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Last minute carp

November 17, 2017 at 1:15 pm

A glorious November morning had been taken up with an organised walk around a local beauty spot, taking in the exceptional autumn colours enhanced by the bright sunshine. My wife’s mind turned to tending her winter flower garden, mine thought of all the carp that would be cruising around a shallow lake near my home, woken up by the mild spell.

Soon after a hurried lunch, I was setting up my carp rig, an ancient 12.5 ft Normark float rod with 6 lb line through to a heavy pole float, modified to be a shallow waggler, the 12 inch 3 lb hook link tied to a size 16 barbless hook. The lake is about three feet deep, with about half of it silt and have found that bread punch fished close to the surface with no weight down the line works here.

Walking to my swim, I had passed two anglers, each with a pair of rods aimed at the island. They’d had the same idea as me, that the carp would be “on”, but had so far failed to get a bite, despite pouches of pellets fired over toward the island. Every man to his own. I carried on round to where the water exits the lake, this corner usually a good holding spot, but today leaves clogged the outlet and backed up into the lake.

 

I squeezed up a few large balls of liquidised bread and lobbed them out in front of me, watching them break up in the air to cover an area 15 to 20 yards out, sinking slowly to settle on the mud below. There was little drift on the lake, although surface leaves kept accumulating around the line, needing to be lifted clear. After half an hour bubbles began to appear on the surface close to my float. Following another ball of bread with my float, I sat and stared at the antenna. Did it dip half an inch? Yes it did. The bait was being pushed around, the float sliding and bobbing. Come on take it! It vanished. Missed it, the 7 mm pellet of bread still intact.

Another ball, another cast, this time with a 5 mm diameter punch. A few more dips, then nothing. Brought back, the bait was gone. Back to the 7 mm punch. The bubbles continued to burst. There was still interest, the float half holding down. Missed another. The time was getting on, the earlier sun had gone behind a leadened sky. Each bite was taking 15 minutes to develope and now it was starting to drizzle with fine rain. Time to go. Beginning to put my bait away, I looked up to see the float was gone. The line was not moving. I reeled and lifted the rod. Whoa! A boil of black mud and I was backwinding furiously as a carp arrowed off to the right into the raft of leaves near the outlet. The rod took the strain as the line collected a washing line of dead leaves and twigs, dulling the kicks of the carp as it powered through the shallows, the fish turning to swim back along the wall toward me, reeling, then backwinding as it passed only feet from the bank. A nice common carp, it began to roll, but the size 16 in the corner of its mouth held and I netted it.

 One of the other anglers came round to see what all the commotion had been about, nodding in approval at the carp, but looking bemused at my unconventional rig. They were still biteless. It had been frustrating for me, I had expected more, but this one would do.

Bread punch roach amid the autumn leaves

November 10, 2017 at 8:33 pm

Following last week’s aborted visit to my local urban river, due to oil pollution, I had decided on a brief test session today to see if the fishing had been affected. Walking over the bridge, a distinct old oil smell was in the air and looking down onto the sill of the outlet, additional anti-pollution booms were in place. From the central outlet pipe an oil slick was swirling into the river.

I phoned the Environment Agency hotline to report the incident and returned to the van, seeing that a sheen of oil covered the surface. Fishing here today would only result in oil coating my line and nets.

As with last week, a change of plan was called for, the easy option being Braybrooke’s Jeanes Pond a mile away. Fortunately I had a pole with me and my intended method was going to be bread punch anyway, so my gear was loaded back into the van for the short drive to Braybrooke Park, then unloaded to walk to the pond.

A chill wind from the northwest was blowing leaves onto the surface, causing them to rotate around the pond. Finding gaps for the float would be interesting. Due to recent frosts, I decided on a slow start, selecting a 4 mm bread punch and rolled bread, while feeding a single small ball of liquidised bread every dozen fish. I was limited to just three lengths of pole, as the leaves were right up to the bank and casting was not possible, needing to lower the rig down into the water. As the float settled, a ring radiated out from the tip showing interest in the bread pellet, moments later it sank from sight.

