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Sweetcorn brings evening bonanza.

June 30, 2015 at 12:32 pm

Within easy walking distance of my home, the local pond usually gets my attention during the afternoon after lunch, arriving back home in time for tea. With it stuffed full of late feeders, such as common and crucian carp, I skipped tea, making do with a slice of cake to keep me fueled and walked the trolley down to the recreation ground before 5 pm.

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Fish were already moving as I set up my pole, with a patch of bubbles on the surface 9 metres out and I made myself comfortable for what I hoped would be a productive few hours fishing. On previous visits I’d also had a lone mini tench and wondered if there were more of it’s bigger brothers about. My only bait was sweetcorn defrosted from the freezer, my first dilemma being being to loose feed, or ball the corn in ground bait, knowing that the bread base would bring the rudd multitudes into the swim. I opted for the latter, feeling that the size of the bait would select the better rudd and the pole is an efficient method for emptying a swim of these fast biting fish. As predicted, the float slid away the moment it hit the water and the first of many rudd swung to hand.

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Prepared for action, I was wearing my tatty old bait apron, a relic from my first ever match team, which was sponsored by a local tackle shop, the shop name covered by a handy pocket, when I moved on to another team. You can’t buy aprons like this anymore, it being ideal for cleaning the hands with bread baits and slimy fish. The rudd were coming one a minute, the fins varying from bright red to variegated like the one above, to gold like the one below.

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The balls of feed had caused an eruption of bubbles from the bottom, but the surface feeding rudd kept coming, despite overshotting the float nine inches from the size 14 barbless hook. At last a different bite, the float lifting and dropping in rapid succession, to finally sink away. I expected a bigger fish, but this little tench managed to pull the heavy elastic from my pole, trying to hold it still for this picture, also proved a challenge.

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The rudd continued to take the sweetcorn, but who cares, when pretty fish like this are coming one a chuck?

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A more fiddly bite resulted in a miss, but the next one set the hook and a small crucian came jagging away to the net.

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The rudd got fewer and the crucians got bigger.

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A steady sinking of the float across the swim, heralded a better fish and the elastic shot out from the pole tip, as I lifted into a common carp, that stirred up the mud in a frantic attempt to escape, diving into the lilies, then out through to the middle of the pond. Eventually the elastic came back to me and I could break the pole down to 3 metres to bully it to the net.

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Getting on for two pounds, this fin perfect common carp, was the first, in what was warming up to be a busy evening. Rudd and crucians being interrupted by a brief flurry of small tench, this being the best of half a dozen.

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 The rudd had finally been pushed out by the carp and tench, while more elastic stretching commons were turning the water black in their struggles.

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My set time to pack up of 8 pm was fast approaching and on the dot, the float cruised away, being  a passenger on a fast moving carp train, the elastic extending to it’s full limit, as a much bigger fish made off toward the middle and I grabbed lengths of pole in an effort to ease the strain, hanging onto the full length at 11 metres, as it raced around the shallow pond. At some stage during this battle, I was joined by a passerby, an East European and a fisherman, who sat down by my side offering words of encouragement in broken English. Fish and angler were getting tired, but I was winning, lengths of pole were coming off and the runs were shortening; this would be my best carp ever from the pond. My landing net was out and I was down to 3 metres of pole, the carp was wallowing on the surface and only needed another two feet, when pop, the hook came out. I looked at my watch, it had taken ten minutes to lose this fish.

Looking at my new found companion in disgust, I responded to his gestured suggestion that I try again and dropped the float back into the bubbles. It sailed away again at top speed, the elastic zoomed out, but this one just kept going, only for the rig to ping back, when the barbless lost hold. That was enough, I was being out gunned, almost relieved at losing the fish. Time to pack up.

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On the scales this net, aided by my much stronger Lithuanian friend, pulled round to just short of 15 lbs, enough for any angler in just a few hours fishing. The up hill walk back home seemed a lot steeper this time round.

Bread Punch Rudd Gold Rush

June 18, 2015 at 12:47 pm

I could not ignore the first day of the coarse fishing season, June 16th and had my sights set on a stretch of river nearby, but events overtook me, being unable to reach a tackle dealer to buy maggots for bait. Checking through the freezer, there was a small bag of  liquidised bread and a few quarter slices of white loaf, unused and returned, following a previous winter session over three months ago. The crumb was thawed out in the microwave and broken down, while the slices were also microwaved and rolled out to 2 mm thick and rewrapped in the cling film, that had held them. They felt a bit crusty, but would work well enough with a large punch.

