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Storming brown trout

June 18, 2016 at 7:59 pm

The mixed up weather conditions conspired to keep me away from the river bank this week, heavy showers and thunder storms coming out of nowhere, whenever my fly fishing gear was in the van. The roads were still running with rain water from the latest offering from the gods, when I set out from home at about 7 pm. Beyond the black clouds, a gold line of clear sky was showing through and I drove west toward it, in the direction of my syndicate trout river.

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I had no idea of the state of the river following the downpours and was prepared to turn round, then head back home, if it was flooded, but apart from an increased pace, it was running clear. Welcomed by bleating sheep, I walked the 600 yards to my preferred stop, where the river forms an S bend as it drops over a ford. This has been a happy hunting ground for me in the past, where fish can be seen dashing back from the shallows into the deep pool above. This evening there were no signs of fish, despite hatches of blue winged olives climbing free of the surface and the occasional mayfly.

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The river was as still as a mill pond, undisturbed by rising fish and I cast a small Black Klinkhammer further and further up the pool with no response. I repeated the process, this time with a Flashback GRHE drifted back, with the leader greased to within two feet of the nymph. Not a twitch. There is something wrong with the river this season, dace and small trout are usually the curse of this pool, but 30 minutes of trying produced a blank.

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Gathering up my gear, I continued my way downstream, flicking the nymph up into every likely run. Again not a twitch of the line to show the slightest sign of interest from a trout, or any tell-tale rises on the surface. A drift along the side of a tree on my bank was routine, casting more in habit than expectation, when a buzz of the leader was followed by an underwater bulge. The trap was sprung and my rod lifted to feel the full weight of a very good fish, which powered off upstream, scything through trailing branches in it’s path and I lowered my rod tip to the surface to avoid being snagged. I did what I could to slow this charging fish, a silvery flash making me think it was an escapee rainbow from upstream, the manic tumbling convincing me that the fight would soon be over in favour of the trout. The hook held and the trout turned back, the now revealed brownie running past my outstretched net to the dark water below me. A surface roll demonstrated weakness and I put pressure on to pull the two pound trout over my net, lifting it clear in one swoop.

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This well conditioned 18 inch brownie, with just a hint of gold on it’s flanks, had been hooked in the nose, the barbless nymph falling free in the net. When checking this against my images of others caught this year, I’d landed this one a few weeks ago a hundred yards upstream, no doubt dropping back to what it thought a safe home. I continued downstream to the end of the beat, then turned and made my way back up without another touch, the brief encounter worth the effort as the storm clouds gathered once more.

Latimer Park Fishery Rainbow Reward

June 10, 2016 at 9:45 am

Knowing of my hard time trying to extract trout from the syndicate trout river, life long friend Peter, invited me to fish with him on a guest ticket at his exclusive trout fishery,  Latimer Park, this week. The crystal clear river Chess was dammed in the 1750’s to power a mill owned by the Cavendish family, who built the original mansion at the top of the hill, but today all that remain are two lakes, the upper Great Water and Lower Water, both stocked with rainbows. Atop the hill is now the mock Tudor hall built in the 1800’s with views along the Latimer Valley sculptured in typical Capability Brown style.

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Arriving after 10 am, the car park was almost full and Peter was apprehensive, that the fishing would not live up to my expectations, but the further we walked along the bank chatting to the regulars, the more optimistic he became. Despite the sun beating down from a cloudless sky, reports were positive and we crossed the upper weir to an empty bank, setting up between two trees.

On our side, the wind was blowing from left to right, ideal for a pair of righthanders and we were soon casting to the edge of surface weed, where we could see moving fish. Peter was first in, only to lose it seconds later, next cast it happened again. With my leader greased to within a foot of the Gold Ribbed Hares Ear, I watched a rainbow approach the nymph, it’s gill covers move, then it’s head move, as it sucked in the artificial. Before the line moved, I struck and felt the weight of a good rainbow, that charged off towards the upper weir. I’d forgotten how powerful these rainbows are in this shallow lake and used the palm of my hand to slow several runs that this first fish made.

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Under club rules this 19 inch fish was killed, the 3 rd and last can also be taken, but fish mongering was not the aim today, although catching fish was. A longer cast meant watching the leader and a twitch of the line met the solid hit of a strike, with another rainbow boiling on the surface, before running off. Now Peter was into a good rainbow, keeping this one on the hook all the way to the net. My fish took longer to land, being a deep fish of at least 3 lb and 21 inches long.

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After this one was returned, I reached for an iced drink in my bag, the sun was blazing down causing me to overheat and stripped down a T shirt, before continuing. It wasn’t long before the leader moved again and the rod was bent double countering run after run. Each time the net came out, the rainbow made off at warp speed in the opposite direction, but the barbless hook held, the Hares Ear firmly wedged in the scissors of it’s jaw.