This roach was cold to the touch, but his shoalmates were not put off and I was soon getting into a catching rythm, only interupted by progress phone calls from the AE and Thames Water, the latter saying that they had an engineer wading back up into the tunnel trying to trace the origin of the oil, although his words “like looking for a needle in a haystack” were not encouraging.

Having lost time moving venues, I settled on a three hour session, averaging a roach a minute, swinging them to hand. Missed bites from smaller fish prompted a step up to a 5 mm punch, which began to select slightly better fish.

Bites on the inside began to get fussy, when a change in the wind moved the leaves away from my bank and adding another pole length up to 4 metres, put the bait in a free biting area. It was about half way through the session and I’d only used a quarter a pint of liquidised bread for about a hundred fish. Topping up the feed bowl, I kept the feed to a minimum. It is always a risk in cold weather to overfeed with the bread, while sometimes heavier fish will often move in.

The change in the wind direction had dropped the air temperature significantly, blowing hard on my back, passing through my hoody, making me shiver. A cup of tea helped and I pushed on into the final hour still swinging them in, although this was a netter.

With minutes to go before the three hours were up, the net came out again for the final roach of the day.

Earlier in the year, this pond yielded some near pound roach to me on the bread punch, but the cold weather has probably put them down, however I was more than pleased to pull out my net to put seven and half pounds in weight on the scales.

Overgrown river gives up its secrets

November 4, 2017 at 5:14 pm

With work in progress by the Environment Agency to improve my local urban river, I thought that it was worth a visit to try out one of the recently constructed fishing platforms, but walking down to the river, Thames Water contractors were busy trying to clear up the latest pollution spillage from the town outfall.

While returning to the van I considered my options and decided that a first time visit to a tributary of the Blackwater about ten miles away was a viable option. I had recently seen the half mile section of river listed in the handbook of one of my fishing clubs and Googled the location, putting it down as Must Try One Day in my mind. Today was going to be the day.

As I neared the club car park, the roads became narrower and the hedges taller. There were few passing places, but being in the middle of nowhere, there was no traffic either. A narrow gap in the hedge with a bar across was the car park entrance. Blocking the road, I released the padlock and pushed open the bar, hooking it back on a conveniently placed piece of nylon string. The parking area was overgrown and full of dumped garden waste, with just enough room to turn the van round. This club usually has well kept parking places, but this has seen little use.

The handbook said that the river is 600 yards from the carpark and I loaded up my trolley to cross an open field toward a tree line in the shallow valley, eventually reaching a tangle of long grass and stinging nettles, before pushing through to find the fast flowing little river twisting its way between a jungle of fallen trees and over hanging branches. Leaving the trolley, I searched between the trees for an opening with room to cast a float rod, finding a spot where the Himalayan balsam had died back leaving a relatively open bank.

It was already 2:30 and I hadn’t made a cast, but I was now committed to get the best out of the swim and tackled up with a 3 No 4 ali stem stickfloat to a size 16 barbless. Testing the depth, maximum was 2 feet past the middle, shallowing to 18 inches as it rounded the bend, with an area of cabbages on the inside. The river looked deeper further down, but a higher bank and overhanging branches gave me no further choices. I had only been prepared for a few hours fishing the bread punch on the slow moving river near home, now with treble the pace and half the depth, I would be working for every bite.

I squeezed up a couple of balls of liquidised bread and threw them well upstream, dropping the float among the cloud as it passed. Every tenth trot, I compressed another ball and followed it down. A sharp dip of the float in the deeper water encouraged me, although a rapid strike and no bait did not. I was folding each 7 mm pellet of bread round the hook, to allow me to hold back the float without washing off the bait. If I had known I was coming to a fast flowing river, I would have rolled up some steamed bread for the punch.

Following several false alarms the float held down long enough to make contact and after a short run a small chub was swinging to hand.

Usually where there is one small chub there are others, but not so this time, as a shoal of small dace began dipping the float and taking the bait. Running through I could not hit them, but moving a shot close to the hook, adding 6 inches in depth gave me a chance. Dip, dip, tug and I was playing the first strip of silver.

The dace were in about 18 inches of water, chasing the swirling grains of bread, rattling the rod top without being hooked. I shallowed up again, running through, this time the float held down, a good dace came tumbling to the surface, then came off. Another small one stayed on, spinning beneath the surface. The rod bent over and another good dace was on the surface, fighting doggedly to the net.