There was not enough crumb for the river and decided to try a small pond, spotted while on a family walk this spring, a boggy wood between the main road and a housing estate, having recently been transformed by building a boardwalk through the area, where a slow moving, meandering stream, creates a series of shallow ponds.

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Loading up my trolley, I made my way through the now overgrown wood, past each pond, some almost dry, while the others were covered in a green scum and looked decidedly stagnant. By the time the last pond was reached, I was convinced that this was a fool’s errand. Half of it was now dry black mud, the remainder much smaller than I remembered, looking more suited to newts, than fish.

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There was a gap between the trees wide enough to swing a pole out and I set up on what is now a muddy beach, clearing away 4 ft high nettles to allow room for my box. This was true virgin country and already had my doubts about this dark pool, but the water was clear with 30 inches depth seven metres out. Lightly squeezing a couple of egg sized balls of bread, I threw them out six feet apart and watched them spread and sink, hoping for a fishy response, swirls, or bubbles, but not a sign. Punching out a 6 mm pellet of bread, for the size 14 barbless hook, I thought that I would give it half an hour without a bite, before packing up. The float settled and sank immediately. I lifted and the elastic extended from the end of the pole, arcing round to the left, as the surface erupted in a shower gold flanks and red fins. A deep bodied, black backed rudd had taken the bread.

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Until that float sank, my ability to read a water had been challenged, but now I swung into full predator mode, hooking on another punched pellet, then shipping it out, to be sucked in again by another fighting rudd.

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The sun was bright, the rudd were coming one a chuck and I was heating up, my black jacket soaking in the solar energy, it taking three fish stages to remove. Yes, I could have stopped fishing to take it off, but that’s the trouble with old matchfishermen, they never lose that need to get as many fish in the net as possible.

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These rudd were barrel shaped, probably spawn bound and all between 4 and 8 ounces, obviously healthy, but I wondered where the small fish were in this shrinking pond. After a busy hour, there were over twenty in my net, adding ten more in the next half hour, before the bites began to slow. While feeding the occasional small ball of bread, I’d also scattered a few grains of sweet corn, but the rudd were only interested in the bread. A group of tiny bubbles were regularly bursting on the surface to my right, signs that fish other than rudd were coming in to feed, possibly crucian carp and I invested time with the float sitting in their midst, watching it bob and dip, striking once, when it inched slowly away, feeling brief solid resistance. A return to the middle each time would bring another rudd and with my time limited, resolved to return another day with a more interesting ground bait, to encourage these mystery fish to feed.

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After two and a half hours, my already tired bread, was drying out and with an evening engagement planned, decided that an early return home, before the usual traffic crush would make a pleasant change. Pulling my net from the water, I was investigated by Poppy the dog, whose owner assisted the rapid transfer of rudd to my landing net for weighing and a photo, this net of over forty fish just topping 13 lb.

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New rabbit shooting permission follows recommendation.

June 16, 2015 at 10:44 am

My pest control efforts, regarding the increased rabbit population, have not gone unnoticed in recent weeks and the farmers’ bush telegraph had my name and number passed on to another landowner, desperate to be rid of them.  The land, either side of a lane, has been sub let to horse owners in recent years and become run down, but the new owner is keen to get the land back into beef production and arranged a meeting on the land.

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It was obvious from entering the first field, that rabbits were a serious and ongoing problem, hopping through from a raised area of brambles, that encircle two thirds of the perimeter, legacy of London’s Green Belt policy, that has seen much land blighted by the strict no building rules, only to fall into disuse due to lack of proper management. What should have been healthy long grass, which could have been gathered in for hay, had been eaten down to stubble by the rabbits in several wide patches, to be followed by digging and burrowing to get at the subsurface root systems.

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Rabbit droppings were everywhere and the cropping had allowed weeds to ingress on the soil. I doubted that shooting the rabbits alone would solve the problems of this land, but I’ll leave that up to the farmer. I’d taken my Fire Arms Certificate and insurance with me, to put the land owner at ease, regarding the legality of shooting on his land, while pointing out that having an “open ticket” saved a visit from the local Fire Arms Officer to approve the land for shooting. The other field of about 40 acres, had it’s own problems, being enclosed on two sides by the lane and a main road, which would give back stop difficulties, restricting safe firing positions from it’s many undulations.

