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Magtech .22 finds rabbits in the bluebell wood.

May 4, 2016 at 7:02 pm

The first days of May came blessed with sunshine, although a cold wind greeted me as I left the protection of the stables at the equestrian centre this week. Regular visits were beginning to have a visible effect on the rabbit numbers and I was keen to keep up the pressure, as now is the time of maximum rabbit reproduction.

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I had not gone 50 yards, before the first sight of my quarry in long grass beside the path and I swung my shooting sticks out to support the rifle, knocking over the rabbit at 40 yards.

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This was a healthy juvenile from an early litter of kits, a result of the mild winter. These make tender eating and go well on the BBQ, or just fried with onions. Twenty yards on, an adult had it’s head down feeding on a lawned area near the training ring, slumping forward from a full on head shot.

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Carrying on toward the wood, I expected to see rabbits along the bordering ride as usual, but today they were absent and pressed on through without seeing any, thinking that my previous efforts had sent the survivors into a nocturnal feeding pattern, having taken over thirty in recent weeks.

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This part of the wood always heralds the seasons, snowdrops of winter, giving way to the daffodils of spring and now bluebells of early summer. The heady aroma of these short lived blooms filled the air as I walked through, the new leaves shielding the bright sunshine of the afternoon. Near the exit from the wood, a ride joins the path at right angles, where I often see rabbits and I slowed in anticipation, ready to crouch down to peer round the corner. As I did, a large brown rabbit trotted from the ride onto the path fifteen yards away and froze. In the scope it was blurred, but sighting on the chest above the front leg, a snap shot bowled it over.

Prone, I looked round a bush at the end of the ride to see two rabbits skipping about forty yards away and resting on my bag got a bead on the first, only for the other to run in front of it each time. This movement went on for several minutes before one stopped long enough for me to squeeze off a shot, which bounced it high in the air. The other disappeared around the corner at the end, then turned and ran back toward me. I missed with the first shot, but hit it with the second, making sure with a third.

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Back out into the bright sunshine, I circled round the outside of the wood, the white flash of tails in the distance the only signs of long gone rabbits and I made my way back to the van, heading out into the traffic from this haven among the houses.

 

The blog is back online, but little else on the line.

April 29, 2016 at 4:59 pm

A major problem for the hosts of this blog, saw the data from 1.7 million site owners wiped out over night, when a software script supposed to update the system went into delete mode instead. A 24/7 recovery program was put in place, which saw this blog back online in 14 days. Others are still waiting.

To celebrate, I gathered up my flyfishing gear and headed out to my local trout stream in search of a blog. I was not too optimistic, as the weather of late has been very cold with unseasonal snow showers sweeping across the country, my fears were confirmed looking up at a troubled sky, as I entered the fishery gate.

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With a new 7 ft 4 WT rod, reel and line to test out, conditions were not ideal, a gusting, icy wind ruffling the surface of the river, which despite the heavy rains was running fast, but clear. Ignoring the first half a mile of bank, I set off toward a deep pool at the head for an S bend, only to find the downstream wind made casting up into it difficult, while dragging the line back at twice the speed of the current.

On the way to the pool it was evident that the farmer had been busy over the winter months, erecting new fences and more importantly for me, carving out a new track through what had been an impenetrable blackthorn copse, opening up  new pastures bounded by the river.

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A hundred yards down from the copse, the bank was clear, ideal for casting the fly, this deep pool being one of several now available to fish, thanks to the new track. The potential for this part of the fishery is obvious, although it is not stocked, some decent trout populate the river naturally and I look forward to returning, when the mayfly are on the wing. My size 18 goldhead GRHE was ignored on this occasion, but the calling of a cuckoo and the sight of a group of rare nuthatches made up for the lack of fish. Fresh from Africa, swallows and martins flitted across the meadow in the chill wind seeking out the sparse fly life.

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Cutting across the meadow, I walked as far as a new boundary, where the way was barred by another thicket of blackthorn, then picked my way back up the river, drifting the nymph unmolested through a variety of tree lined pools. Out of the trees the river took a right turn, running deep beneath the bank and I worked my way upstream, allowing the nymph to fall back into the slacker water. This looked perfect for fish, but not until in the crease of a back eddy did the line dive against the flow and I lifted into a gold flanked brown, that cartwheeled over the surface to fall back and swim free seconds later. Elation turned to disbelief and I checked the tiny hook, but it was sharp enough.