I had been preoccupied trying to hook these dace and it took a pair of cock pheasants flying into the tree downstream to roost, to make me realise that the light was going. It was only 4 pm, but the sun was behind the trees already and the mist was coming down. I decided to give it another 15 minutes before packing up, scraping up the last of my feed to form a ball, again dropping it in upstream. Minutes later the float dived and a much better fish rolled on the surface, before kiting over to the far side. It felt like a roach, not my hoped for chub; whatever, it was fighting well, coming back to my side, then to the middle. The landing net was waiting as a 6 oz roach obliged by turning on its side, before sliding into the net.

This roach extended the session as I tried to catch another, to no avail. It was going to be a long up hill trek back to the van and I had to get a move on to avoid walking in the dark.

Not much to show for such a busy session. I had expected more and bigger chub, although the roach made up for that. I saw slower deeper swims, but they were unfishable. Next time I will bring my pole saw

Environment Agency transform polluted urban river

October 27, 2017 at 10:50 am

My local river, running through a council owned green space, has been taken over by recently formed Braybrooke Community and Nature fishing Club. With full support of the local council, the aim of the club is to encourage angling in the area, especially among the young, holding several fishing events with qualified instructors on their other water Jeanes Pond, which have proved popular with families.

The next step is to hold teach-ins on the river, which has suffered neglect, being subject to dumping of waste, plus more than the occasional shopping trolley. Despite all this, the river holds a good head of roach, rudd, perch and chub, along with individual bream and carp, as my blog has demonstrated over the years. I was approached by the club to help with the siting of ten dedicated swims last year and have been working with the Environment Agency during their construction.

A major oil pollution event on the river early in the year, resulted in the loss of many fish and despite the efforts of Thames Water, regular minor pollution events are continuing without anyone being brought to book. Arriving at the river, new pollution booms had been put in place by Thames Water that morning to counteract the latest problem of surface scum, while they will be stepping up their search for non compliance regarding oil and waste storage at industrial properties upstream.

Funded by the Angling Trust Angling Improvement scheme, EA workers were busy constructing marginal berms below the recently installed fishing platforms along the stretch. The berms will speed up the flow, pushing silt through the system to reveal the gravel beneath, while providing fish holding features in times of flood. When the work is finished, the EA have a Christmas present lined up for the river in the form of a stocking programme from their Calverton Fish Rearing Facility, to boost the natural fish population following the earlier pollution.

EA officer Stuart has been hands on with this project, the above berm being placed below two disabled platforms, which will accessed by a ramp. Further downstream a completed berm gave a good example of the way the river will be transformed from a slow moving flood relief channel to one of character. Two submerged shopping trolleys were incorporated into this berm, which has been back filled with silt trapping branches and mesh.

This is a good example of where fishing license money can be spent. Encouraged by the local council and financed by charity donations, alongside their own money raising efforts, Braybrooke Community Nature and Fishing Club are well on the way to providing a much needed amenity for novice and experienced anglers in the area.

Cider making time again

October 23, 2017 at 12:54 pm

Being known as a cider maker, offers of apples have been coming in from all quarters this year, while wild trees growing on council land near my home have been weighed down with a variety of the fruit. Boxes and bags of apples were soon covering the floor of the garden shed and it was now a matter choosing a day.

With storms driving across the country bringing sunshine and showers at regular intervals, the forecast was for a cold, dry day, as one storm was banished to the North Sea aiming for the Netherlands, while another was sweeping in over Ireland. Using no specialised equipment, my wife and I set out our cider making production line.

This looks like disorganised chaos, but there is method in the apparent madness. The apples are dunked in a bucket of water to clean off dirt, any bruising is cut out, before being chopped into pieces and dropped into the garden shredder, which mashes the fruit, the resulting pulp falling into a bowl. This is my wife’s side of the process, which in between cups of tea and lunch, keeps her busy for at least four hours.

My side of the process is equally busy, the bowl of pulp constantly filling. The pulp is scooped into an old ice cream tub, in which doubled over window netting has been laid. This creates a parcel of pulp, which oozes juice before being presented to the press.

