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Winter roach play hard to get

February 5, 2016 at 11:41 pm

The remnants of the latest Atlantic weather system to sweep the UK was blowing it’self out over the Western Isles, producing wind speeds of 90 mph, while storm Henry blew sleet and snow from the North West toward the South of England. Lured out by bright sunshine, I’d decided to continue the exploration of my local river, even though an overnight frost and single figure air temperatures diminished my prospects of a decent net of fish.

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Driving over a small bridge, I could see a channel running beneath an overhanging tree, which looked like it might hold a few chub, a fish that will feed in the coldest of conditions, the swim conveniently placed close to a parking space in the narrow lane. Setting up on the exposed bank, I soon had doubts about my choice of swim, the wind blowing across the football field opposite, directly into my face. As I tackled up, the river changed to a sandy colour, evidence of the ground works of a new housing estate a mile upstream, the river being used a drain for the run off and hoped that the fishing would not even harder than expected.

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Following a couple of balls of liquidised bread along the far bank with my 3 No 4 stick float, another bad choice came to light. The strong headwind was putting a bow in the, blowing the lightweight float back to my side of the river, away from the overhanging branches. To mend the line properly, I needed my 14 foot Browning match rod, but had set up the 12 foot Hardy. Unable to control the trot, I compensated with a risky cast under the tree and had a bite immediately, not the expected smash and grab of a chub, but the gentle tap, tap of a gudgeon. The strike said other though, when a small chub ran hard back under the far bank, before burying itself among the dead reeds at my feet, another testament to the wrong rod being too short and soft to bully the fish away from the obstacle.

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Struggling on against the conditions, two more small chub followed from half a dozen indecisive bites, possibly due to my poor presentation of the 5 mm bread punch pellet, each time managing to pull the fish away from the tangle at my feet. Unhooking the last, the wind had picked up again, as the sky went black with an icy shower of frozen rain and I retreated back to the van, where the downpour rattled on the roof, then stopped as suddenly as it had started. In my desperation to stay dry, I’d abandoned half a pint of liquidised bread in the bait box, which now resembled thin porridge.  With everything soaked, I was prepared to pack up, but decided on a last effort, scattering the sloppy contents of the bait box out across the river, briefly turning it white. Going up to a 7 mm punch on the size 16 barbless, the float had barely cocked before it sank out of sight and a better chub was putting a bend in the rod, running off downstream, then hugging the far bank, it’s mouth clear of the water as  I drew it over to my side, this one a few ounces heavier than the others.

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My next cast fell short, blown back by the wind, but I let it run anyway. Six feet further on, the float zoomed away, taking line with it, not stopping until it was bending the rod. I was playing a good fish that ran off down beyond the tree, as I backwound to ease the pressure on the hook hold, keeping the rod flat to avoid the overhanging branches. Twenty yards downstream, the white lips of a chub broke surface briefly, then it was gone again, searching out the riverside snags. It got stuck, came free, then was gone again, fighting deep down the middle of the river, surfacing among the sunken reeds, a pound plus fish, which as I tried to pull it toward the landing net, dived again and transferred the hook to the reeds. Once again a longer rod would have given me better control, but as I’d intended fishing further down under trees, had only brought the Hardy.

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The sun was now long gone behind grey scudding clouds, while the gusting wind was now interspersed with stinging rain, but with the memory of that lost chub burning into my soul, I could not pack up yet. Refilling the bait box with fresh dry crumb, I dropped a couple of balls on the middle line and trotted through to no response. Again nothing under the tree. Back to the middle, I added 6 inches to the depth and inched it down the swim, checking and releasing the float. A tell tale ring radiated from the tip, then it half held down. Strike! A big gudgeon battled its way upstream to be swung in. Another ball went in, closely followed by the float, which 5 yards away dipped beneath a ripple, then held up, before dipping again. I struck and missed. Maybe the punch was too big? Back down to the 5 mm. This time the float dithered and submerged, the rod bending into a 6 oz roach, as it skated across the flow.bread 025