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Even deeper and 20 inches long, this rainbow never stopped giving it’s best, propelled by a full tail, speeding off like a torpedo, when returned. A surface scum had begun to drift down wind and the takes had dried up, so we picked up our baggage and moved further down the bank, where the lake widens out, giving more open water on our side. Line twitches indicated more takes, but we failed to hit most, a smaller rainbow being my last on the bank.

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The shadow of my camera hands, shows how intense the sun was beating down and after this fourth rainbow was returned, we packed up, making the long walk back to the clubhouse. Pete had banked three fish and dropped several, giving plenty of sport in two hours of fishing, being pleased that I had enjoyed my day in this leafy part of England.

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A small rise brings a big surprise

June 4, 2016 at 10:25 am

A couple of days of heavy rain had coloured up my syndicate trout river this week and I didn’t know what to expect, when I parked up at the bottom end of the fishery this week. From the road bridge, the water had a hint of colour, but mayfly were lifting off, although unusually no fish were rising above, or below the bridge.

I opted to fish upstream and climbing the stile was met by a wall of freshly grown ferns, stinging nettles and young Himalayan Balsam, all untroubled by human feet.

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Wading my way through this chest high undergrowth, the tree lined bank opened up to reveal a short clearing, where I stopped to study the surface. Mayfly were coming off in a steady stream, while grannoms and other flies skittered over the surface, all the ingredients for the river to come alive with rising fish, be it dace, chub, or trout, but nothing stirred. There was a strong north, upstream wind blowing, rippling the surface and beneath a bush, I thought I saw a rise in the surface disturbance. Waiting and watching for a few minutes, the ghostly image of a good trout appeared for a second to top and tail then disappeared again in the ripple.

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I guessed that this fish was feeding on mayfly nymphs, ignoring the flies drifting by on the surface, but decided to try some casts with my attached elk hair emerger, the wind aiding a soft landing each time. Third cast the fly landed to drift a foot, then submerge in a tiny ring. An instinctive lift of the rod connected with solid resistance and the trout launched it’self in a vertical jump, to fall back with a crash that sent it speeding upstream round the corner out of sight, but not sound, as it tumbled over the surface in the shallower water. Pushing the rod out over the river, I stripped back line, bringing the boiling trout back into view, watching it turn to run down the opposite bank. Thinking that I had it beat, I tightened the line with the landing net ready, only for the brownie to rush away upstream, with me following in pursuit. One last lunge for the corner bush sapped the two pounder’s reserves and it casually swam into my lowered net, the fly firmly set in the tip of it’s nose coming free once the pressure was off.

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A strong well proportion trout, more silver than brown, this fish was content to sit in my net facing upstream for ten minutes before swimming free.

I continued to explore this overgrown half mile of fishery, which is neglected by the governing club, making my way to a copse, where I had cut a path through on my own private working party during the winter months. Then a tree lopping exercise along the bank had exposed a fishable few yards and was please to see that it had survived the early summer growth.

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A perfect ending to this tale would have been another trout on the bank, but despite ringing the changes with dry fly and nymphs, the evening ended without another offer and a question mark over the shortage of fish.

Big trout mayfly bonus

May 29, 2016 at 9:47 am

Floods and stormy weather had kept me away from my syndicate trout river at a time when it should have been at it’s best, but after a few warm days, I was ready to brave the Friday evening rush hour traffic in the hope of a few hours fishing the mayfly.

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Since my last visit the bankside vegetation was now in full bloom and mayfly were lifting off in droves, although very few fish were rising to them. I stood and watched a pair of black-headed gulls swooping down to the surface picking off the protein rich insects, a sight that I’ve not witnessed before. In the distance a cuckoo was calling.

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Tying on a parachute hackled bodied mayfly, which I liberally greased with floatant, I went in search of rising fish, that were accessible to my casts. This part of the fishery does not enjoy the benefit of working parties and every impenetrable section of  bank seemed to have a large trout swiping with abandon at the mayfly among the overhanging branches.

I’d walked half a mile downstream before I had half a chance of a cast, where a fish was rising up inside a tunnel of trees, dashing around taking multiple flies, as they drifted down to toward it’s holt. Picking my way along the high bank, I was eventually in casting range, extending my landing net in anticipation, while I waited for another burst of action.

Splosh! The action began again as more mayfly climbed out into the surface film, to be gobbled down before they could stretch their wings. Aided by an upstream wind, I measured my false casts to the side of the fish, then aimed for the centre of the commotion. The fly was slashed beneath the surface, the trout’s tail flicking to carry it to the next victim. The strike saw an eruption of the surface, followed by head shaking rolls as it scorched off down stream, taking line and bending my little seven foot rod to the limit. Having lost my previous three fish from the river this season in these opening seconds, I was relieved when the brownie turned and dived deep, setting the hook firmly in the jaw, being only a matter of time before it would be beaten. I was in no rush, the landing net just reaching as I drew the trout over it.

