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Bread punch roach line up for the stick

November 21, 2015 at 8:47 pm

While friends were enjoying the sunshine in Lanzarote, I was patiently waiting for a gap in the continuous stormy weather, strong winds, rain and more rain, keeping my face pressed to the window like a bored child. The westerly winds abated, soon to be replaced by a gusting northeasterly and the threat of snow. With no idea of the conditions awaiting me, I set off to the small Thames tributary less than two miles away, prepared to return home, if it looked unfishable. Getting out of the van, the river was coloured and pushing, but a tidemark on the trees along the bank indicated a level 9 inches higher the day before. The fishing trolley was trundled along the riverside lane to the hot swim, where the river takes a sharp left turn round the end of the local football pitch and is joined by the outfall from the town water treatment works. Urban fishing at it’s best!

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This swim has been monopolised by a pair of  other locals so far this year, being in residence each time I’d driven by intending to fish, but today it was empty, although fresh boot prints on the bank and recent tree surgery were evidence of their prolonged occupation.

With liquidised bread as feed and some steamed, rolled slices for the punch, I was looking forward to catching a few roach, as I set up my 14 ft float rod with a 3 No 4 Middy ali stemmed stick float, the 5 lb main line attached to a size 16 hook to 3 lb line, strong enough to handle most of the larger fish likely to put in an appearance. Following an egg sized ball of crumb down the swim, the float shot under first cast and I lifted into a good fish that ran down into the foaming weir stream. The float had been set shallow to start, expecting opportunistic chub to be first on the scene, but no, a good roach rolled in the fast water, before being brought under control, then to the landing net.

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Next cast the float slid sideways, the strike being met by a charging run, this time following the  script as a small chub made off with the 6 mm pellet of bread, taking full advantage of the current, but soon on the surface and swung to hand.

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A second ball of crumb brought another roach and more small chub, before I added another foot to the depth, this time the bait just tripping bottom. The roach were down there, my next cast bringing another quality fish to the net, this one having the parasite responsible for flecking the scales and fins with black spots.

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I’d begun fishing at 11 am and was settling in for a good session with half a dozen respectable roach in the keepnet, when a rustle through the bushes behind me, announced the arrival of one of the resident anglers, expecting to fish. We had chatted before, when he had been occupying the swim and now showed me pictures on his phone of a 4 lb common carp, that he had caught the day before from this flooded river. It sounded like he never fished anywhere else nowadays, feeling comfortable in this spot and although he had checked out a few other stretches of this river upstream, that I had suggested, he had not wetted a line yet. Hopefully he left to try one of the new swims.

With my visitor gone, I got back to the job in hand, catching roach, although in fact the next fish was a healthy rudd, which took on the edge of the foam, the bright float visible for one second and gone the next, the fish hooking itself.

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Now putting in a grape sized  squeezed ball every other cast, the roach were lined up for the bread, an imaginary triangle with it’s base lined by the foam, holding the shoal of mature fish, the float sinking from sight every time it entered the area. The fish just seemed to get bigger each cast, an initial bob of the float being followed by an unmissable  sail away. My best roach of the season so far pulled the rod top round as it took line, me lifting and backwinding in the same motion. Again I thought a chub, or maybe a small carp had taken, but a deep flash of silver and the unmistakable raised orange dorsal fin of  the big roach well downstream, got my attention and I played the fish back at it’s pace, the extra few ounces making all the difference all the way to the net.

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A 12 oz roach any day of the week, this fish never stopped jumping, even in the landing net, being lucky to get this photo. Measured against my rod it went 11 inches.

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Even after I had run out of bread feed, the roach kept coming, but now the bitter north wind was beginning to tell on my frozen fingers, the sky had cleared, but the sun was low behind me in the trees and I decided to pack up before my set time of 3 pm, the last of the day being another clonker.

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Once again I’m convinced that the bread punch had found and kept feeding fish, that would not have fallen to other methods from this hard fished spot, most being in pristine condition, the bonus being 10 lb of prime roach for a bait cost of 30 pence.

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Back to basics on autumn pond

November 12, 2015 at 1:30 am

Heavy showers of rain had forced me to abandon any thoughts of fishing last week, even with breaks in the clouds occasionally, there was not enough time to devote to a decent session. My one visit to a small river new to me, only resulted in a brief reconnoiter, it’s usually clear flow, transformed into a turgid rush of brown water and I returned home without taking the tackle out of the van. With regular storm fronts sweeping through, the weather forecasts have been erratic, but today’s seemed reasonable with just light showers forecast, and I rattled around at home getting my gear together, to visit a small lake fished this time last year.

