It is the top of a calm night tide on the Estuary. Two people are necessary and sufficient. One plies the oars gently to pull the boat across the tide. The other lets the drift net slip out over the stern. A moonlit night is favoured. The spring tide of the full moon promises a depth of water under the net and a good light. When the length of the net is a shadowy line stretching across the glinting waters, the oarsman keeps it so by lazily dipping his oars and pulling across. Only once in a while does he need to pull hard. The night is suffused with light and peace. If any words are spoken they are spoken quietly. The Estuary is a temple.
The net drifts with the tide and the boat drifts with the tide. The netsman, with his fingers on the line, can feel the subtle tugging when a fish tangles in the mesh. But when a salmon comes his way he can cry with Osric, ‘A hit, a very palpable hit’. The drift lasts for so long as there is no fear of moots or moorings. Then the net is hauled aboard and cleared. The leaping, moonlit fish are disentangled. They delight the eye. The tide is falling now and the boat has just about taken herself home.
Nothing more can be done tonight. The village is dark and deserted. A bed would be a fine thing.
But first, of course, there is just time to return that magnificent salmon to the river.