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I had taken my CZ 452 HMR rifle with me to show the farmer and he was happy for me to demonstrate it’s effectiveness, there being a few rabbits grazing among the long grass already, despite it only being early afternoon. Resting on the fence to his yard, I aimed below the first set of visible ears 60 yards away and saw them disappear with the first shot, two others popping up from the grass nearby to see what was going on. The second was knocked down, while the other ran to the edge 80 yards away, but didn’t make the fence. White tails and ears were now visible, retreating to the brambles, at least ten rabbits in this small corner, the field stretching down to woods at the western end, which are also part of the permission. This will take some clearing and explained that once the grass was cut, I could take advantage of the long range accuracy of the rifle and stop playing Hide and Seek with the rabbits.

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Trout Duffer’s Fortnight gives way to slim pickings.

June 12, 2015 at 2:13 pm

A motor touring holiday in France, over the past two weeks, driving my classic MGB in the company of like minded souls, ranks high in my list of enjoyable holidays, but returning to find that I had missed one of the best Mayfly hatches for years, put a tarnish on the gloss of treasured memories.

A warm breeze blowing east to west, meant an upstream wind on a streamy stretch of the river Kennet, known for it’s head of wild trout and I made the 30 mile trip west on the motorway this week in the hope of a few late mayfly supping trout.

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As a new member of the club, that owns the fishing rights to the water, I first had to find the car park and unlock the gate, the van only just clearing the height bar. That was the first plus point of the evening, balancing out the rush hour drive to the venue. The fishing was upstream of the car park, which meant dodging the traffic on the main road, weighed down with waders, rod, net and tackle, finding myself looking at the river flowing down to the bridge, without any sign of access to the bank. Consulting the club map book, the instructions were to pass through the farm to the river bank. There may have been a farm there 50 years ago, when the map was drawn, but now a retail outlet was in it’s place, with warning signs of gates being locked at 6 pm. This had to be the place and I gathered up my equipment and waddled my way through the bemused customers, scissors and fly boxes rattling, as I progressed through the throng. I startled a weasel in the customer car park, the two inch high predator scurrying off at the highest speed it’s short legs would carry it.

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Arriving at the riverbank, I was confronted by fresh vegetation, that reached up to my chest and began pushing my way through, but soon thanked the stars, that I’d put my waders on, as it was obvious that I was the first angler to visit this year and wading was the easier option, than trying to force my way through the jungle of bramble and willow. The book states, that there is 400 yards of fishable bank and could hear a weir in the distance, but it would take a week of chopping and strimming to reach it at this rate. As a club with perfectly manicured carp waters, it is easy to see where their priorities lie, regarding working parties.

Moaning over, I got down into the river and began wading up toward a long pool, which looked perfect, as it ran round the outside of a bend, with sedges fluttering across the surface, although the tell tale rings of rising fish were absent. I opted to fish a Flash Back Hares Ear gold head nymph and once within range, cast to the tail of the pool, drifting the nymph back across the shallows. Just as I was about to lift for another cast, there was a swirl and I was splashing a small dace across the stones. For the next dozen casts, there was a take, or another dace, these fish lying in the last few inches of water, before the river broke across the gravel. I’d either hooked them all, or scared them off and I moved up a few yards at a time searching out the deeper water, casting up and across, retrieving the nymph through the slower water on my side. Several times the line darted forward and a few more dace were hooked, the largest giving a good impression of a trout, as it fought it’s way across the river.

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This was all good sport, the handbook referring to the stretch being noted for it’s plentiful roach, dace and small barbel and I made a mental note to try to fit in a session on the stick float, once the coarse season begins. The willing dace did not make up for the fact that I’d not even caught a trout parr yet and my last shot would be casting up under the trees at the head of the pool.

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First cast I missed a swirl at the nymph, as it dropped in just short of the overhanging branches, of course never to be repeated, ten minutes of running the nymph along the far side yielding a blank. I waded in deeper, up to the edge of the willows and made tricky casts upstream among the branches, seeing the line zoom away to a solid resistance, followed by the gold bronze flash of a hard fighting brown trout. At last, what I’d come for, but now I had to get it out from among the branches, laying the rod over flat and not giving line, until the trout turned to run downstream. The brownie ran along the opposite bank, before diving to the middle, making head shaking runs, that can easily throw a barbless hook. With a relatively short line out, I was able to play the fish on the reel, bringing it to the surface to pose for a picture, although it had dived again before I was ready.

