By August, the best of the night fishing is normally over on the Earn but, in the season of 2003, there was no “best” and, following a hard and unproductive early season, I had forsaken its familiar streams for pastures new, with some pleasingly unexpected results. Reluctant to give up on her altogether, though, a recent less than optimistic return visit and the dubious encouragement of a lost fish had, even at this late stage, given renewed hope…… enough to justify one more night …… although, in truth, nothing more than the most flimsy of excuses is needed to draw me to a sea trout river on a summer night.
A forty five minute drive brings me to the usual parking place, within a mile of my favourite pool. I hurriedly put up the rod in the fast failing light, unaccustomed to such an early start. The attentions of a few midges prompt a spray of Skin so Soft. I am not yet convinced of its effectiveness but, if nothing else, I smell nice! A quick check on more important items – car keys, fly boxes, spools of nylon, LED torch, scissors, eighteen inch Gye net, no need for a priest – and I take the path to the river, now slightly overgrown through disuse yet still familiar even on the darkest of nights. Tonight is calm and clear, the warm air heavy with summer scent as I near the river, my way lit by a full moon still low in the southern sky. A fallen tree, as yet uncleared, blocks my path and I have to crawl under – I must remember that on the way back.
Ahead of me, a motherly mallard flaps her way upriver towards my pool. More of a glide really, maybe fifty yards long, it will be more than enough to keep me occupied for a couple of hours. It’s a night for midges, moths and bats. The parr are active and the bank of cloud looming on the horizon promises to obscure the moon as I make a quiet start well above the hot spot. Things look hopeful. An indignant heron stalls in mid flight squaarking in loud protest, unaccustomed to the intrusion. I can’t avoid the attentions of some small trout as I wade, knee deep, slowly and carefully towards the glide. I start to concentrate just a bit more as the increased current catches my line, swinging it round in a nice arc over the width of the stream. I become aware of a series of waves approaching from the far bank. I watch as they continue upstream, though it is now too dark to make out the culprit, most likely a travelling otter. I am glad it didn’t stop to explore my pool, as some do, popping a curious nose up within a rod length to gauge the quality of the competition. I settle back in to the rhythm of cast, swing, retrieve, lift … yes, that was a good pull, not a parr that time….. the otter may have stirred the sea trout up. I hear a loud spaloosh a hundred yards downriver. I concentrate. A bow wave on the smooth surface of the glide makes me concentrate even more on the next half dozen casts. Just towards the end of the swing I feel a slight pull and I can make out a swirl on the dark surface twenty yards below. I immediately recast and, when the pull comes again, I am ready for it and lift the rod into a good sea trout. I bring it to the net as quickly as I can, a good strong fish of two and a half pounds just starting to colour, it has taken the slim stainless steel tube fly on the tail. I quickly return the fish before struggling with the size fourteen treble firmly caught in the net. Eleven o’clock. Not a bad start.
I start in again just above where I hooked the fish. A mist creeps upriver as the moon makes a brief reappearance but the night air is still warm so I decide to persevere. A good decision. The mist goes as suddenly as it came and within half an hour the sky is overcast and dark. The second sea trout of the night, slightly larger and stronger than the first at three pounds, takes me by surprise at midnight. It takes a bit longer to bring to the net, firmly hooked in the lower jaw. It too is safely returned. Well satisfied with the best night I have had on the river this year, I sit for a while on the bankside log and enjoy the still of the night before making my way back along the riverside path towards the car. I must remember that fallen tree….