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Trout stream hots up at last

May 20, 2018 at 5:53 pm

Reports of a few fish being taken on mayfly, saw me arrive with some optimism at my syndicate trout stream this week. A continued dry spell had warmed everything up, causing shoots to sprout with avengeance, the trees now full of summer foliage, while the adjacent fields were getting an early hair cut, as a tractor cut fresh grass for hay making.

A few mayfly were lifting off as I walked downstream looking for rising fish, but had to travel half a mile before a ripple from the bank below me indicated a feeding trout. I crept past and waited, Yes, another discrete rise sending out a ripple.

Having seen a white mayfly drift down to be ungulfed by the as yet unknown fish, I searched through my artificials and found a small bodied version to tie on. During winter work parties, we had removed many of the small overhanging saplings, to allow casting along this bank and keeping the rod flat to avoid overhead branches, tried to get close to the fish. Naturals were coming down steadily now and the trout was moving around taking two or three at a sitting, then moving back to the edge. Waiting for a lull, I flicked the fly close to the bank and the fly was gone, lifting into a good trout that ran to down my right toward some weed. Keeping a tight line, I let the 7 foot, 3 weight rod do the all the work, as it bent double. I wanted this fish, but did not want to give it line. Last week I had done just that and lost one. From high on the bank, I had a good view of the fight, waiting for it to slow down showing its flank, before pulling it across to my extended landing net.

The fly was well hooked inside the top of the mouth, but pushed out with forceps, an 18 inch overwintered stockie. Held upstream for a few minutes, it soon recovered to swim free.

I had been waiting for a decent trout since the start of the season and encouraged, decided to walk further down to the confluence of a smaller river. This was coloured and turned back and entered the river a few yards upstream. I do not usually venture this far, but the river here has character, rushing over stones and deep pockets.

With trees behind and above me, casting was not easy, but there were rises to my right in the fast water and cast the mayfly to the spot. The mayfly was ignored, while smaller flies were still being taken. I tied on a size 16 deer hair sedge, ideal for this rough water and recast. It ran down 18 inches then, splosh, the fly was taken by a juvenile trout, which launched into the air and came off. Others were still rising and a positive take made sure of another small wildie, that zig zagged about putting a bend in the rod.

The mayfly hatch seemed to be over, but plenty of smaller flies were being taken, as I waded up round the bend away from the trees, allowing me to cast at will to at least a dozen fish in the next 50 yards. This is what I joined the syndicate for, freestyle fishing, reading the water and always watching for a better fish. On a welsh stream these small browns are the norm, but here I have had some much better fish emerge from the depths in the past. Wading up a bit at a time, most rises were covered, some reached my hand, others shed the barbless hook, the best of about 8 oz, slipping through my fingers as I attempted a photo. A very pretty fish.

Reaching overhanging alders, I had seen an occasional rise and watched as a mayfly drifted into range, seeing the red spots of a trout as it took. Edging closer, the white mayfly was again tied on and I tried a cross body cast, up and across to it. At last I got it right, a foot from the opposite bank the fly drifted down. A splash and it was gone. There was too much slack, I missed it. Not to worry, I’ll be back next week, the mayfly should then be ready for Duffer’s Fortnight”

Bread punch skimmer bream dominate at Kingsley Pond

May 15, 2018 at 1:34 pm

Seconds before my alarm went off at 7 am, a text message awoke me. It was my friend Peter informing me that he had just arrived at Kingsley Pond, our fishing venue for the day. Thanks Peter. My wife’s plan for the day was to paint our bedroom, which meant me assisting in pulling everything into the middle of the room, before going down for breakfast. With bait out of the freezer, sandwiches and flask made, I was soon on my way toward a daily grid lock traffic situation, where on the roundabout over a motorway, traffic catches up with its tail, desperate drivers not willing to give up a car space making it worse. Car by car, truck by truck, my route onto the empty motorway cleared, taking 45 minutes to travel half a mile. This is why Peter gets up really early to fish, whereas I prefer to travel outside the rush hour, this compromise cost me time on just one day, these commuters face it every day.

The rest of my journey was traffic free and I could soak up the green wooded hills of Hampshire, arriving in the village carpark beside the pond after 9 am. My reason for the visit, was that Peter had bagged up the week before, with lists of fish caught resulting in a keepnet so heavy, that he could not lift it from the water. Arriving on the bank, I found him back in his favourite swim by an island, but this time he had little to report, a 4 lb tench and a small carp, plus a few roach. He was on the same method, feeding pellets over a waggler float twenty yards out, but this time the fish were not really interested.

Dropping off my tackle in the swim next door, I set off back across the road to pay for my guest ticket, only to find that I needed Peter’s membership card to complete the paperwork. Ah bureaucracy don’t you just love it?