A fat roach in perfect condition, but affected with Neodiplostmum cuticola black spot parasite, as are many of the chub in the river. Bites were very slow affairs, not helped by the wind lifting the line, despite sinking my rod top, each trot showing signs of fish without results. Dropping in a small ball of bread ahead of the float brought a more positive reaction and more roach.

bread 028They seemed to be getting bigger too, every other trot producing hard fighting roach of around 8 oz, although the elements were beginning to tell on me, I even put on my bait apron to give an extra layer against the cold and spurts of rain. More feed produced better bites among the ripples, the float failing to reappear invoking a strike and often another rod bending roach.

bread 030The next roach was bigger still, about 10 oz, fighting all the way to the net, but causing a disaster, when the butt of the rod swept my camera off the right hand tray of the tackle box, as I brought the fish to the landing net. I heard a plop and turned to see the camera sink into the keep net. Fishing it out, the camera was covered in scales and silt, game over for any more pics of what could be a bumper haul of quality roach.

I had only prepared half a loaf of liquidised bread, losing much of it in the downpour, the little and often approach to feed was getting through the bait, hooking and landing a 12 oz roach with the last ball. Another punishing rain shower brought me to my senses. What I considered to be tenacity, could have been interpreted to be insanity by any normal non angler, the many drivers passing down the lane, viewing the hooded figure hunched over his fishing rod, must have wondered what was my motivation. A sunny day got me there and the challenge of a new swim kept me fishing, but it was the robin feeding from my bait tray, long tailed tits, flitting from branch to branch across the river and a swift sparrow hawk scouting the brambles, that helped make my day, not forgetting my favourite fish the roach.

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I used my phone for the last shot of the day, this blurred image not doing these fish justice, my hands too cold to bother stripping and cleaning it on the bank. The drowned camera has been stripped and cleaned and awaits reassembly.







Bread punch chub and roach beat the cold

January 21, 2016 at 10:11 am

The rains have gone, but a chill wind from the north was threatening snow, when I arrived at the local river this week and despite bright sunshine, it was definitely thermals weather. Evidence of the recent storms was everywhere, finding yet another banker swim a tangled mess of twisted tree trunks and broken branches. Another rotten tree had fallen along the bank at a bend in the river, this time creating casting room and just leaving space for my tackle box. This would do fine.

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Even at 1pm, the sun was just above the houses behind me, warming the back of my neck as it passed through the trees. Protected in the narrow combe, the harsh wind from the north was reduced to a steady upstream breeze, ideal for my chosen method, the stick float. There was a good pace to the river and as I tackled up the colour changed from slightly cloudy to a bright orange, the builders of the new housing estate upstream were washing off their sandy roadways again.

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By the time that I was ready to fish, the colour had washed through and a couple of balls of liquidised bread lobbed close to the far bank, were followed by my first cast of the afternoon. Running through at half depth, the 3 No 4 stick float was slowed by the line pulling off my closed face reel and when the float lifted, I guessed that a small roach, or rudd was sucking at the 5 mm pellet of bread. Wrong. A halfhearted strike was met by  solid resistance, followed by a boil as the fish darted toward the far bank, bending my lightweight Hardy to the butt. A flash of silver outlined a decent chub, before it ran off upstream, charging this way and that in the shallow river, turning onto it’s side eventually to slide into the net.

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The size 16 barbless hook dropped out in the net, this pound plus chub, still full of fight, opening up the score. Another ball of bread was again followed by the float, which this time ran the length of the trot with just the odd dip, but stopping it’s motion with my finger over the reel provoked a firm pull down of the tip and I struck into my first roach, which bounced it’s way back to the net.

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With a start like this, the cold was soon forgotten, but now the roach were getting smaller and I decided to increase the depth by 18 inches to trip bottom, to fish over the sunken bread crumbs. Letting it run at half speed, then checking the float at the first sign of a bite, usually resulted in a slow drag under and another better roach pounding away.

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The orange water began to wash through again and the bites stopped, so I put in two more balls and increased the depth again by another 6 inches, holding back firmly. The float bobbed, then sank. This time a gudgeon had taken the bait. Then more came swinging in, until the river cleared again and the roach came back, small ones at first, then a few clonkers.