Spurred on, I continued my way back along the bank, searching out the pools without success, until the clouds darkened and I was forced to take cover beneath an old willow, while sleet and hail rattled through the branches. Crunching through frozen hail on my way back to the van, it was hard to believe that Sunday is the 1st of May.

 

 

 

Rabbit pest control with the Magtech 7002 .22

April 6, 2016 at 10:40 pm

Losing the battle against the fast breeding rabbits at the equestrian centre, I was back again a few days later, when the storm showers held off long enough to give a warm sun filled afternoon. A dozen years ago, when I first asked for permission to shoot at this 80 acre site, set among the urban sprawl of a large town, the rabbits were everywhere and using only an air rifle was able to harvest about a twenty a week. Living only a mile away, my visits were many, resulting in a visible difference over the first season and a shortage of close range targets afterwards. Upgrading to a more powerful air rifle, a Career 707 .22, then the Magtech 7002 .22 semi auto rim fire, I was able to keep the numbers in check and the landowner happy, but now following a mild wet winter the rabbits have returned and the owner is not a happy man.

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The main concern is rabbits burrowing out into the many rides, which criss cross the centre, posing a hazard to the horse riders and their animals, most of these rides edged by wide ancient hedgerows, the ideal habitat for wildlife including pheasants and muntjack deer.

Having concentrated on the wood recently, I set out toward the open paddocks in the middle of the acreage, where a gorse bordered stream bisects the property. Rounding a corner, I could see rabbits cantering about over a hundred yards away and keeping down below the curve of the field, I was able to approach the ride unseen, shinning up the slope of the ride to see four or five sitting out in the sun 60-70 yards away. Opening out the scope to maximum 9 mag, one was broadside on and aimed a rested chest shot at it, surprising, but not scattering the rest, bringing the sights to bare on the next, which also slumped over. Two in two seconds. The rest melted back beneath the gorse.

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I waited for ten minutes, just in case others came out again, often they will just bob out for a few seconds for a look see, but this time not, although as I lay there, another pair crossed the rise at the end of the ride.

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Bagging these two, I moved with caution toward the copse ahead, seeing another at the edge of the next ride and got down for a prone shot, knocking it over at 40 yards.

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Following down the ride I spotted a very young kit in the undergrowth, but held off as the next curve in the hedge has been home to many rabbits in the past. Crawling close to the hedge, I could see the brown shapes of more rabbits through the branches and pushed by bag ahead of me to act as a rest, having a clear view, when I rested the rifle for two rapid shots, that accounted for another pair.

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The sun was now quite hot and I stripped off my jacket while I cleaned this pair, pausing in my labours to see another rabbit sitting out in the sun only 30 yards away at the edge of a ditch. Slowly reaching for the Magtech, I brought it up to my eye and shot number six.

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This young buck jumped around when shot and needed a quick second stopper, as it was close to falling down into the stream. This was enough for me now, as I was already sweating from skinning the other two, the whole lot having to be carried back to the van.

On the way back, rounding the curve more rabbits were feeding on the ride. I could not ignore these and the rifle was swung into the fork of my sticks for a firm 50 yard shot at an unsuspecting target, slumping it forward. The rest scattered, but a pair had been feeding unseen in the adjacent paddock and now ran back, stopping one of them as it slowed for the fence.

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More work, more weight to lug back. My shooting bag was full, so these once cleaned, were wrapped in a plastic shopping bag and stowed in the poacher’s pocket across the rear of my jacket. It was a long hard walk to the van at the stables, the shooting sticks at least aiding progress over the rough ground. As I walked, rabbits were silhouetted against the skyline along the southern boundary. I may have to bring the HMR next time to sort them out.

 

 

 

Rabbit hunting with shooting sticks and the Magtech 7022

March 31, 2016 at 9:33 pm

Storm Katie swept across the country this week, bringing yet another wave of high winds, hail and thunderstorms, which has kept me away from shooting duties, but a window of sunshine was forecast and I set out for the equestrian centre a dozen miles to the north. Guessing that the ground would be waterlogged, I took my home made shooting sticks with me to give stability for distance shots, as getting down prone would not be pleasant.

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Pulling the van into the stable block, I walked over to the owner and asked where the rabbits were. A man of very few words, he said “Everywhere!” As if to rub our noses in it, a rabbit hopped out of the hedge next to us, took one look and bolted back.