By 10 am I was ready to fish, even at this time the sun was beating down, although a refreshing breeze was keeping things comfortable. I had been prepared to fish the pellet like Peter, even bringing two keepnets, but opted for the cautious approach and decided to start on the bread punch. At least I knew that this would get a few fish in the net. Due to the shallow water, I mixed up a sloppy mix of bread crumb and covered the area 4 to 5 metres out with the slow sinking cloud bait. Hoping for big fish today, I had my heavy duty pole set up, complete with heavy elastic, not willing to be given the runaround, as I had last week by large bream and tench on light elastic. This would prove to be a mistake.

Attracted by the cloud of bread, the float was disappearing each put in as small roach and skimmer bream found my 5 mm pellet of bread, only to bounce off again against the heavy elastic. A better sized skimmer worked the elastic and stayed on.

The bites were now slow and deliberate, but the fish very lightly hooked, were being bumped off against the elastic on the strike. After a frustrating hour, with very few fish actually reaching the landing net, it was time for a change. First I stripped off my jacket. It was already too hot. Then I changed poles, putting away the heavy duty job and getting out my other option with the lighter elastic. This had the immediate effect of bringing a fish a cast, although any attempt to swing in even a small roach resulted in a dropped fish.

The skimmers kept coming, while Peter was struggling for a bite on the pellet.

As the temperature rose, I began to miss bites, the bait staying on the hook being a sign that the bread was too hard. It seemed ok to touch, punching out freely, but each time a fresh piece was removed from its protective cling film, I caught fish for several punches, then the cycle would start over. To avoid running out of punch bread, I began tearing off smaller pieces of the fresh doughy slices.

I had some sweet corn as a back up, intending to use it for the tench, big crucians and bream that Peter had promised we would be catching. Adding corn to the bread feed, I tried some on the hook and got a tench bite, struck and caught a roach.

Then another. They wanted the corn and were taking on the drop.

Switching back to bread brought more skimmers.

The skimmers were like peas in a pod, all about the same size and more reliable than the roach,  continuing to hook, play and net them as though on a production line. As the sun moved round, Peter had landed a few more quality fish from the shade in close, a small mirror carp, a two pound crucian and another four pound tench along with some good sized roach. The pellet was paying off at last. I fed an area in the shade to my right with sweet corn, but attracted relatively small roach and considered the wait for a decent fish, if they existed at all in the swim, not worth it, when every time I put in with the punch, a skimmer bream would oblige.

Come 3 pm I’d had enough of the sunshine, while despite trying a few things, had failed to catch anything over 8 oz. Peter had justified sticking it out on the pellet with a good variety of fish.

It had been a busy five hours, once I had changed to the lighter elastic, but still required a gentle touch to get them in on a day too hot, even for mad dogs and Englishmen.

Not what I had expected, over 12 lb of silvers, but a just reward for persistence. On the road by 4 pm, we missed the worst of the traffic and I returned to find a wife pleased with her freshly painted bedroom.

Bread punch tench new personal best

May 12, 2018 at 4:07 pm

On the way to the local garden centre with my wife this week, we passed a sign to a country park not far off our route and decided to check it out. It was free entry offering, wooded walks, picnic areas, a cafe and as we discovered, a lake, where pinned to a tree, was a sign saying that day fishing permits were available from the cafe. After our walk we of course needed a cup of tea and stopped at the cafe, where I found that the day tickets were a very reasonable price.

Loaded down with plants from the garden centre, my wife had her afternoon sorted, while a fishing trip would give me something to do. There were frozen bread slices and liquidised bread in the freezer, so bait was not a problem, and after lunch gathered up my tackle, then headed back to the country park five miles away.

The cafe owner was not a fisherman and had no knowledge of the fish in the lake, “I just sell the day tickets”, so it was going to be a case of suck it and see. With only a pole, I went to the dam end of the lake expecting deep water, but plumbing the depth revealed only two feet at 6 metres. Opting for a shallow pond waggler rig in my box, I mixed up wet, sloppy bread crumb and laced an area 5 to 6 metres out with the feed, and sat back waiting for a bite. There was no surface activity and thought that it might be a long wait.

In my rush to get away, I had left my landing net pole behind and improvised with a keepnet attachment for my tackle box. At only half a metre long, landing a big fish could be difficult.

A minute after the float had settled, a tell tale ring, then a dip warned of some interest in the 5 mm bread pellet, before it slid from view. A lift of the pole and a jiggling fight as I slid the pole back to release the top two sections, bringing a small roach to hand.

The roach were gathering round the feed and it was one a chuck, although another ball of feed seemed to bring smaller fish. Going up to a 7 mm punch, I cast to the side of the feed and got a better roach that required the use of my improvised landing net. It meant breaking down the pole each time to the top two sections, but it worked.

Next cast, the float stayed down and the elastic came out of the pole tip, the fish taking a couple of runs in the shallow water, before my netting technique had a proper test.

A chunky pound bream. This session could be interesting. Going in blind to a water is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I like the extra challenge. I am always confident that the Bread will sort out better fish. The next bite proved this, when solid resistance, followed by an elastic stretching run towards a snag to the right of my swim, saw me pulling hard in the opposite direction. The water was boiling as the fish turned and rolled, the wide tail of a bream showing several times before I began to bring the pole back to the last two joints.