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The roach seemed to like the slight tinge of silt, while the gudgeon preferred the sandy colouration, either that, or the roach didn’t like the sand and stopped feeding, allowing the gudgeon to get at the bread. Whatever the case, the roach lined up on the bread coating the bottom, the float going down every time it reached the hot spot, one small chub  getting in on the act, before the dreaded sand came through again. It was 4 pm, gudgeon were taking again, the sun had gone and I was getting cold, despite the thermal underwear, so decided to pack up, despite there still being good light. Putting my rod away, I felt a twinge of regret seeing the river clear, knowing that the roach would soon be back.

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I better result than I expected on such a bone chilling day, quality roach, boosted by the chub for a weight of over 6 lb.


Rabbit loin, bacon and asparagus cottage pie

January 16, 2016 at 6:54 pm

With four rabbits earmarked for more bunny burgers, I set about separating the loins in preparation for a family favourite, which includes smoked bacon loins with asparagus baked under a cheesy potato topping.

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Serves 4

500g  Rabbit Loins, removed from either side of the spine. Sliced into bite size chunks across the loin

250g  Smoked Bacon Loin. Slice into lardons, then rough cut into 20 mm pieces

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1 tbsp rapeseed oil

1 large onion – coarsely chopped

125g Asparagus Spears rough cut into 30 mm lengths

I tbsp Plain Flour

2 tbsp Cre’me Fraiche, or Double Cream

1 cup Water

800g Mashed Potato add – 2 tbsp Butter, 2 tbsp grated Cheddar Cheese and 1 tbsp Milk. The potatoes can be quartered and boiled ready for mashing, as the meat is being prepared, the mash ready at the end of cooking.

2 tbsp Parmesan Cheese grated to act as a mash topping

This dish needs no seasoning, or stock, as the smoked bacon provides enough.


Heat the oil in a large frying pan and add the onions, turning to soften for a few minutes. Remove from the pan, then add the asparagus pieces, increase heat until browned at the edges, then remove. Now introduce the two meats to the pan, the fat from the bacon will help cook the rabbit through, then add the vegetables again.

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Sprinkle over the flour, until it thickens, adding water, stirring as you go, bringing to the boil to thicken the sauce, then mix in the the cre’me fraiche, until all the contents are covered. Pour the the mixture into a large casserole dish.

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Now add the cheesy mashed potato to the dish, spooning it over to cover evenly, using a fork to spike up the surface. Sprinkle over the Parmesan, adding a tomato garnish, if wished. Place under a hot grill, until the top is browned and the cheese melted.

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 A simple, but very flavoursome dish, which can be ready, start to finish in just 30 minutes.






Carp reward last resort

January 11, 2016 at 1:31 pm

Finding a few hours when it wasn’t teeming with rain, or blowing a gale, sometimes both, put a block on my sporting efforts this week. A shooting expedition saw me holed up in a farmhouse kitchen drinking tea, while I waited for an unforecasted storm to pass, giving up when the biscuits came out. Supposed dry days turned out to be wet, while the wet ones were.  At last a day came where heavy morning rain was driven away by a gusting cold wind, with bright sunshine and I ventured out, first to my local river, where, as expected, it was rushing through level with the bank, then backtracking to the lake that I had fish last week. Here the level was up by about a foot, the balance pond absorbing the flash flood water of the stream that flows into it. The eastern side now transformed into a slow moving river, whipped by the wind. With houses set on a high bank, the western side was in the lee and the surface relatively calm.

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The water was now a mucky brown, not very encouraging, but the sun was still shining along this bank and I decided to give it an hour, setting up a hundred yards from the car park. Unlike last week, there were no cruising carp, the air temperature well down and the influx of fresh cold water bringing the change. The same rig went onto the Normark twelve and a half footer, 6 lb line to a 14 barbless under a chunky pellet waggler, which as it turned out was right for the windy conditions, but wrong for the now fussy carp. I mashed up some white bread slices and threw the balls out toward the island, the floating crusts ignored by fish and ducks alike, casting the punch baited rig into the area. After 10 minutes without a movement, I was getting restless, then the float dipped and popped back up a second later. I waited for another five minutes and reeled back in to find the bread gone. Another cast, another wait. The float disappeared and I sat looking at an empty space, before it registered on my brain, striking just as it popped up again. Fish were active, but only sucking at the bait. Was it only small rudd? Next cast, I studied the float intensely, it gave two sharp bobs and I struck. Bang! The line went solid, then V’d off toward the island, running round to the left, a good fish. Backwinding to ease the initial run, the rod took the strain, turning the fish into open water, stirring up the black mud in clouds and collecting a couple of twigs on the way back to the net.