Walking away from the buildings, I could see a rabbit out on it’s own in the middle of a near flooded paddock and managed to get within 50 yards in the cover of a fence, before I set up my sticks to form a bi-pod for the rifle. With no holdover needed at this range and the stick legs firmly set in the soft mud, the side on chest shot hit target with a thud.

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As I waded out to get this rabbit, I was reminded of a folk law that says that rabbits don’t like water; well this one did, it’s lower body was soaked.

rabbits 043The warren here is in the brambles, the ditch to it’s side flooded close to the path, forcing the rabbits above ground. With my hands full, I cleaned out the rabbit at the pathside and popped it into my bag, before moving on.

As I crossed the bridge over the ditch, there was movement ahead, rabbits on the path running in all directions, but not offering a target, although one ran ahead along the next ride and I quickened my stride to follow. The paddock was a mass of mud and the rabbit had stopped, possibly considering how it could double back across it, when my second shot off the sticks claimed number two.

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Cleaning out this second rabbit, the pitter patter of heavy raindrops warned of a fast approaching storm, looking up to see the sky black and streaked with hail. Number two bagged, I hurried back into the wood and made my way down to the shelter of a big flat branched cedar, scattering another group of rabbits feeding in a clearing, but this time was more concerned by the advancing hail, than filling my bag.

Pressed against the trunk, the worst of the storm was dissipated by the overhead canopy and I watched a full tailed red fox run into the protection of the trees from the exposed paddock. During my wait, I topped up my ten shot magazine with more RWS hollow point subsonic .22 bullets in the hope that the sun would soon replace clouds.

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While cleaning water droplets from the scope lens, a movement made me look up to see a rabbit fifteen yards away and in slow motion I raised the rifle, only to see it disappear beneath the ground into one of many burrows. A few minutes later a set of ears popped up, then down in another spot. This is an old badger set and I think the flooded out rabbits have found a new dry home, until the badgers return.

The sun was back out again and I retreated further into the undergrowth, where I had a good view over the clearing from a fallen tree, splaying out my sticks to cope with a comfortable sitting position. Like a horror movie, I kept seeing movement in my peripheral vision, only to turn my head in time to see a furry back, or white tail disappear again. It was like they were playing with me, a potentially lethal game of hide and seek. Twenty yards away the top half of a rabbit emerged, I swung the rifle and fired. It dropped back. Missed it. Rabbits have the ability to suddenly appear in the open and ten minutes further on, the silhouette of one sat in the shade beneath a holly bush, a minute after I had been looking at the empty spot. The rifle was already on the bi-pod and the rabbit fell over like a fairground target. Suddenly the downed rabbit was bounding forward. Missed again? I swung and fired as it’s body filled the cross hairs. The rabbit was still kicking and I made sure with a studied head shot. The rapid fire of the semi auto scoring again.

I waited another ten minutes to pick up my rabbit, only to find the hind legs of the first rabbit that I missed, protruding from the hole that it had fallen back into. Picking it up, I saw an entry wound in the back of it’s head. A perfect shot. Going over to the final rabbit, I saw the white underbelly of another beneath the holly bush. In the shade I’d obviously only seen the one, which I shot, the other bolting forward into my sights.

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It was already clouding over again and by the time these were bagged up, rain was falling again and I made my way back to the van, the bag heavy on my shoulder, ignoring more rabbits as I walked. Unloading my gear, the owner was chainsawing logs and looked up. I held up my open hand and mimed “Five.” He put up his thumb in acknowledgement. As I said a man of few words.

 

 

 

 

Magtech 7002 semi auto .22 rimfire round the farm

March 25, 2016 at 7:08 pm

According to the calendar, summertime has officially begun, but as I headed north toward a small farm at the foot of the Chilterns, I was met by leaden skies and a light drizzle. The last visit had been on a balmy October afternoon and the days had been ticking by since then, building up to a long overdue six months, during which time the rabbits had been able to build up their numbers with no interference from my rifle.

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Driving along the lane up to the farm, I could see a few rabbits quite happily feeding in a small paddock and coasted the van to a stop just out of sight in the yard. The Magtech was out of it’s case, a magazine clipped in and the action cocked in a minute. Creeping round the back of the van, I stuck my head out to see the rabbits still in place feeding, apart from a doe sitting up on guard. At thirty yards it was a gift shot, but bringing the rifle round to rest against the rear door, being a righthander, I had to expose my whole body and she stamped a warning thump, before turning to run, the bullet hitting the side of the head with a whack. There was no time for a second shot at the others, they were bouncing their way to safety through the fence in an instant.

