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Trout stream work party blizzard

March 19, 2018 at 9:57 am

When the early March work party was cancelled on my syndicate trout stream, due to the Beast from the East snowstorms, another was booked for the  middle of the month. In that time snow turned to rain threatening the work party with flooding, but the river levels were subsiding again and work on another flow deflector was planned for this weekend. Then the Beast from the East 2 was forecast to sweep across southern England during Friday night with travel warnings in place.

Rising early, there was no sign of snow, the forecasters had got it wrong again. Checking my email, Facebook and phone texts, there were no cancellations, so with tools loaded, set off on the fifteen mile drive to the river, arriving to find myself alone in the car park. Sipping a cup of tea from my flask, I was aware of wisps of snow fluttering down on a freshening wind. I would wait another five minutes, then return home. The crunch of tyres on gravel was welcome, as bailiff Kevin’s 4 wheel drive pulled alongside. A sick list of flu victims, meant that it would be just the two of us, not enough labour for the intended task, but weather permitting, we could tidy the upstream bank for the start of the fly fishing season in two weeks time.

Fly fishing in two weeks time! As if it had been waiting for us to step through the gate, a full on blizzard blasted horizontally across the river in defiance of our intentions. The best antidote to the cold is hard work and we made our way upstream, cutting back old and new growth, folding saplings down into the water to create summer cover.

Madness, or what? At the weir on the upper boundary of the fishery, we called it a day, the snow had beaten us into submission. It was settling and who knew what the road conditions would be on the eastward drive home?

Back at the farm, green had already turned to white, transforming the landscape. Walking to the cars, the open exhaust of a motorbike broke the silence, standing still as the farmer’s son, grinning from ear to ear, gunned his machine over the farm bridge toward the wooded hill beyond. We thought that we were bonkers?

Bread punch crucian carp bonanza

March 15, 2018 at 3:08 pm

Rain, snow and yet more rain have relegated my thoughts of an end of season chub session on my local rivers to a pipe dream this year. Two nil poi river visits, saw me taking the walk to the recreation ground near my home, where the pond has never failed to satisfy my need to catch fish.

The pond had not escaped the extreme weather either. A week before ice was covered with snow and the following thaw saw the feeder stream so full, that the pond expanded beyond its banks. Today, all was back to normal, but with no surface activity, I wondered what sort of a session it would be.

With liquidised bread from the freezer, I was hoping for a few crucian carp and possibly a common carp, or two, but all swims are a blank canvas, until you start to fish. Being shallow, with soft silt mud from the stream, I added water to the bread crumb to form a sloppy mix, that would spread on contact with the surface and snow down to cover the mud, a four ball, metre square area, eight metres out, giving me a good starting point.

Extending the pole to seven metres, I swung out a small waggler, set to two feet deep, to fish a 5 mm pellet of punch bread on an 18 hook, just off the mud bottom. The float sank away immediately and a fin perfect rudd came to hand.

I’d be happy to catch these all day, but the next dithering bite suggested a crucian and the juddering fight, cushioned by the extended elastic, confirmed my hopes.

What a beauty. This fat crucian the first of many, that moved over my bread feed, throwing up pinprick bubbles to burst on the surface. The sun had come out and suddenly winter had turned to spring, thermals and a thick jumper soon proving to be the wrong clothing choice.

The crucians were now coming like clockwork, cast in, dip,dip, sink of the float, lift, elastic out, pull back pole to top two, then let the elastic do its work, crucian on the surface and net. This fan tail a variation of the hybrid common-crucian theme of the pond, that was causing me to overheat. Between fish I stripped off the jumper, emerging to see the float under and another fish on.

A better rudd, its fins bright red in the sunlight, needed the net. A crucian fan tail was next, the hook on the outside of its lip, many dropping out in the landing net.

A runaway bite saw the elastic stretch out as a common carp made a bee line for the post that stuck out of the water in front of me, side pressure changing its mind to the point that it rushed in the opposite direction, burying its head in the dead reeds, the wrong side of my keep net at my feet. The 2 lb fish was marooned and flapping on the surface and I had to lift the landing net over the keep net to scoop it up. Not so easy, the hook came out and the carp stood on its head trying to burrow through. The carp won the battle and struggled free. Time to sit back and calm down with a soothing cup of tea. This was not a match, the sun was out and a woodpecker was hammering away at a tree in the woods behind me. I enjoyed the moment.

