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Urban trout stream springs into life

May 14, 2015 at 4:52 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Magtech .22 semi auto sweeps the garden

May 6, 2015 at 2:59 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Spring cleaning with the CZ452 Varmint HMR

May 1, 2015 at 9:54 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wild trout switch to the dry fly

April 27, 2015 at 9:26 am

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Evening trout rise on urban river

April 24, 2015 at 12:40 pm

Following slow sport on my local Hampshire syndicate chalk stream, I fought through heavy rush hour traffic to see how an evening fishing for the wild trout on a true urban river would compare, parking the van in a residential street just after 6 pm. Walking down toward the river, I was met by a large banner asking to save the meadow which borders the stream, housing development being planned on the last strip of greenery along it’s length for miles, factories and housing already encroaching on it’s banks.

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Opposite the meadow, the river runs 10 yards from a busy road and pathway, which make casting difficult from the bank and I usually prefer to wade, but as this was a scouting mission intending to visit on another day, the waders stayed in the van, as did my 7 ft rod, bankside obstructions forcing the use of a nine footer. Walking to the lower end of the beat,  several small trout were rising and I tied on a Tan Emerger. A gusting wind was blowing across the meadow, dragging the fly across the surface and on cue to change to a nymph, the fly snagged in the welcoming branches of  a tree, which resulted in the tying in of a new tippet for the leader.

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My Black Devil nymph usually works well  in bright sunshine, especially on this clear shallow river and punches into a head wind, as it carries a bit of weight, the leader greased to within the top two feet, keeping the fly close to the surface. Increasing the distance of my casts, up and across the flow, the leader darted forward from an upstream swirl and I was playing my first fish, that tumbled all over the surface, reaching out with my long handled net to lift it to the bank.

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This was the first of several wild browns hooked, some of which tumbled off, as I worked my way upstream, the surface coming alive with the sinking of the sun, although casting to these fish was a challenge, the bankside trees claiming more flies, testing my patience.

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The wind was still strong, so elected to remain on a nymph, but pinched some floatant grease into the body of  a gold ribbed Hares Ear to allow it to fish in the surface film, deciding to walk further upstream, where the bank is clear and factories close to the bank would block the gusts, although with trees overhanging from the opposite side, casting is still a problem. Trout were rising in the gaps and I managed a few more, the best spending more time on the surface than below it, a beautifully marked fish.

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As I netted this wild brown trout, a car pulled up at the road side, the driver calling me over. This a common occurrence along this busy road, from drivers unaware of the fish this river holds. The conversation was no different this time, the highlight being that the driver was from Colorado in the US, working in the UK. Being a keen flyfisherman back home, he had not thought to bring his rods with him. With the light failing, I made my way back to the van, hoping that the next visit to the syndicate water would be as productive.

 

 

Brown trout reward late visit

April 20, 2015 at 11:29 pm

Warmed by spring sunshine, each visit to the river at this time of year reveals  the rapid greening of the banks, while flylife increases daily and subtle changes in the river bottom create new fish holding areas, while old favourites lose their charm.

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A change of plans resulted in time for a late afternoon visit to my syndicate river this week, where I was hoping to find the trout had switched onto the fresh appearance of Hawthorn flies dancing on the breeze, but studying the surface, these black flies were being ignored as they drifted downstream. With a dry fly not an option, I tied on a tiny size 18 rubber legged Hares Ear, with a heavy gold rib and gold head, ideal for fishing under the banks and bushes, where the trout seem to be at the moment.

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Wading upstream, flicking the nymph just short of the undergrowth, there was soon a response and a small brown lifted out of the water in front of me, to fall off the hook seconds later. Further up, the force of the stream had hollowed out a deep pocket beneath a bush and I tried several casts to get the nymph to fall right without hooking the overhanging branches. More by luck than judgement, it curved round behind the bush, sinking into the pool and held. A downstream strike hit solid resistance, the rod bent round and stayed there. My heart slumped, then pumped as the line quivered, the suspected snag had come to life, a trout was shaking it’s head trying to lose the hook three feet below the surface. Seconds later the river erupted with the sight of the gold flanked brownie cartwheeling over the shallow gravel, when it burst out of it’s hideaway, big red spots clearly visible, as it powered past me searching for deeper water. My reel squealed, as the slack was taken up and I raised the rod to cushion the frenzied fight, watching it swim from left to right in the rapid flow, clearly visible, a deep trout about 15 inches long. Forgetting the small hook, I took up the fight and paid the price, when it shook free. We all know that hollow feeling, when a good fish is lost, something that doesn’t lessen with experience. That trout could have made my season.