A five pound bream. Another test of my netting skills, the size 16 barbless holding firm in the corner of its mouth. Casting in again, the float cruised under and I was in for a repeat performance, these big fish having only one option, run!

These were large bream for such a shallow lake, this one going off with the bait like a carp from the off, running time and again, before succumbing to pressure from the elastic.

The next few fish were quality roach, the bream possibly put off by the commotion of the others. The lake was certainly full of good fish, first impressions belying the reality. The next fish was a mystery, it was bouncing the elastic like a big roach, giving little resistance and I was down to the top two sections with the net ready, when it suddenly woke up and made off in a straight run toward the middle of the lake. I held on against the strain, the elastic in the two sections extending many times its length. Not expecting big fish, I had picked up the pole I use for big roach and rudd with a No 6 elastic, while I should have brought that with the size 12-18 elastic to deal with bigger lumps. Too late now, this was an epic battle, constantly pulling hard to keep the unseen fish from the snags. I was able to get the rest of the pole attached, which gave me more control and leverage, but knew eventually that I would have to break down to the top two metres of pole to land it. I had still not seen the fish and now assumed that it was a carp. Getting weaker, it began to boil in the mirky water close in and with three sections plus the elastic out, I pushed the pole back over my head in an arc, forcing the fish to surface toward the waiting landing net. I was shocked by the sight of a massive tench, open mouthed as it slid over the net. It was in and I lifted it over the bank edge.

Shaped like a barrel, this spawn filled tench had taken forever to get in, no doubt due to that massive tail, fortunately the hook came free from the hard lip with a short jab of the disgorger. Put on the scales the dial went to 6lb 8 oz. Two weeks ago at a club lake my personal best tench had gone from 5 lb to 5 lb 8 oz, now I had topped it by a full pound from a day ticket water. Phew! I was ready for a cup of tea and a slice of homemade banana fruit cake, my hands still shaking as I poured from the flask, spilling half a cup.

I made up some more sloppy bread and threw it out. I doubted whether much would be hanging round after that disturbance, but after a few more roach, the elastic came out again as another bream went through the motions of escape.

By comparison to the tench, this was a doddle to get in at around three pounds and I added it to my crowded keep net. It was now close to going home time, the Friday afternoon traffic in this area tailing back a mile to get to the motorway and I was going to try  a longer less congested country road route back. I had started fishing at 2 pm and made 5 pm my target, but I was in a just “one more fish” mode as it approached. The roach were still coming, when the elastic came out again, this time there was nothing to shout home about, a small bream coming to the net at a leisurely pace to be the last of the three hour session.

With effort I pulled the net from the water, hooking the scales to one of the inside lifting straps, registering 28 lbs of fish, which included a pile quality of roach.

My attempts to take a pic of the net contents proved impossible to capture, but the size of that tench cannot be denied. I returned these as carefully as I could, hoping that next time my expectations are not too great. The new longer distance route, cut 20 minutes off the shorter congested route, so it ended up a win win sort of day.

Urban trout river confidence booster

May 9, 2018 at 5:49 pm

Following my inability to catch trout on my syndicate trout river, I drove this week to the urban, roadside trout river 15 miles north of my home, just to prove to myself that I could still catch on the fly.

Parking in a residential road, I walked upstream from the bridge to a green above a bus stop, where a cloud of tiny flies were hovering above the surface, being mopped up by waiting trout.

The river here is clear, and I watched a dozen trout of various sizes rising to the minute flies. Impossible to match, probably needing a size 24 hook, I tied on a size 16 Sedge and waited for an individual trout to rise. My first cast to a better fish was intercepted immediately by a fingerling that gyrated off the hook, but not before it had spooked my target trout. Drying off the fly and applying some more floatant, I kept lookout for another substantial rise, seeing a trout dive back to the cover of a weed bed. A few casts later, I got it right, the trout rose and dived back again as the hook was set in a fountain of spray set off by the cartwheeling trout. Not big, maybe over half a pound, but still putting a good bend in the rod, the brownie rushed from bank to bank, until on its side ready for the landing net.

A beautiful wild brown trout, I was sorry to see that it had been marked by the line, while twisting in the landing net. Unhooked in the net, I carried the trout back to the water holding it upstream, until it swam off. Working up toward the overhanging laurel, I hooked and swung in a parr of 6 inches, that had again made a splashy take for the fly intended for a better fish. False casting got the Sedge floating again ready for another target trout. The smaller fish were attacking the soup of small flies, while their elders were looking for something bigger to eat. A successful cast and the fly was swallowed down by a larger rod bender, that fought hard along the opposite bank, before coming to the net.

