All was quiet now. The dog walkers had long since departed, even the farmer had left, he would now be enjoying a late meal after the hard work that the autumn harvest always brought with it. As dusk had fallen the noise of humanity had left this little piece of countryside to nature and the lone angler, now sitting huddled over his rods, and awaiting a bite from his quarry. Even the birds were silent, safe in their refuge in the bushes surrounding the area where the angler sat.

Darkness surrounded the scene and the angler tensed as his rod tip plunged downwards briefly, but sprung back immediately, not a take, but encouraging anyway. The angler tried to picture the scene some 20 yards down river from where he sat. He could envisage his bait lying on the river bed surrounded by his free offerings and hoped that the barbel would be moving steadily upstream, attracted by the smell. He hoped tonight would be the night when a huge barbel would finally fall to his rods. Many times he had fished this spot, he loved the river and felt sorry for people who could not understand this love and abused the countryside with their litter and noise. Night was different however, he was alone, as he always was and felt that this was his own private place to which he alone was welcomed by his surroundings. He felt part of this river, not a visitor, but somebody who belonged here just as the birds and wildlife. He had never really belonged anywhere else, not at home or work, they were both poor seconds to the place he dreamed of, and he secretly hoped this would always be the way.

Darkness was now complete, a fox barked somewhere in the field opposite, very close, he squinted to see if he could make out its body shape on the sky line. To see a fox was a good sign, but tonight he only saw darkness.

The angler had fished this particular spot many times this year and had caught a large number of barbel that many anglers had seen only in their dreams, the monster that had been seen spawning in the early summer had, however, not graced his net and he wondered whether the old fish was still around, maybe she had moved to another stretch after the spawning period.

As it in an answer to his thoughts the rod tip plunged downwards and the rod lunged in the rod rest. The angler tightened into a fish and felt the heavy pull of a good barbel trying to reach the sanctuary of the tree roots, to give line would be a fatal mistake but the efforts of this fish were testing the tackle to its limits. The angler kept his nerve and deprived the barbel of its refuge. The barbel then moved slowly upriver, just hugging the river bed and using her weight in the strong flow of water. This was the easy part however, nothing now could go wrong, the battle was largely won when the fish failed to reach the snags. All that remained was the time needed to land this fish and the angler relaxed and enjoyed the fight until at last the fish rolled into the landing net, exhausted and beaten.

The angler knew as he lifted the net and switched on his torch that this was the fish he had seen in the spring, the same silvery mark on her shoulder and the same huge length. He also knew she was a fish considerably heavier than anything he had caught previously. He weighed the barbel and yelled loudly into the night at the sheer thrill of the capture and felt glad there was nobody else there to spoil the moment.

The great fish breathed in big gulps of water and recovered in the shallow water of the river margins, the angler gently supported her great bulk until she felt strong enough to swim downriver and under the overhanging bushes that constituted her home.

The angler reeled in his rods and settled down to sleep, still on his precious riverbank. His dreams tonight were of the big barbel, which he knew would remain his secret, he did not want to tell other anglers where she lived as they would abuse her presence. He didn’t feel it right for her to become a “known” pressurised fish and felt this to be a betrayal of the trust that the river had bestowed upon him on this night. Others didn’t think or live as he did, this would be the angler’s secret, the night the river had shared her bounty with somebody who loved her.

As the angler settled into a deep contented sleep he knew he would be smiling tomorrow as he returned to his other life, and that nobody would understand why.