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My net was leaning against a willow midstream and had to walk the brownie back across the shallows to get it, if I was to lose the fish, now was the time, but it came to the landing net with the minimum of fuss.

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Two weeks ago the river would have been alive with fish like this taking Mayfly, but was pleased that perseverance paid off, this pound wild fish swimming free minutes after. My desire to catch a trout from the Kennet with a fly rod satisfied, this being my first, I was soon back on the bank, fighting through the undergrowth, reaching the car park of the retail shop, as the shutters were being lowered, saving me a climb over the gate at 6 pm. The traffic was now queuing both sides of the road, these frustrated drivers unaware of the natural wonders only yards from their cars, as I threaded my way through them with a smile on my face.

 

 

 

Pest Control. Magtech .22 semi-auto makes up for lost time.

June 10, 2015 at 10:50 am

The mild wet winter had two effects this year, I was not out shooting adult rabbits and the does were on their second broods by the time I was prepared to venture out. That mild winter also allowed the hay to grow rapidly and now many of the rabbits are safe in the tall grass, but a call from my lady with the cottage garden, spoke of rabbits everywhere, despite a couple of visits, that had already reduced the numbers by a dozen.

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Once again I took my Magtech .22 semi-automatic rifle to the immaculate garden, where the lawn was being dug up and the tender plants eaten by the furry scavengers.  Leaving the van in the drive, I peered round the front of the house to see my first target munching roots only 30 yards away. Cross hairs on and pop, it fell over. Sticking my head further round the corner, a brown blob was beside a flower bed ten yards on. Another rabbit toppled. The .22 silencer is very effective firing subsonic rounds and with the Magtech zeroed out to 60 yards, it is deadly with chest shots, ideal in this situation. I walked back round to the drive, with a view down the garden, seeing movement among the bushes at the rear. This was a good 60 yards and got down prone to rest the rifle on my gun bag, waiting for a static shot among the shadows. Two rabbits appeared and the larger of the pair jumped up with the impact of the 40 grain bullet, the other trotted forward and began feeding in a dip, only it’s ears visible. A few clicks of my tongue and a squeak sucking in air between my lips, brought the desired response of a raised head, this shot flipping the rabbit over.

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With nothing else visible, I drove down to the small farm at the end of the lane, where two more rabbits were feeding on the small hill at the entrance; parking up behind a shed, giving cover, as I loaded a fresh clip into the magazine. A waste bin on the corner gave a positive rest, as I got a bead on the first, which was in silhouette with the evening sun behind. It tumbled down the slope, followed by the other, which stopped running at the fence and sat up twenty yards away. The image in the scope was now blurred and refocused the ring down to the minimum 3 magnification, then squeezed off another shot with the expected result. Some shooters disregard the semi auto, but with no need to work a bolt to feed the next shot, this type of rifle is ideal for close range pest control, where the delay and visible action of the bolt action can be enough to scare off a rabbit.

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I made my way along the path towards the barn, looking over the fence into a disused paddock. When I first visited this farm, there was only grubbed up soil here, now long grass swayed in the breeze, although in the far corner, much shorter grass was evidence that rabbits had returned. At this point there was movement in the long grass, and a rabbit broke cover back to the corner, only to get half way before being nailed by the second shot, as I rested on the fence. The next 50 yards saw an Annie Oakley replay, as bunny bashing commenced, a pair of grazers, pop, pop, then three runners getting two. These were all this year’s brood, out in the sunlight, the adults missing, hopefully shot earlier in the year. As I walked, more heads popped out of the grass and I fitted my spare magazine, ending up at the barn with a final sitter.

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I lost count of the final tally, as I was not shooting for meat, but including the garden, at least fifteen young rabbits would not grow to reproduce. More visits are needed to keep the landowners happy, but may wait for the hay to be cut first.

 

Mayfly bring out the big brown trout.

May 25, 2015 at 11:27 am

Already into a busy week and with only one afternoon available to cash in on the Mayfly hatch, my plans were blown out of the water, with an invite to join two other couples for a genteel Afternoon Tea at a Thames side cafe this week. Pleas of  “But I’m going fishing”, cut no ice with my wife and we duly arrived in our best civvies for an afternoon of idle chatter with normal, non fishing people. The sight of Mayfly flitting across the table made me restless and when a Mayfly settled on the arm of one of the the wives, she screamed that she had been bitten by this beautiful wing creature. Being a non angler, she was not aware that unlike Wives, Mayfly have no mouth and cannot bite, being in this form for mating purposes only, all other parallels being ignored at this point. This allowed my wife to announce my earlier intention of fishing that very afternoon, to looks of  “Poor Thing” in my direction from the other females, as though I had a strange incurable disease.