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Already fat from feasting on nature’s short lived mayfly bounty, this 18 inch fish was soon returned in my landing net facing upstream, swimming out after a ten minute wait to recover it’s strength.

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As I continued downstream, I could hear more crashing takes among the trees and pushed my way through to the bank to see another trout attacking the mayfly as they drifted from under a branch. Gradually extending my casts, my fly was constantly ignored, the trout taking the genuine article only inches away each time. Taking a chance, I pushed the fly to the base of the branch, it settled, then was engulfed in a swirl, that exploded when the hook found bone. Not giving the trout time to dive to safety of it’s lair, I dragged it back on the surface, causing it to tail walk, before crash diving into the open water. Once again my 4 weight rod bent double taking the shocks, as another big brownie sought out sanctuary among the the roots, firm pressure bringing it back to the surface and the net.

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This trout measured 19 inches and fought like a demon despite despite obvious damage caused by a heron. Once released after recovering in my net, it headed back upstream to sulk beneath the safety of the overhang.

I continued down to the end of the beat, watching other trout mopping up their free harvest of mayfly, but unable to cast a line, waders and definitely a pole saw would have helped, but it was good to see fish rising in a river that appeared barren a few cold weeks ago.

Urban brown trout save the day

May 13, 2016 at 8:09 pm

So far this year, my river trout fishing season has been a near nonevent with visits lucky to see a take, let alone hook a trout, the sum total for at least half a dozen outings on three different waters, being three fish lost. The cold snap, that came with the first weeks of official summertime saw low water temperatures and little fly life. The rivers looked perfect, but nothing was moving.

In the last week the wind changed round from the cold north to the south, with a double digit increase in temperatures bringing out shorts and T shirts from the draw, while the air was suddenly full of flying insects. With a three day ticket and unable to fish my nearby syndicate river until Thursday, I hoped to finally christen my new rod and reel, but then the rains came, then came again, causing flash flooding that changed the clear waters to muddy chocolate. Thursday was full of warm sunshine and determined to fish, I took on the task of crossing evening flows of traffic exiting London, to get to an urban river that is rarely affected by floods, although I had my doubts, when I saw the river Thames rushing by in spate, during my hour long journey.

The chalk stream, once power for many mills and factories along it’s route, looked clear as I drove over it to park among the houses, seeing a wading angler already fishing downstream.

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I usually start downstream and walk up, but without wanting to intrude on the other fly fisher, my only option was the fifty yards above the bridge. Stopping to look upstream, the surface was covered by zigzagging grannoms, while here and there mayfly were lifting off, although nothing was rising to them. Looking down to the clean gravel, trout are often visible, but there were none on show in the evening light. At this point I realised that my trout bag clear out the other day had not resulted in the return of my polaroids.

Tying on a size 16 mini gold head, gold ribbed Hares Ear, I began searching out the runs between the early weed growth, casting up and across, watching the greased leader as it drifted back with the rapid flow. The line sped upstream and I lifted the rod to see the grey outline of a trout appear like magic above the gravel bed, as the hook took hold, then a flash of gold, when it turned to rush downstream. So far this year, this has been the time when the barbless hook has come free, but it stayed firm, putting a satisfying bend in my 7 ft 4 WT rod. The run was stopped, then turned, the brown running back upstream past me, before drifting back to the net.

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Signs of a late spring, this wild brown was very lean, the 13 inch fish full of fight, but well down on weigh for May, the tiny gold head nymph firmly set in the scissors of it’s jaw. Returned immediately after this pic, it was held facing upstream until it kicked away to freedom.

The nymph soon struck gold again, with a 9 inch brown running away upstream, fighting well beyond it’s weight. Unhooked, I held it up for another pic, only for it to flip back into the stream to be gone from sight. Twenty minutes into the session and I’d already had two trout, restoring the faith in my ability. Moving further upstream, a laurel bush grows out across the river, acting as an upstream barrier and a safe haven for larger fish. Making casts to the base of the bush, the leader zipped forward and I was playing another good trout, which boiled on the surface, then thankfully got it’s head down, pulling hard upstream to the bush, before giving up to run in the opposite direction, eventually bringing the wildie onto it’s side and the net.

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At 12 inches , this was another thin trout in need of a few mayfly hatches to pack on some weight. I’d been on the water for half an hour and had covered my stretch; the other angler had gone, having worked up to the bridge, so walked back downstream two hundred yards to where the river passes under another road bridge and out of sight behind houses. The sun was already hidden by the trees as I fished upstream, the light not penetrating the river, not ideal for the nymph. There were no more takes, possibly the wading angler had put them all down.

