Spending their days in clear shallow water, the gypsy barbel on my local river live lives that, compared most freshwater fish, are subject to public scrutiny. They may find keeping secrets a more difficult task to pull off than the fish of deep or muddied waters, but they remain nevertheless mysterious creatures.

During the evenings when the light struggles to illuminate the river bed and is instead mirrored by the water´s surface, the barbel start to move. In the shallow runs you can see them migrate upstream and disperse from the haunts they occupy during the daylight hours. Very often they will give themselves away by creating a little bulge on the surface or a V and this makes its way slowly upstream. Sometimes they will cut the surface with the tip of a tail or a dorsal fin. They may travel singly but more often a small group of fish will swim together. It is difficult to resist the temptation to drift a nymph in front of these fish but I have found the fish to show little interest when they are on the move like this.

I am never around on the river at night but it seems reasonable to assume that the fish will forage widely under the cover of darkness and drop back into cover with the return of daylight.

This evening I stole an hour or two at the river. By the time I got there the best of the light was gone but visibility was reasonable to begin with. When it became a struggle to see well I tied a yarn indicator a foot or two above my little nymph and this allowed me to detect the second of my takes. Like the first fish, this barbel was found in the shallow seam where a riffle empties into a pool.

After I had released the second fish I wandered along the smooth shallow glides that are devoid of fish during the day. There were plenty of fish making their way into the current and into the unseen world of the night. It is dark outside as I write this and the stars are out but I wonder where the fish are now and what they are doing,


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