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Well worth the visit, this fat 6 lb common carp literally took my breath away, running left and right in the shallow water, a cup of reviving tea needed before I was able to rebait, then cast back to the area. Bubbles were now beginning to break the surface and I wet, then mashed another slice, the ball disintegrating on contact.

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Punching out three 7 mm pellets and squeezing them onto the size 14 forged hook, the point was covered, giving the fish plenty to suck on, which they were obviously doing, without running off with the bait in true carp fashion. I looked in my box for a float that would be more sensitive, while carrying weight for casting and stability, coming up with a couple of candidates, but opted to stay with what was working, intending to strike at any prolonged activity.

Well into my second hour, the sun had sunk behind the houses and the cold was creeping into my bones. The bobbing bites had kept my interest, I’d missed several and hit another decent carp only to lose it close in. A couple of sharp taps of the float resulted in a strike that made contact again, this time a more manageable common of around 3 lbs. This one was enough for me and with a warm home beckoning less than half a mile away, I packed up.

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These carp are all built like battleships and in perfect condition, the lake among the houses, a little gem enjoyed by just a few local anglers, who are aware of it’s presence. With my preferred local water still fenced off undergoing work by the council, this is high on my list for another visit soon.

Winter bread punch carp from the duckpond

December 30, 2015 at 5:26 pm

A post Christmas dinner walk is a tradition in my family and armed with bread for the ducks, we trekked the half mile to the banks of a small lake, set among the houses near our home, to find that even the sea gulls were disinterested in our offerings, the surface of the lake already littered with crusts. If the ducks were full, the local carp population was not, the unseasonably warm weather bringing the fish up to the surface to feed, watching whole slices of bread broken up and devoured in minutes.

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A few days later, with my last visitor homeward bound, the van was loaded and parked beside the lake, where I could see the surface dimpled by rising fish, sucking in the latest free offerings. The lake was formed for flood relief of the stream that runs through it and following a recent freak downpour, it had almost burst it’s banks, which has resulted in the local council lowering the level of the outlet, leaving barely eighteen inches of water covering the silt.

Down wind of the main duck feeding area, a dark stain of silt was stirred up by the feeding fish and I set up my twelve and a half foot Normark match rod with a simple float rig, 6 lb line running through to a weighted pellet feeder waggler float, with a 12 inch, 5 lb hook link, to a size 14 forged barbless. For bait I’d considered floating crust, but opted for double punched white bread, the second punch tending to tear rather than cut, giving a more natural looking pellet with a fringe on top.

With fish out in front of me, there was no need to feed and a 25 yard cast put the float right in among them. The intial splash of the heavy float spooked the fish, but five minutes later the float bobbed and lifted as a carp sampled the bread, before sinking out of sight, my rod arcing round, when it met the running line. In the shallow water, a bow wave zoomed toward the island, slowed by the slipping clutch of my reel and backwinding, the carp turning away to open water, then circling back to run along the front of the island, before turning again to fight below trees to my left. On this tackle, bullying was not an option, but eventually the carp was in the net.

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Round like a barrel, this carp was 17 inches long and scaled over 7 lbs, the size 14 barbless, just holding in the side of the mouth. A fresh white medium sliced loaf provided the bait, the 7 mm punched pellets fitting well on a size 14 hook.

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Next cast in the bite was more fussy, the float pulled under and I waited for the run, but after two seconds it popped up again. Bringing it in, the bait was still there, but obviously sucked. New bait on, I cast in again. More bobs, then a hold down and I struck. This time a smaller fish stood it’s ground and fought all the way to the net with only token runs, which at first sight looked like a large crucian carp, but with a down turned mouth I reasoned it was a hybrid.