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My duty completed, much later in the day, I found myself peering over the bridge of my syndicate river, expecting to see clouds of Mayfly being mopped up by leaping trout, but was disappointed to see plenty of Mayfly, while the trout were keeping their heads down. Sometimes, just the sight of a big artificial Mayfly, drifting slowly downstream will provoke a lazy trout into action, but not this evening and after several fly changes, big and small, covering a length of the river, I came to the conclusion, that the fish had become sated with Mayflies in the afternoon, while I was sipping tea and eating fruit cake.

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Giving up on the dry fly, I selected a Mayfly nymph, greasing the leader with floatant to within a foot of the fly and made my way up toward a silent pool, stopping short to cast from the shallows. As before, the surface was undisturbed by rising fish and had by now given up on any hope of a trout, but began going through the motions of searching out the pool anyway. A slight disturbance of the surface beneath the leader, caused me to lift the rod in a reflex action, the leader hadn’t moved, but response was immediate, as a good sized brown trout foamed the shallows in a tumbling fight, before diving deep into the pool ahead. I’d hoped for fish from the surface, but this would do nicely, as battle commenced, moving up to the deeper tail of the pool to allow a better control of the situation, eventually bringing the trout across the mouth of the net.

trout 003This 14 inch fish had been packing on weight, taking advantage of the Mayfly Bonanza to build muscle for leaner times. It had fought well, despite damage to it’s tail.

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Traps on our water, take their toll on the resident mink population, but this is evidence, that the furry carnivores are not just a pretty face.

I felt satisfied, that I’d managed to break my duck and catch a trout, as this would have been my first blank on the river at such a prolific time. Having held this trout’s head upstream for several minutes, before allowing it to swim free, I decided to have a few more casts deeper into the pool.

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In this light, the slightest ripple was visible and as the leader passed the right hand bush, the surface crinkled from a turning trout. I lifted the rod, to be met by the explosive power from a much better fish, that powered away upstream toward the bend, giving line, while applying as much pressure as I dared to slow it’s progress. It turned, staying deep, but searching out the banks on both sides, before erupting in the shallows at my feet, turning it with the rod back to the deeper water, again taking line and testing the bend in the rod. Each time the brownie came close to the net, it boiled on the surface. How many trout have I lost at this very point? Leading it back to the deeps, I bided my time, until it was ready to drift back down on the surface to my net.

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A spectacular brown trout in perfect condition, that fought to the last, which measured 16 inches to the fork of it’s tail. Earlier I had been on the verge of giving up on the river for the evening, due to the dearth of  rises to my offerings, but this one pool had made up for everything. There may have been others lurking in the depths, but I was satisfied with my lot and drove home with a smile on my face.

 

Urban trout stream springs into life

May 14, 2015 at 4:52 pm

Having returned from a short holiday in the Channel Islands the night before, a day of household chores left only the evening for a return visit to my urban trout stream, before the last of recent spring sunshine gave way to cool, wet weather. Waiting until the worst of the rush hour traffic was over, it was well past 7 pm by the time I parked the van in a side street.

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Bank side growth was already luxuriant compared to three weeks before and looking downstream, when I arrived, clouds of small flies were drifting across the river, while the occasional mayfly was lifting off. Surprisingly, only a few rises were apparent and felt that the main evening rise had been missed.

Hedging my bets, I tied on a Mayfly Nymph, greasing the line to a foot of the fly, before walking 300 yards to the bottom end of this fishable stretch, where the river then disappears from view behind houses. Without waders, I was limited to casting between the gaps in the trees, so kindly planted by the local council twenty years ago, to improve the appearance of what was an open, but very easy to fish bank. In the first gap, the nymph was ignored, but at the second, a cast up to the edge of faster water, resulted in a bulge beneath the surface and an explosion of spray, as the hook set home. These trout are already in top condition, but my 9 ft rod No 7 rod was designed to cope with bigger fish than this and the first of the evening was soon in the net.

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As always, this plump wild brown was held upstream, until ready to swim off, during which time the surface of the river became dotted with rising fish, as mayflies began to lift off in numbers, some trout leaping clear of the water to intercept them. Casting to individual risers, the nymph was now ignored and I tied on a buoyant Hairs Ear nymph, rubbed with floatant, that sat on the surface for only seconds, before it was snatched by an eager junior brown.

urbanfieldsportsman 1285Taking another couple of similar sized wildies, as I walked upstream, I was aware that the sun was now sinking fast and headed up toward the factories hoping for better fish, before the light went.