The press is a 4 x 2 screwed and glued wooden frame held in a Workmate. In the base of the frame fits an old stove enameled baking tray, into which two pieces of pine shelving sit. The pulp parcel is placed on the lower piece and the second piece set on the top of these. Juice will already flowing out of the parcel into the baking tray, before a block and a bottle jack are used to compress the pulp. The result is juice in the baking tray and a dry slab of compressed apple cake as a by product. The jack and plattens are then placed on the wallpapering table, while the baking tray is emptied into a covered six gallon plastic bucket. Each year I consider fitting a drainage system to the baking tray, but it only takes seconds to empty each time, so it has yet to be done. The apple cake is placed into another bucket, before being tipped onto the compost heap, where it is soon covered with red worms.

That is basically all there is to start the cider making process. I always wait for cold weather in October, as it is unlikely that any wild yeasts will be in the air to contaminate the juice. Yeast from the apples can be seen forming in the tray as it is pressed, but I use a sachet of cider yeast sprinkled over the bucket to kickstart the fermentation, stirring this in and leaving covered for twenty to thirty minutes, while I get demijohns ready to receive the juice. Using a jug, I scoop the juice from the bucket, to fill the demijohns through a funnel to within two inches of the neck, then create a wick of cotton wool pushed into the neck. This will allow gases from the fermentation out, while excluding any unwanted organisms from the juice.

Just a few hours in the warmth of the kitchen, sees the fermentation starting in earnest, the newspaper a wise precaution against spillage. Another few hours a month of racking and bottling before Christmas, will see about 50 bottles of golden cider set aside to mature.

Silvers fill in for missing crucians

October 13, 2017 at 10:56 am

Having returned from a short cruise, there was much unpacking and washing to do, so my wife suggested that I get out of her hair and go fishing. The morning had been clear and bright with chill in the air and an afternoon fishing seemed a good idea. I checked the freezer and found a half used bag of liquidised bread, plus some frozen quarters of punch bread, certainly enough for a few hours on the pole somewhere. I had been told of a little fished pond beyond the next town, with a good head of crucian carp and tench and decided to look it up on Google maps, Streetview helping to locate the secluded entrance off a well worn lane.

It was a bit of a trek getting there, but the pond looked well tended and I chose a swim close to the carpark, these often being fished more, than those further away, with more fish. Fishing near bridges on canals is usually better for the same reason. Setting out my stall, I noticed that the water was crystal clear, with no surface activity. Not a good sign.

Plumbing the depth revealed a 3 ft maximum at 6 metres and I mixed up enough crumb and ground carp pellets for half a dozen sloppy balls of feed, that would spread, but sink quickly. I put in three balls in a line out in front of me, then dropped the float beyond the middle of the feed, with a 6 mm pellet of bread on the size 18 barbless hook. The float sank immediately and a small roach came to hand, the hook well down its throat.

There was no messing about, these roach really wanted the bread and I decided to bash through them, until the better fish moved onto the feed. They kept taking the bait, despite putting on a heavier float with the shot bulked down, some roach so small it was a wonder how they got the bait in their mouths. Several fish were stunted, with large heads and short bodies. Usually crucians will have found the feed in that first hour, their tiny bubbles always a giveaway, but not on this pond today, my only hope being a lucky tench, or even a cruising common carp.

I put in the last of my ground bait in the hope of feeding the small roach off, while attracting in a few better specimens. Nothing else showed, and with the cold wind now blowing hard in my face, I decided to cut and run, before rush hour traffic had a chance to build.

Maybe this 4 lb net was a good bag on the day. There was no chance of getting bored, but the occasional decent crucian would have been appreciated. My early getaway had no effect either, a crunch on the motorway causing traffic jams where ever I drove.

River Blackwater chub, dace and roach stickfloat workout

October 4, 2017 at 6:59 pm

Within ten miles of my home is a free stretch of the fast flowing river Blackwater, that meanders through wild, tree lined banks for half a mile, creating shallows and deep runs at every turn. A proper river in my book, much like the Colne of my youth, where the stickfloat was king.

