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Bread punch chub surprise

October 25, 2016 at 4:51 pm

My plan to fish the weir pool of my local river fell at the first hurdle today, when a drive-by revealed a van parked in the gateway and a leger angler seated in the only swim. Winding down my window, I asked if he’d caught. A slow shake of his head told me that hadn’t, or that he was being cagey, not wanting to pass on his success. That swim is full of big roach, chub and the occasional carp; he must have caught. Where now? The river flows away from the lane, behind private houses and across fields, passing under a main road two miles away, where I now headed off to investigate.


I have driven over this bridge many times, but the lack of parking and chest high wild hop vines have put me off attempting to fish in the past. An overgrown gateway a hundred yards away, allowed the van to squeeze into a space with the wheels off the roadway, while with the onset of autumn, the hops were dying back. It was worth a try.

The weir swim is next to the parking spot and hadn’t packed the trolley, but now I needed it. Deciding to travel light, I set up my 14 ft match rod at the van with a 4 No 4 ali stick float, taking only a landing net and my bait bag on the hike. Getting down to the river proved a challenge, a steep slope, coupled with the unrelenting vines and stinging nettles wrapping round my ankles, made me consider the wisdom of my decision to fish.


Once down on the flood plane, the pool looked promising, the flow from under the bridge forcing along my bank, then swinging across to the exit, creating an eddy along the opposite side. Making myself comfortable on the bank, I laid out the bait trays from my tackle box on either side, while sitting on the box cushion, quite a home from home. While getting ready, I’d put a couple of balls of crumb down the middle of the flow, following with a single before dropping the float in, baited with a pellet of punched bread. I’d guessed the depth at three feet and was not surprised to see the float drag under. Too shallow. I lifted the rod to confirm, disappointed that I’d hook the bottom, when the rod bent over. The float traced a Z in the surface, then disappeared. A large fish had been woken up, slowly at first, then bursting into life to rush across the pool and down the far side toward the tail, forcing a rapid backwind of the reel under pressure. It turned, coming back along the near bank. This river has many carp, due to the lakes along it’s length and a flash of bronze scales seemed to verify my suspicion, but another surface roll exposed the gaping white lips of a chub, which dived into the reeds below me, before being forced out into the waiting landing net.


A long lean chub, it weighed in at 3 lb 4 oz, way off it’s expected winter weight, which could exceed 4 lb. Not bad for a first cast with roach in mind. Released it sank slowly away with a flick of the tail.

Ready to fish again, the float followed two more balls of bread into the swim. Looking down to free line caught on a nettle, I missed the float going under, searching the surface to see the line speeding away downstream. I was in again with a bang, the rod arcing over into a more powerful fish, that was already heading for the exit. Again on the backwind, I leaned back, letting the rod do it’s work, the size 16 barbless hook holding. The relentless run had to be stopped. If the fish got out of the pool it would be lost. My days of chasing a fish downstream are long gone and I was relieved to see the chub broach the surface, turning to fight up the middle of the run. After battling right under my rod top, it popped up to the surface like a depth charged submarine and just lay there to be netted.


Four ounces heavier that the first, this chub was shorter, but “chubbier” in much better condition. Two in two casts, how many more were down there?

Now regretting taking my keep net out from the bag, to cut down on weight for the walk, I returned the chub before sorting out the tackle for another trot through. Two more balls plopped in followed by the float. It sank out of sight as though a lead weight was attached, the rod top following it down the instant I lifted. Ping! Bumped it! The float sprang back, wrapping round the tip in a bird’s nest tangle.


This was game over. Spare float rigs were in the tackle box, back at the van and there was no way that I could untangle the knot. I could go back and return with a float to start again, but decided to pack up. This was only an exploratory visit anyway, which had turned out better than expected. Next time I will come fully equipped with the tackle box on my trolley and a keepnet.

Braybrooke Community fishing lake rewards a visit

October 20, 2016 at 10:25 pm

An invite to fish a lake owned by my local council, was followed up by a visit this week. Needing Google maps to find the water, which sits in one corner of a recreation ground, surrounded by a network of streets among a 70’s housing estate, I arrived to find a well laid out car park, with a path down to the lake a 100 yards away. braybrooke-001

Part of a project to involve the community in nature projects for the whole family, the lake has benefited from tree clearance and the creation of six disabled swims next to the car park, while paths and existing swims have been made safe.  A club was recently formed, offering access to an on site community hall, where regular nature based events have been held, while the inclusion of  fishing tuition for the whole family, by qualified coaches, has raised awareness of fishing as a safe, healthy pastime for youngsters.

