I’ve never been afraid of the dark, but the pulse quickens and I can feel a little extra surge of adrenalin as the light fades. The feeling of splendid isolation and standing in a river in beautiful countryside, is disappearing with the fading light. Replacing it is a slight sense of anxiety and a growing desire to make tracks.
Being a short drive from the river, I often take advantage of evening summer fishing and there can be no better time to attract trout to fluff tied expectantly on the line. The famed evening rise, whilst no guarantee, is also no myth.
In a frustrating hour of stealth fishing and creeping up the slow glide, I discover that the fish are not sacrificing themselves as readily as I hoped. In the equivalent game of ‘jumpers for goalposts’, they would have grabbed the ball and gone home for tea.
I manage to catch a couple of juvenile brown trout, demonstrating their urge to feed is not yet tempered by experience, but the more wily fish ahead of me are proving elusive. I try several of my confidence patterns to no avail and with each fly change, it’s becoming more difficult to see to tie the knot. With a great deal of effort and a good measure of luck, I manage to get a small gnat attached to the tippet.
At least in the middle of the river I can flail the rod around with abandon, confident that no one can critique my technique and I’ll not catch a tree.
Then one of the wily trout foolishly strays within my limited range and a minute later rises for the gnat. It’s a short and confusing fight before he’s unlucky enough to swim into the net. My net is fifteen inches long so I can just see that the fish is bigger, by perhaps an inch. A nice result.
As he slides away, I notice that I can barely make out my exit on the bank. The water that is thigh deep suddenly feels much deeper.
I lose the line of the path a few times during the walk along the river back to the car. Why does the darkness amplify sound so much? I hear an owl, followed by a dreadful screech and conclude that some poor creature is being torn apart.
It’s a quick change and my kit is less than carefully placed in the back of the land rover. As I pull up out of the field and onto the road, one glance in the mirror confirms there is no horde of the undead following me. Must have got out just in time…