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Leaves were falling like confetti, the wind driving them round the pond in rafts, in contrast to last year, when the surface had been clear of obstructions. Like then, I only had two very basic baits with me, bread punch and a few worms taken from the compost heap that morning. It was already past midday, as I plumbed up my rig, a long wire stemmed pole float, which should cut through the heavy surface drag to keep the bait stable near the bottom. The depth was a level 3 ft and I set about mixing up some liquidised bread with a propriety goundbait to add a bit of extra attraction, putting in half a dozen eggsized balls 6-7 metres out, hooking a 7 mm bread pellet to the size 14 barbless.

As expected, the first few fish were tiny roach, knocking at the bait, often stripping it without getting hooked, the first positive bite being a scrapping rudd.

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A couple of balls later, the float lifted and sank away slowly and I lifted into an energetic skimmer bream, the landing net coming out for the first time.

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Bubbles were now beginning to burst among the leaves, the trick being to drop the bait on top without snagging them. The float sank away again, this time the elastic coming out and staying there, a better bream hugging the bottom.

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Another ball of feed went in and I dropped the float right over to follow it down. The float slid away without cocking and I lifted expecting a small roach, but the elastic chased the float across the surface, a much bigger fish had taken on the drop. For several minutes I had no clue what it was, as it powered back and forth through the swim, until pulling hard against the elastic, it surfaced. A bream of maybe 2 lb was flapping on the top, the hook in the gill cover allowing it swim forward, while I had no leverage to turn it’s head back toward me. Eventually the bream tired enough for me to start bringing it back to the landing net, only for it to spurt away again, swimming in a circle. The bream rolled on the surface in front of the net and came off. That was a good fish. The punch had proved it’self again though.

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Putting in another two balls, it was obvious that the swim had been disrupted, the bites had stopped, along with the bubbles. Time for a change. Putting on a brandling fresh from the compost heap, I was confident that this lively, smelly worm would entice something to take. It did in minutes, the float sinking out of sight, but I struck too soon and missed the fish, forgetting that it takes time to suck in a two inch worm. Dropping it back to the same spot, the float followed the hook down, the line speeding in pursuit. A carp had taken it, running hard away from the bank. I had two more pole joints made up, pushing them on quickly to slow down the charge, trying to keep the fish out of the baited area.

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The fight was over in a few minutes and the 2 lb common carp lay in the net. Another worm was soon selected and on the hook, the float dipping and sliding a way again, a smaller fish this time, the roach giving a good impression of a crucian carp.

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Another cast and the worm found a small common, that took as long to net as it’s bigger brother, the fish being very slim, but dashing all over the swim.

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The next two fish were  small skimmer bream and despite bites on the worm, switched back to the bread punch. Pin prick bubbles were bursting on the surface and my first cast back on the punch saw a bobbing take, that developed into a glide under and an 8 oz crucian carp bouncing on the end.

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By 3 pm the bites were tailing off again, more skimmers, rudd and crucians had fallen for the bread. I was considering a switch back to the worm, when the sky blackened, as rain, drizzle at first, then stair rods made up my mind to pack up. Of course, once the pole had been put back in the bag, it stopped raining, but it was time to go anyway, the light fades rapidly at this time of year and I still needed to be able to see the tumblers of the two combination locks to get out of the fishery.

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The big bream lost, would have made a difference to this bag, but 7 lb in three hours was a respectable pleasure fishing weight, which resulted in most members of the carp family.



Sloe gin making. A taste of Christmas.

November 3, 2015 at 8:14 pm

For many, their first taste of alcohol, was a sip of sweet sloe gin at Christmas, offered in my case by a kindly aunt to a curious nephew, much to the amusement of the other grown ups, who laughed at my initial shuddering response to the magic potion. The smooth, warming afterglow had me badgering for more, but the liqueur was considered too precious to waste on a mere child, although in reality, they were probably more concerned with the alcoholic effects on an eight year old.

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Sloes are the hard won fruit of the blackthorn, the spiky staple planting of English hedgerows, an effective barrier to grazing animals and humans alike. Collecting is always a painful activity, thorn proof trousers and jacket a must, the fruits in clusters surrounded by the sharpest of thorns, that nature can muster. Why they are so well protected is hard to understand, as anyone who had bitten into even the most ripe looking fruits will agree, you will only do it once. The immediate bitter flavour is followed by an intense astringency brought on by the tannin in the fruit, drying out the mouth.