Back on the bank, I made my way downstream, meeting a pair of fellow members, who had finished for the day, telling me of small fish rising further down. I enjoy catching on the surface, whatever the size and true to their word, the river was dimpled by rises over a 20 yard stretch.

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Lowering myself in below them, I tied on a size 18 elk hair emerger and cast to the nearest beneath an over hanging tree. The fish were not maintaining station and the first fish hooked confirmed my hunch that they were a shoal of  dace patrolling the tail of a deep pool.

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Beyond the shoal, a larger fish was rising steadily, probably a trout and I began to work my way toward it. At this point I turned to see a big cob swan was behind me, chasing the current love of his life upstream, the pen getting airborne with feet and wings flailing and stepped back to allow the pair to pass, watching them crash land at the head of the pool. This was the cue to make my way back to the van, but a noisy rise in a pool as I passed, caused me to back track.

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Wading upstream, the fish rose twice more just above the riffle, to what, I couldn’t see, but the small emerger was worth a try, measuring the distance, then moving up ten feet to make the cast. The air was still and the fly fell softly to the surface to be aggressively taken with a plop. A lift of the rod and I was in, the fish running forward to the safety of the pool, while I stripped back line, wading to the tail. The fish remained deep, running round the pool, while I tried to steer it away from the bank side roots, a desperate leap finally confirming that I’d hooked a respectable trout, not ready to give up, until the last bit of energy had been expelled. With the earlier lost trout in mind, I took my time, letting it go, when it wanted to, netting it as it made a break for the shallows.

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Measuring 13 inches, this is my best trout from the river this year, which despite a prolonged fight, soon recovered, when held facing upstream, kicking free from my hands to swim back to the pool.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Small river brown trout begin to take the fly.

April 18, 2015 at 12:35 pm

Each new season brings out the optimism in flyfishermen, who rely on many natural factors coming together to provide their sport. With a flood free winter, fingers are firmly crossed on my little syndicate chalk stream, for the warm weather to continue, awakening the trout, ready to feed on the nymphs as they rise from their gravel beds to hatch.

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This is a favourite stretch of  the river, where a cattle drink had created fishless shallows, but working alongside the farmer with fencing and the planting of a willow hedge by members, has resulted in a sharp turn, that runs deep along the willow. Having said all that, I have yet to catch a decent fish here, being the case again this week, when an hour spent wading, searching out the deeper pockets and runs with the Black Devil, resulted in a couple of  dace and a 5 inch trout, with no rising fish seen.  It is early days yet, the larger trout are yet to move out of their holes, down onto the gravel runs. Hope springs eternal!

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 No excuses for another view of the river in early spring.

I retraced my steps, crossing the road down to the farm bridge, where a long deep pool always holds promise and I had caught rising dace the previous week.

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Peering into the pool as I passed, fish were dimpling the surface and climbed down into the water for a wade up to the tail. I couldn’t see what the fish were taking, they were even nudging the bubbles drifting down and with the Black Devil still attached, greased the leader close to the hook, to fish it near the surface, swirling and hooking a decent sized dace.

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Another dace and a few tweeks of the leader later, a better fish rose close to the bridge and I changed to a woolly nymph, that floats in the film like an emerger, and disappointingly, hooked another dace straight away. Making a longer cast to fall just under the opening, a fish torpedoed up to the surface and took the fly, exploding into action, dashing about the pool, leaping clear, even into the undergrowth at the edges, but eventually into my net.

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Not a monster, but 9 inches of wild beauty, this fish another example of the blue-silver strain of trout in the river. Returned, this brown swam away strongly with the minimum of revival time.

False casting to dry off the nymph, it started to rain, getting heavier by the minute, something not forecast, wearing only a shirt under my waistcoat.