Looking out at the lake for the first time, a patch of lilies to my left looked very fishy, although with rudd topping all over, I thought that any swim would have done.


Plumbing the depth, I found the bottom shelving steadily away to 4 ft at 7 metres and selected a 4 x14 float to suit, the shot bulked to 18 inches, with a No 6 shot six inches from the hook.


On the opposite bank a mother and child were busy emptying a bag of bread into the water, feeding the ducks. Bread must make up a fair bit of these fishes’ diet and I opted to start on the bread punch, having fed three egg sized balls of ground bait, heavily laced with hemp seed and sweet corn, in a tight group 7 metres out close to the lilies. First cast in the float dipped and sank in seconds, swinging in a well rounded roach in good condition.


In again, the elastic came out on my next lift, this time a thumping rudd, that needed the landing net.


This rudd had lost it’s top lip to an over eager angler, who preferred barbed hooks, my barbless size 14 slipped out easily once the pressure was eased. Off to a good start, I soon tried a sweet corn, netting my best so far.


I continued to catch, this roach having a lot of rudd in it’s genes, the pole elastic staying out, until just before the net.


Half an hour into the session, the silver fish stopped and small bubbles began to burst on the surface; a better fish was in the feeding zone. Selecting a large piece of corn, I dropped the bait on top and waited. Rings appeared around the float, before it lifted slightly, then slowly moved off, until it was gone. I lifted and felt the sudden surge of a very good fish, as it ran toward the middle, scattering rudd in it’s wake, the pole bending against the heavy elastic, which stretched out beneath the surface, arcing round back toward the lily bed. Pushing the pole hard over to the right, the fish surfaced in a boil, a dark body visible for a second, before it’s broad black tail forced down again. I was winning the battle, keeping the tench clear of the lilies with it rolling on the surface, then lying on it’s side with a single pectoral fin erect as if in surrender ready for the landing net.


A female tench in perfect condition, which weighed in at 4 lb 4 oz, my best for a long time and certainly the largest I’ve netted on the pole, making my choice of red 12 -18 elastic, the right one.

I continued pulling roach and rudd from the same spot, bread punch and red worm reviving the action, when the bites slowed on the corn. More bubbles produced a perfect tench bite, which I missed, probably in haste. I was joined by another club member, who settled down to fish on the other side of the lily bed. He spotted a large koy carp among the lillies, giving me a running commentary of it’s whereabouts, which was well clear of our baits.

Dave, the other angler, gave me the low down on what was in the lake, no pike, but a few good perch, carp and koy, plus a big goldfish. The environment agency had also introduced a thousand crucian carp into the lake during their improvements, but they had so far failed to show.

A shower of rain seemed to pull the switch on my bites,  so at 4 pm, by which time I would have expected to be catching more tench, I packed up.


The tench dwarfed some of the quality roach and rudd in my net, estimating around 10 lbs taken in two and a half hours of fishing.

The Braybrooke Nature and Fishing Club http://www.bcnfc.btck.co.uk/ are offering a family membership, (two adults and three children) for £25, with an adult ticket at £20. Seniors £15 and juniors over 12 £10.

Indian summer rabbit hunt

October 16, 2016 at 11:48 pm

The autumnal equinox was well past, but the indian summer was causing me to regret the sweater under my shooting jacket, as I trudged the rides of the equestrian centre in search of rabbits, the sun blasting out from behind clouds in an otherwise clear blue sky, causing me to overheat.


Walking through the wood offered only one fleeting flashing white tail, as a rabbit dashed across the path from cover on my right without the expected pause, before it hopped to safety among the nettles. Too quick for a rifle and too close for a shotgun, I consoled myself that it was a fat healthy adult, which was clear of the myxomatosis I’d seen on visits to other permissions lately.

Where ever I looked were squirrels collecting up the harvest of acorns and chestnuts, being tempted to knock over a few for a pie, but know from experience, that once distracted by squirrels, an unseen fat rabbit will bound away from a clear shot, when disturbed.