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That was quick, I hadn’t even managed to get my jacket on. The paddock sits on the eastern boundary of the farm and I walked to the fence to see half a dozen more rabbits feeding beyond. I have no permission for this land, the owners leaving it fallow apart from a couple of horses. The rabbits pass through the fence from this safe haven to the farm and having gathered up my kill for cleaning, I returned complete with the camo net and jacket to wait in the cover of a rubbish heap. The run through the fence is well worn and I lay down with the rifle rested on my bag. The scope focused on the empty gap for ten minutes, then twitching ears appeared, seconds later followed by a head. Almost as a reflex, the trigger was squeezed and the rabbit jumped forward. I probably should have waited for more to come through, but a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush they say and I got up for another collection.

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This was a big old battle scarred buck with well chewed ears, that wouldn’t be passing on any more of his genes to the young does. Putting my camo net back in the van, I saw movement ahead near the barn and moved forward for a better look, the scope picking up three rabbits and a very young kit chasing round in the lane. With a metal gate in the way, there were no clears shots and kept low along the fence, until one stopped long enough. Being framed by the metalwork, I took the shot, knocking it down, while the others continued their dance and I searched for another clear target, getting too close, before they ran off down the lane.

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Passing through the gate and negotiating the muddy tractor ruts, number three was another buck, the forty yard target hit squarely in the head.

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Light drizzle was giving way to spits of rain and I decided that three was enough. My aim had been to call in at the farmhouse before I left, so walked back to the van to lock away the rifle, only to spook a rabbit on my way, which crossed in front of me, then away along the fence, catching it in the crosshairs as I followed it with the rifle. Being lightweight, the Magtech is ideal for this type of rough shooting, tumbling number four with an upper body hit from the RWS .22 hollow point bullet.

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Stowing my gear, I met the lady of the house, as she was coming out to feed the geese, unaware that I was even on site. An older couple, they restrict their farming these days to renting out grazing and tending their vegetable garden. Having no love of rabbits, they are happy for me to come and go as I please. Today I did not reach the veggie patch, the rain falling steadily as I climbed into the van.

 

 

Carp substitute for last day chub

March 15, 2016 at 5:23 pm

The last day of the coarse fishing season was all planned out, buy a white loaf from the local supermarket, whizz it through the food processor, having saved a few slices for hook bait and drive the ten miles to a free stretch of a small river, where big chub are the target. Recent floods had kept me away, but today the sun was bright and the meandering river would have fined down enough for trotting a bread bait through some of it’s deep pools, which also hold some nice roach at this time of the year. Setting off, the van got to the end of the road and stopped. Restarted, it reached the next roundabout and stopped again. My anticipation was disappearing fast as I struggled to keep the engine going at the traffic lights. There was nothing for it, but to abandon the mission and return home, the engine dying again as I drove onto my drive.

All you petrol heads out there will be shouting “Idle control valve!” Yes I know too, but by the time the offending item had been located, stripped and cleaned out with carb cleaner, and the van test driven, the sun was already dropping in the sky. If I was going to fish, it had to be close and where better than the duck pond with it’s fat, bread fed carp? The mums were out in force feeding the ducks and I walked to a deserted area of bank within casting distance of a small weir, which drains water from the surrounding housing estate.

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Before setting up, the coarse crumb intended for chub, was mixed with ground carp pellets and water, the soft balls thrown in a line from the outlet twenty yards away, the geese and ducks concentrating on the free offerings being presented on the other side of the island. The rig was simple, a 3 AA peacock waggler attached to a foot of 4 lb line with a size 14 barbless.

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Casting out, I settled down to wait for a bite, pleased to be fishing at last, all be it far from the intended river and those winter chub. A bitterly cold east wind was blowing in my face and now was aware of the heavy clothing discarded to work on the van in the sheltered sunshine of the driveway, not replacing it in my haste to get fishing. Time to call home. My wonderful wife answered and agreed to walk over with a thick hoody, just as the float sank from view. Missed it! I was probably on my fourth missed bite, when the cavalry arrived, baring extra clothing and a custard tart to improve my mood. My wife didn’t stay long, we were now in the shade of the houses behind and it was getting colder. I agreed that I needed my brains tested to be sitting there and she left, the float sinking away minutes after, to be met by the satisfying sight of the rod bent double, as a powerful fish ran for the island. This was what I came for and countered each run with a backwind, the carp’s scales standing out in the sunlight, when it rolled.