Bites had not slowed in the two hours since my original baiting of the swim , but decided to put in some more feed to keep the ball rolling, dropping in a couple more balls of bread into the area.

Gathering up my tackle again, the next cast brought what I at first thought was another common, but the initial run gave way to the tumbling fight of the best crucian so far, a silver flanked fish. This was in contrast to my next fish, a true crucian carp.

The procession of fish filling my keep net continued and was aware that a good weight was building, counting up the number of punch holes in my bread after three hours indicating about seventy fish so far.

I would try to get to five hours, the weather was kind and the fish were still coming, but I was already getting tired. Another cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit provided by my wife on her way to the supermarket helped. Another couple of bait balls were put in and I was ready again.

This small tench was a surprise, a summer fish no doubt warmed by bright sunshine on the shallow pond.

A rare sight was this gudgeon, an ancestor of the original brook inhabitants, before the pond was dammed.

Look at the tail on that! A fan tail that was almost as long as its owner. The constant playing and netting of fish was beginning to wear me out after four hours slog and resolved to pack up after one more decent fish, it coming in the shape of a fat crucian.

I had caught a whole range of fish, rudd, tench, gudgeon, common carp, but mostly crucian carp of all sizes, my bait, half a pint of liquidised bread and a slice of bread for the punch. Pulling my keep net out of the water was a heave, my best weight of fish for a long time.

Almost over brimming my landing net, my 50 lb scales stopped at 26 lb, the best I have ever managed on the bread punch in four hours fishing. Loading up my trolley, I began the uphill walk back to my home, for a well earned cup of tea and another of those chocolate biscuits.

CZ 452 Varmint .17 HMR season opener

March 8, 2018 at 6:28 pm

Only days ago the countryside was covered in snow, but winds from the south brought air temperatures back into the positive, although despite bright sunshine, it was still in single figures due to a cooling wind.

One of my landlords had acquired more grazing for his cattle, but there was a problem, too many rabbits. Calling me over for a meet up, he pointed out the problem areas and I took the CZ HMR with me on my first walk round. Following a scrubbed out hedge line, I saw three rabbits sit up and watch me approach. With a gusting crosswind, the 120 yard shot was not on, so I changed direction into the icy chill, in an attempt to work round into a firing position that had the wind behind me. A shallow gully gave a degree of cover, but I was spotted and saw a trio of white tails bobbing off toward a fallen tree, then out of sight. I was surprised to see so many rabbit droppings around, signs of a healthy population.

Propping the rifle up onto the raised edge of the gully with the bipod locked in place, I covered an area sloping away to the tree giving shots out to 110 yards, the angle across the wind giving a maximum of 30 degrees left and right. The lightweight 17 grain plastic tipped HMR bullet is easily blown off course, but this would keep it to a minimum. Nothing showed for ten minutes, then something moved to my right and I lifted the HMR round to cover the area. A rabbit was working along the other side of the fence toward the tree. It stopped and I fired in that instant. It dropped out of view behind long grass. I waited another ten minutes, just in case of another target, then made a bee line for the spot. A devastating head shot, characteristic of the HMR had stopped it in it’s tracks.

Placing the rabbit high on the fallen tree, I scanned for more rabbits, before continuing my recce, finding the biggest warren I’ve ever seen, which covered an area at least a hundred yards by twenty five yards, the ground raised up and pock marked by countless holes, with fresh excavation work everywhere. This field had previously had a few private ponies left to roam and can understand why the new occupant wants the rabbits gone, the loss of one of his beef cattle to a broken leg, could prove costly.

Cover from the fallen tree would provide the ideal shooting position during daylight, while the flat field will give safe access in darkness with the night vision. I passed beyond this warren, finding another half the size about two hundred yards further down. Reaching the hedgerow at the edge of the field, a pair of electricity pylons held more burrows at their bases, brambles masking more fresh digging.