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I dropped the next two fish, the second taking the float under and running toward me, before I could strike, then turning away setting the hook, which it threw with a spectacular leap, spiraling through the air. The hot spot was now devoid of bites, the fish were still rising to bread on the surface, but apart from dipping the float from time to time, they had learned to avoid it. A cast to the virgin water in the middle of the lake saw the bait taken on the drop and I was soon playing another fast running common, reducing it’s runs each time, until netted.

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A shower of rain had chilled the air, visibility was dropping with a weak sun sinking behind the houses and following another dropped fish, I decided on just one more cast toward the island. A fish was moving inches below the surface, nudging more bits of floating bread from the steady stream of visitors, the wind blowing a constant supply to it’s mouth. It edged closer to the float, which sank amidst a swirl and I struck into a more powerful fish, a shower of spray heralding an almighty run beneath the overhanging branches of the island. The rod doubled round despite my rapid back winding, other carp swirling out of the way of it’s run, heavy kicks screeching the clutch, as I tried to stop it’s progress round the back of the island. With nothing to lose apart from maybe a broken rod, I hung on and it swung away from the island, arcing round into open water, where I could retrieve line, a black trail of silt marking it’s position. It remained unseen, until seconds before being netted, expecting to see a double figure fish, after this battle, but the sight of another fin perfect common of 7 lb did not disappoint.

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A recent report said that white bread is not a good diet for ducks, but it does not seemed to harm these carp, probably more usual carp baits such as boilies and halibut pellets will catch more fish, but my method provided an interesting afternoon’s sport.

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Beside my swim, a small shrine had been set up with night lights. Maybe a night fisherman had been trying to invoke a bit of supernatural assistance.

Bread punch mixed bag

December 18, 2015 at 10:27 pm

The mild December continues, but stormy weather is always a threat and was undecided on where to go this week for some fishing, my local pond still fenced off awaiting work to commence. Due to be finished before Christmas. Ha! I opted for a stretch of my local river not visited this year, where I know I can catch a few chub up to a pound on the stick float.

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Crossing the bridge, one look at the river made me think it was in flood, due to the colour, but with the main stream running clear, the side stream feeder was the culprit. A year ago the road skirting the stream ran through farmland, but now that land is covered in earthworks and new house construction, over 2,000 planned, with surface site run off pouring straight into the feeder stream. Continuing downstream, a new culvert has been constructed, draining directly into the river from the site opposite, exactly at the head of my chub swim, sludge carpeting the bottom. So much for my plans.

My initial reaction was to turn round and go home, but curiosity took over, wondering how far down this contamination extended, finding the river still coloured two hundred yards further down, although the heavier deposits had now settled out.

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Setting up on the outside of a bend, the flow pushed into the bank on my side and I was confident that if I was to catch chub anywhere, this would be the place. While setting up, I’d lobbed a couple of balls of liquidised bread in close to the bank and first cast in the float sank out of sight, my 12 ft Hardy rod bending into solid resistance. Big chub! No, a submerged shopping trolley was lurking in the murky water, right on the ideal fishing line. I pulled for a break, the whole rig pinging back, my decision to use 5 lb main line to a 3 lb hook link paying off.

Taking a mental note of the trolley position, I fed further out directly in front of me, an underhand cast dropping the float in behind. Again the float sank away, but this time the rod bounced and a rudd was skimming over the surface, soon to be scooped into the net.

cut 005With the feed going in upstream, fish were taking every cast, a 5 mm pellet of bread on a size 16 hook, finding a string of rudd, each one taking the hook well down, but removed with a flick of the disgorger. I began swinging them in, only to lose a 6 ounce fish, as I lifted off, the barbless hook coming out at the critical moment, the fish swimming off taking the shoal with it. Further down the swim, gudgeon were eager to take their place, as usual fighting well beyond their weight. A few small roach had begun to show and I took a chance, introducing a handful of ground carp pellets to the bread, hoping to bring bigger roach to the punch, but the opposite happened and I was flooded out with gudgeon, getting them one a chuck.

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The sky had now clouded over, the light falling away despite it only being 2 pm; if the forecast was correct, there would be rain by 3. A downstream wind was now ruffling the surface and I had to change lines again, fishing over depth, easing the 3 No 4 stick down toward the waiting shopping trolley.