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Weed growth had increased and trout were stationed between the beds, eyes toward the surface, moving up to inspect the menu offered to them. With the sun gone from the river, I watched my emerger drift down within range of a brown, that moved forward and sipped it in without fuss, turning back down, as I lifted the rod. Perfect. The rod arched over, at the instant of contact and a spirited 9 inch trout was zipping all over the river in response.

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I moved up again to an open bay before the factory, this whole section being full of rising fish, although I couldn’t see what to, but stuck with what worked, the emerger rubbed with floatant.

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Conditions were now just right, no wind, a steady flow and plenty of trout to cast to. I spotted a better fish, only for a seven inch interloper to pounce, causing my intended target to jump clear, as I struck, splashing the small one across the surface. A longer cast to the base of the laurel bush, a ripple of  a rise and I was playing another hard fighting brownie, that bored straight for cover along the opposite bank, playing this fish on the reel, all the way back to my net.

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The mayfly season has only just begun on this river, but the trout are already barrel shaped and fighting at full power. Once this one was returned, I turned back, the light was fading and I wanted another shot at that better trout only yards downstream. Circling round, I could see the fish in a channel between weeds and made a cast a few feet above it. A determined rise and like magic it was on, fighting in mid water, then turning to run beneath the the overhanging tree to my left, dropping my rod tip to the surface to avoid snagging the branches, it emerging along my bank to run upstream again, before coming to the top and my net.

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At twelve inches, this was the largest brown of the evening and certainly the hardest fighting, the shame being that I release all my trout, while many others do not and I wondered , if it would survive to grow much bigger. This should have been my last fish of the evening, but a final cast could not be resisted, as I walked back to the van, a steady riser falling for my fly.

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Due to the low light, this image is not the best, but included it to show the variation of trout colouration, this one a multitude of red and black spots. Considering the evidence of well trodden banks, pointing to other angling activity, ten trout in around 90 minutes from a free fishery cannot be beaten.

Magtech .22 semi auto sweeps the garden

May 6, 2015 at 2:59 pm

A desperate phone call saying “Please come and shoot my rabbits, they are everywhere!”, took me back to visit a house set in a beautiful English cottage garden, that I was first invited to 18 months ago. Then, twice weekly visits for a month, had reduced the garden rabbit problem to a minimum, by dealing with their main port of entry, a bramble lined paddock to the rear of the property, well worn trails leading from the paddock, through the fence to the lawns and young flower shoots. Between two farms, I was in the habit of stopping off for a chat over a cup of tea with the lady of the house, popping off a couple of rabbits in the paddock, or garden and moving on to the farm down the lane. Winter had come and gone, a visit being well overdue, when I got the call.

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I arrived in the early evening, one of the windiest yet this year. Leaves and branches littered the lawn, as gusts of up to 60 mph swept the countryside and could see fresh holes in the manicured sward, where rabbits had been feeding on the nutrient rich roots. Looking out over the empty garden, I was assured that there were always at least half a dozen rabbits on view at any one time, the house spaniel delighting in a game of  head butt the rabbit, which unfortunately was as far as it was prepared to go regarding pest control.

I settled down in the cover of  a flower bed to wait, having brought the Magtech semi auto for it’s rapid fire capability, expecting several targets to deal with and held my fire, when a lone rabbit ran onto the lawn and began feeding to the right of the lodge 40 yards away. Rested on my gun bag, I had a perfect bead, but watched as my target nibbled away, hoping for it to be joined by others, only squeezing the trigger, when a car pulled onto the gravel driveway, causing the rabbit to lift it’s head. A chest shot from the 40 grain bullet knocked it flat. At least I had one to show for my efforts.

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After twenty minutes, nothing else came out and opted for a stalk among the various flower beds, turning a corner to see a preoccupied rabbit dining on roots only twenty feet away, the scope image being out of focus for the unmissable chest shot.