At this point a car pulled up in the lane behind the hedge and the occupant came over. These meetings can often be difficult, as not everyone in the countryside agrees with the shooting of cuddly, furry rabbits. I need not have worried. He lived in the lane overlooking the field and my landlord had gone on to tell him of my intentions to clear the rabbits. He had seen me and popped over to offer me shooting over the ten acres behind his house, which was suffering the same fate. A double bonus! Passing on his phone number and the code to his gate, he warned of the two big guard dogs he kept in the field, to deter people from running lurchers over it. “Make sure you ring me before going into the field, so that I can lock them up!” No worries on that account! My new permission had also suffered with lurchers, due to the public lane and he hoped that fewer rabbits would make the visits less attractive.

Following an old hedgerow back to the fallen tree, many burrows became evident. With only about a month to go before the cattle are released onto the land, I had better get busy.

Using the tree as a cutting table, I began cleaning the shot rabbit, a big meaty doe. Eighty yards away another rabbit popped out of a burrow and surveyed the scene with its back to me. In seconds the rifle was rested on the tree trunk, the cross hairs planted on the back of the neck and the trigger squeezed. The impact tumbled the rabbit forward.

Another big doe for the freezer. I would like to have stayed longer, but with a commitment that evening and traffic to join, I had to make tracks back to the van, ignoring another pair of sitters on the way.





Big Freeze opportunities

March 2, 2018 at 9:23 pm

With the UK grinding to a halt, as the Beast from the East swept snow across the North Sea from Siberia, storm Emma rushing north, picking up rain over the Bay of Biscay, collided with the freezing east winds over southern England. The stage was set for unprecedented snowstorms, that continue to halt road, rail and air travel. With most schools closed, Government advice in many areas has been to stay at home.

Unwilling to attempt the uphill road out of the housing estate, we left our car on the driveway and walked to the supermarket for more provisions yesterday, pausing only to feed the ducks that were keeping an area free of ice on the local pond. The first day of spring the weatherman said. Yeah!

The return trip saw the start of a snow storm that continued into the night unabated, to greet us this morning, deep, crisp and even. No walkies today. With a stock of logs from the wood pile, I was ready for a day in front of the fire watching TV, when an email message pinged through. The work party planned for tomorrow on my syndicate trout river was now postponed for a couple of weeks. I had already discounted the event. Ten miles of twisting English lanes in this weather? Not a chance.

On a day like this it is hard to believe that the trout fishing season is less than a month away. That message was a prompt to at least check out my river fly fishing kit, which had been hung up in the workshop and ignored since the season ended.

My last few sessions had seen me struggle with a reel that was reluctant to turn, forgetting to look at it until the next outing. Bringing the fishing bag out of the cold into the warmth of my study, the reel was soon stripped and the cause found. It had been dropped on the fixed outer rim, resulting in a dent that had pushed through to the spool rim, restricting rotation. Back in the workshop, with a screwdriver placed in the slot and reel body rested on the vice, a few taps on the screwdriver pushed the dent back out. Back in the warm it took minutes to reassemble and prove the success of my repair. A free running reel with a sweet sounding ratchet is a fly fishing must.

While in the mood, the fly line was stripped from the reel and run through a tissue soaked in line cleaner, until the dark deposits ran clear. Ten minutes later the line felt supple to the touch. Another last minute job done well before time.

With no other distractions, the fishing bag was tipped out. I’d had a flybox open while fishing and tried to retrieve the flies from my bag on the bank, obviously not too successfully, as klinkhammers and sedges of various sizes now revealed themselves among the lining. Returning these dry flies to their appropriate box, I realised that I had too many, being unable to resist the many offers in flyfishing catologues.

Opening up the box of nymphs, again the same story, too many, although I only had a couple of my own tying of Black Devil.

My most successful early season fly, probably because I have confidence in it, this nymph has just enough weight to bounce along the bottom, where I think that it represents a caddis, although it is a buzzer pattern. Another visit to the cold workshop, saw a quick return complete with fly tying materials and vice. After ten minutes preparation, I was ready to start on the first Black Devil, having four new recreations with the varnish drying by lunch time.

After lunch and more logs on the fire, my enthusiasm had waned. Those deer hair emergers would have to wait. The snow was still falling steadily and I had TV to watch.