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Back to plain white bread feed, I set about building another swim close in, a sail away bite welcoming the return of the rudd. In again, the float dragged under. Bang, solid resistance and a run to the far bank, before I could backwind, then a run downstream. Next second, the fish was snagged in the trolley, but it came free running up beneath the overhanging tree behind me. Side strain and it came back, only to dive beneath my bank, pulling hard to reveal a pound chub, which was promptly ushered into the net. Frantic action, that lasted maybe two minutes.

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The hook was barely hanging on by a thin bit of skin in the bottom lip, which considering the pressure applied to land this chub, it’s amazing that it held. Also it shows how easy it would be to transfer the hook to a snag. My lucky day.

cut 013Another rudd, and more gudgeon were still pulling the float under, despite the conditions worsening, the wind lifting the float from the water in some gusts and I had entered the “just one more fish” state of mind prior to packing up, when the float held under as a good roach took the bait. The bight colours made me think it was a rudd as it fought midstream, but once in my hand, the overhanging lip confirmed it’s species.

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Thinking that there was going to be a last minute rush of roach, I fished on for a few more casts, but gudgeon were the only takers and with the first drops of rain already falling, I made ready for a rapid exit. It had been a busy two and half hours of feeding and fishing, the trolley had stopped me making the most of the swim, while the weather had once again literally put a damper on things. It will be a shame, if this little river, already hemmed in by the urban sprawl of a major town, ends it’s days full of silt, or worse still, culverted beneath concrete to suit the town planners.

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The scales pushed round to over 4 lbs, helped by about 40 fat gudgeon and the chub, mostly small stuff, the enjoyment coming from not knowing what will be on the end, when that float goes down.

December rabbits fall to the Magtech 7002 .22 semi auto.

December 15, 2015 at 6:12 pm

In December I try to get round to my various shooting permissions for a chat with the owners and to confirm my shooting rights for another season, taking a rifle, but not expecting to see much to shoot, due to frosts, floods, or snow. This year in the south of England daffodils are flowering and the grass is still growing, while the North suffer all of the above, a visit to the local equestrian centre this week being bathed in warming winter sunshine.

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Rounding a corner, the sight of half a dozen rabbits feeding at the edge of the wood took me by surprise and I stepped back behind the cover of a fence to plan my next move. They were about eighty yards away, too far for a safe shot with the .22 Magtech, but a stout fence post stood directly between me and them, enough cover for a slow walk forward. Once at the post, the range was down to 60 yards and I rested the rifle for a shot, but the low sun was shining across the lense of the scope, glaring out the sight picture. Lifting my hand to shield the sun was enough scare the rabbits, as one by one they hopped back into the brambles, but an individual paused long enough for the trigger to be squeezed, knocking it down.

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Reaching the young buck, I was happy to see the result, a perfect head shot, having aimed just below the ears with a 50 yard zero, the bullet had dropped about an inch. I had spent time earlier in the year setting up the sights and was confident that the bullet would go where expected.

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Entering the wood with the magnification on the scope down to x4, I was ready for my next target, as I approached the area of the fleeing rabbits, stopping every few yards to survey the ground ahead. A movement to my left and a rabbit trotted out into the bright sunlight. It stopped, then dropped, as I followed it’s track with the scope and fired.

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Number two, probably from the first group. I waited, but no more appeared so steadily made my way down the path, pigeons bursting out of the trees above as I progressed. Oh for a shotgun right now. Due to the four legged residents on this 80 acre equine site, even my Magtech was vetted for sound by the owner, a shot gun would be guaranteed to scare the horses, so no deal.

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Having shot this wood for about ten years, certain areas are bankers and the clearing ahead proved it’s worth again with the sight of a feeding rabbit 50 yards away. Head down, with it’s back to me, I got down prone with the rifle resting on my bag, waiting for the shot, the scope back to maximum. It moved a foot to the left and crumpled from another head shot.

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Three rabbits in the bag from the first 100 yards of wood, again probably one of those seen earlier, enough to dent the population trend for a while. Passing out of the wood and following one of the rides around the perimeter, there were no more signs of my quarry, although a muntjac deer scurried across my path, flushing a cock pheasant into the open, both off limits to me.