It is two years since my last visit and much had changed, trees had fallen in creating new eddies, while other swims were now full of streamer weed. The river suits the roving specimen hunter, able to flick a bait beneath overhanging bushes, but I was looking for a long run with somewhere to park my tackle box and room to cast a 14 foot rod.

With an average depth of only 30 inches and the bottom visible across the river, it appears fishless, but looks can be deceiving. Today I was armed with half a pint of maggots, this being enough for the four hours I intended fishing, where little and often is the rule.  I set up a 6 No 4 ali stemmed stick float, with most of the weight bulked beneath the float, a single No 4 and a No 8 on the 2 lb hook link down the line, a size 18 barbless for a single maggot completing the rig.

I plumbed the depth across the width, finding a channel midway at 30 inches deep, shallowing up to two feet along sunken branches on the opposite bank, setting my float to run through along the far side. A dozen maggots broadcast upstream across the swim could be seen drifting back down in the bright sunlight and cast the float among them for my first trot through. Third cast, at the end of the trot, the float held under, but I missed the strike, the red maggot sucked hollow. A few more maggots in and the float held under again, this time the rod bent round on contact as the fish rushed off downstream, before zig-zagging toward the snags along the far side. Pressure brought a chub’s white mouth to the surface and I steered the fish over to my landing net, aware of the strong pull from the current close to my bank.

This was a good start. The following cast, the float sank immediately, a solid fight and a small perch was swinging to hand.

Straight in and the float sank again to be met by a different fight, the bounce, bounce of a roach giving the game away.

Three fish in three casts, the fourth unbelievably resulting in a different fight again, as a dace tumbled and flashed in the sunshine along the far side.

The Blackwater is full of hard fighting dace of good size, this one taking a white maggot. I always add Termeric powder to my maggots, it gives them a touch of spice, that I am sure is attractive to the fish.

 

Alternating between far bank and middle with white and red maggots, while feeding 3 to 4 maggots a cast upstream of me kept the fish coming every cast, a decent perch taking right under my feet.

Although I could not see them against the gravel bottom, these fish were snapping up the maggots when they hit the water. A cast to the far side, upstream to where I had thrown the next batch of maggots, saw the float slide sideways and the rod bend over into another chub.

After two hours the bites began to slow, with fish coming further down the swim, deepening up and holding the float back in stages giving some rod thumping bites, never knowing what would take the bait, even some big gudgeon getting in on the act.

Stopping for a sandwich and some tea, I continued to feed the swim, finding better roach had moved into the middle of the trot.

If the float got through there was usually a perch, chub, or a good dace waiting further downstream. Some dace like the one below being around 8 oz, would explode on the surface when hooked, the tail of the swim shallower and faster than in front of me.

Constantly ringing the changes, over depth holding back, shallow running through, inside, middle and far bank, heavy and light feed, kept putting fish in my keepnet. It was repetitive work, the landing net seeming to get heavier with each fish. I was aiming to continue for a full four hours, but as the bites trailed away again, I thought of the long walk back to the carpark and hoped for a fish to end the day on. It came in the shape of a 10 oz roach, that ran to the far bank snags like a chub, then fought up and down the swim, before finally getting its head clear of the surface, praying that the size 18 barbless hook would keep hold long enough to slide it into the landing net.

What a session, one of my best on the Blackwater, certainly my best on the maggot, only bettered by a  preblog winter day, when I found a shoal of big roach and dace holed up in a deep eddy, taking well into double figures on the bread punch, the weight boosted by a couple of 2 lb chub.

Eight and a half pounds of pristine, quality fish taken in four hours, when for once the pike stayed away.

Quality roach fail to disappoint at Jeanes Pond

October 2, 2017 at 11:07 pm

A day clearing the garden ready for winter had been planned for today, but a text from my friend Peter inviting me to join him for a few hours fishing at the Braybrooke club’s Jeanes Pond could not be ignored and I arrived to find him already tackling up in his favourite swim, peg 13. I had fished the peg on a stormy afternoon a few weeks ago, netting 10 lb of roach with a bonus 3 lb 8oz tench, all on the bread punch and was interested to see how Peter would get on with his maggot bait.