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I returned to my original stakeout position and settled down again, but apart from a tiny baby bunny, that ran out, then back again without stopping, there was nothing happening, so got up for another stalk toward the bottom end of the garden and saw a jet black rabbit sitting out. It was so black, it looked more like a glove puppet, than a living thing, but soon hopped it once I came into view. I have seen black rabbits before, having failed over a season to shoot a very clever individual on one of my other permissions a few years ago. I continued on my circuit, back to overlooking the lodge, where two tiny kits were bobbing in and out of the shrubbery. With a good solid brick wall as a backstop, I was duty bound to take a shot, but they had too much energy to stay put for more than seconds at a time.

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This session was not living up to expectations, maybe due to the violent weather and spots of rain were filling the breeze, as I went in search of the black rabbit again, this time by a route giving me cover of trees along the edge of the garden. It was there again, about forty yards away in the corner, but due to the rising ground, needed to be closer to take a rested shot, using a tree to shield my progress, which brought into view another fat rabbit munching away in a flower bed to my right. Swinging round for the twenty yard shot, the rabbit toppled over without a kick, the black rabbit taking it’s cue to exit stage left, safe until my next visit.

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The intermittent  waves of showers were now becoming more threatening and decided to report back to the house for a well earned cup of tea, the only consolation being that all the rabbits had been pregnant milkey does, effectively reducing the population by a higher factor. Any reduction was welcome, the garden now back on my must visit list.

 

Spring cleaning with the CZ452 Varmint HMR

May 1, 2015 at 9:54 am

In my part of the UK, namely the soft South of England, this winter we avoided most of the snow and heavy rain, while  a frosty morning was a thing of rarity, resulting in a burst of  the activity, for which rabbits are famous. Many does are now suckling their second brood, and it was time this week to get down to some serious culling.

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Parking is always a problem with this permission, it is landlocked, with access limited to the tenant only, which means being dropped off by my wife, while she shops in the nearby town, or as in this case, doing a drive-by of the NHS hospital car park looking for a space, or as is usual, there are no spaces and I give it a miss to shoot elsewhere. Today there was a space and with a two hour parking limit, unloaded the van, climbed the stile and began the half mile trek across the public footpath to the twenty acre field, looking straight ahead, as I passed shaggy longhorn cattle and frisky young bullocks, the latter seeming to delight in thundering up behind a walker, stopping just in time to avoid trampling them to death.

The tenant breeds horses on the land, the footpath an ancient droveway that is now a road to nowhere, while it is bordered by blackthorn riddled with rabbit warrens, which over the years I have kept in check, but could see before I’d negotiated the gate, rabbits in all directions, already sitting up waiting for the metallic clang of the latch, as I closed it behind me. The sound was the equivalent of  a starting gun, with rabbits running everywhere back to safety. One made a hundred yard sprint from the open field to stop at the hedge and I got down to the ground, then locked out the rifle bipod, before reaching into my bag for a clip of bullets. Sighting through the telescopic scope, the rabbit was hidden behind long grass, but raising my head he was still there, so in sidewinder snake style, I slid over to the left, until I could just see it’s ears. Another shift to the left would put me in full view, too risky with these spooky rabbits, so I waited, cross hairs on the ears, ready for the next move, which proved fatal for my target, it dropping from vision the instant it raised it’s head and the trigger was squeezed.

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At first I couldn’t find this young buck, thinking that I’d missed, although the CZ HMR is deadly accurate, doubts crept in, when drawing a blank a hundred yards out. Shrugging my shoulders, I walked on down the hedge line toward more visible rabbits in the distance, only to discover the buck another forty yards on, the tiny .17 inch diameter bullet entering just under the left ear.

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Before moving on, I skinned and cleaned my kill ready for the game bag, having the hunch that this might be a busy session, my rifle and kit being heavy enough without surplus weight. The blackthorn gives good cover, growing out into the field in places and allowing grassy bays to grow in others.

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Working my way toward a group of rabbits further down the field, one hopped out just fifty yards away. I pressed back into the hedge, adjusted my scope down and took a chest shot to hand, sending it skyward with a reflex jump.

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Picking this one up, I’d disturbed the group further down, watching them white tail it back to rough ground, where a bramble bush grows over the warren and walked to within a bush a hundred yards, from where I could cover all exits. Having carried out my paunching ritual on number two in the cover of the bush, I settled down to wait for number three. Rabbits are like buses, you wait for ages, then several come along at once. One second the area was empty, then four appeared and began feeding. The first was an easy measured shot, the second a snap shot at the first to stop, after the initial crack of the rifle sent them into a dither, the others retreating back to cover.

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Two fat does from two head shots seconds apart, are testimony to the accuracy of this rifle, dropped without a twitch.