Unrefined gin was once the only spirit available to the lower classes of England, brought over from Holland by soldiers returning from the Thirty Years War, it had provided “Dutch Courage” during the winter campaigns. Juniper berries were used to improve the flavour and no doubt sloe berries, readily available to the common man, were added by a few enterprising souls, the alcohol drawing out the natural sugars of the fruit.

Today London gin is a prized product, offering subtle flavours from several well known distillers and there is a wide choice to use as a base. I tend to keep an eye out for supermarket offers through the year, I do not drink gin, whiskey being my tipple, buying solely for sloe gin production.

Traditionally sloes were not picked, until after the first frosts of autumn, the cold bringing out the sugars. Once gathered, the skins had to be pricked with a thorn from the bush, or a silver pin. An old wive’s tale probably, but having picked your fruit and ended up with sore fingers from the inevitable snagging of the thorns, you added to the misery by pricking them all over again with a thorn, or pin. I have done it the hard way and it is impossible not to stab yourself, when faced with hundreds of sloes. These rules added to the mystique of sloe gin, making it a valued drink by it’s followers, masking the simplicity of it’s preparation.

We now have freezers, an overnight stint being enough to split the sloe skins on thawing. Once thawed, the berries should half fill an air tight jar, or bottle, castor sugar added, topped up by the gin, then left for at least three months. That is it, nothing fancy. The ratio of sugar is up to the taste of the producer, many adding a couple of tablespoons to start the process, topping up to taste, after straining off the fruit. What was passed down to me was half, and half. Half a Kilner jar of fruit, add half the fruit in sugar, then pour over the gin, the gin filling the gaps and dissolving the sugar. The jar should be kept in a cupboard and turned daily to distribute the sugar among the fruit, this should continue for a month, then at weekly intervals. The gin will gradually turn pink, then deep red. If begun in late October, or early November, the almond like flavour will have leeched out of the stones to give a pleasing, warming Christmas drink.

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Over the years I have built up a backlog of sloe gin and aim to strain off the liquid a year after I have made it, conveniently starting a new batch in last year’s jars. Strain through a muslin cloth, or coffee filters if preferred, into a dark glassed, screw top wine bottle and identify with the date to avoid mix ups later. The longer you can leave it, the richer the flavour.



CZ 452 HMR explores new permission

November 2, 2015 at 10:33 am

Autumn colours greeted me on my return to the new permission this week, making a fleeting visit at dusk to check out the far end, where it climbs into scrub land.

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A few rabbits became visible in the far right hand corner of the field, as I walked down on the left, the curve of the land and the long grass keeping them hidden apart from the tops of their heads, until they were aware of my presence, then bounding to safety among the brambles. Once among the trees, I was able to find some cover, viewing through the branches a rabbit sitting out on top of a mound a hundred yards away. All I needed was to get into a position for a clear shot without being spotted. With nettles and bushes masking the rabbit for a prone bipod shot, I crept forward looking for a branch to rest on with no leaves in the way. The rabbit was still lying out on it’s mound, when I found the ideal rifle rest, a branch growing out close to the trunk of a bush, with a vertical offshoot. Ideal yes, but only two feet off the ground. I had to kneel and crouch down to look through the scope, by which time the rabbit had got wind of me and gone. Painful in more ways than one. I kneeled and waited, a movement in the nettles next to the mound giving away the rabbit, all I needed to place the cross hairs on it’s head and fire. Success, it fell back into the greenery with a thwack.

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I was now King of the Castle and took up position behind the top of the mound, from where there was a clear view of a quarter of the field, although once again it was awkward to sight through the scope, my knees taking a battering from the rough ground.

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It wasn’t long before my next target appeared, as is the way with rabbits, they sit in cover, then when confident all is well, they hop out and begin feeding immediately. At 60 yards, with minimal breeze, this was an easy shot for the HMR, although the rabbit had it’s back to me and I needed it to raise, or turn it’s head, hitting it anywhere else with this powerful rifle would ruin the meat. This position was uncomfortable and I could not wait for movement. Time for a fatal squeak, sucking in air between pursed lips, the high pitched sound would be inaudible to a human at twenty yards, but the rabbit turned it’s head on cue and died instantly.

Ten minutes later, two more broke cover to feed, but before I could sight on them, the black shape of the landlord’s dog streaked across toward them from the house. The game was up, the dog had been let out to play by the owner and I got up from my hidden location, to show I was there. Having been bitten by farm dogs in the past, the owner needs to see you, before the dog does. The landowner had come home and seen my van, but was unable to spot me, assuming that I was further up the hill, so let the dog out for a run to chase rabbits.