Bread punch roach and skimmers through the ice on the Basingstoke Canal

February 16, 2018 at 9:31 pm

A report that a club match had produced a 10 lb winning weight, with follow up weights of roach and bream, saw me on the banks of the Basingstoke Canal this week. A bright dry day was forecast, but an overnight frost left the surface covered with a sheet of ice.

The match had been frost free and my hopes of dropping in on one of the winning pegs had been thwarted by bank to bank ice. Dragging my trolley, I walked up to a bend in the canal, where direct sunlight had still not worked its magic, so walked all the way back to the “good pegs”, where I began breaking the ice with the butt of my extended pole, scooping out enough with my landing net to fish just over the near shelf. My informant had said that the bream had been taken down the middle of the canal. No chance of that, four metres out would have to do.

By the time I was ready to fish, a few free floating pieces had been cleared and the first quarter of the canal was fishable. Being sparing with the liquidised bread feed, I dropped a small ball over the shelf and another a metre beyond. That would have to do until I got some fish in the net. With my antennae  float set just off bottom, and a 4 mm bread pellet on a fine wire size 18 hook, it took ten minutes for the first signs of a bite, rings radiating from the float bristle giving warning of a slight dip. I lifted the pole to feel resistance and swung in my first roach.

Not a bad roach for this part of the canal. I fished this part of the Basi quite often once, then good weights of roach and skimmer bream could be taken on the bread punch, but something changed, the bream disappeared and the only roach were tiny, which in turn attracted many small jack pike to feed on them.

This jack had been troubling my fish, until I put on a plug and pulled it out. They are a lot bigger these days.

A welcome skimmer bream told me that I was in the right spot and the float was soon on its way down again for a better roach.

These fish are weight builders and after a very slow start, they were beginning to queue up for the punch. I decided to keep the feed to a minimum, dropping in another 20 mm ball after 20 minutes.

Adding another metre of pole, the bites became more confident and a classic lift bite brought another skimmer to the net.

A few fish later the elastic came out, as a very nice roach flashed silver beneath the surface and I took my time guiding it into the net.

This deep round roach went 8 oz on its own, net fish outnumbering those swung in. I had begun to miss quick bites, the culprits proving to be three inch roach, that were attacking the punch bread as it fell through on the drop. After I had thrown back half a dozen of these tiny roach, a swirl in the swim scattered several across the surface. A pike had moved in. Adding two more metres of pole, I fed another ball and fished right up to the thinning ice, hooking a better roach, bringing it round away from the pike and swung it in.

This worked for two more fish, then the elastic stretched out. The pike had taken a nice roach, just after I had set the hook. This had only one outcome, whether I landed it, or not. My swim would be ruined. With little resistance from the elastic, the pike stopped, turned and swallowed the roach. Heading back to the opposite bank on the surface, it did me one favour. At least it was breaking up the ice past the middle. It was about two feet long and around 3 lb in weight, not enough to over strain my elastic, as I had come prepared for possible big bream, but the way it was stirring up the mud, there was no chance of bream now anyway. I had brought my lightweight canal net today and the pike looked too long to fit in, but got most of its body in and lifted, only for it to slip out again, spinning as it did, cutting the line. A swirl and it was gone.

I had been here before, a promising swim written off in minutes by a pike. Although only fishing for 90 minutes, I considered packing up. I could move, but that would mean going through the process of breaking the ice again, although it was much thinner now. It was a sunny day, I would start again. There was an identical rig on the winder. It took only minutes to swap over. The other rig had been cut at the loop of the hook link. That roach was well down the pike’s gullet. Maybe he’d had his fill for the day.

I fed a couple of balls of bread to the middle, cast out and rested my pole. Time to try those ham and cheese sandwiches, that I had watched my wife make for me this morning. The tea was still hot from my flask. A kingfisher flew along the canal. Bike riders and runners passed behind me. Dog walkers asked if I had caught anything. I told them of the pike. Life wasn’t too bad.

The float sank. Another small skimmer. It had been 30 minutes since the skirmish with the pike, but I whizzed the pole back as quickly as possible. Another bite, another skimmer, this one bigger. Lost it. Should have taken my time. Another small ball went in to compensate. A couple of smaller roach followed. Lost the skimmers? The float sank again, this time a decent roach. Wham! The pike struck again. I pulled the pole round hard for a break. The pike had let go. The roach panicked on the surface and I swung it in.

