Most of my night fishing trips to the river are solitary ones. Even if I go accompanied it's rare to find a swim that can accommodate 2 anglers comfortably so I usually find I'm fishing on my own. I'm sometimes asked if I ever find it a bit 'spooky' by being out in the dark alone. As a rule, I'm not usually worried. In fact sometimes I actually find the experience somewhat exhilarating particularly as night falls, the day quietens and the senses 'tune in' to the sounds of the emerging nocturnal wildlife.
In the failing light of a summer's evening I love to watch the bats swooping down, plucking insects from within inches of the water. I've sometimes had them in such numbers that they flick the line with their wings with such regularity that spotting a genuine bite when ledgering becomes quite tricky. Recently I was talking to a fellow angler who claimed he'd once accidentally caught a bat when out fly fishing. The bat, allegedly, dived on to his piece of fluff just as it was about to settle on the water. To this day I don't know if my leg was being pulled but he swore it actually happened.
Any 'heart stopping' moments I have had on the bank after dark have been caused by wildlife, thankfully! As a teenager, fishing one of the school lakes (yes, my school had its very own fishery!) just before dawn in late June, I heard a rustle behind me and turned around to come face to face with a roe deer. I really do mean face to face. As I turned around on my box seat her face was no more than a foot from mine. We both stared at each other, frozen in surprise for a second or two before the deer turned tail and ran off, crashing through the adjacent undergrowth.
I often night fish the Kennet at Brimpton and this venue CAN be a little eerie at times. The long walk to my favoured swims, coupled with the fact that the surrounding fields are often planted with sweet corn, which by late summer is over head high, adds to your sense of isolation. It was here that I once witnessed a tragic and macabre scene. A pair of swans coming into land clipped over head power lines and crashed to their deaths in the field opposite where I was fishing. Just after it got dark a pair of foxes, or possibly a whole family from the noise they made, found the carcasses. For the next hour or so the air was filled with the sounds of these two unfortunate birds being dismembered - it all sounded quite gruesome and not a little unnerving.
Night fishing Brimpton has had its compensations however, and the main one has been the night sky. Light pollution from the surrounding towns is a little less here and the low hills on either side of the valley also help block out some more of the ambient light from the ground. Installed in my favourite swim means that, when there is a clear sky, I often spend the whole night staring at my beta-lit quiver tip against a wide backdrop of the constellations. I just love being out under a clear sky at night, marvelling at just how insignificant one is in the grand scheme of things - it can be quite humbling. On such a night there is one vision in the night sky that always gets the hairs tingling on the back of my neck - the sight of a shooting star.
I have twice been fortunate, in the past half a dozen or so years, to have been out fishing during a meteor shower when spotting not one, but dozens of shooting stars was a possibility. On both occasions I was enjoying a barbelling session at Brimpton under a clear August night sky. It is for this reason that this venue will, for me, be forever associated with their sighting. In fact I was even stationed in the same swim on both trips.
Meteor showers actually happen surprisingly frequently throughout the year. The one that gives you probably the best chance of seeing a shooting star is the one I have been lucky enough to witness. Viewed in mid-August, the best nights are usually around the 11th and 12th of the month. It is quite by chance I happened to have chosen these dates for my trips to Brimpton that resulted in my sightings. This annual event is known as the Perseid Meteor Shower and occurs as the earth passes through the minute cosmic debris left in the orbit of a comet. This comet, Swift-Tuttle, appears every 128 years and was last sighted in 1992. In a good year you may be able to spot in excess of 50 meteorites an hour, though as my primary focus is meant to be on my quiver tip I might get to see maybe a dozen or so in a night. Spotting meteorites, though, can be quite diverting, I can tell you, and their appearance have accounted for quite a few missed bites on nights like these!
This year I won't be out fishing during this meteor shower. The night of the 11th August should see the meteor shower at its height. This falls during the family holiday and, weather permitting, I hope to be having a barbecue on a beach in southern England and staying up with the boys to witness nature's free firework display. If you're planning a night trip for the 11th and want to know what part of the sky to look in, more info on the Perseid Meteor Shower can be found at
Fingers crossed for a clear night!