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These two rabbits were promised to a friend, so had done what I’d come for, although a little longer and I would have doubled my money. Any rabbits likely to feed would now stay put for another half hour, by which time the light would be gone. Apologies were gracefully accepted, as I’m sure that I would not be happy to have a virtual stranger wandering my land with a lethal weapon.




Magtech 7022 .22 semi-auto farm walkaround

October 28, 2015 at 7:34 pm

Readers of this blog will be aware, that much of my shooting revolves around the shopping habits of my wife, she likes to shop and I prefer to go shooting. A glorious afternoon had followed a grey morning and with a family wedding coming up, my wife needed to checkout some colour options in a town close to one of my small farms. Dropping her off, I had about 90 minutes, before providing her taxi home and the Magtech was the chosen tool for the job, as I would be doing a circuit of the farm, no time for a stake out today with the HMR.

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Coming through the gate I kept a low profile, knowing that rabbits could be anywhere in the field to my left, taking cover behind some old straw bales, while scanning the area. Sighting on a pair feeding close to the tree line, a blurred shape appeared in my scope sight. A rabbit had run out only yards away from behind the bales and I reduced the magnification down to the minimum, the still blurred image an unmissable head shot, when I fired. Missed it! In my haste, I’d forgotten to hold over on the shot, with the rifle zeroed to 50 yards, at 5 yards I needed to allow for the height of the scope from the barrel, about two inches, the bullet harmlessly nicking the fur of the neck. Panic reined, the rabbit jumped and bolted, running in a curve toward the long grass. One of the far rabbits remained long enough for me to adjust the scope back to 50 yards and sight the rifle, before ducking back into the undergrowth. Educated bunnies. These have survived this long for a reason.

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Returning to the gate, I surveyed the path ahead, an area that had a large warren among the brambles this year, but twenty rabbits later, it is almost clear, although, as I stood soaking up the autumn sunshine, I watched a brazen pair of rabbits trot down the slope and through the fence to began feeding on the grass in front of the far gate. Resting the Magtech on my gate, I sighted for a side on chest shot and heard the thump of the heavy 40 grain bullet strike home, tumbling the rabbit, while the other one looked up, then bobbed out of view.

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Keeping close to the brambles for cover on my right, I moved down to pick up the first, then saw the second sitting upright in a small paddock. It was facing away from me behind a wire fence only 25 yards away, an easy shot to hand, but missed, the bullet ricocheting off the wire with a whine. The rabbit still sat and I quickly took another shot, puffing up the dirt behind it. Missed again, startling the rabbit, which turned and ran toward me, knocking it down with the third. It was all over in seconds, rapid fire the advantage of a semi-auto. Fortunately the owners were not home and with a good backstop, there were no safety worries from stray bullets.

Picking these two up, I made my way through the gate, back down the lane to the van, flushing out another, which ran diagonally across in front of me, out of sight round a corner toward the farmhouse. Dropping the rabbits I followed, peering through the bushes at the corner, seeing it by a white metal gate, but not with a clear shot.Taking off my gun bag, I got down on my stomach, pushing the bag round the corner, resting the rifle. The rabbit was still there, just 20 yards away and shuffled my body round for the shot, hitting it behind the ear at an angle, flipping it in the air with a reflex jump.

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These days three rabbits is a good return for a visit to this small farm, the lightweight Magtech, only weighing 5 lb with scope, sound moderator and 10 shot magazine, is effortless to carry, coming up to the eye instantly for a clear shot out to sixty yards, although this afternoon, all rabbits were taken within air rifle range. With taxi duties waiting, I reluctantly had to turn a blind eye to the field behind the farmhouse, where a few more fat bunnies were sunning themselves, resolving to start my circuit from there next time.



Blackwater stick float cold cure

October 24, 2015 at 3:51 pm

The onset of a heavy head cold gave me two cure options this week, take loads of medication and sit at home in front of the TV watching repeats on Dave, or get out and go fishing to blow the cobwebs from my brain. Choosing option two, I set about getting organised for the following morning. The remnants of left over bait, already used twice, were taken from my bait fridge and examined. Red and white maggots had been given fresh maize meal a few days before and at least half had turned to casters. Running these through the maggot riddle produced a quarter of a pint of sinkers and put the reds back in the fridge as hookers, while leaving the whites out to turn, picking off more fresh fat casters, before retreating to bed with a hot toddy.

The next day I awoke feeling terrible and could not believe that I was making myself go fishing, wandering around bumping into things, while my wife made me a packed lunch, happy to have my germs out of the house. The last of the casters were picked off and refrozen hemp seed taken from the freezer, before loading up the van, which took extra effort, due to feeling weak, destination a free stretch of the river Blackwater ten miles away.