This fat wild trout was soon returned to swim again, followed up by yet another junior cousin from under a tree on the far side. I then noticed a hatch of Mayfly skimming off the surface, one being taken with a plop. I did not think that Mayfly would be on the menu today and had none with me, but a search through the flybox found a size 14 Yellow Humpy, a big bouyant fly of Mayfly proportions. First cast saw a take that lifted a four ounce fish clear of the river, before dropping off. Next, I watched a broad back rise over the fly and struck, hitting into solid resistance, while the trout sat there shaking its head, before charging upstream beneath the laurel with me in hot pursuit, landing net in hand. Keeping the rod low, I began to retrieve against the reel bringing the pound brownie over to my side, only to give line again as it ran along the edge. This was the trout’s last gasp and it rolled over and drifted back to my net.

Facing toward the sun, the reflection of this silvery brownie washed out the bright red spots along its flanks, but it was a fine fish all the same and quickly returned was the best fish so far. At this point the rises stopped, somewhere upstream a lawn was being cut along the river and grass cuttings began to cover the surface. This was my cue to walk back down to the bottom of the stretch, where the river curves away through trees and behind gardens.

Following the river back upstream, the grass cuttings were beginning to clear and a few trout had started to show again, but here there are trees spaced along the bank; also being open, the wind was gusting making casting difficult. Excuses, excuses. The line was being dragged away down stream each time, giving only seconds before it had to be lifted off and cast again. A fish rose two thirds across and I made the cast, getting an instant response that saw a 6 oz brownie jump clear of the water, these well fed trout fighting all the way to the net.

The time was fast approaching 5 pm and every man and his dog would soon be out on the roads going home from work, two hours had flown by and I had proved to myself that it is the syndicate river that is at fault, not me.

Trout river warms up

May 8, 2018 at 11:45 am

The on-off nature of spring this year threw another switch this week into full on summer, single figure temperatures on Monday had climbed into the low twenties by Thursday. A casual sunshine walk in a local bluebell wood with my wife, saw us mobbed by swarms of some of the fattest hawthorn flies that I had ever seen, prompting the question, “Is it ok if I go flyfishing this afternoon?” Hawthorn flies being blown onto my syndicate trout stream have the same effect as the later Mayfly hatch, the trout begin to look to the surface for their food supply.

The sunshine would allow my wife to happily work in the garden, while I optimistically headed off to the river in search of rising trout. Reports were still bad for the river, with only a few small wild trout being caught, but I headed downstream to my own hot spot on an S bend, where I had taken many early season fish in the past.

The nature of the bend had changed since last year, tractors fording the shallows had shifted much of the gravel downstream, creating a rapid shallow straight, that seemed devoid of its previous trout holding pockets. Wading up the straight into the main bend brought no response to my small gold head Hares Ear nymph. This is where I used to be troubled by dace and small browns. Not today. Already I could feel my doubts creeping back about the state of the river. The next half our brought no takes, not even a dace, or chub. I consoled myself that the lack of apparent fly life was the cause and headed back to the road to drive to the wooded mid section of the river.

Two weeks ago it was still winter along this riverside path, now higher temperatures have brought a transformation, wild garlic is filling the air with a heady scent and bluebells are opening out beneath a fresh green canopy. Even a cuckoo was heralding summer as it passed slowly through the wood. Surely this was a good sign?

The river was criss crossed by flies of all sizes, delicate caddis were emerging, while big alders were scudding around the margins, but there were no rises to be seen. I decided to walk down to another once productive pool and work my way back. I stopped in my tracks. A good size fish was rising steadily as I rounded a bend, passing below it to enter the river and wading within casting range. The trout was lying in a depression of a fast stickle, invisible from where I was, a swirl the only indication, as it launched itself at the passing food items. It may have been emerging flies and nymphs, I could not tell and tried my luck with the gold head, which was ignored.

Opening my fly box, an unweighted Black Devil said try me, the trout continuing to rise as I fumbled tying the knot. This midge like nymph has been an early season winner for me and once again cast well above the trout for it to drift by in the twisting current. A boil and a stabbing take. I, or the trout missed it. I continued to cast, it did not rise again. Time to retrace my steps and continue down.

The were no more rising fish and having crossed the river, walked up along the pasture side opposite the wood. In the sunshine, hawthorn flies were involved in courtship dances, some very large specimens among them. There was little breeze and even less chance of them being blown onto the surface, but tied on a size 14 bushy imitation and made casts to imagined trout on my way upstream.

Getting back into the water below where the rising trout had been, I approached with caution from around a bend. There were no rises, but greased the fly up for another try. With a high bank to my side and a tree overhanging on the other bank, casting was not easy. Being right handed, I had to make a flat cast across my chest. It looked awkward, but worked and the big fly floated high among the ripples in the hope of shocking the trout into a take. The shock came after several casts, a flash of gold and the straightening line beneath my bending rod top, being the automatic reaction to the pound plus trout appearing like magic to snatch the Hawthorn from the surface.

This is where I should say that with skill, the trout was played to a standstill, but no such luck, the trout on a tight line, spun and skated across the surface at my feet, until I had the presence of mind to release the reel giving line. Now I stood a chance of the upper hand, as it screamed off line heading upstream like a torpedo. Before I could think “A decent trout at last” it turned and came off. All over in seconds, shock, panic, elation and deflation. That’s fishing.