The jaw marks from the pike were visible, but it had let go leaving missing scales and minimal damage. This was the decider for me. I would pack up. In the past I have set up a spinning rod to combat the pike, but this time left it behind.

I took my time putting the gear away, chatting to anyone that asked of my day. A couple from Zimbabwe got the full treatment, including a quick teach in on fishing the bread punch.

That was my lot for three hours, twenty fish for just under 3 lbs, including some quality roach. It could have been so much more without Mr Toothy.

Winter bread punch endurance test

February 8, 2018 at 8:13 pm

In the week that the BBC brought online their latest all singing, all dancing weather forecasting software, they got it all wrong for friend Peter and I, when we fished our local Jeane’s Pond at Braybrooke Park today. They predicted a dry sunny start and warmer temperatures. What did we get? The pond covered by ice when we arrived, then rain as we tackled up, that was on and off until lunchtime, with a chill wind gusting across the water all day.

My original plan had been to fish the swim above, but found it iced over, so set up on the opposite side of the outcrop, where there was clear water, but the wind was blowing in my face. Peter had settled into a swim he had fished the week before, as it was in the lee of buildings, but he was also hoping for a few of the big rudd that helped him to a 6 lb finishing weight on that occasion.

Peter was snug under his brolley, while I faced the storm, trying to cope with the wind that was blowing my float about. I had fed a couple of balls of liquidised bread just beyond the drop off into the deeper water, but the wind was causing a drift that was bringing my rig back toward me, the shallow shelf littered with twigs and branches blown from the adjacent trees. Every cast in, the float dragged the hook into these underwater obstacles and I was soon building up a collection on the bank. When the wind dropped, the float stood still and I would get a bite.

Peter had already caught a small roach, but my first was a better than average size and I took advantage of the calmer conditions to swing a few in before the wind picked up again. A 4 mm bread punch was doing the damage, missing a few bites on the 5 mm to an 18 hook.

I was still picking off the occasional roach, but conditions continued to worsen and I considered moving round out of the wind next to Peter. Getting up to look at my preferred swim, I saw that the wind was breaking up the ice, blowing it into the far corner. With my jacket hood up, this peg would be easier to fish, as the wind would be on my back and the float rig downwind, being easier to control.

My float is in there somewhere! Holding the float back against the drift, a few small balls of bread concentrated the bites into a tight area and I was catching again.

By 2 pm Peter had had enough. Although out of the main force of the wind, he was freezing with cold hands and knocking knees. I went round to see what he had caught on the maggot, four nice rudd and a roach for just over a pound in total.

The bread punch was obviously doing better than the maggot today, having counted over 30 roach into my net already and I walked back to my peg determined to stick it out for another hour.


Topping up with some more bread crumb, I put in another couple of balls, allowing the bait to fall through the cloud and picking up a nice roach on the drop.

Fishing just off the bottom in four feet of water, the bites were slow to develope, with the odd dip of the float an indication that the tip was about to steadily sink beneath the surface.

The bites were still coming, when I pulled in for the last time at 3 pm, but a light drizzle of rain was threatening to prove the forecasters right at last and was keen to get away before the main downpour.

An all roach bag of over four pounds was my lot for the day, but not enough to keep the cold at bay.

Trout stream work party gets results

February 4, 2018 at 5:49 pm

The second work party of the year on my syndicate trout stream dawned with steady rain and  I expected a text saying that it had been cancelled, but no message meant that a few hardy souls would be turning out to continue the work started a month before. Then we had cleared the banks through a copse, due to the farmer placing an electrified fence along the pasture side of the river, which made it impossible to fish.

I arrived to find empty cars in the farmyard and the sound of a distant chainsaw. It was lashing down with rain, but in for a penny, in for a pound, I set off downstream in search of company. As usual it was the same old faces that had turned out, the chainsaw being used to supply sturdy poles to build a berm that would speed up the flow.

Others were busy pounding stakes deep into the riverbed to support the lateral poles, which were then to be wired in place.