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Preparing to go, there was a dimpling rise to the right of the bridge and and I made a cast ahead of it, a pair of bubbles indicating, where the nymph had been sucked down, lifting into a solid fish that dived deep under the bridge. The fight continued around the pool, twisting and turning, back to the shallows at the tail, where still splashing, I raised it’s head for the net, to be surprised to see the white mouth of a chub, that had fought as hard as any trout of it’s size.

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Fat with spawn, this chub showed evidence of a painful past, having encountered a heron, mink, or a pike and recovered. The rain persisted, stopping play, cutting short, what was turning into an interesting session.

Wild brown trout hard won on opening day

April 3, 2015 at 6:58 pm

Whatever the weather, I was determined to fish my local syndicate trout stream on opening day, having spent the previous week in preparation and anticipation of the day, but I needn’t have worried, by lunch time the damp start had given way to weak sunshine and I arrived to the sound of a blackbird singing, while a woodpecker drummed away in the distant woods. The river was low and clear, despite the rains of late.

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I did not expect to see any rising fish so early in the year and tied on my Black Devil nymph, which has proved a successful season opener for me on so many occasions, it’s copper windings allowing it to fish near the bottom, where it may be mistaken for a caddis.

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Whatever it looks like to the fish it doesn’t matter, because third cast in along the bank, the leader shot forward and I was playing my first trout of the 2015 season, a pristine, perfect brown of about ten inches long, that dashed around the river, leaping clear of the surface twice, before sliding over the net.

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This picture does not do the trout justice, it’s red spots standing out bright against the green bronze of it’s body. The Black Devil is firmly in the scissors of it’s jaw, the barbless hook slipping out easily and the brownie returned in seconds.

My aim was to walk down to to where a smaller river joins, but could not resist a few casts at a cattle drink on the way down, but found it occupied by a big cob swan, that puffed it’self up, cruising up and down, claiming it’s territory.

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I was in no hurry to fish this spot and continued down and saw a fish rise in a channel of the gravel run off from the cattle drink. There were a few tan olives lifting off, but waded in to cast the Black Devil up to the riffle, seeing the rise again and casting well above it. There was a boil and the line darted forward as a small dace took the fly to tumble of the hook at my feet.

Next stop was at a small broken down weir, where the river creates a variety of small pools and runs. Wading out to the middle of the tail, I was able to cover most of the area, casting up under the lip, letting the nymph drift across fast and slack water. Watching the line, as it made it’s way past the resident tree, it arced upstream and I was into a better fish, that burst out of the river in a tail walking spray, frantically traversing the pool from  side to side, until as often happens on this shallow river, it bow waved past me to the run below, creating a slack line, which made full contact again with another shower of spray. The hook held and the trout began a zig-zag fight back to me, to lie on it’s side at my feet, a photo opportunity. While lining up the camera with my left hand, the trout got second wind, running up stream again and I snatched a shot.

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Lesson learned, I stuffed the camera back in my pocket and brought the brownie back under control, waiting for it to stop powering away upstream, allowing the 12 oz trout to drift back to my net.

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This was another fin perfect brown trout, these silver flanked fish a common variation on the Hampshire chalk stream.

I now made the five hundred yard walk down to where the feeder stream comes in, noting it’s coloured water being pushed to the far side by the clear flow from our river, the eddies and slacks looking like they held many trout, but the Black Devil was ignored, until a cast up and along the far bank in the dirty water, saw the line dart to one side. I was in again, the gold flash of another brown through the mirk indicated a 6 oz fish, which spiralled round then came of as it dropped back downstream.

Already satisfied with my afternoon, I made my way back, taking occasional casts from the bank, missing a few lightning takes, which I put down to dace, but also failing to get any response from a few of the deeper banker pools, putting on a heavier Gold Head Hares Ear at the last in an attempt to change my luck, but nothing.

Not far from the van, I spotted fish rising below the farm bridge and back tracked to get down into the river, wading up within casting distance of the rises and dropped the nymph in among them. It was taken on the drop, but I missed. The next cast must have dropped on it’s nose, as a bulge on the surface resulted in a hooked fish, a small dace.