I continued back upstream, crossing the river again to avoid a field of curious young bullocks, making the occasional cast with the Hawthorn. There were no more rises. Maybe next week will be better?

 

Nitesite Viper and CZ 452 Varmint .17 HMR test

May 4, 2018 at 9:53 am

Having secured another new permission, I arranged with the landowner for a walk-round in the evening this week. He suggested that I bring my rifle with me and I put my Nitesite Viper add on in the van just in case there was time to shoot later. Parking in the field, after he had let me through the double combination locks on the gate, I locked the HMR in the car before commencing the tour.

The field is flat grassland, being about ten acres and having a bank rising up to about ten feet above the field. He has fenced, one end and along the bank using “rabbit mesh”, which is obviously not doing its intended job, as burrows were evident either side of the fence, while as we walked, rabbits were slipping out of the long grass into safety beyond the fence. The landowner has put a gate in the fence, which gives access to another thirty acres and climbing up into the area we had a clear view over the field. This extra land was brambles and scrubby trees and we stopped in our tracks to observe a pair of fallow deer, a buck and doe, the buck sporting a good set of antlers. Only a hundred yards away, they turned and loped off into the undergrowth, a wonderful sight.

Once sheep had kept this 30 acres manicured, but now it was well on the way to reverting back to a wilderness and apart from using it as a vantage point for the ten acre field, it held no promise for me. The landowner had had a farm in the area, but sold up to buy this land along with the farm house and three cottages, using the flat field as a recreation area for himself and the tenants, children’s swings, climbing frames and a slide already installed behind the houses.

It was already dusk, when he left me to my own devices, having previously demonstrated how quickly the Nitesite could be fitted to the HMR. The perimeter of the field had been recently mown, leaving a six foot border between the bank and the long grass, an ideal killing zone.

Lying in a corner, I had a clear view along the border to a rise about 150 yards away, all I had to do was to wait for the first customer to appear. The screen of the Nitesite emits a low light back at the viewer and I wear a black ski mask with a cut out for the eyes, to reduce any chance of rabbits being spooked by a ghostly looking human face in the dark. All very cloak and dagger, but necessary. In the gloom there was a movement on the border and I switched on the power to see a rabbit clearly visible against a light background about 50 yards away. Pivoting the rifle to get the crosshairs on line with the head, the rabbit moved, trotting in my direction for 10 yards, then stopped again. That was enough. I squeezed the trigger and it toppled over from a head shot.

Although the rechargeable Lithium battery in the Nitesite has a 7 hour life, I prefer to switch on, scan and switch off again. In complete darkness the rabbit eyes show up brightly, the perfect target. In the semi darkness of this field, another rabbit showed up jet black, its head and shoulders clearly visible in the long grass. Again cross hairs on and it was gone. Now to find it. Following a line out from the rifle, I walked for 50 yards, finding it 5 yards off my line, the eye proving my sighting to be spot on.

Having collected this pair, I walked the fence line again, but saw no more. It had begun to rain with a cold wind, not pleasant for man, or rabbit and I set off for home, quite satisfied with the Nitesite, HMR combo.

 

Bread punch big bream and tench surprise

April 30, 2018 at 4:14 pm

A first visit to any new fishery has an element of wonder and armed only with information from the club secretary, that I would catch on the pole with bread punch, I let myself through the combination controlled gate to follow a wooded footpath leading to the bank of a secluded lake.

First sight filled me with apprehension. There were literally scores of double figure carp cruising around, not my target fish today. I was hoping to be taking roach and skimmer bream on the punch and did not fancy getting tangled up with any of these monsters, the only safety net being my heaviest 12 -18 size elastic through the top two sections of pole.

A 16 g antenna float rig with 2 lb hook line to a size 14 barbless was looped into the stonfo connector at the pole tip and I plumbed the depth, finding 4 feet at 2 metres, dropping to 5 feet deep at 3 metres. I wetted down half a pint of liquidised bread, dropping two squeezed up balls in at the drop off and another a metre further out. With the pole at 3 metres, I swung out the rig with a 5 mm pellet of punched bread and watched the float settle, then lift again, before steadily drifting away and down. A lift and the elastic bounced out of the pole tip as a nice size rudd fought below the surface.

This was a good start. A few more like this one would not go amiss. Another pellet of bread on the hook and I swung out again. An identical bite, a lift of the float, followed by a slow sink away. I raised the pole to set the hook into solid resistance, the elastic now stretched down to the surface and continued out slowly, the pole taking on a bend as the unseen fish thumped rhythmically away on the hook. This had to be a large bream and I added another length of pole to allow me to follow the fish. There was a deep bronze flash beneath the surface, as the elastic exerted maximum pressure. The fish went deep again, swimming toward me and I unshipped the extra metre of pole. It ran out again and I pushed out the landing net as it rolled on the surface. Now on its side, I raised the pole putting more pressure on the bream and it slid toward, then into the net. Phew! It was on the bank.