Time was now at a premium, if I was avoid a parking fine and I cleaned these out in record time, only to look up to see another rabbit on the grass, where I’d shot these from. Pest control is the name of the game and he sat patiently in the sun, while I took aim.

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A foregone conclusion, I was back over to sort number five, my bag now weighing me down, working up a sweat as I covered the ground back to the gate. Taking one last look round, there was a grey shape in the shade of the trees on the pathway, another big rabbit was feeding unaware of the danger ninety yards away. I got down prone, the bipod allowing another, what you see is what you get shot, that toppled it over with an expanding bullet through the eye, not a pretty sight on the other side.

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I made it back to the car park with ten minutes to spare, feeling like I’d just competed in the London Marathon, downing a warm half bottle of Lemon Barley Water in the time it takes to say it. This session only covered one side of the field and had barely made a dent in the rabbit population I’d viewed from the gate earlier. Pressure, pressure pressure. This was hard work.

Wild trout switch to the dry fly

April 27, 2015 at 9:26 am

 

Two days after a visit to the prolific urban river 15 miles to the north-east of my home, I was heading the same distance, but to the south-west to my syndicate held river for a comparison, a hot spring day, cooled by a strong breeze, giving way to perfect conditions for a memorable evening rise.

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The river level was down on last week, but plenty of oxygenating water still rushed over the stones. Swarms of black hawthorn flies drifting across the meadow, encouraged me to ignore the water’s edge and cut a diagonal directly to my intended starting point, at the confluence of a smaller stream on a bend of the river. In seasons past, this spot has held some of the better trout, but today the surface was untroubled by rising fish, despite the free offerings drifting downstream. To make a comparison with the urban river, my Black Devil nymph was tied on and prospected throughout the pool to no effect and I moved upstream, where the flow pushes over clean gravel runs.

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The only way to fish this section is in the water, searching out the deeper pockets, many trout lying hard under the banks. Getting down into the river, I made repeated casts along a deep run, increasing the range a yard at a time, bumping the nymph along the bottom, where it was seized with a jerk forward of the leader, the strike sending a powerful little wild brown cartwheeling across the surface, that ran full tilt past me, before being netted.

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Only yards upstream  a smaller brown darted from the cover of a weed clump to hook it’self in a boil of spray. The river was waking up. Pausing to look upstream, there was a rise, then another. Fish were mopping up the hawthorns, while grannoms and a few tan olives were lifting off. Nowhere near the activity of the urban river, but activity with a small “a”. Sticking with flies that have worked for me so far this year, the Black Devil came off and a Tan Emerger went on, the leader greased close to the hook, while the floatant was rubbed into the body of the fly for extra bouyancy in the riffle.

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This is a fast and furious form of flyfishing, casting and recasting to actual fish, or to likely looking holding areas, often takes coming out of the blue, the trout missing the fly as many times as I failed to make contact. Rises were increasing, but only three remained on the hook long enough to be swung in, and as they say, were mostly small stuff.

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Above this fast flowing beat, the river slows over flatter ground and has become silted, changing it’s character and once again rising fish were absent, so I continued up to the next set of shallows, where once again there were the tell tale rings of rising fish.

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Back in the river, I waded within casting range of the slowly spreading rings, a fish obliging first cast, tumbling back toward me on the strike, confusing it’s silver flanks with those of a dace as it rolled on the surface.

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Another measured cast toward a dimpling rise did produce a dace, that caused as much commotion as the previous silver trout and once again confusion reined, until the fish was safely netted.

urbanfieldsportsman 012Despite the disturbance, fish continued to rise and I took another three before I’d put them down, the best fighting all over the river like a rainbow before it slowed down enough to net.

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Further up at the mouth of the pool, I could see the steady rises from two larger fish and eased my way closer, but they had stopped once in casting range. I presented the emerger in all the likely places and up among the tree roots, but was unable to tempt anything into taking. I considered changing to a Hares Ear nymph, or a shock tactic larger dry fly, but felt that I’d had a rewarding couple of hours and would leave these fish for other members to catch.

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Walking back, past another fast gravel run, fish were rising along it’s length, as eagerly as on the urban river and I could not resist a cast, or two, hooking another hard fighting silver brown from the middle of the river.

urbanfieldsportsman 009I have yet to tempt the much larger trout to my offerings, but hope that as the season progresses, the mayfly will bring a few out of their hiding places. By now it was well past tea time, but at least I’d missed the queues of the rush hour and would have an easy drive home.