Night Watch

During the early hours of a late autumn night, we would seek-out spawning sea-trout in the shallow burns and confluences close to the head of the river. Walking boots were essential, old mine workings, boulder strewn bank-sides and hidden cliffs made our approach reckless and shallow wading in the dark rocky pools often essential. A windless night with a warm, light drizzle was always best – the water level was maintained and we could hear each other above the sound of rushing water. The preoccupied fish were not disturbed, neither by our small torches or presence.

Barhaugh Night conte' pencil

                                                                                       Conte’ pencils on Ingres paper.

Sea-trout like to spawn in water knee deep or less and gather in the quieter pools, preferring the more rapid, shorter glides only when ready to spawn. Footsteps in the gravel-bed would sometimes stimulate a response from a sentinel cock-fish, guarding his group of gravid hen-fish. Occasionally a cock-fish would rub against my boots, as if checking for a hen-fish digging with her tail to prepare the gravel redd for her eggs. Areas of dug gravel were luminescent and could be carefully avoided by us. Diminutive brown trout would sometimes be seen in the shadows, rapidly catching stray eggs caught in the stream flow.

'Night Pool' Oil on Canvas 127x77cm-1 - Copy

                                                                  ‘Night Pool’ – oil on canvas, 130 cm x 80 cm  

From such adventures I was able upon return, to make gouache or pastel drawings of the sea-trout, recalling the night’s evocative events. These would later assist me in painting large oils of the remarkable scenes I had witnessed when out on a night watch.

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