The hook was just in the side of the lip, pushing out easily with the disgorger. A big male, this bream had white spawning bumps, calcium tubercles covering its head and shoulders, ready to defend its territory from other males, that try to intrude on its harem of spawn heavy females. What a lump, this beast pushing the scales round to 5 lb 12 oz, before I carried it in the landing net to a spot twenty yards along the bank, where I released it.

After the commotion of landing the bream, I dropped another couple of feed balls over the drop off and cast out again. The float settled and sat there for five minutes. I lifted out to check the bread. It was still there. Any rudd, or roach would have taken it by now. I swung the bait out again. The float bobbed, then disappeared down a hole out of sight. The elastic was already coming out as I lifted. Grabbing another length of pole I followed the elastic. Whoa! This fish was shifting. It must be a carp? It then changed direction, boiling the surface. A flash of gold as it reversed again briefly showed a good tench. I hung on, balancing the pole, trying to keep the tip high, the elastic taking the heavy shocks. I’m sure that on a rod and line, I would have been broken by now. The runs slowed and the tench was on the surface and soon netted.

I am not known as a big fish angler and needed to get my breath back after this big female. Once again the hook was just in the lip, this time in the hard tip of the nose. Leaving it in the landing net, the weight was exactly 4 lbs and again carried it away from the swim for release. A cup of tea and a bite of sandwich was needed.

Wiping slime from the line and the shot, I was ready to see what else was on offer, following another couple of feed balls with the float. The antenna sank, then popped up again before I could strike. The float sat still. The bait was gone. I went up a size of punch to 6 mm and double punched a thick pellet then recast. The antenna raised and lowered, then lifted, moving slowly off, sinking away again, until out of sight. A sharp raise of the pole pulled out the elastic again, but this time no explosion, just a steady pull toward the centre of the lake. Another bream? No, the fish suddenly woke up and began to fight its corner, head shaking as it ran, taking out the elastic in spurts, while I added another two lengths of pole to follow its every move. It was being drawn closer as I removed the pole sections again, passing deep across the front of me, but surfacing at the end of its run. An even bigger female tench now lay ready to be netted.

Weighed in at 5 lb 8 oz, this was a new personal best for me, the fact that I also caught it on a so called small fish method, pole with bread punch was an added bonus in my book. I had decided that this and any other large fish would be returned immediately, rather than put in the keep net, avoiding a slimy net being paramount.

The next bite slid away to be met with another explosive reaction from a much smaller, but hyper active male tench that dived and rolled around the swim, until exhausted.

At 2 lb this big finned male seemed like a tiddler in comparison to the previous pair, although what he lacked in weight was made up in sheer muscle power.

I was now ready for anything and when the float sank away again, I guessed it was another tench, larger than the last and just as energetic. To my right was a lily bed and this one kept powering toward it, despite putting on side strain, the elastic following it all the way, until it was in the roots. Several times I tried to pull it free, but each time the lilies pulled back. Time to slacken the line and wait for the float to move off. Minutes later the float tracked away from the bed as the tench swam out of hiding. A long hard pull and the fight was into round two, the tench out for the count, after a few short runs.

This chunky lump of solid muscle weighed in at 3 lb 8 oz. Tench have always been a favourite, the first day of the coarse fishing season on June 16th, being celabrated as a lad, by getting up at 3 am to cycle to the local canal, catching maybe half a dozen tench of a pound on bread, packing up by 7 am to cycle to the newsagents, where I would rush through my paper round, before heading off to school for a sleep!

It was time to top up the liquidised bread feed, have another sandwich and pour more tea, as I was beginning to flag. This was too much excitement for one day.

Rested, I cast out again for the latest instalment, what next? I did not have long to wait. The float dithered, then sank slowly away and I lifted into another big bream with its slow thud, thud fight, the elastic again doing its work, all I had to do was hang on, following each move with the pole, until ready for the net.

Across from me, another angler had hooked a fish as I cast out and was still playing it on rod and line, while I had netted this 4 lb 8 oz bream, weighed it, returned the fish, then rebaited, before he had his landing net out for another large bream.

Bubbles were still bursting over my baited area, when I lifted into another big bream, that kited toward the middle, it being a matter of time, before, on the surface, the net slipped under it.

Full of spawn and round like a dish, the scales dropped to 5 lb 8 oz, this female almost equaling the weight of the first today. Time was now getting on, this had only been intended as a taster session, but there was still time for one more cast and rebaited, the rig was swung out again. They were still feeding, the float taking time to sink out of view and yes, another big bream was steadily pulling out the elastic toward the middle, using its weight to surge away. In a match I would have be trying to get the fish on the bank as quickly as possible, but catching bream is almost relaxing, once hooked in their tough mouths they tend to stay on and it is worth waiting for them to be ready for the net.