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There were still rises below the bridge, all dace, two more hooked and one dropped called an end to it and my afternoon’s fishing. This is just the start of a what I hope will be a good season, the previous two were dogged by floods, but the two trout taken today were already plump, well mended fish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A new trout fishing season awaits. I’m ready.

March 27, 2015 at 1:32 pm

April 1st may be All Fools Day, but it is also the first day of  river trout fishing in my neck of the woods, an event that gets the heart beating that bit faster, with anticipation of balmy days to come, watching trout rise on a pristine river. The reality of that first day is usually at odds with the dream, March Winds combining with those inevitable April Showers to sting eyes and numb fingers, while trying to present a fly to a wary trout, from a bank stripped bare of cover by winter frosts. It is also the day that ice cold water seeps into waders, that were dry, when hung up in September.

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While going shooting the other day, I detoured for a look at my favourite urban river, where it runs between factories and a recreation ground. Trucks thunder by on one side, while cyclists, dog walkers and kite flyers go about their preoccupation unaware, that, despite the annual encroachment of more housing and industrial development, this little chalk stream continues to provide free trout fishing on a par with many exclusive syndicate waters. Wading this 200 yard stretch on a late spring evening, has never failed to enchant me, the hard fighting wild brown trout a bonus to be savoured.

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Appetite whetted, it was time to check out my river fly fishing gear, knowing that I would be looking at a six month time warp since it was hung up and abandoned. I’d had many good intentions over the period, but despite a perfectly adequate heater, bench and light in my shed, there was always something else more important to distract my attention. An easy job is cleaning the fly line, which of course should have been done on my return from fishing, but like the rest of my gear, it had been ignored and I was looking at a tan line, stained grey by the swollen river of my last visit. At least I still had some cleaning gel left and heated the container with boiling water to melt it back to a fine liquid state. As the cleaning process was started, the line run round the back of two seats to keep it off the ground, a tissue moistened with the fluid, worked over it, I was reminded why I hadn’t bothered with it before. The plastic coating was cracked and picking up tissue, the coils now a series of flats. When asked about Christmas presents, a fly line was not on my list. New shirts and underwear cannot compensate for a state of the art line.

Next on my list was a browse through my various fly boxes, including a round plastic container with a secure flip top, carried in my fishing waistcoat, which became a deposit box. Successful flies were snipped off and dropped in to join many others, often wet and coated in mouth slime. Over time this became a ball of entangled hooks, only to be unravelled, when stocks were running low of the current favourite fly. This did not look good and mildew had set in. More hot water, a dessert bowl and some washing up liquid soon separated the sticky mass and individuals could be picked out and left to dry on some tissue, the dry flies among them will need retreating with floatant. Saddest sight of all was my Mayfly box, left closed for nine months, it was just a collection of hooks with the odd bit of fur, and feather. There was no sign of the mites, that had gorged on these once beautiful creations, while locked in their metal prison.

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It was time to get the fly tying box out, to replace flies lost to trees and rocks, while others were chewed, but repairable. I’ve given up tying winged dry flies, such as mayflies, but most nymphs are within my scope, and have found that variations of Pheasant Tail, Hares Ear (using rabbit fur) and my own Black Devil, weighted and unweighted are all I need for the season. The only dry fly I do tie, is a Deer Hair Emerger on various coloured dubbed bodies, which again works year round. Like most anglers, I have too many flies, having been tempted by internet offers over the years and doubt that I will ever need to buy another Klinkhammer. My basic flies do work and was grateful for a couple of wet mornings to replenish my stocks.

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This wild brown could not resist a Black Devil on a cold early season afternoon.

Through the wonders of the Internet, a fresh range of pretty mayflies were installed in a long forgotten fly box, found while searching through my pike fishing gear, my reel was greased,  ready to accept a reasonably priced No 5 weight floating line, that was on special offer and the flies were reorganised into groups. I’m ready.

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CZ 452 HMR Varmint long range accuracy cannot be eclipsed

March 23, 2015 at 6:50 pm

Breakfast in the garden watching the solar eclipse was abandoned, when thick clouds blanketed out any view of the sun, until once the moon had passed on it’s inevitable orbit, the skies cleared to reveal blue skies again. Like so many in the South of  England, who felt cheated by the weather gods from viewing this rare event, I was determined to do something to compensate. That something involved a 25 miles drive to my most northern shooting permission, high in the Chiltern Hills, where without a visit for nine months, I expected a rabbit bonanza, having already warned the butcher to clear a space in his cold room.