Patrolling all the usual rabbit hideouts without success, I committed to the long walk along the perimeter fence, where once, every hundred yards would have offered a rabbit, or two, but the reality of today is that these warrens are no longer occupied. Welcome news for the owner and safety for his riders, but slim pickings for me. Still the exercise is good, in clean fresh air, something I reminded myself of, as sweat trickled beneath my cap into an eye.


At last, brown shapes meant rabbits along the fence line, feeding on the new shoots of grass, pushing through from the recent cut. Over a hundred yards away, I crouched low, using a slight rise in the ride as cover, then belly crawled within forty yards, with the Magtech .22, resting the rifle on my bag for a prone shot. Sighting on the nearest and largest animal, I watched it raise it’s ears in alarm, aware of danger, then body pressed to the ground, it sped across the ride into the undergrowth. Other heads were raised and the cross hairs fell on the next in line. Pop, it dropped from a head shot, the others gone in an instant.


Collecting the young buck, it was paunched and bagged before moving on toward a small wood on the far boundary, seeing another small group of rabbits in the field at it’s edge, in range of the HMR, but not the .22 in my hands. This time I had no cover, observing them melt back into the wood one by one.


Reaching the wood, I could hear a couple of rabbits casually making their way through the undergrowth, unaware of my presence and I waited against a tree for sight of them. The rustling continued then stopped and could just make them out beyond a bush about twenty yards from the clearing. They faded from view. After ten minutes I was convinced that they were gone and picked up my bag to go, spooking one into the open, so close that I had to aim high to allow for the scope height on the rifle. Despite the blurred image, the bullet hit head on, tumbling the rabbit.



Smaller than the first, but worth taking, I bagged it up and carried on through the wood without further success, disturbing a red coated muntjac deer from it’s slumber, before coming back out into bright sunshine. With two rabbits weighing me down, I decided to cut back across the paddocks toward the stables, taking a new route alongside a copse in the hope of more quarry, but again no bunnies. Calling it a day, I was soon back in the real world, the van stuck in the rush hour traffic.



Trout river season closes in hope for next year

October 4, 2016 at 2:35 pm

Due to a steady decline in the fishing on my syndicate trout stream this year, I had stayed away, putting the poor results down to too much rain, then not enough; too cold, then too hot, not willing to accept that this once delightful little Hampshire river had fallen off the chart as a viable trout fishery. With only a day left to the season, a warm bright evening drew me back, in the hope that my fears were unfounded.

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This pool looked perfect, clear with a good pace in and out. Standing in the shallows, I cast a favourite size 18 gold head Hares Ear to all the areas that had given me results in recent years without a touch, no small browns, or dace from the shallows, chub from the slack by the reeds and certainly no trout from the centre of the pool. A few small dimpling rises began at the tail of the faster water, as a cloud of tiny flies passed back and forth across the surface. Encouraged I changed over to a size 18 dry Sedge in an effort to catch something. A dimple in this pool once produced a 4lb chub. After a couple of nudges, the sedge was pulled under and a large minnow was catapulted skyward. Only minnows.

Moving round the pool, I made casts up into the faster water with the dry fly, surely this would produce? Although daddy long legs, skipping and skating across the surface, were being ignored, I was convinced that this agitated ripple would raise a fish to the Sedge, the wind allowing me to keep the leader off the surface without any drag. Presentation seemed perfect and my anticipation was in top gear, but again nothing. Back to the Hares Ear and despite a couple of mini taps, which I put down to more minnows, nothing. Last year my final visit had been busy on this pool with good sized dace and a 15 inch brown crowning the evening.

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Moving below the pool, I got back in the river to work the nymph up through the run off, the steep overspill usually stacked with small trout and dace among the weeds and eddies, ready to provide fast and furious sport, as they darted out to seize the goldhead.

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Once again, despite it’s looks, the river failed to raise my hopes, making me wonder whether a pint of maggots would have changed my fortune. I had taken enough mental punishment and decided to try a pool above the road bridge, which has rarely failed me.

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The wind had dropped to leave an untroubled surface, allowing a safe cast of the nymph well up into the flow, as it came round the bend, passing the hot spot beneath the bushes, all without a tweak of the greased leader. The Sedge was tied back on and finally a last gasp Daddy Long Legs, all without even an investigation by a cautious fish.