Last of the day at 5 lb 4 oz, this was another fatty ready to spawn. I am sure that I could have sat there catching these and more tench for the rest of the afternoon, but that would have to wait for another time, it was time to get out in the motorway traffic, before the rest of humanity.

Bread punch nets quality roach and rudd

April 26, 2018 at 8:45 pm

With Braybrooke Park’s Jeane’s Pond closed for a month at the end of April, I took advantage of a dry weather forecast to fish it this week. Set up by 10 am, I was keen to find out if the warmer weather would mean more and better fish on the bread punch and set myself a target of at least ten pounds for the five hour session.

Conditions were perfect with a slight breeze ruffling the surface, the pond having a healthy green tinge. Being cold and wet overnight, I had overdressed and was feeling the warmth of the sun already. Considering taking off my hooded jacket, the float sank away and the No. 5 elastic on my pole stretched out as the first fish of the day came to the net.

I never got the chance to take off that hoody, as the bread punch worked its magic and I got into a catching rhythm. Targeting the better fish, I was using coarse ground bread crumbs, wetted down to sink quickly and spread out near the bottom. Starting off with a 5 mm punch to a size 14 hook, the bites were confident, usually sinking as the float cocked, the larger hook allowing the average 3 to 4 oz fish to be swung to hand with three metre length of pole.

The roach were outnumbering the rudd, more fish needing the net as the first hour progressed and I was confident that my 10 lb target would be reached. I had plumbed the depth before I had started and found a drop off 3 metres out, where I fed a pigeon egg ball of feed every 15 minutes, fishing to one side or the other of the feed. This was working well and quality roach and rudd were now the norm.

This was a fin perfect roach, while many of the rudd were quite tatty, having dropped scales, although their fighting qualities were not affected.

Other rudd were perfect, as the one below shows, having golden scales and bright red fins.

With little  warning the wind got up and the heavens opened. This was not part of the script. I was thankful that I had not taken off the jacket, pulling the hood over my cap, but it was not even shower proof, my bait apron acting as a temporary buffer between my jeans and the downpour. In seconds the bread punch slice was soft and useless, but all was not lost as I keep the spares in a polythene wallet. It was a case of, “batten down the hatches” and wait for the storm to pass, which it did after five minutes. My wife shopping only a mile away never saw a drop. April Showers?

The sun was soon out again and the quality fish kept coming. I topped up the bread feed and changed the feed pattern as small fish were now forming a barrier between the upper surface and the bottom. I now fed two lines over the drop off, two metres apart, still only a pigeon egg size ball every twenty minutes, but staggered between the two feed areas. I also went up to a 7 mm pellet of bread. The good fish were still down there, fishing away from the fed area, while the small fish were preoccupied over the feed.

This roach had a badly damaged lip. It is barbless hooks only on this pond. Somebody is not aware of the rules. The previous captor had ripped the hook out.

The bites were now slower, the bites steadily building until the float sank from sight followed by the line, each lift of the rig seeing the elastic come out as yet another good fish fought for freedom.

One such bite saw the elastic stretch away and I was convinced that I hooked a tench, the fish making long runs, until it surfaced like a submarine. It was a fan tale crucian carp, a rarity in this pond.

Another fine, hard fighting roach came to the net. Despite the slow bites, these were all just hooked in the upper lip, the hooks often transferring to the landing net.

This was the last of the day. The rig snagged on vegetation at my feet and pulled free, the float and line spun round the pole tip. Not the first time that a bird’s nest had cut short my fishing. I had lost my first rig up the tree to my left, when the hook had pinged out of a fish in the landing net. Now my spare was gone too. I had another rig with a slightly heavier float, but it was close to my 3 pm deadline and I called it a day.

It was obvious that I had easily topped my 10 lb target weight for five hours and when my 14 lb limit scales bottomed out, I reached for the 50 lb set. These swung round to 17 lb 8 oz. A foreign lady watched with her children as I weighed these up, she taking a picture on her phone for husband, who also fishes with bread she said. “Are you going to eat any of those?” she asked. “In our country we do, but in England you throw them back” Yes we do.

Trout stream begins to wake up

April 24, 2018 at 10:31 am

Spring shook off its winter chill with a shift of wind from the south and clear skies, that saw temperatures in the high twenties, which had BBQs across the land dusted off and fired up, but I was making plans for a visit to my syndicate trout stream, shielding my eyes from the evening sun, as I headed west.

Arriving after 7 pm, the air was full of flies, but there were no signs of rising trout as I searched known holding areas for fish. Although running high and fast, the river was clear, which gave me some heart to keep casting the gold head Hare’s Ear nymph, expecting at any moment the sudden movement of the leader, that would indicate a take.

Continuing down the bank I almost trod on a well pecked perch of about 12 oz. Could have been a mink, or heron kill. Shame. With mink, heron and crayfish in abundance, fish have an uphill struggle to survive. Twenty years ago the occasional trout taken by a heron would not have been missed, but now invasive species thrive. We are fortunate that there are no cormorants on the river.

