behind submerged cabbages. An hour previous I'd baited the two crease lines with fourteen (for it is my magic number) boilies each, and nothing else.
Another hour had passed and I was listening to my first cuckoo of the year, thinking that he was late on parade.
The tip of the far rod jagged round twice in quick succession, I struck to firm resistance and the fish tore towards the near cabbages, he made it, but after a minute he was back in open water, heading upstream.
He was only subdued by my reluctance to give any more line and I bullied him to the net.
A fine chub, and I hadn't been there long. With him still in the net I texted my colleague Carl, who was fishing further upstream, to come and take some photos, as had been previously agreed.
As with most chub, he was a bit of a character. A big black spot on his left gill cover and not much of a dorsal fin, I had no doubt that the fin had been damaged in an encounter with an otter.
Crows flew diagonally overhead, and jets droned as darkness slowly crept upon me. The river takes on a different persona upon nightfall. Pigeons shuffled about on their roosts, cuckoos made way for owls and bats gorged on the relentless mosquitos. One thing that was missing though was crayfish activity. In the past these little (sometimes big) crittas have driven me to despair with their bait eating antics. Had the otters made a big dent in their population as well, I wondered. I wasn't complaining.
We've all been there, the isotopes started dancing and my eyes began to ache under the strain. More tea, I thought, "Keep alert Gurn".
I probably did roll in and out of some transient state, but I was wide awake when slowly but surely the light drifted back and things began to stir. I had a feeling that something was about to happen, I have felt like this many times before on the Ouse, usually nothing happens. Except today something did happen.
It was 3:30am and the nearside rod wrapped around with such ferocity that it made me jump. On grasping the rod I was soon witnessing the power of the, as yet unidentified creature as it shot off downstream. I had to let it go. I was half in control and half winging it at this stage but knowing I needed to put the brakes on sooner or later, was truly frightened by the dogged determination of this fish. I clamped down and didn't give another inch. I whinced as I upped the pressure, I knew that these opportunities didn't come along too often. "Don't blow it, Gurn", I thought. Then something else occurred to me, this might be a carp.
With the rod at the limit of it's capabilities the fish turned and launched itself upstream as fast as it had gone the other way, I struggled to keep up with it's lunges, constantly making clutch adjustments.
As it made it's way through my other line and the cabbages, fortune smiled upon me. Not only did it come out, but it's face had been masked with weed . This seemed to calm it down and after what was still a too long time seemed ready for netting despite being impeded by my other rod.
At last, it was in the net, but what was it?.....BARBEL, bloody immaculate, BIG BARBEL. I was shaking like a leaf.
As I rested this wondrous creature, my adrenaline coursing. I realised that I had fulfilled my quest. A quest that could've lasted months...in one night!..God, I love the river.
This fish was scale perfect, not a sign of damage. There are still a few nomads left......I was buzzing.
I was even able to don my new TFF badge upon my hat for it's first fish pic.
Well, I've decide not to release swim details, I might want to return. I will, however, tell you about the kind of rigs I use on the Ouse.
Below is picture of the complete set-up. The lead is easily able to jettison due to the line running around, instead of through it, and this did happen during the fight with this fish. It also works just as well with a Guru lead clip and swivel bomb. The backlead is pushed onto the gripper stop and is semi-fixed about two feet above the lead, but becomes free running during the fight. The hooklink is two feet long. The Extender stop slows down the Crays.
There you have it then, mission accomplished......I'll be back.
I'm going to give a little shout out to Graeme at CarpOn Baits who always comes up with the goods.