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This wild brown was my last fish from the pool a September ago, and it is bordering on a tragedy, that the river seems devoid of such specimens. My total tally of wild brown trout this year is just two, both under 12 inches, taken at the back end of this season. Where the rest and the many juveniles have gone is anyone’s guess. Culprits being blamed are mink, pike and crayfish. A fish survey is booked, which could make depressing reading. What of next year? Many members have been disappointed this season and are unlikely to rejoin, although others will be happy to fish for a fresh supply of eager stockies snapping up mayfly, before they rush off downstream towards the Thames.

Myxomatosis zombie rabbits outbreak

September 28, 2016 at 8:36 pm

With two of my shooting permissions cursed by the return of myxomatosis, I was pleased to be offered the shooting rights on a large public park, where a growing population of rabbits, were beginning dig up the carefully manicured cricket pitches. Due to public access, the permission was granted between the ours of dusk and dawn, with the stipulation that air rifles only were to be used.

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Already fitted with a push button torch that can throw a tight beam a hundred yards, I took my two shot, Webley Viper Venom PCP .22 along for the first walk round, arriving well after sunset to find that the park was popular with evening dog walkers. Keeping the rifle in it’s slip, I toured the likely looking holding areas, which included a wooded railway embankment and a stand of horse chestnut trees, where one of the wooden cricket pavillions was situated. In the gloom beneath the trees a few rabbits were chasing about, but were gone under the pavillion, before I could unzip the Webley. There was a strong odour of rabbit from the building, which was mounted off the ground on slabs, where several rabbit runs were visible.

I decided to stake this area out, sitting on a fallen tree in cover, with a view of the back of the pavillion, any rabbits emerging from the runs would give good warning, due to the dry leaf litter. After 10 minutes, the faltering rustle of leaves warned of an approach behind me. I spun round to face the the animal, which stopped in it’s tracks. Straining my eyes and ears, I made out a lighter shape moving slowly left to right about twenty five yards away in the direction of the pitch. Once on the pitch it would be an easier target, but plumbed for “a bird in the hand is worth two in a bush” theory and flicked on the lamp to reveal the trotting rabbit. A stationary shot would have been aimed at the head, but now I fired at the chest. It jumped and turned back to the wood, stopping near a tree. With one shot left, the crosshairs settled just behind it’s eye. Phut! It toppled over. With the extra silencer attached to the shrouded barrel, the report from the rifle sounds weak, but at 30 yards the .22 pellet has all the hitting power to stop the largest of rabbits.

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Although in apparent perfect condition, the white area around it’s closed up eyes were early signs of myxomatosis. I put on my rubber gloves, before picking it up by the hind legs and throwing it deep into a bush, where it would be out of reach of nosy dogs. Some people say that rabbits in this condition are safe to eat, but I prefer not to tempt fate. I went back to the stake out and waited for the tell tale rustle. This time it came from the pavillion and I flicked on the light to see the white tail and heels of a rabbit, bobbing round to the front of the building. Nipping round from my end, the rabbit was sitting bolt upright in the glare, I raised the rifle and fired. In that instant it was gone. Had I hit it, or missed? I swept the area with the beam and walked around the building. Nothing. I’d now made too much disturbance and headed down to walk the embankment.

Rabbits could be heard in the deep undergrowth, but I needed one to come out of cover, shining the torch among the nettles, seeing only the ghostly movements of unhittable targets as they made for safety. Along the path, a shape appeared, a rabbit with it’s back to me, taking my time to aim into the neck between it’s ears. The thwack from the hit drowned out the rifle, the rabbit falling forward without a twitch. Going over to the kill, my elation fell away with the sad sight of a rabbit in the final stages of myxomatosis. This had been a mercy killing. The disease is caused by infected fleas, which create sores, that the rabbit will scratch until it draws blood, while the eyes swell up oozing puss.

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Myxomatosis was invented by man and introduced into Australia, where it devastated the rabbit population, it’s intended aim. After World War II, commercial warrens were no longer viable in England, as cheap meat from the Commonwealth became available and this painful disease was introduced here with similar effects. Today such a method would be banned, but strains of the disease continue to flourish in the wild rabbit population. Some are immune, others recover, but it is something once seen, never forgotten.