Having the title of chief firestarter, I was given a sack with a few sheets of paper, to get a fire going. On previous work parties, I had been given a box of matches with only one match, but today with no letup in the rain, they had taken pity on me and included a full box. Searching out a some dead twigs I broke them down to form a small pyramid above the paper, which was getting soaked by the second, but the gods were with me and after a few false starts the twigs began to burn. As branches were felled, a steady supply of fuel for the fire arrived, keeping two of us busy for the morning. Hot work in more ways than one.

The new berm raised the water level above it by about a foot, while creating a fast run below that would keep the gravel free from silt.

On the opposite bank, branches were trodden in, then wired down above the berm, where the main flow follows the bend, to act as a silt trap.

With eight weeks to go before the start of the trout fishing season, more river improvement work is planned, hopefully on warmer, drier days.




Weihrauch HW100 Sport add on IR Nitesite Viper Review

February 1, 2018 at 5:49 pm

Having flirted with night vision using a modified Sony Handycam with Nightshot and an IR torch on my Webley Viper .22 PCP, I had found that the short torch battery life was a limiting factor, as the power went down, so did the range and image on the handycam screen. 10 minutes between battery changes was about the limit. It worked well for close range rats and pigeons in the farmer’s barn, but fumbling with fresh batteries in the dark had its limits.

Occasional visits to shooting forums had highlighted a few home grown night vision systems, but the limiting factor had always been the house brick sized battery needed to run the things. Not needing to shoot after dark, until last year, when I was given permission to shoot rabbits over an 80 acre sports ground, I had put the night vision on hold. Brief low light visits had brought results, but it was time to revisit the forums to check up on the latest technology.

At last lithium batteries were being used and good reviews saw me reaching for the credit card to buy a NiteSite Viper scope add on infrared unit, which arrived in a smart shock proof case.

This is the least expensive and smallest unit with a specified range of 100 metres, more than enough for my Weihrauch HW100 Sport .22 PCP airifle, although I can see it being pressed into use with my other rifles, Career 707 FAC air, .22 semi auto Magtech and .17 HMR. More power is available at a cost, the Wolf having a quoted range of 300 yards and 500 yards for the Eagle models.

Opening up the box all the components are well protected, the idea being that the box will travel to the permission, where the parts will be assembled on site. Central in the case are two rubber sleeves to suit different sizes of scope eyepieces. Top right is the IR camera, with locations for the power jack and the screen feed. The camera has an on/off push button switch, which is silent in operation. No clicks to alert a rabbit in the dark. Bottom right is the IR torch and 3 1/2 inch screen unit. Bottom left is the lightweight lithium battery. This box housed the previous battery, a foam rubber filler taking up the now defunct space. Top left is a three pin UK mains adaptor for charging the battery, which has a charge life of over seven hours. A two pin plug is also included in the kit. Alongside the camera are two mounts for the torch/screen unit, one for a 25 mm scope tube and the other a 30 mm. With the mounts is an anti recoil bracket to firmly locate the screen unit.

Assembly onto the rifle literally takes a couple of minutes. My scope has a 25 mm tube, so the appropriate screen mount was clipped over the tube, having removed the clamp screw first. The anti recoil clip is then positioned over the mount with its slot covering the clamp screw hole.The screen unit slides into the groove at the top of the mount, the clamp screw refitted and the anti recoil clip pulled up to lock the screen. The serrated clamp nut can now be screwed on to tighten the clamp. It sounds complicated, but takes longer to say than do.

Next select the rubber sleeve that suits your scope eyepiece. This slides on up to a reduction, which positions the sleeve ready for the camera to slide in from the other end. Over the sleeve fit the battery pack, holding it in place with its velcro strap. With the camera fully home, plug in the lead from the screen and that from the battery. They are male and female connections, so fool proof. Switch on the screen and camera to check the focus of the cross hairs on the screen.

The focus of the camera is adjusted with the index finger pushing onto the rough surface of the lens holder, which is marked white to allow judgment of rotation of the holder. Rotating the lens moves it in and out allowing fine adjustments of the focal length to the scope eye piece. Each time the lens is adjusted, it is a case of pushing it back fully home in the sleeve to view the cross hairs on the screen.

With the IR torch turned fully anticlockwise in the off position with the knob at the top of the screen, for daylight use, this is the view of the cross hairs on my scope. With the focal length set at the lens, the camera can be removed and replaced without the need to reset the focus.