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With so much good fishing on my doorstep, due to the extra distance, I tend to ignore the Blackwater, with it’s twists and turns, creating fast runs, that give way to deeper pools, offering a challenge to the stick float fisherman. I was tempted to drop my tackle box nearer to the road, but slogged on upstream, dragging my fishing trolley along the narrow path, until I reached a swim new to me, where fast water rushed round the outside of  a bend into a short straight, before sweeping out of sight again.

Positioning my box at the tail of the run, where there was just enough room overhead to fish a float rod, I was ready for a cup of tea, taking my time to lay out my nets and bait to hand, feeding a couple of handfuls of hemp into the channel in front of me, then spraying red maggots over the the top, to get the fish interested. Setting up my 12 ft Hardy match rod rod with a 4 No 4 bodied stick float to 5 lb main line and a size 16 to 3 lb hook link, I was ready for anything, this water noted for some big chub and roach.

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Plumbing the channel, two feet of fast water dropped to three feet ten yards down, then came up to 30 inches, an ideal holding area. Another spray of maggots and I cast in with the float set to only two feet, to run through, but it tilted over and sank seconds after hitting the surface. A silver flash and I was playing a small chub, which ran straight over toward a dead tree along the far bank.

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The initial run halted, this was soon in the net, followed by a few more of similar size, until the bites stopped. I was now feeding  several casters with hemp every other cast, while trotting red maggots on the hook, setting the depth to trip the bottom, running and holding back the float as it searched the channel, small perch and big gudgeon stopping the float every time.

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It was still not midday, but these pics show how dull and overcast it was, the flash of my camera on automatic, the wind was also picking up, every gust raining down ripe acorns from the oak above my head. The good news was, that apart from a sore throat, my cold symptoms had been blown away with the breeze.

Suddenly the maggots were being smashed on the merest flicker of the float, dace were now in the swim, chasing the bait as it fell through. Pulling the shot down into a bulk group, with a No 6 on the hook link was the answer, slowing the float to half pace resulting in a firm dig, that bounced the rod top. The next trot giving a firm take and a dace spiraling up from the bottom.

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With a caster now on the hook, I dropped the float in at my feet and held back hard, the float burying deep with a good fish, that ran for the far side, thinking that it was a chub, but that thudding fight and a deep flash of silver said big roach and I took my time bringing it over the net.

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About 12 ounces, this was my best roach for a while and just what I’d hoped for, the hook falling out in the net. Another caster on the hook and the float sank at the same spot and a slightly smaller roach followed.

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Now only feeding caster it was pot luck what took, the bites unmissable, if it wasn’t a roach, or dace under the rod top, a perch, or gudgeon would oblige, both these fighting deep, punching well above their weight; further down chub were mopping up the stragglers, almost hooking themselves, as they turned away.

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I was now in full flow, cold? What cold? I adjusted the keepnet , pushing it lower to allow more room for the fish and kept feeding, just a few casters at a time to keep them interested, I didn’t want to feed them off. Another nice roach, this time on a maggot.

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Next cast I saw another roach flash, then pull off the hook, the first I’d lost. More feed and I dropped in again, the float sank and another good roach was on. A green flash and a pike had grabbed the roach.  The rod bent over with the weight, then the roach was free, skating across the surface in panic, pursued by the pike. I dragged the fish away from it’s open jaws and swung the half pound roach in, the landing net not an option.

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This once pristine roach, was savaged, but still alive and I walked upstream twenty yards to release it, watching the casualty swim away into the depths, as though nothing had happened. I have caught recovered, pike damaged fish before and hope that this one will survive.

I was now determined to catch the culprit, setting up a heavy feeder rod, the reel filled with 15 lb line and my largest hook, a size 12 forged barbless tied direct. Two AA shot were pinched on a foot from the hook and I was in business, next catch a live bait. Shallowing up on the float rod, I cast over to the shelf along the far side and a small chub obliged immediately. Transferring the chub to the big size 12, I swung the lip hooked bait fish over to where the pike had struck, watching the line sink, then move steadily upstream. I lifted the rod gently, seeing the pike had already taken the chub. I waited a minute for the pike to turn the bait, then struck hard. He was on, all hell breaking loose in the confines of the tiny river, straining hard every time it dived for the roots, eventually wearing the fish down, succeeding on the third attempt to get the 30 inch pike into my 18 inch landing net.