Crucians find corn sweet spot

September 20, 2016 at 5:07 pm

Sidelined from any form of physical effort, due to a damaged tendon in my fishing arm, I was finally free of it’s protective sling and under advice from the doctor to begin some moderate exercise this week. With this in mind, I emptied my tackle box of all but my pole fishing essentials, loaded up the trolley and set off on foot toward the local pond. The weather forecaster on TV, had just assured me that it would be mainly dry with the odd spit and spot of rain, so in the interests of a light load, the waterproofs had been evicted from my bag to be replaced by a once shower proof jacket.

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Two other anglers sat side by side in my intended spot and I moved twenty yards round the bend, where there were gaps in a weed bed, although in front of me was a solid wall of greenery and brambles. Also turfed out of the tackle box had been a sturdy pair of secateurs, leaving me with only a 2 inch bladed penknife to cut an opening through the tangled jungle. Fortunately, during my enforced recuperation, a review of my tackle had relieved a couple of hours of boredom, during which this usually blunt knife, won many years ago at a Christmas Match, had been honed on a stone to a dangerous level of sharpness. Making short work of the green saplings and more stubborn brambles, 15 minutes with the knife produced a hole large enough for the pole, which coincided with the spits and spots of rain turning into a steady downpour.

Rough bread crumb, hempseed and a bag of sweet corn had been retrieved from the freezer before lunch, the combination now added to ground fish pellets to make a soft ground bait, ideal for this shallow pond, with four good balls lobbed 8 metres out to the edge of the weed bed. With immediate effect, rudd were splashing on the surface mopping up the larger pieces of still floating bread, which allowed time to set up my stall, selecting a small home made waggler rig with the hook line to hand on the top three sections. The hook was a size 14 barbless, just right for sweetcorn.

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By the time I was ready to fish, the surface seemed clear of rudd, but the float sliding across the surface said otherwise and I lifted into a better specimen, that skated into the weeds, throwing the hook. Half a dozen smaller rudd stayed on long enough to be swung to hand, before a cast that saw the float settle and sink to the tip. It bobbed, then lifted a fraction, to moved slowly away and under, a classic carp bite. The strike was met by a rapid, elastic stripping run into weed on my left and keeping an angle on the pole, fed it back behind, where the high bank forced me to unship two sections, then another two, as the common carp was drawn toward the bank. Now with the top three sections in hand, the 12-18 elastic did it’s work and the pound fish was guided to the net.

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Next cast, a similar bite, another carp in the weeds, but this time just a bunch of weed, the hook being dumped. Back in, a dithering bite resulted in the juddering fight of a decent crucian carp, that was soon in the net, the hook only in the skin of the lip.

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Bubbles were now popping up among the raindrops and the fish had their heads down, intercepting the sweetcorn on the drop, as I had slid the shot up around the base of the float. Next out was another small common, still fighting when the hook was removed.

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I now lost three crucians on the trot. They were gliding away with the corn, only lightly hooked and twisting off, even against the elastic, the hook falling out of the next, once the pressure was off in the net.

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I cut off the barbless and tied on a size 14 whisker barb hook, my wet hands coping with the whip knot more by muscle memory ,than anything else. This did the trick and even the lightest penetration held.

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This carp had a massive fan tail, testament to the mix of fish in the pond. I also caught a few small tench, like a bar of wet soap, they slip through the fingers, writhing with the strength of fish much larger, unable to capture a picture for the camera. The rain kept falling, while crucians were first to the bait.

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This was the best crucian carp; of around a pound, it made it to the weed bed, coming in festooned with the stuff, the fish not having a scale out of place. By 5:30 pm, the rain had soaked through to my back and arms, deciding that the next fish would be my last, being rewarded by another clonker.

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The other two anglers had packed up soon after the rain had started, watching me for a while, before heading off to their cars. Fishing maggots, they had been plagued by small rudd, plus the odd good one, but had no carp. I bet they have some corn next time. Pulling in my keepnet, I could hear that I had a decent bag, the net bouncing my 15 lb scales.