Weighing in at 14 oz fitted, the unit sits easily on the scope without feeling bulky. Having used a red dot scope in the past, the heads up shooting position is not difficult to master, giving a similar sensation to using a games console. Place the cross hairs on the target and squeeze the trigger.

The business end. There is a warning in the instructions not to look into the torch, when the unit is switched on, as serious damage to your eyes can be the result. Good practice would be to always turn the knob to the daylight position when in the field, adjusting the intensity to the range that you are shooting.

Due to the January weather of late, storms, rain, frost and snow, I have yet to test the NiteSite Viper in the field, but sighting down my 40 yard rear garden in pitch black conditions, I was amazed at the clear image, almost jumping out of my skin, when the neighbour’s cat emerged from behind a bush, its eyes glowing like those of a demon, as it wandered up the path toward me.

Bread punch roach beat off the maggot challenge

January 26, 2018 at 12:51 am

George, the latest storm to strike the UK, lashed the southern counties with relentless rain this week, keeping me busy with household chores and giving me the opportunity to top up my supply of liquidised bread, ready for a session on the bread punch against two of my fishing pals, who would be fishing the waggler and maggot on my local pond.

Arriving at 10 am, I found my friend Peter already in “the Flyer” peg 13 and exmatchteam mate John in Peg 16, his favourite. I had hoped that they would have chosen swims further round the pond to allow us to fish alongside each other, but I was happy to slot in next to John at peg 17. Although we all want to beat each other, these are social occasions and being close enough for a bit of banter is what it is all about.

Both fishing out on the waggler with maggot feed, the two early birds had failed to get a bite yet and I was quietly confident that once I had put in a couple of balls of liquidised bread, the roach would come to the punch. After what seemed an age, but was only minutes, my pole float tip radiated tell tale rings, then held down slightly without going under. I was soon playing my first fish, a reasonable punch roach. It was icy to the touch.

Bite now followed bite in rapid succession and the other two were protesting as I vocally counted them into my net. “Look he’s got another one!” Peter broke the maggot drowners duck, when his rod bent into an 8 oz roach, which he lifted from the water, the low winter sun flashing on its silver flanks, straight into his hand. I was still catching steadily, many of my fish in the 2 to 3 oz range, with the occasional better roach.

John was now leaning back into good roach, which cheered him up. At one time he had psyched himself out. Not getting a bite at any method he tried, while I was into a rhythm; cast out float, watch it cock and sink, strike and swing it in every minute. With John concentrating on his long range waggler tactics, regular feed was now bringing bites and fish, while Peter continued to swing in some lovely roach. I was not bothered, I was well ahead on fish and weight, enjoying myself demonstrating the superiority of the punch over maggot on a hard day. John sang a ditty “They call him the Breadman”. Oh how we laughed!

I had been catching off the end of my top two sections of pole on the drop off into deeper water, when the fish switched off. Adding depth and two more metres of pole, I cast over another ball of feed and had a bite first cast. They had moved out. A decent roach suggested the reason for the fish switching off.

It had been mauled by a pike. Somehow the roach had escaped certain death, teeth marks showing at least two attempts to clamp it in a pike’s toothy jaws. Despite this roach, I continued to fill my net, until a massive swirl to my right caught my attention in time to watch a roach snatched from the surface as it tried to escape. No bites again. By casting around the swim I continued to take the odd fish. They were spooked and so was I, lifting my fish clear of the water quickly to avoid tempting the pike to strike again. The pike moved along to John’s swim, then on to Peter, who also saw it. My inside line was still dead and fed further out, being rewarded with my best roach of the day.

The wind had increased, causing a drift to sweep the float round to my right and I gave up on the outside line, feeding to the shelf, where I could hold back on the float. I was still taking fish in in fits and starts, ringing the changes on depth to keep them coming, including my only rudd.

As the sun passed behind the trees, the temperature dropped rapidly, driven on by the wind and we decided to pack up early, spurred on by a brief shower of rain. I had hoped for a bumper session, following a week of mild weather, but the previous day of heavy rain had chilled the pond resulting in some indifferent bites and missed fish for all three of us. I had managed about seventy fish for just over five pounds, well down on my expectations.