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These carp are like barrels and in perfect fighting trim, the hook dropping from a tenuous hold in the outside of it’s lip. I am sure they do not need the food, but enjoy playing with the pellet of bread, getting caught being the occasional hazard of their sport of exasperating the angler. Returning this carp, I was surrounded by curious school girls, who for a minute broke away from their chatter to take selfies with the strange old man and his fish, before continuing home.

Cheered by the interlude, I recast only to miss another bite as I settled the rod. They were on the 6 mm punched bread, as soon as the float settled, the tip dipping and jarring, often to be ignored for minutes on end afterwards. The rig would be retrieved with the bait still on the hook, but would come off with the slightest wipe of my finger. This game continued, the float holding down with the line tightening, unmissable. Strike. Nothing there. The float was still illuminated by the sun, but I was being chilled by the wind in the shade. A smaller hook and pellet may have worked, but all I now wanted was another fish and to go home.

At last the rod went over and I was into a much smaller common that began zigzagging it’s way toward the landing net, making a last gasp dive beneath it, just to keep me on my toes.als 001

Honour regained, I slipped this two pounder back and hastily packed up, pausing to remember previous last days of the coarse season over the years, most of them sunny and warm. Walking to the van, I stopped to take a picture of a harbinger of spring, wild primroses, their pale yellow flowers shining out from along the path.

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Crucian carp bread punch lesson

March 12, 2016 at 12:45 pm

After a cold foggy start, the sun came through and suddenly it was spring, inspiring a walk to a nearby park, passing along the way my local pond, which has been undergoing work by the council for months and sealed off by a workman’s fence.

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The finish date of Christmas had come and gone as contractors worked to renew the paths, and soften the brick edges with reeds, adding the bonus of a couple of fishing stations, while they were there. Today the barriers were gone and I resolved to walk back after lunch for a final fishing session before the end of the coarse season.

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Travelling light with only a pole, landing net and emptied tackle box on my trolley, the pond is a brisk 5 minute downhill walk from my home and by 2:30 I was set up and ready to fish. Intending to use my default method the bread punch, on arrival I had lobbed three balls out to an area 8 metres out. In summer the surface is dotted with rising rudd, while carp nose around in the lily beds, but today there were no signs of fish and wondered whether the environment agency had carried out their threat to net the water to ease overcrowding.

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First cast in the float tracked off to the left and I lifted into a rudd, the 5 mm bread pellet taken well down in seconds.

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Not the biggest rudd of the afternoon, but the first of many, the fish very cold to the touch, an indication of the low temperature of the pond. A small tench broke the succession of silver fish, the golden tench staying deep until the net, it’s size belying it’s power to weight ratio.

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Next cast the float lifted and held as a small crucian mouthed the bait, the hook holding on the outside of it’s lip.

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Back in again, the small 3 No 4 waggler float never settled, sinking slowly away, followed by the pole elastic as I lifted into a pound plus common carp, that erupted onto the surface of the shallow pond, before coming to the net.

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The rudd were now absent, their place taken by a succession of small crucian carp, any sign of a bite, usually bringing a fish to the 5 mm pellet of bread.

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The elastic came out again with another small common, this one burying it’self among the lily roots to my right, needing several attempts to allow it to swim free, the hook staying put long enough to bully it out.

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Many of the carp in this pond are crucian/common hybrids, this one being an example, they all fight well, so who cares.

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Next up was a true crucian with it’s upturned mouth and fighting in short juddering runs, again the hook was just outside the lip. At this point a couple of young anglers, fishing after school, came up to see me net this crucian, saying that they had nothing, while watching me pulling them in. Could I help them catch? I demo’d a couple of small crucians on the punch, before going down to their rods. Where do you start? The rods were too short, the lines too heavy and their floats too big. They were using fresh bread flake squeezed hard onto a size 14 hook, the fish only able to knock the bait, while dipping the floats that stood an inch out of the water. They were using wagglers, which was a good start, being easier to cast and they had a mixed pot of split shot. With the floats shotted down to the tip and just a pinch of bread wrapped round the line, then pulled down onto the hook, they both had rudd in minutes.

Good deed done for the day, I returned to my swim to find that algae had lifted off the bottom to be blown into my swim, Making it difficult to find an opening for my float. When I was successful, the crucians were still feeding, bubbles coming up from the muddy bottom. Another small tench, this time a deep green fish gave variety.