Winds from hurricane Maria had blown across the Atlantic to exhaust themselves on the English countryside, however set in a hollow, Jeanes pond is immune from all, but a howling south westerly and it was like a mild spring morning, when I set up in peg 18. This swim was new to me, and I set about plumbing the depth, finding 4 feet in the right hand corner and only 3 feet to my left, this old brick clay pit varying in depth from 2 to 6 feet depending on the peg.

Putting in a small ball of liquidised bread to my right on the 3 metre line, I followed with the float and watched it cock and sink slowly out of sight. A lift and a rudd was swinging to hand.

Many of the golden rudd have this tatty look about their scales, while the silver ones are pristine. I was not complaining, they all fight as well. With the pole at 3 metres, I was catching under my feet out to 4 metres, a 6 mm pellet of punch bread on a size 16 hook accounting for fish after fish, the occasional small ball of crumb, keeping them coming steadily, including this roach.

Peter’s maggots were also taking quality roach, along with small perch, but the maggots could not match the speed of the bread punch for hooking fish, the float cocking and sinking in one movement.

 

I even caught a small perch, that had seized the bread on the drop. It was pot luck, what size each fish was, the 6 mm pellet even being swallowed by 3 inch roach in a second. Below is the best roach of the morning.

Like a switch the bites stopped and I saw the culprit, a flash of green in my swim being a pike, as it chased a fish. A patch of bubbles suddenly erupted from the baited area, when it swooped on a roach I had hooked, the fish splashing on the surface in panic before I could lift it out.

I cast away from the baited area to my left, another small ball of bread bringing instant bites again, but the pike moved to the new area, snatching a small roach from the hook. The bites had slowed again and my final roach jumped clear of the water with the pike inches behind it.

This perfect roach survived a mauling and my decision to pack up coincided with Peter getting his float snagged in an overhanging branch, breaking the line. For us it had been a social event, catching up on our news, while also putting a few fish in the net, Peter finishing with 3 lb and 6 lb on the scales for myself.

The bread punch perch is visible top right.

Bread punch mixed bag from gudgeon alley

September 29, 2017 at 12:16 pm

My tiny local river has suffered with several pollution events this year, causing thousands of fish deaths, but the upper reaches seem to have recovered and I was keen to see how the productive weir swim was getting on. My last visit in February had resulted in a blank, when in previous years quality roach had queued up for the bread punch.

Not trusted to buy my wife’s birthday present on my own, we had driven to a nearby town to look at rings, with the option of going on further to view more jewelers, but had struck lucky at only the second shop, finding the ideal gift, that we were both happy with. Driving back we had listened to a news report of reintroduced otters in Wiltshire, finding urban fish ponds full of expensive Koi carp easy pickings, emptying the ponds and strewing half eaten remains over the gardens. This obviously got me onto the subject of fishing that afternoon, although it would have to be a short session, being reminded that she was baking a favourite dish that afternoon, which would spoil if I was late home.

Bearing in mind, that a month after the pollution, I had failed to get a bite from this popular spot, I was not encouraged to find the swim overgrown, overhanging branches creating a parrot cage, which would make fishing with my 14 ft rod difficult. In the past the regulars have kept the branches trimmed, but was this a sign that it was no longer fishing?

Setting my 6 No. 4 ali stemmed stick float to run through shallow, I hoped to pick up a few early chub, before the roach moved it. That was the theory anyway, as the float followed a couple of balls of liquidised bread down the swim. At the foam, the float sailed away and firm resistance saw a rudd skimming towards the landing net. The rod snagged in an overhanging branch, as I brought the fish to the net, but all was ok and number one was in the keepnet.

A smaller rudd, a tiny chub, then a better chub came in quick succession, swinging the chub in to avoid the tree.

Fears of no fish in the swim were blown away with a fish a chuck, small chub and rudd taking the bread just below the surface.

The chub were getting smaller, throwing most of them straight back and changed tactics, bulking the shot at the hook link, while adding 18 inches to the depth, dragging bottom. Dip, dip, dive. A gudgeon came swinging in.

The gudgeon here fight like mini barbel, hugging the bottom, giving the impression of being bigger fish. These were now coming with every cast, the bread coating the bottom encouraging an impenetrable wall of the greedy fish. I was fishing with a big 7 mm bread pellet on a size 14 hook, but that did not stop them.