A last gasp quality roach boosted John’s net to four pounds, his best roach being about 10 oz.

Peter had managed to put a similar bag of good roach together for about three and a half pounds. Putting our gear away, the sun came out again, but we’d had our fill for one day, along with a few laughs at each other’s expense. Better luck next time.



Manningford Trout Fishery winter rainbows

January 18, 2018 at 1:51 pm

A dusting of over night snow was thawing, as my friend Peter and I arrived at Manningford Trout Fishery this week. Tucked away in a quiet part of Wiltshire close to the village of Pewsey with its statue of Alfred the Great and Anglo Saxon heritage, it is better to stop and ask a local of the fishery’s whereabouts, than rely on your Sat Nav. Fed by the upper reaches of the famous Hampshire Avon, there are two lakes, Squires stocked with table size rainbows and Manor with larger fish, where we intended to fish.

Tackling up in the carpark, we sheltered in the lee of the boot lid as freezing gusts blasted across the lake, 5 C temperature reduced to 2 by the wind chill factor, the day chosen as the best of a bad bunch of forecasts. Having caught well on unweighted white lures in similar conditions at Latimer Fishery before Christmas, we opted for these to start, a home tied white chenille with a white marabou wing for me and a White Fritz with a hint of green for Peter.

Walking round to cast across the wind at the first platform, Peter was into a fish first cast before I had gathered up my tackle and I watched him land a deep clean rainbow of about 2 lb. Slotting in twenty yards further round, a rapid take took me by surprise on my first cast. Looking back at Peter he was into another fish, which he lost. A slow retrieve brought a solid take and I struck into a very good rainbow that broke the surface, before steaming off down the lake into the wind. A tumbling fight followed, seeing the deep fish briefly again close to before the line went slack. It had come off. My line was festooned with weed and called to Peter that I was moving round to find deeper water. Keeper? No deeper! The wind was snatching my words away.

Opposite an island there was some relief, trees behind diluting some of the gusts, while the main force of the wind was carrying from left to right, ideal for a right handed fly caster. Pushing the lure close to the island, a dead slow retrieve brought a response of some sort most casts, a steady straightening of the line being met by solid resistance at last and I was in once more, this time a smaller rainbow fighting hard to the net. This 2 lb 6 oz rainbow was a credit to the on site fish farm, with a thick shoulder and full tail.

Peter now had his second fish after several false alarms and now moved up twenty yards downwind, also experiencing short takes. I was into another nice rainbow, bringing it near to the bank I could see the lure in the tip of its nose. Close to the net it tumbled and the hook came out. This was the start of a frustrating half hour, with three more lost at the net. Peter had landed number three and was walking back to the clubhouse, when I hooked another which broke the surface. He gave a cheer. It came off again! There was definitely a hook there. I stopped fishing and washed down a sandwich with cups of hot calming tea.

Having weighed in his fish, Peter returned to the bank to assist two novice fly fishers, who had asked for advice earlier. One was a fly fishing virgin, what a day to learn to cast! They both managed a fish apiece before we left.

A pair of anglers walked by on their way back to the clubhouse, they each had a good fish in their bag, the best being 5 lb 8 oz, the other 3 lb 8 oz. They had been fishing Blue Flash Damsel lures stripped back fast. This can be hard work and I preferred a lighter lure with a slow retrieve, which worked for me, all I needed was to be able to get them in the net. The line tightened again and I struck hard, pulling the fish to the surface. I was not going to lose this one, letting the rod take the full force of the runs, not relaxing until the rainbow was in the net. This very silver fish weighed in at 2 lb 8 oz.

With Peter busy on his tuition duties, I walked down to the River Avon running behind the lake for a look. On my last visit to Manningford the banks had been overgrown, but now overhead trees have been trimmed and the right hand bank cleared.

This is also available as a catch and release beat, holding wild brown trout and grayling, while in season an additional stock of browns will be introduced.

This was a deep run, ideal for big grayling and trout alike. Well worth a visit later in the year with my 7 ft 3 weight rod.

Returning home, the trout were cleaned ready for the freezer, but the sight of rich red flesh put one of the rainbows on the menu for the following day.