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It's been so long that I'm not sure I remember how to go fishing, let alone write it up in this thing.

I havn't set foot near water since my last diary entry here - too much going on at home, scouting round for work, finishing writing projects and starting new ones. Still, on my way up to sort my brother's broadband connection up I stopped off in Surrey to fish my favourite (indeed only) barbel river. The conditions were close to perfect. We'd had three or four days of solid rain so the river was high with plenty of flow but the forecast for Saturday and Sunday was settled with sunny intervals and warm for this time of the year.

Once again the river banks have changed. For two seasons now it's been a jungle here with only one or two fishable swims but now there are some beauties. An old guy was fishing in the top swim about 100 metres down from the weir. The bank juts out and gives you a great trotting swim where you can face sitting downstream. He had his dog with him but neither of them saw me.

I moved down to the swim I usually fish and it was free. The bank had partly collapsed and the water was coming through thick and fast but it looked - as you can see - very barbely. There are lots of fast bits of water, eddies, strange currents and, right in front of you, an enormous snag.

I baited up the swim with luncheon meat and tackled up. Blew up the cushion and sat on it. Set up the rod rest. Cast in. Enormous bite, just as I'm reaching to adjust the position of the landing net. Bugger.

Reel in, re-bait. Re-cast. Rod goes back on the rest. I wipe my hands on the cloth. The rod bends round as if attached to a small motor car and we're off....What a fight. Typical barbel. Stays close to the bottom, using all the traction it can get from its superbly designed triangular body, just hugging the river bed for all its worth.

Remember the snag? The barbel does and heads straight for it. There's been so much movement on the bottom of the river that I'm not sure where the snag is any more, but the barbel knows alright. Everything goes solid. The rod is in a hoop, 8lb Maxima thrumming. I ease off slightly and wait. After about a minute there's a succession of slow tugs and then the barbel's on the move again. About another ten feet up the river and back into the snag again. We repeat the tension-and-tug dance and eventually he comes out again. There are a couple of short dashes and another one when he breaks the surface but essentially he's done. I'm slightly disappointed that he's not bigger but it's still my first barbel of the season and my biggest fish all year. I estimate he's about 6lbs, in lovely condition and after the photos I ease him back into the water inside the net until he recovers and then, with a flick of that spade tail, he's off again.

I'm laughing. I don't mind that for the rest of the session I only get two more bites and catch an eel. Today I have caught a barbel. That's enough.


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