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I turned a corner to reveal another hot spot, where in summer there is ample cover, today an 80 yard no-man’s land opens up across the edge of a field to a warren in the far hedge. There were two big rabbits sitting out, but I needed to get closer to stand a chance and edged forward to rest the rifle on a fence post, spooking one of them back into the hedge, while the other turned to follow, sitting bolt upright. The fence post was not too stable, but I took the shot anyway, aiming high on the head, expecting the 40 grain bullet to drop into the chest. I missed, firing again as it moved forward, then again following it into the bushes. Focussing my eyes on the spot, I walked round to look for a dead rabbit in the undergrowth, but no sign. All three had missed. More haste, less speed.

Looking further along the ride, more rabbits were out on the other side of a sunken lane, which bisects the hedge and I picked my way through this hedge to the parallel ride, approaching unseen. Dropping into the sunken lane I was able to peer through the bushes to see three rabbits only twenty yards away and belly crawled up the slope pushing the shooting bag ahead of me. Resting on the bag, scope mag to x3, the cross hairs settled on the nearest and pop, number four was in the bag.

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This last one was a big doe, twice the weight of the smallest buck, which when skinned and cleaned barely fitted in my bag, making the walk back a bit of a slog. The owners were happy to confirm another season of shooting, agreeing that numbers were down again, the rides being free of rabbit burrows, although a badger set was now spilling out onto a track through the woods. Glad to say, that is not my problem.

Big Perch rewards persistance.

December 11, 2015 at 11:50 pm

Having chanced upon another stretch of my local river, which although close to a narrow lane, had been hidden behind undergrowth during summer, it was now in view through the naked trees, returning this week armed with a pole saw and croppers, intending to cut out a new swim, leaving my rod behind.

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From the road bridge, the river curves round beneath a tree, a virgin section of water protected by a band of brambles 30 feet thick and I set about chopping my way through, coming out onto the bank an easy trot to the overhanging tree. In an hour an area wide enough to accommodate my tackle box had been cleared and I wished that I’d been tempted to bring my gear for a few casts. 

Overnight rain had been rattling against the windows, as yet another winter storm blew in from the Atlantic and the van bow-waved down the flooded lane alongside the river, which was up 6 inches on the day before. The morning clouds had parted to reveal bright sunshine, but with more wind and showers due in the afternoon, I was keen to get fishing from the new swim and was soon sighting my tackle box next to the bank. My usual set up of the Hardy 12 footer, 3 No 4 stick float, a bag of liquidised bread, slices for the the hook, plus a few brandlings from the compost heap for a change of bait, were all I needed, travelling light without spare reels, rod bag, or keepnet.

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The river was now quite coloured, with increased pace, the flow pushing along my side under the brambles, watching the first balls of bread twist and turn, before breaking up. Dropping the float rig in off the end of my rod top, it drifted three feet, then dived under the brambles, as a small chub took the bread, striking sideways to pull the fish away from the bank.

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The net came out for the first of many times for this six ounce chub, the fish lined up in the slower water along the edge, each trot going further down the swim before the float slid away. Specimen hunters will scoff at these chublets, but I have never grown tired of watching a float go under and soon the float needed to reach the confines of the overhanging tree before it sank, each strike being flat level with the surface to avoid the trailing branches, the rod bending double with the initial run.

Gudgeon were now beginning to bother the bread pellet, the float dipping and bobbing, often knocking the bait off, before I could strike. The gudgeon hooked were all good size, fighting deep, but getting in the way of bigger fish and I dipped into the worm box for a fat brandling, cutting it in half , before hooking it on the 16 barbless. First trot down with the worm, the float lifted and drifted across behind the trailing branches, bumping a good fish on the strike. Used to a fast strike on the bread, I’d not allowed enough time for the worm to be swallowed and paid the price again, just a straggly piece of skin left of the brandling.

The tail section now went on and the float made it’s way down to the tree, checking it’s passage from time to time, the sun illuminating the bright orange tip twenty yards away. It buried, I waited, then struck, another hard fighting little chub battling all the way back along the far bank.