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Disappointment number two was waiting for me, when informed by Phil the cattle farmer, that my precious rabbits had been gassed by his arable farming neighbour bordering the land. High petrol prices and nearer permissions had kept me from my pest control duties here and young oil seed rape plants had proved too tempting for the rabbits. Four, or five visits a year were all it took to keep the numbers in check and now I had paid the price too. Given time they will be back and so will I. All was not lost, as there is a warren at the other end of the farm. This I had decimated years ago, but fresh grass and ideal burrowing ground retained a small rabbit population, of which I now pinned my hopes of avoiding a wasted journey.

Parking in the folds of a small river valley, I climbed the gate and began to ascend the grassy downland towards the warren that abuts the hedgeline of the field, seeing the outlines of several rabbits as I breasted the top of the hill. Exposed against the skyline, I watched white tails flash in the sunlight, as one by one the rabbits melted back behind the hedge and the safety of a corner 250 yards away, well out of range of the HMR. Keeping low, I closed the gap, slowly sinking to the ground, when another rabbit came through the fence closer to me and began feeding. Slipping the rifle from it’s bag, while lying flat, I sprung the bi-pod back into position and clipped a 5 shot magazine up into the breech, cocking the bolt.

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Raising up to scan through the scope, I could now see three rabbits shuffling about feeding a 100 yards away and took a bead on the nearest. The supersonic crack from the muzzle broke the silence of the hillside, as the tiny .17 inch diameter bullet hit home, the rabbit flipping over with a reflex leap, disturbing the other two. One ran, but the other only it made as far as the fence, before another headshot tumbled it over the wire. Scanning the hedge line there was no other movement and after a 10 minute wait, got in position in it’s shadow, with a clear view to the corner and beyond.

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The late afternoon sun was still warm, considering it was the last official day of winter, but the shadows were already stretching out as I lay waiting for movement in the corner 120 yards away, where the rabbits had earlier filed out of the field. A pair of pheasants stuck their heads through the brambles and strutted off with straight backs, heads raised towards the opposite hedge to be followed by the rare sight of a guinea fowl wandering out into the sunlight.

As I considered getting up to retrieve the brace of rabbits, something passed behind the fence, sighting my scope on another rabbit, which hopped out into view, but stopped to feed with it’s back to me. Without a clear shot at it’s head, a body shot would ruin the meat and I waited for it to work round, only to be dismayed, when it raised up and went back where it came from, before I could take a shot. They usually oblige by stopping at the edge for a last look round, which ironically it normally is, but this one just kept on going. More minutes and a rabbit ran out from the corner on my side, stopped, then turned towards me. Again no good, a head on shot can pass right through the animal with very destructive consequences. Silent pleading from me and it turned it’s head to the left for long enough, the trigger was squeezed and the rabbit flopped over, before the report could echo back to me.

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A fifteen minute wait without any more coming out to play and I got up to collect these three, taking them back to my bag to paunch, ready for the butcher on the way home. All was packed away ready to go and I stood up for one last look around to see a brown smudge against the green of the field 150 yards away. Another rabbit had come out further round the corner. Getting back down, the rifle was uncased, loaded and cocked ready for one last shot. With hold over, I have shot rabbits at 200 yards on a windless day like this, using the HMR and with confidence I raised the rifle on the bi-pod to sight in line with the eye at the top of it’s head to allow for bullet drop. At that range, the delay between the crack of the bullet and it hitting home is only parts of a second, but it seemed an age before the rabbit jumped forward to remain motionless.

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What a shot, the CZ 452 .17 HMR is a heavy old rifle with the 16 inch Varmint barrel, but it just keeps pumping out the bullets with laser like accuracy on a still day. Packing everything away again, I was pleased to see nothing on view and relieved that it was down hill all the way back to the van, with approaching 10lb in weight of rabbits, plus that again of the rifle. The next task was to negotiate two large towns through the back roads, during the Friday rush hour, to deliver my bounty before the butcher’s shop closed it’s doors for the day, fewer than was expected, but he was happy.