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Very small commons had moved in, but my last fish was a silvery crucian from an area now covered in algae and I decided to pack up before my 5 pm deadline.

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The lads were back to see my final bag of over 30 fish and were pleased to report half a dozen rudd between them. I hope that they will have learned something from their outing and will want to continue fishing.

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Winter common carp respond to bread punch

March 7, 2016 at 3:18 pm

Various issues with a couple of my motor vehicles, left me with no time to consider the thought of fishing this week, but with an MOT pass certificate in my back pocket, I ventured out to my local lake this afternoon, the lighter evenings giving me time to salvage the rest of the day. Bright sun had taken the edge off a bitter wind, when I arrived at the waterside, but the sight and sound of about twenty Canada geese beating up the surface, as they competed for mates, made me think twice about tackling up.

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In the middle of a housing estate, the shallow lake is home to moorhens, mallard ducks and coots, being joined by migrating mandarin ducks and Canada geese in winter, which act as a magnet for mothers with small children, all keen to dispose of bags full of stale bread, scattered to the feathered occupants. Beneath the murky surface, the unseen scaly residents grow fat on the remainder, bread proving to be the best bait for the plentiful wild carp.

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Before setting up my rod, I sprinkled ground carp pellets over some rough, food processed crumb, before mixing and adding just enough water to hold a ball. Waiting for the geese and company to crowd round the latest giver of food, I lobbed in several balls toward the island, which broke up three quarters over. Being only two feet deep, firmer balls would sink whole into the mud, while these soft ones scattered over the surface. With the ducks preoccupied, the bread feed had a chance to get through to the bottom.

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By the time that I’d set up with a short 3AA bodied waggler, bubbles were already breaking the surface in the fed area, my first cast seeing the float tip dip, then cruise away, lifting my rod into a carp, that dived back to the safety of the island. My rediscovered twelve and a half foot Normark carbon rod buffered that first run, pulling a carp to the surface away from the obstacles and toward my net.bread 065

A fat 4 lb common carp first cast was a good start, but reality set in with a series of missed bites. The float would dither and dip, then sail away without contact on the strike. Eventually the size 14 barbless hook found a hold and a larger common was testing the Normark as it ran along the island edge in search of a snag, constant pressure turning the lump, bringing it out to the open water and my waiting net.

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This one rolled onto my waggler and snapped it, to be replaced by a home made peacock quill, my tackle box being a time machine full of items produced in my youth. I had been using a double punched 7 mm pellet of bread on the hook, thinking that this would be more attractive to the carp, but now reasoned that, as both fish had been hooked in the outer part of their lips, the pellets had masked the hook. The new float was pushed into the rubber sleeve connector and cast over needing no weight adjustment, settling with just the orange tip showing. Within minutes the float blinked off and on as the bait was blown around by another fish, going off long enough to allow a strike, which connected with a carp that ran all over the place, at one time fighting hard under my own bank before finding the landing net. The single pellet worked this time.

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Three carp in an hour and plenty of action in between, not bad for an afternoon, when I was about to be blasted by sleet and snow, then icy rain for ten minutes, before the sun came out again. Believing the forecast of sunshine, I’d not worn a jacket and needed to pull up my hood, putting on my old bait apron for extra protection, then hunkering down until the clouds passed. The geese were being fed again further along the bank and I took the opportunity to mix up some more bread feed to ball into the swim.

At home only a half mile from the lake, my wife saw the sleet and took pity on her crazy husband, preparing a flask of tea, along with a seasonal hot crossed bun, then making the walk to where I was sitting shivering. Warmed and fed, another single pellet was slipped onto the hook and I cast out again, giving my wife a running commentary as the bite developed, only to strike too soon, bumping the fish, that swirled away in a muddy bow wave. Plenty of bubbles indicated more fish in the swim and the next cast pulled into a longer fish, which I first thought was a grass carp.

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Not impressed by the cold wind, or the angling prowess on show, my wife was soon heading home to prepare our evening meal. Shortly after, I began to battle the biggest carp of the day. A decisive bite struck into a carp that ran both ways down the island, with me taking and giving line as it rolled around in the muddy lake. This time the rod was bent double with the weight of the fish alone, the reel clutch ticking away absorbing each run. With 6lb main line to a 4lb hook link and a  forged hook, it was just a case of taking my time to wear the carp down, slipping the net under it after five minutes of arm wrenching effort. A stepped up carp rod would have done the job quicker, but the heavier tackle may not have fooled the carp.