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Floating bread carp action at the pond

August 23, 2016 at 6:41 pm

A couple of weeks touring in my campervan, with strict instructions to leave the rods behind, had me weighing up the many options on my return, ending with indecision and no fishing. Living in a town that is blessed with cycle paths, my afternoon health kick saw me detour to the banks of a local pond, which I had discounted due to a large and growing population of Canada geese, which make baiting and fishing impossible. This time, no geese and very few ducks, while carp and rudd were topping all over the surface. On the cycle ride home, the fishing trip took shape, bread from the freezer would be thawed in time for a couple of hours after tea, while hooks had to be tied and floats inspected.

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Walking down to the pond I saw another angler in my chosen swim, a bay flanked by overhanging bushes. He, like me had been tempted to fish, while out cycling, his chosen bait a can of sweet corn from the kitchen. He had not caught anything due to the cursed rudd knocking the bait. I don’t mind catching rudd, in fact any carp would be a by product of catching them on the bread.

I’d obviously been a bit too casual getting ready, as the only angler free swim was on a bare bank with open water, but if needs be I could make the cast toward island. The water here is only about 18 inches deep over thick black mud and I intended to fish a short 2 AA waggler with no weight down the line and 24 inch tail.

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Being used to bread fed to the ducks, the carp often cruise just below the surface sucking in the half sunk morsels missed by our feathered friends and my method is to compress the bread punch into the slice, then drag a ragged piece of flake with it. The hook sits in the compressed pellet, while the flake is buoyant, allowing the bait to float up close to the surface, which can produce some exciting fishing. I made up a tray of sloppy mashed bread and sprayed it out toward the middle, then cast in among it. Dragging the float back a foot brought an immediate response with the float skidding under. A silver flash on the strike saw the first and smallest of many rudd to come across to my net.

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Eager to grab any bait, these rudd are the main target during the school holidays and it’s good to see boy and girls fishing as a diversion from their iPhones, although rod in one hand and phone in the other is a common sight. The rudd got better, a few rod benders among them.

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Several times a carp would nudge the bait, the float not moving, while at others the sunken line would give a line bite with no fish. A broad back rising out of the water was the first sign of a large carp as it sucked in the bread, the strike meeting instant acceleration and a spinning reel handle, black mud rising in the direction of the island. After a 30 yard run, this fish went to sleep, allowing me to reel it slowly over to my bank, but then the switch was pulled and it zoomed by unseen in the mud, to find refuge under a bush out of sight, wallowing in the shallows. Once again I reeled it back, my 12.5 foot Normark float rod bent double, parallel with the surface, until the big common made a break for the open water, running through the baited area, scattering rudd and carp alike. Keeping the rod high, pressure was beginning to tell and the fish started to roll with short runs. The landing net was out. It turned for one more burst of speed and the hook came out. The forged size 16 barbless had opened out, the 90 degree crystal bend, now being 130 degrees. A gasp from behind stifled the curse on my lips. A couple out for an evening walk round the pond, had stopped to watch the battle, unaware of the size of fish beneath the dark waters.

I gathered my thoughts, tying on another hook and link. I usually fish here with a size 14 forged hook, but again opted for the lighter size 16, which would allow the bread to float better. The last remnants of mashed bread were thrown out into the now blackened water and I cast out again, waiting five minutes before the float sank again. Poised for a carp, another nice rudd was skimmed over the surface. They were still there, the stirred up bottom acting like a magnet, as more rudd fell to the method; cast in, allow to sink, wait, then draw the float back a foot, the float going at any time during the process. I missed a few, but not a slow sink that saw more hectic action with a smaller common clattering clear of the surface with a roll that wrapped the line around it. By comparison to the first carp, this settled into a routine, that I would win, drawing the 3 lb fish over the net, before it could run again.

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It was now past 8 pm and the light was fading fast as the sun sank below the houses behind me, the float tip just visible in the gloom. It vanished trailing line. I struck and missed. Carp, or rudd? Casting again, the bread was taken as the float cocked. I was into another carp, this time a runner stopping in his tracks to observe the rod bending fight, that went in ever decreasing circles, sinking the net and lifting as it passed. About the same size as the last, the hook sat just at the edge of it’s mouth, a decent tug would have pulled it free.

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Time to pack up; I’d had two hours of constant bites, 20 odd battling rudd and two respectable carp on light tackle, plus one near double, that was almost mine. A lesson learned? Instead of thinking about it, go fishing more.