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The hook was set firmly in the bottom jaw, but the size 12 barbless came free with a push from a disgorger and after weighing in at over 7 lb, the pike was released 50 yards down stream, lying dogo in the stream. Returning to my swim, I was not hopeful, that the catching spree would continue, considering the amount of disturbance landing the pike. The next twenty minutes yielded only one chub, taken well downstream, even the perch and gudgeon were gone. I fished on until 2 pm, then packed up, loading my trolley for the long trudge back.

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Without the intrusion of the pike, the roach would have kept coming I’m sure, although I have yet to have a session on this river, when one did not appear, the last time perch were being attacked. On my walk back to the road, I met an East European fisherman, spinning for pike with a 6 inch spoon. His English was not good, but when I showed him the picture on my camera of the pike, he smiled and nodded, making a knife and fork motion with his hands. I shook my head and signed putting the pike back. “No, no eat” he replied. Maybe there won’t be so many pike to bother me next time?

CZ 452 .17 HMR accuracy scores on new permission.

October 19, 2015 at 1:49 pm

Having been granted permission to shoot over a new 20 acre area of grassland and mixed scrub, I’d been back a for few visits, picking off a couple of rabbits each time, before moving on to other farms in the area on a whistle stop tour of quick and easy kills. It was time to give the land a bit of attention, while touching base with the owner.

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The grass had been cut in August, but wet, warm conditions had soon increased it’s length, ruling out any prone sniping, but a solid fence post gave a firm support for the CZ 452 Varmint. Small groups of rabbits were visible close to the hedge line extending to within sight 300 yards away, but there were three within 60 yards, taking the nearest two in the time it took to shift the bolt, while the third made it back to the brambles and safety without stopping for the expected, usually fatal pause, before disappearing.

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Side stepping a clump of trees, I had a clear view of the top of the field, where an unsuspecting rabbit was munching in the long grass, it’s twitching ears visible about thirty yards away. Leaning against the trunk of a tree, I reduced the scope magnification to the minimum x4 and raised the rifle, sucking in air between pursed lips to give a long squeak, the ears pricking up, before the head lifted in time for a steadied shot. The rabbit dropped from sight.

In cover behind the trees, I patrolled the two views over the following half hour, shots at 80 and 100 yards resulting in two more kills from the middle section. With no more incursions, I climbed the gate to pick up the rabbits, still looking for the one from the long grass, when the owner came out of his house for a chat, his dog locating the missing bunny, it being twenty yards away from where I thought that I’d shot it.

The owner took me on a tour, down to the far end among the trees, which shows evidence of being an old dumping ground, burrows pock marking the mounds, all in view of an ideal sniping point, raised ground surrounded by bushes. While I have been climbing the gate for access, he now gave me permission to enter the field through his garden, where mounted on a pedestal is a 12 inch search light, a relic of his days in the navy, which he then proceeded to demonstrate it’s use, this also being available for me, when the nights draw in. I have obviously made a good impression on the landowner and must continue to do so with regular visits.

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With five big bucks in the bag, the light was now fading, following my impromtu tour of the site and on parting, was offered one of his private parking places for my van next time. All good news.

Grayling see red in urban river.

October 13, 2015 at 9:38 pm

A cold morning clearing the garden ready for winter, was giving way to warm autumn sunshine and I decided to investigate a friend’s report of grayling being caught from a river running through the factories and houses of a large town 30 miles away. Lunch over, I collected up my flyfishing gear and headed off into the sun, parking up in a shady lay-by spotted on Google. Pulling on my waders, I realised that in my haste, I’d left my landing net behind, which would only be a problem of course, when and if I caught anything. Dodging between cars on the main road, I crossed to enter the footpath skirting the river, which seemed as busy as the road, passing office workers, pram pushers and dog walkers, while stepping aside for cyclists. In contrast the river, only yards away, was a place of tranquility, a kingfisher darting upstream, as I stood looking at the crystal clear water.

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Not local to the area, I would have passed over the road bridge without a second look, unaware that much work had been done by the developers of the land to create a perfect environment for fish, groins having been placed at strategic points to speed up the flow, while trees have been left in place to provide cover. There were plenty of riffles, slacks and eddies, it looking very fishy, but the proof of the pudding, would be in the eating, as they say.