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A perfect common carp with not a scale out of place, from a rarely fished public water, returned to grow and fight another day. This fish capped the day for me, five fish in two hours for over twenty pounds in total was enough and I packed up, returning to a warm home and hot tea.

 

 

Bread punch roach beat the deep freeze.

February 27, 2016 at 12:20 pm

Turning down the exciting prospect of a shopping expedition with my wife in town, I took  another option open to me and went fishing, as negative temperatures overnight had given way to a balmy 4 degrees C at lunch time in the sun. With thermals and a flask of tea to keep out the cold, I figured that a few hours by my local lake waiting for a carp, or two, was to be preferred. One problem. Arriving at the lake car park, I could see a thin layer of ice covering the surface, the only open area being occupied by Canada geese. Time for a plan B. Doubling back, I headed north toward the nearby river, hoping that the usually prolific weir swim was unoccupied, doing a drive by to check before parking up and unloading my gear. It was empty. Only a masochist would volunteer to fish today.

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The river was running clear with a good pace and I took a chance tackling up my 14 ft rod with a 3 No 4 ali stick, which was a bit light for the flow, but with no wind was better for presentation. Being prepared for the lake I’d brought coarse bread crumbs run through the food processor, instead of my usual liquidised feed, while the punch was straight from a loaf.

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I squeezed a couple of egg sized balls and put them down the middle, following down with the float, letting it run through, the float diving out of sight each time it reached the white water, but missing both unmissables. There is an  eddy at the foam, running back to the weir and after adding six inches to the depth, eased the float toward it at half speed, this time the bite developing into a slow slideaway, that resulted in a six ounce roach.

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 More feed and the roach were lining up, every one a netter.

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The bites were now coming higher up the swim, the roach following the feed trail, laying the line down off the rod top to fall through, letting it run, then stopping it dead, bringing a response every time, the bites slow and easy to hit.

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This chub took on the edge of the fast water, taking off downstream flat out and I thought that it was much bigger, bending the rod with the full force of the river, before it turned. Two more small chub followed, then the roach were back.

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The float bobbed a couple of times and zoomed off to give me the surprise of the day, a small perch had taken the 6 mm bread pellet. What this carnivore was doing taking bread I don’t know, but the barbless hook was inside the mouth not in it’s lip. Maybe it was confused, when the bread fluttered up from bottom as I held it back, thinking it was a fish.

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There is a snag on the inside next to the weir, which I was able to pull out of if the float went too far, but I’d also had some fish there, so it was not unexpected, when the float went down and I struck the snag, only for the rod to kick back with a big fish surging across the weir pool, chasing down along the opposite bank under back wind pressure. It turned and began a head shaking fight back upstream, making a bee line for the corner snag, while I pointed the rod out over the river, dragging it away. A last minute dive saw what was a chub of about 3 lb hard under my bank, trying to bury it’s nose under the keep net, while I chased it with the landing net.

A comedy of errors was unfolding, the chub was churning on the surface with the rod line under the keep net and I managed to scoop it up into the landing net on the other side, but although I had released the reel line, the float had become entangled in the keep net, each time I lifted the chub, it was pulled back out of the landing net. I tried to lift the keep net out, but that was caught under the bank too. Time for desperate measures, I slid down the steep bank holding the landing net clear of the water, then dropped the net and grabbed the chub with my left hand. Success. I now reached over the water and unhooked the chub. It flipped, then slid out of my left hand and dropped into the half submerged landing net. Relief turned to dismay, when the chub casually swam over the rim and away before I could lift the net, which was jammed on the bank. Failure.

This frantic episode had exhausted me. I had been inches away from falling into the freezing water, which would not have gone down well at home, that’s if I had been able to climb back out onto this isolated bank. The keep net still needed to be disentangled from the roots, the only positive being that the float rig released complete with hook. Time for a cup of tea, while I pondered my masochistic tendencies.

Twenty minutes of fishing had been lost by the time I was ready to try again and another ten minutes before the float dipped for another quality roach to be pounding away beneath the rod top. They were back over the feed.

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Each time the line was laid on the water, the float allowed to run, then stopped, the float sank out of sight with a good roach, the best of the day eventually coming to the net, after running into the fast water.

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bread 057It was now beginning to get dark and although there were more fish there, it was time to pack up. I’d recovered from my disaster and finished with a respectable net of gleaming roach and chub from this tiny river.