Having drawn a blank at another once productive pool, I continued down and saw a rise in a back eddy close to the bank. At last a fish. I didn’t care if it was a dace, chub, or trout, something had risen to one of the many flies lifting off. There was hope yet. I circled away from the bank to come up from behind and waited for a repeat performance. Nothing. This pool has provided three or four trout in a single visit before, but now, as I worked the nymph up the river my enthusiasm waned again. The light was going and returned back to the van seeing no other rises.

Two days later the warm weather had continued and I was back at 5 pm, intending to fish upstream of the road. While pulling on my waders, I saw another syndicate member plodding his way back to the road and waited to pick his brains. It was Richard, who had fished two miles down and back again, most of it wading. He looked shattered. His report was no rising fish, but four trout lost, one chub and a ten inch wild brown, all taken on gold head nymphs. He had a picture of the trout and it looked fat and healthy.

The river looked perfect as I waded up from the bridge, the gravel was clean and bright, offering plenty of deep runs and eddies to cast my gold head Hares Ear into. A black cloud was gathering to my left and brief showers swept across the river, but I continued my routine, wade a yard, cast ten yards, watching the greased leader come back on the retrieve. A few more casts to cover the water in front of me, then wade again. The leader shot upstream! Missed it. My heart jumped. That was a take! Recast to the spot. Nothing. Further up, last year a work party had constructed a water deflector using willow, which was now rooted and sprouting. A deep run had been cut in the gravel by the force of the river and I cast to the side of it. The leader jerked upstream and my rod bent into a fish, not a big one, but the gold flash ahead said it was a trout. It cartwheeled across the surface, then rushed down below me. Only ounces, it powered away, bending the rod until in the net.

More powerful than a roach twice its size, trout like this are proof that the river has the ability to regenerate itself, despite some of the perils that it has faced in recent years, drought, nitrates, predation and poaching. The syndicate have a set program of river improvements and weed planting, that we hope will return it to the form of just a few years ago.

To the west the sun was still bright, but to the south that cloud was drawing closer and a heavy shower forced me from the river back to the road. A rainbow stood out against against the cloud. If I had been a photographer and not a wet angler, I would have paused for that classic shot, but then who but an angler would have there anyway?

 

CZ 452 Varmint HMR against the elements

April 19, 2018 at 4:27 pm

A dull cold morning transformed into bright sunshine, driven by a brisk wind and convinced that a balmy afternoon would follow, I headed out to my new permission eager to get some more rabbits for the freezer. Due to the wet weather of late, the farmer has been reluctant to let his cattle out for the spring pasture. Once the cattle are on the land, he does not allow shooting, so every visit is a bonus.

Rather than abating, the wind increased, scudding clouds across the sky as I patrolled the land, checking out previous kill sites. In the west the sky was beginning to darken and I was having doubts about my decision to drive the 15 miles to the farm. Higher temperatures had been promised this week and my vision of a warm afternoon bringing rabbits to the surface to sunbathe was disappearing fast.

A 30 minute stake out, a hundred yards from the usually productive pylon, revealed only a pair of very young kits, dancing in and out of the brambles, but no caring adults. I couldn’t wait all day. The kits will be bigger in the summer.

Walking back into the wind, I could make out two brown blobs 200 yards away, the scope confirming the sighting of a pair of big adult rabbits. In this wind I would need to be within 80 yards to be sure of a head shot, the gusts coming to the left of head-on, could blow the tiny .17 inch diameter bullet well off course. Heading directly for them, I kept low, the pylon behind me masking my outline, until about 100 yards away, where a shallow gully allowed me to cover more ground unseen. Pushing the HMR onto the higher edge, I could seen the two rabbits clearly, one was hunched with its back to the wind looking in my direction, the other partially obscured by grass, side on. The head-on rabbit was clearly visible, but a wind drifted shot to the body would ruin the meat and opted for the one to the right, head down feeding. Again not an easy shot, to the body yes, but I had to guess where the bullet would end up in its head. Aiming for the upper shoulders, I expected a right drift of 3 inches to the brain. I fired and they disappeared from view. A search of the area revealed nothing. I must have missed completely.

Walking the fields, I saw several other rabbits slink off into the now rapidly growing grass, two more weeks would see the end of it until haymaking. Near a hedge, white tails were bobbing away to cover and decided to invest the time to wait for them to come back out. Overhead the clouds had joined up to form a darkening mass and the unceasing wind was beginning to spit with rain. Like humans, rabbits dislike wind and rain, it seeming that the chance of a rabbit was declining with the weather.

Movement in the hedge got my attention, but again it was frolicking kits tormenting me, scurrying around. Constantly scanning around was rewarded by the sight of an adult rabbit sitting up behind me to the right. I swung round and aimed at the upper chest, the tailwind carrying the bullet to its target.

Although it was only 4 pm, the clouds had brought on premature darkness and as I cleaned this rabbit, heavy raindrops had begun to fall. So much for spring. The shower was brief, but enough to send me back to the van and home.