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These chub were never been caught, fin perfect fish, some only six inches long with the worm filling their mouths, the float now flirting with a tangle of water borne branches thirty yards away. Again the float sank and I paused, the line then stripping through my fingers, as a much larger fish took. I was not aware that I struck, just of back winding furiously, with the line speeding off round the bend. This had to be a carp, not a chub, as it kept on running out of sight. My 5 lb line was reel bound, briefly failing to pay out, the lightweight Hardy bending beyond it’s test curve, while the 3 lb hook link held. The run slowed and stopped, the fish sulking mid channel, it’s head buried in rotted reeds, immovable. Minutes passed and I was convinced that the barbless hook had been dumped, reeling down for a break, hoping at least to get the hidden float back. A massive swirl told me that the fish was still there and now moving upstream along the far bank, a roll and a kick revealing a deep body in the murk, keeping on the pressure without forcing the issue. Brute force would not win this battle, the fish swimming in spurts upstream, it’s broad back on the surface, then on it’s side, a large perch, all fight gone, relying on it’s weight alone against the flow of the river. Reaching out with the landing net, the big stripey swam in like a sheep entering a pen, much to my relief.

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The size 16 hook was deep inside it’s mouth, easily pushed out with a disgorger, but secure enough to hold. The perch lay there exhausted, it roughly measuring 13 inches compared to my 16 inch net and after a few quick pics I lowered it back into the river in the landing net, keeping it upstream, until ready to swim off. The forecast rain, along with a gusting wind, arrived during this last fight and I took my cue to exit this exposed high bank position for the comfort of the van, then home for a welcome cup of tea.






Exploration pays off in chub.

December 3, 2015 at 6:30 pm

A local road diversion sent me along a lane bordered by my productive little river last week and today I was loaded up and ready to try a swim, that looked very chubby, when I’d driven by. Problem was, that I had a morning visit to my brother-in-law booked for belated birthday wishes and would only have the afternoon free. My plans were further dented, when the sausage rolls and cakes came out and we stayed for lunch, leaving little time for fishing later. Returning home before 2 pm, with my wife busying herself putting up the Christmas tree, I quickly changed and headed off to the new section of river.

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Parking the van, I followed the river upstream to my desired swim, only to realise, yes it looked chubby, but overhanging trees would prevent anything, but a six foot rod from landing a fish. As if to rub it in, a large fish swirled beneath a tangle of branches, when I turned away. I would have to explore further. There were some mouth watering swims, but without a machete, they were inaccessible and turned back past the van to find an open space behind the roadside tangle. Time was getting on and decided to give it a go, forcing my way through a barrier of bramble and twigs, to the relatively open bank beyond.

Setting up my lightweight 12 ft Hardy rod, with a 3 No 4 ali stemmed stick to 5 lb main line and size 16 on a 3 lb hooklink, I followed a ball of liquidise bread with the float rig at 18 inches to test the depth.

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The float dragged under immediately and I silently cursed the shallow water, lifting in the hope, that I hadn’t hooked into a snag first cast, the rod arching round proving me wrong with a small chub diving away.

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Netting the first chub was not easy in this parrot cage of a swim, there being a narrow gap to pass the rod top through as I brought it up and back to sweep the fish into the net, the tip rattling through the finer twigs above me. With the keepnet deployed, I set about filling it, abandoning the landing net to swing the chub in, the bent rod just missing the the overhang each time. My aim had been to trot to the base of the tree opposite downstream, but the float sank out of sight long before it had travelled that far, with chub around the 6 oz mark competing for the bread pellets.

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I had started just before 3 pm and knew an hour’s fishing would be about my limit on this overcast December afternoon, continuing to catch right up to my self imposed time of 4 pm, allowing me to pack up before it got dark. I’d fed about a quarter of a loaf of bread, which kept them interested and never did discover how deep the swim was, most fish, all chub, taking on the drop and had no need to vary the float depth, finishing with eighteen in the net. More feed over a longer period, could produce some larger fish.

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Next visit will see me armed with a pole saw and a bill hook to do a bit of trimming before I fish, a few gems hidden among the undergrowth, just waiting to be exploited.


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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