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My 7 ft rod was still set up in the van from the last outing, complete with a Flashback Gold Head Hares Ear nymph, which I thought would do for a start and entered the river, wading up toward a groin, where I cast up along the crease into the faster water. It seemed too shallow to hold fish and was not suprised, when the leader sank ahead of me and I lifted into the bottom. The line gave a slow bounce and I was into my first fish, which was obviously a grayling, the slow rolling fight, exploding into a powerful run upstream. Having caught many grayling in the past, I was aware of how easy it is to pull out of the soft mouth, giving line, but staying in contact, allowing the fish to make all the running, watching it twist and turn in the current. A good size, the grayling was at least a pound and with no net, needed to plan ahead to land it, wading across to a gravel beach, as the fish ran downstream past me, using it’s sail like dorsal fin to collect the full force of the current. More slow rolls and it came back to me on it’s side, scooping the still strong grayling out with my hand behind the pectoral fins.

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What a beauty, the scales shining with iridescent colours in the autumn light, a quick measurement with my tape rule reading 14 inches from nose to fork of the tail. With no net, I’d had to play this grayling to a standstill and took time to hold it’s head upstream in the flow, until the gills were working hard, watching it finally sail across the stream, noting how cold the water was on my hand.

Back in the river, on my first cast, the line sank again at the same spot, lifting in disbelief into another battling grayling, this time slightly smaller and easier to bring to hand, seeing that it had damage to it’s tail, probably from a small jack pike.

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That pool had given up enough of it’s fish and I continued to wade, finding pockets of smaller grayling, fighting like dace, their takes as rapid. Walking further up, a groin sent the flow close to bushes on the far side and in my effort to get the perfect cast, snagged a willow behind me, too high to reach, having to pull for a break, losing tippet and fly. Mid stream I tied on another length of  4 lb line, then looked in the fly box for a gold head. Staring at me was a home tied red nymph, that had been deadly for grayling on the Avon in the past. Worth a try, I tied it on, making a long cast among the swirling eddies. The leader stopped and I struck, the line arcing round, as another good grayling kicked away upstream, holding the rod high to absorb the strain. More pressure and it turned down and across to be lifted out. I was getting the hang of this.

grayling 013Once again those colours of the rainbow, the Lady of the Stream in her full finery, the red nymph, be it a bloodworm, or a red maggot imitation, selecting a better fish, a layer of copper beneath the wool giving it just enough weight to sink toward the bottom.

Whether I hit it right on the day, I don’t know, but caught at least one grayling from every pool I tried, losing count as I worked my way upstream, missing a few of the takes, which I put down to the smaller 6 to 10 inch fish, although I still had plenty of them.

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This was a red letter day in more ways than one, the weather ideal; warm, without a hint of breeze, the autumn sun giving a golden hue to the sky, the river clear of the leaves, that will fall in the following weeks. Even the kingfisher passed up and down at regular intervals, giving it’s metallic shriek of warning.

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Approaching a footbridge, I fished my last pool of the afternoon, yielding another pound grayling, my sixth of the afternoon, being watched from the bridge by two young uniformed school boys, who came down to see me land the fish.

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Having returned all my fish, I can only hope that others do also, being a free, open to the public water, which is fished by maggot drowners and lure fishermen, having watched a plug fisher land a pound jack on my way back.

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Stepping out to the roadside again, it was already rush hour, or should I say slow hour, looking at the rows of stationary cars with over heating engines and drivers. Soon I was among them too.


Stick float chub make the running

October 11, 2015 at 6:27 pm

Two days of heavy rain transformed my usually placid local river into a raging torrent at the beginning of the week. It had been at it’s lowest level for years, a series of near stationary pools joined together by water trickling over gravel, the larger fish creating bow waves, as they tested the boundaries. Then the rain started, drizzle at first, increasing in volume, until it was coming down like stair rods for hour after hour. With maggots to use up, I was keen to get on the river, taking a chance that it would be fishable on the first dry day.

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Looking over the bridge, the river was now between it’s banks and the brown water was gone, although it was still pushing through, carrying leaves and branches washed out from the wooded banks. My winter swims were full of the sweet smelling scent of Himalayan Balsam, this invasive annual packed together in tight jungles, where the seeds had fallen the previous autumn. I made a bee line for a swim, that had been good to me last year, only to find that a tree had fallen along the bank, it’s branches reaching across the river, preventing any access, forcing me to continue my search. A hundred yards downstream, another tree had fallen, this time creating a swim, coming down to leave a narrow shelf just wide enough for my tackle box, the place where it had stood, now open to the sky, ideal for a float rod.

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On the inside of a bend, the flow swept beneath a bush and overhanging branches, just the place for chub to hang out. While tackling up my 12 foot hardy match rod, I sprayed a few pouches of red maggots over toward the bush, setting up with a 3 No 4 Middy Ali Stem stick float. First cast over, the float dipped and sailed away, a typical chub bite. The rod bent over, connecting with a hard charging fish, that flashed bronze beneath the surface, the expected chub revealing it’self as red finned rudd.