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As I walked, mayfly began to lift off, skating free of the surface and trout began to rise all over the river. I had no mayflies with me, not expecting a hatch until later in the month and looked for something bushy with a wing, finding a size 12 Deer Hair Sedge. The light was going fast and the trout were rising, a combination to make the tying on of the Sedge a matter of  “more haste, less speed” as the line refused to enter the eye, then once successfully passed through, the line had a mind of it’s own forming the knot.

The trout waited, many jumping clear of the water in a desperate bid to gorge themselves before the hatch finished. I made a cast to the general area of splashes, the fly disappeared in a swirl and contact, a trout was on, cartwheeling across the surface toward the bank. I swung it in, the four ounce brown sliding through my fingers, rustling through the bankside stinging nettles, before falling back with a plop. A few false casts and the fly landed again, the wind dragging the line, a better fish taking as I lifted off, which fought unseen by me, applying pressure to bring it to the surface, it’s splashes guiding my net. A more plump brownie hooked in the nose, which was lowered back to the water in my net to swim free. The light was fading and my picture was blurred, but I’ve posted it anyway.

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I had broken my duck with some exciting fishing and the new rod had performed as I’d hoped. Next visit will include polaroids and a box of mayflies.

 

Crucian and common carp fishing in the rain

May 12, 2016 at 10:38 am

My shooting and fishing plans were put on hold this week, with the arrival of warm winds carrying thundery showers, that saw me trapped in the house, scraping round doing unnecessary jobs, much to the satisfaction of my wife, who resurrected a long lost list of chores. Eventually these were done and I moved on to cleaning my rifles, then sorting out my fly fishing bag. Attempts to work in the garden were thwarted by fresh showers every time the sun broke through. I found myself reciting a nursery rhyme of my childhood “Rain, rain, go away, come again another day” a chant that my siblings and I would make, while pressed against a misted up window, as the rain lashed down.  By 4 pm today, only a slight drizzle was coming down and donning my waterproofs, headed out on foot to my local pond a quarter of  a mile away.

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True to form, by the time I reached the pond, a fresh dark cloud had begun disgorging heavy droplets, but by now I was beyond caring and went about duties, setting up a pole in the hope of a few carp before the day was out. Mixing up some ground bait of coarse bread crumbs, laced with hempseed, dusted by ground carp pellets, the lot was balled in along a line 7 metres out.

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The surface erupted as rudd attacked the feed, the lightly squeezed balls spreading out on the bottom an investment for later. With sweet corn as hook bait, I scattered a dozen grains over the area, then returned to setting out my stall with everything to hand, with no need to leave the comfort of the tackle box. The final job was to attach the float rig, a cut down canal grey waggler float to a size 14 barbless hook.

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Within seconds of the sweetcorn hitting the surface, the float sailed away and I lifted into the first fish of the afternoon, a four ounce rudd.

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Rudd followed rudd in quick succession, aided by the rain, which lubricated the pole as it was shipped  back and forth, the brightly coloured fish beginning to fill the net. There was no let up in the action, the only variation being a nice roach that managed to get to the front of the queue.

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It was 90 minutes into the session at 6:30, that bubbles began to erupt from the fed area, as the long awaited carp moved in, pushing out the rudd. Like a switch being pulled, the bites changed from zoom aways, to gentle dips of the float, sometimes the tip seeming to vibrate, before it slowly moved away and down.

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A small common was the first in the net, it’s bite so like a crucian, the elastic coming out of the pole, as it ran for cover. The next bite was definitely a crucian, the juddering fight a dead giveaway.

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Having cursed the constant showers, the sun now appeared below the clouds as it sank in the sky, it’s glow on the surface blinding me to the delicate actions of the float tip, forcing me to fish either side of the glare, taking me away from the shoal of crucians, but to the attention of the common carp.

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The bites were slower, but more predictable, taps and lifts developing into unmissable slide aways. The sweet corn was still doing it’s job, the size of grain no guide to the size of fish, the biggest common of the evening falling for a tiny piece.

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This fatty took the elastic out to full stretch in an attempt to reach the safety of  a bed of lilies, but the hook held. The carp kept coming right up to my allotted cut off time of 8 pm. I could have gone on catching, but my wife had a home cooked shepherds pie waiting for me, the rumbles that I could hear being my stomach not thunder. The rain had been warm, everything was wet, but the session had proved productive, well worth a soaking.

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The carp crowded out at the many rudd in this net, just under 14 lb of fish proof of a busy, but rewarding three hours.

Magtech .22 finds rabbits in the bluebell wood.

May 4, 2016 at 7:02 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

April 29, 2016 at 4:59 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Rabbit pest control with the Magtech 7002 .22

April 6, 2016 at 10:40 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Rabbit hunting with shooting sticks and the Magtech 7022

March 31, 2016 at 9:33 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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