For my second barbelling trip of the season I wasn't expecting the 'fireworks' of my opening session - then again I didn't expect to see a shooting star either and I spotted a beauty - long and bright in the south-eastern sky; it was a good omen. Having at last caught a double, some 25 seasons after my first Kennet barbel I've decided to spend the rest of the summer experimenting with different swims and different baits. This is how I got on.
The mini-heatwave that heralded the start of the season was short-lived and the rest of June into early July saw very changeable conditions with lots of rain. My next trip, scheduled for the first Friday in July, was planned as an evening session after work. The previous night had seen 2 heavy thunderstorms which meant the river was well coloured up. The forecast was for a cool night with more rain spreading in - it did not bode well for a successful session.
The swim I'd chosen was on the outside of a wide bend, just upstream of a row of trees, in the shadow of a dying alder. There's a good deal of slack water at the near bank and it looked the spot where you could 'cultivate' 2 swims. Unfortunately I wasn't able to get away from work as quickly as I'd have liked and it was nearly 8 o'clock before I was settled into my pitch looking, more in hope than expectation, at my 2 quiver tips.
However my fears were misplaced. Somewhat predictably my first fish came as I was eating my tea - a spirited barbel of 5lb. Equally predictably I then waited 'till it was dark for my next knock which I was too slow to hit. Recasting, I decided to touch ledger and 10 minutes later connected with another clonk - a much better fish this time, it took a while to subdue and at 8lb 8oz would be my biggest of the session.
The next 4 hours resulted in just 4 more bites which gratifyingly resulted in 4 more fish! 2 more barbel; a 7lber was followed by another 5. The session was rounded off with 2 chub in 2 casts, the first a real beauty. In the dark, as it was guided to the net, it looked a good 5. Alas it was not as plump as a winter fish and the needle on my scales 'only' reached 4lb 15oz. Recasting resulted in the immediate capture of another fish, some pound and a bit lighter.
So 6 and a half hours fishing had resulted in 7 bites and 6 fish - a pretty satisfying success rate. It was curious as well, that for the whole session I'd fished with 2 rods; on one I'd alternated between smoked garlic sausage meat and garam masala flavoured bacon grill (a real winner last season). On the other rod I'd fished with 13mm carp pellets flavoured with monster crab and presented off the hook on a bait band. All the fish fell to the pellets - the meat not a touch. This is the first time I've used these on the river and I shall certainly be using them again!!
My chance came sooner than expected. Ten days later I was thwarted in my attempts to get to work by a 'suspect package on the tracks at Ealing' and finding myself still in Reading 3 hours after leaving home, decided to take a day's holiday and have an afternoon on the river. The day promised to be a scorcher so it wasn't a tough call!
This time I concentrated on travelling light as I wanted to take my deck chair with arms so that I could comfortably touch ledger for the entire session. Bites are at a premium during daylight and you really don't want to miss any chances that come your way. I dispensed with the second rod and just tackled up the carp pellet rig. Being unplanned I didn't have any hemp prepared so just baited the swim with some loose offerings of the hook bait.
So sat in my chair with the rod in my lap I was settled down for a warm, soporific afternoon on the river. My first cast hadn't been in place 5 minutes when my 1.75lb T/C rod was pulled round in a violent tug - I was in already!! The fish powered off downstream just as a cruise barge full of pensioners on a day trip hove into view. The site of an angler playing a fish caused quite a stir on the boat and the driver slowed down while I landed the fish (a seven and a half pound mirror) to a round of applause from the assembled on-lookers! An episode that was certainly good for some-one's ego.
The rest of the afternoon passed off without further incident - or bites. Then with the lengthening shadows heralding the onset of evening I had a frantic half an hour which saw 3 barbel on the bank. The fish caught in ascending order by weight went 6lb 9oz, 6lb 15oz and 8lb 2oz. The next hour was all quiet. With the last rays of sun piercing the valley, a gentle knock resulted in a 4lb bream. I fished on for an hour or so of darkness with great expectations but no action. Conscious I had to be at work the next day, I was packed up by midnight and trudging home across the fields to the light of a near full moon.