Evening trout river small rewards

August 15, 2016 at 10:43 am

Following a busy day finally getting round to completing a variety of small “must fix that someday” tasks around the house and garden, I was still restless and the thought of watching the Olympics all evening did not appeal. My local syndicate trout river has been hard work this season, but scores higher than a gold medal in my books, so with a fishing pass from my wife, I was on my way towards the setting sun.

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The full flush of spring is now long gone and with no rain for a couple of weeks, the river was low and clear, allowing me to wade in safety. Studying the surface, no rises were evident and opted to fish a compromise method, a Black Devil nymph fished under a  heavily greased leader, that suspended it a foot beneath the surface.

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In seasons gone by, I would have expected to have seen fish rising all along this stretch, but today I was happy to go through the motions, as I waded upstream, casting the nymph to all the likely holding areas as I went. Casting to the outside of a bend, the nymph had barely begun to sink, when the line straightened and I was playing a tail-walking juvenile brownie, that dashed across the surface towards me, as I set the hook. Being the first wild brown trout I’ve hooked from this end of the water this year, I was relieved, when it dived to fight at my feet, putting a decent bend in the rod, as I reeled back my surplus line. The net was in the reeds behind me, but soon under the fin perfect, brown.

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Spurred on by my success, I waded up under the trees, where a bed of exposed gravel caused the river to rattle over the stones into a fast run. In ones and twos, fish were rising in the disturbed water and I cast the Black Devil to drift back down among them. After a few short stabbing missed takes, the nymph was ignored. It was obviously dace, but decided anything was better than nothing and tied on a size 16 Deer Hair Sedge. I couldn’t see what they were taking, but the sedge is a good allrounder at this time of year and rubbed in with floatant, it would ride the rough water. Casting almost onto the stones, the fly spun round in an eddy and was gone in a splash; a flick of the wrist and a silver dace was hooked and swung to hand. Another 5 inch dace followed and I dropped the sedge short into the slower water to be met with solid resistance as I lifted off. The surface foamed, then the hook flew free. Another trout, or a large dace? My chance of a better fish from this pool was gone and I moved on.

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Working my way upstream, the sedge was cast blind in the hope of inducing a take, the only rise coming from a chublet that raised my hopes briefly of something better. Where are the small trout that used to plague this stream? With the sedge waterlogged, I tied on a gold head Hares Ear for a last throw of the dice, it being down to chance, as the nymph bumped along the bottom, a once productive pool finally coming up trumps with a positive take and a bend in the rod from a small perch.

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Try as I might, I could not persuade any of this little chap’s brothers to take and with a last minute hatch of flies failing to bring anything to the surface, made my way back to the van. Not a spectacular result, but a pleasure to be out on a warm evening in high summer.

Small river tales of the unexpected

July 27, 2016 at 6:02 pm

With left over red maggots in the fridge beginning to turn to casters, it was a case of “having” to go fishing this week and decided that the river Thames at Windsor would be the ideal venue, but by lunch time, cloud cover had burned away, leaving one of those still, hot, dog day afternoons. I didn’t fancy the long walk from the car park to an exposed bank of the Thames and changed my mind at the last minute, to visit my much closer local river for the first time this season, where I would be sitting under trees in the shade.

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My secluded, shady swim was no more, the old oak had fallen, taking out those alongside, leaving an open space blasted by the sun, the recently revealed bank a now popular fishing spot with easy access. Those overhanging trees had given shelter to some rod bending chub on my last visit and I settled down for a comfortable, if hot, few hour’s fishing. The river was down by six inches and barely moving along the outside of the bend.

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The maggots were well past their sell-by date and the frozen lump picked from the freezer thawed out to be an ancient mix of hemp and casters put back in after a long forgotten session. Liberally feeding under the opposite bank with both offerings, I set up with my Middy 3 No 4 stick float, setting the depth for the bait to just trip bottom, while pushing the No 6 shot up to give a 10 inch tail.

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Cast to the far side, the float had no time to cock before it slid away upstream and a healthy rudd was kiting back over to my outstretched net, a bit too big to swing in.