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Another couple of maggots on the size 16 hook and the rig was swung out again, dropping into a small bay above the bush, being carried away with the flow, then sinking from sight. This time it was a chub, not big, but powerful enough to bend the lightweight rod right over in it’s initial rush, causing me to backwind to ease the shock, as it dived for cover.

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This was the first of eight chub ranging from 8 to 12 oz, a spray of maggots preceding each cast, the float never travelling more than a few feet, before it disappeared. Then I hooked and lost a chub, as it turned away on the surface, the hook flying back to tangle in the nettles at my feet. That was enough to scatter the shoal and I never saw another, despite trotting the float well downstream beneath the trees.  Adding a foot to the depth, I dropped the float short, past the middle, holding the float back against the current, seeing two slow dips, before it sank away. This time I guessed the species correctly, as the first roach of the day came to hand.

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With hemp from the freezer, I began to feed this deeper line, alternating between maggots and hemp each cast, the roach lining up to take the maggots, the occasional rudd, or small perch, also getting in on the act. The keepnet was beginning to fill, when a hiss announced the arrival of a swan, speeding along at the sight of free food offerings.

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Regularly fed by bread wielding mums and young children, these swans do not understand, that they are interrupting a serious sport, this one extending it’s long neck to the bottom, where it began mopping up the feed meant for it’s scaly friends. Catapulting hemp at the swan, which bounced off it’s back, seemed to encourage it all the more. I could not fish for fear of accidentally hooking the winged monster, finally, when it seemed to have exhausted the supply of bait on the bottom, the swan began to look elsewhere in my swim and I began firing bait upstream round the corner. Catching it’s attention, the swan made off in search of these offerings and once out of sight, I began to re-bait the swim. There were only gudgeon left, plus the odd small roach and when the swan returned, I decided to call it a day.

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With close to 8 lb of fish in under four hours, this small river, which serves as a surface drain for the town, came up trumps again and I was able to arrive home at the time promised, much to the surprise of my wife.

Magtech 7022 rabbit stopper.

October 3, 2015 at 2:08 pm

There was an ulterior motive to  visit a local garden this week; it is time to make cider and there was a surplus of Bramley cookers and Cox’s sweet apples, just waiting to be picked. Wet weather and a family holiday had meant no visits by me for a month and the lady owner of the cottage garden was becoming anxious, due to the appearance of rabbits on her lawn again.

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Arriving in the late afternoon, I unpacked the Magtech 7022, a .22 semi automatic rimfire rifle, which when firing subsonic ammunition, is quieter than my air rifle. At the entrance to the rear of the garden, I stood to one side and scanned through the scope, searching among the flower beds for movement, spotting the rounded brown shape of a rabbit up between the apple trees at the far end. Too far for a shot to hand, I retreated behind the hedge, getting down onto the ground for a prone shot, using my shooting bag to rest the rifle.

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At about 50 yards away, the body of the rabbit was hidden behind a slight rise of the lawn, but the head and ears were visible, ducking it’s head to feed. I was confident of a kill at this range, having zeroed in the rifle on a previous shoot. The cross hairs were placed just to the rear of the eye and the trigger gently squeezed. The rabbit disappeared from view. After a five minute wait, nothing else moved and I got up, only to disturb a rabbit feeding just yards from it’s dead comrade, watching it hop into a dense flower bed ten yards away. I stood and waited. The leaves of a shrub moved, when the rabbit decided that it was now safe. I zeroed the scope down to the minimum 3 mag and scanned beneath the shrub, picking out the back end of my quarry and aimed ahead to where the chest, or head would be. Pop! It jumped and dropped. Two in ten minutes. That would do for now. After a quick walk round, it was time to pick some apples, the lady of the house giving me carte blanche and began filling boxes for the next half hour.

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I kept my eye open for rabbits further down the garden and as dusk was falling, caught a glimpse of movement on the far lawn, creeping round to see one now busy feeding down by the lodge.

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Backtracking round the garden, using the flower borders for cover, I was able to get down on the right hand side of border in the picture, pushing the gun bag and rifle out from cover, then sliding behind the scope for an easy 30 yard headshot, the rabbit slumping forward on impact. A ten minute wait saw no more intruders and I gathered up my latest prize and continued collecting apples.


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The owner’s son was pleased with the result, although I never seem to be there, when there are rabbits all over the lawn. He was also happy that the apples would not go to waste, helping me load them into the van , going off to the greenhouse and coming back with a large bag of grapes, these transformed into 4lb of jam the next day.