What to do? Stop feeding, or feed heavier? I chose the second option and the roach moved in. Once more the rod got snagged, but pulled through.

I tried to bring the next roach round to the side of the branch, but the fish swam off the hook. Then I attempted swinging them in, only to lose another. They were lightly hooked and heavy fish. Adding another 6 inches to the depth worked. Well over depth and held back to half river speed, every time the bait entered the edge of the foam it sank out of sight, followed by the line. These were decent roach, that ran into the fast water, putting a good bend in the rod, but being securely hooked deeper in the lip.

Running the gauntlet with the tree continued, requiring some careful maneuvering with the landing net at full stretch. I continued to bash my way through waves of gudgeon, but the roach, when they came were worth it.

I’d started late at 3:15 and two and a half hours later it was time to stop. This was supposed to be only a taster session and any longer would not go down well, if my wife’s special meal was ruined. As I pulled the  clattering net out of the water, I reflected on the disaster that had befallen this small river only 8 months before, the picture below taken a hundred yards upstream.

What a contrast, my catch below, 8 pounds of prime healthy fish, roach rudd, chub and yes, gudgeon.

I arrived home in time to sit down to a turkey steak, baked in a foil parcel with cheese, mushrooms and onions, served on a bed of carrots and beans fresh from the garden. A perfect day.

CZ 452 .17 HMR long shot after haymaking

September 21, 2017 at 11:41 am

A wet, then hot spring had resulted in rapid grass growth on most of my shooting permissions this year, giving plenty of cover for the rabbits, but not a lot of use for my CZ HMR. A call to one of my farmers confirmed that he had completed haymaking and that there were rabbits “everywhere”. I took his description with a pinch of salt, as any numbers over a couple count as everywhere in his book, but it was worth the trip to find out, the freezer looking a bit bare, due to a burger making session.

Arriving in the late afternoon, I had a good view down the field and could count five rabbits along the edge, but once through the gate, the nearest three were sitting up ready to melt back into the hedge row.

There were two still feeding out in the open about 200 yards away and I made my way across to the far edge, keeping in cover as much as possible, hoping to close the range down before I was spotted. One sat up. I stood still. It went back down to feed. They were about 150 yards away now, in range for the HMR, but with a slight breeze in my face, not a sure shot. I got down and belly crawled another ten yards. Over the curve of the field, one was just visible, the other only a set of ears. Another five yards and the prone shot was on. Lining up on the right shoulder, I eased the trigger and the rabbit toppled over. Working the bolt, the second rabbit was flat to the ground and heading for safety. I have harvested this field too often.

After waiting for 15 minutes, nothing else showed, so got up and began walking to collect the first rabbit, only to see another appear in the field 50 yards beyond it. Back down again, through the scope it was facing me. Shooting for the table, its side on head, or shoulder shots with the HMR. Even at 100 yards the bullet can pass right through from head to tail, the percussion ruining the meat. Another wait and it turned broadside on. Crack! It jumped, running in thin air and dropped. Another unseen rabbit was up and running, slowing down only to negotiate the brambles, before vanishing. On new permissions, I have shot three, or four from one spot, but not here recently.

I waited 20 minutes this time. Further round, well out of range, a small group were now feeding and I made my way to pick up both rabbits, keeping my eye on the group. Maybe another shot would be on, but one by one they slipped away. Another wait would have seen them out again, but behind me toward the gate, the others were feeding again. I had paced the distance to the second rabbit, being pleased with 146. Zeroed at 120 yards on a still day, the Honady .17 Magnum Round gives an almost flat trajectory out to 150 yards, needing only a one inch hold over.

These were big rabbits, making a change from the young ones of late, obviously out making the most of the fresh grass shoots to put on fat before winter. The field curves round and I knew that I would be spotted before making cover and sure enough white tails were bobbing back to safety, before I reached a small bush with long grass at its base. Patience is a virtue required for this daylight shooting and I settled down behind the rifle, scanning through the scope for movement along the far end bramble bushes.

This time like magic, a rabbit popped into view in minutes a hundred yards away, falling to a quick head shot. These three heavy rabbits were just right for my planned bunny pasties and I made my way back to the van just in time to meet the rash hour traffic home.