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More casts, more rudd, many too small for the net, the response instant from the shoal packed under the bush. Dropping the float short met a dip, then a lift, before it sank purposefully away, the strike putting a proper bend in the rod as the fish hugged the bottom, the barred green flanks of a chunky perch showing for a moment as it turned.

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Caster, or maggot made no difference to these fish, the float rarely travelling more than a few feet before it sank, regular feed keeping them interested. After an hour the net was filling with small perch and rudd, plus the occasional roach, but the expected chub were still missing, when the float vanished, the rod setting the hook into a fast running fish, that took me down beneath the trees. At last a decent chub, but then a bronze flash well downstream suggested a carp, another flash and a deep thudding fight said bream. The size 16 barbless hook held and the bream turned, heading upstream along the far side, churning up mud in it’s wake, as it wallowed with it’s last ounce of resistance, before laying on it’s side for the landing net.

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Thick set across the shoulder, this bronze bream at around 2 lb, is small for it’s species, but big for this little waterway, more of a brook, than a river. When I first moved to the area and fished six years ago, smaller bream were common among a net of roach, but apart from a three pounder a few years back, they seemed to have disappeared.

Cleaning the slime from the line, I tried again on the same trot, the float easing out of sight, this time the unmistakable bouncing fight of a nice roach met the strike and a good sized, if not battered looking specimen was in the net.

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The roach now seemed over the hemp and I deepened up by six more inches, casting in, then holding back hard, producing bites that almost hooked themselves, one such bringing a small skimmer bream to prove that the big one was not a total fluke.

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At 5 pm my deadline was reached, bringing in another roach. Traffic was building up on the road only yards from the river and I had promised to be home by 6 pm for my favourite meal, smoked haddock with two poached eggs on top.

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A real net full, no chub, or the usual gudgeon, but a good, no pressure catch on a hot, lazy afternoon.

Low water trout search

July 23, 2016 at 4:54 pm

It had been over a month since my last visit to the lower end of  my syndicate trout stream, arriving late in the evening in the hope of seeing a few rising fish, following days of hot sunshine.


The sun was setting behind the trees, while the grass was already full of dew, as I walked down to the bottom of the beat, the  invasive giant hogweed and Himalayan balsam competing for bank space and restricting my view of the river.The river it’self had been transformed, with exposed gravel and attractive runs, where previously I had not dared to wade.

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The lack of working parties in the area was apparent, as I waded up through this run, keeping the casts short to avoid snagging, my Black Devil nymph hooking a few small dace, but no trout in the process. Always carrying a set of secateurs, I trimmed my way upstream, taking out several overhanging branches. Next time I will be able to pass the nymph closer to the left hand bank, where I would hope to find a trout.

Moving on down to a tree lined section, I forced my way through the balsam to find a long pool, where several trout had been rising last month to mayfly, but now the surface was clear, despite the surface being patrolled by clouds of flies of several types, even a few mayfly. Getting down into the water, side casts put the nymph into the faster water beneath overhanging branches, the line straightening as a good dace dived away first cast.

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With so few wild trout showing this year, in the gloom beneath the trees, I thought I had one, until ready to net this silver dart. More followed, most takes missed, some smaller dace merely tumbled. As the light faded fish began to rise all over the pool, ignoring the nymph and I reached into my dry fly box for a Deer Hair Sedge. Rubbing floatant grease into the clipped hair body, I cast amid the rises in the run, contacting another dace instantly.

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Several hits later the fly was waterlogged and I tried to tie on a fresh sedge, not realising in my haste, that the eye was blocked by varnish. Frustrating time was wasted failing the get the line through the eye, until a few seconds using the little spike tool attached to my jacket cleared the obstruction and the knot was completed. The rises had stopped, but I cast the fly around beneath the overhanging branches, barely able to see the fly in the surface film. The water boiled and I was in, the rod bending double with a tail flapping trout, that disappeared into the dark water, followed by the leader cutting a V through the surface upstream. The trout passed by several times, it’s white lips the only visible sign, it’s dark body unseen against the black gravel of the bottom, finally drawing the fish down into my awaiting net.

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In perfect condition, this 18 inch stock fish saved the day. Once a back-up to the many wild brown trout found in the river, they now seem to outnumber the natives. Allowed to recover in the net for a few minutes, the brownie was soon swimming free.