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Ice cool rabbit cull

February 20, 2016 at 8:55 pm

The coldest night of the year so far, with temperatures down to minus 7 degrees C, did not deter me from keeping my promise to the equestrian centre owner this week, who facing an obvious increase in the rabbit population, called me back to the 80 acre site to continue the cull. On my arrival, the bright sun was deceptive, the north facing hedgerows shading rides that crunched under foot with frost and puddles slippery with ice catching me unawares as I walked.

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The field covered with feeding rabbits last week was bare, doing nothing to beat the chill, my plan to stake out the area from a comfortable corner in need of revision. The owner had passed on areas that had rabbits, when he had done that morning’s rounds, which included a couple of my hot spots, so was not too disheartened, although it would mean a lot of walking. At least I would keep warm.

Approaching the first hot spot along an exposed lane, rabbits were sitting out in the sun, but ran back into the shade of the hedge, long before I was within range. Continuing on, I passed behind the hedge, this ride in full sunshine, where, as I rounded a corner, a dark brown rabbit was feeding on grass at the base of an oak tree.

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With a busy road and houses beyond, the rabbit was ideally placed for a safe shot, the oak tree acting as a back stop. Shooting the Magtech .22 off my bag, the rabbit jumped a foot in the air, then lay still.

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Having bagged this one, I back tracked to the first hot spot, approaching this time from behind the hedge, viewing a rabbit feeding in the shade 30 yards away. Sliding up the bank there was a clear shot, but horses were grazing beyond the line of fire and I waited for them to move, while the unfortunate rabbit continued feeding oblivious of it’s fate.

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With number two in the bag, I set off across the field to the far boundary, where I found as reported, several rabbits grazing twenty yards from the safety of their burrows and ducked down to keep them out of sight below the curve of the ground, only lifting my head to check their position at the last minute. A stout fence post gave me some cover and a support for the rifle, while taking aim on the nearest fifty yards away. The sound of the bullet hitting bone echoed back, as the first one fell forward, another sitting up toppling over seconds later. The remainder sped back to the edge of the copse and I watched their white tails flicker into the undergrowth, but as I got close, the pale shape of a loner stood out in the shade. The ride corner post was conveniently positioned as a rest and I took my time, aiming high on the shoulder, knowing the 70 yard shot would drop into the chest cavity for instant dispatch.

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With these skinned and cleaned, my bag was now heavy and full, but only an hour into the session, I headed back west along the boundary and into the warming sunshine, the ride dropping down and round giving good cover as I stalked the tree lined edge. Three more were came into view and I crawled forward, pushing the bag ahead to act as a rest, watching with satisfaction as target number six crumpled 60 yards away. A snap shot at another missed, reminding myself not to get too greedy.

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The remaining walk was uneventful, apart from the mocking of a flock of green parrots, squawking from tree to tree. In the sunshine it was quite pleasant, but climbing the slope into the back of the wood, the temperature dropped noticeably and I picked up my pace, keen to return to the van, but stopped at the sight of a rabbit silhouetted against the pale sky. Leaning against a tree, I steadied for the 30 yard shot and watched the shape drop from view. Uncertain whether the rabbit had been hit, or had run, I walked over to find another fat doe a yard from where it had been shot.

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With two cleaned rabbits in a carrier bag, I slung the rifle on my shoulder and continued down the path, rounding the next bend to see more rabbits emptying out of the field, to cross the ditch into the wood, more fluffy tails merging into the shadows, before breaking out into the evening sunlight, as they crossed the path in front of me. I unslung the rifle, putting down the bag, watching and waiting. They seemed to be going in all directions, back and forth across the path, some very young kits among them. One stopped long enough for me to chance a 30 yarder as it paused by a tree and I claimed number eight. The Magtech 7002 was one of the cheapest .22 semi automatics on the market when I bought it, but it has settled into a very sweet rifle to carry and use, having paid for itself many times over.

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Having walked over a mile, carrying an increasing weight in rabbits, plus removing the skins, I was physically pooped, dealing with this doe in quick time to get on my way, even ignoring a naive juvenile, which sat in front of me, until I was only yards away. The owner was busy burning a pile of branches, as I passed by carrying the fruits of my afternoon’s labour, even breaking into a rare smile, to say well done! Fifteen in two visits will only make a small dent in the current population, but with two thirds of those milky does, it will go a long way towards getting the numbers back under control.