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Magtech 7002 rabbit season opener through the woods

February 23, 2017 at 1:13 pm

Over the New Year, extreme cold and wet conditions saw me preparing for a new season by stripping and cleaning my rifles. The Magtech 7002 .22 semi auto rimfire benifitted from the full strip treatment, removing all those sticky carbon deposits, that can slow the return of the hammer and hamper the automatic feeding of the next bullet, while also oiling the trigger and hammer mechanisms. The barrel I left alone, as the rifle is as accurate as ever, a recent bullet comparison test giving very agreeable results for a .22 semi auto at 50 yards. A .22 barrel needs time to lead up after cleaning, and should only require cleaning if accuracy falls off.

A period of freak warm weather for February, saw me visiting the equestrian centre for the first time in months to check out the current rabbit stock, which had appeared to be struggling in November. First impressions can be misleading, but after parking the van, I walked twenty yards to look through the gate of a small paddock, which although empty of horses, had two rabbits on view 80 yards away. Before I could do a holdover shot at them, they trotted into the undergrowth at the far end. Turning to leave, a rustle through the brambles to my right revealed another rabbit, only feet away, that bounded over the bank and along the ditch out of sight. This was a good sign.

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Sunshine and little breeze had fooled the rabbits into thinking that it was spring, but it had also attracted the young female horse owners, who were out enjoying their half term school holidays exercising their mounts, by cantering round the various rides at the 80 acre centre. With every chance of being disturbed, while patrolling these open areas for rabbits, the only option was try the wood.

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The floor of the wood in February is usually carpeted in snow drops, but the cold weather had them behind, just pushing through the leaf litter, while now they were really confused in the warm sunshine and trying to set flowers. My attention was drawn by dry leaves being displaced at a trot and expected to see a pair of muntjack deer disturbed by my presence, but just caught sight of three big rabbits running from cover, full tilt across the open ground of the wood to bushes at the other end. Two collided and went tumbling in their haste to get to safety. With horse riders in the vicinity, a wild shot at them would have been irresponsible and dangerous, but a studied look to see where they had stopped was more valuable.

Walking into the brush to my side, I found two new holes, the scrapes fresh earth. The rabbits had been caught feeding in the open away from their holes and would probably return soon across the open ground, and found cover against a tree trunk, with a clear view to where the rabbits had taken refuge. Lying prone, with the Magtech rested on my gun bag, I waited for movement at the far end 50 yards away. A rabbit appeared, sitting up to test the air and I took aim, a clear view in the scope, illuminated by the sunlight. A gentle squeeze of the trigger and it toppled over. Another unseen rabbit bolted forward into the cover of another bush. After ten more minutes, I walked over to the bush to see several holes among the roots, then down to collect my prize.

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This large buck won’t get the chance to father any more offspring, but walking further into wood, a group of four kits shuffled away into the undergrowth, as fast as their little legs would take them, so maybe he has done his work already. On my November visit, I bemoaned the fact that I had been too successful in my shooting efforts, but now could see that they have been busy, while I have been away. Passing out of the side of the wood, I had a clear view along two of the rides, where at the far end of one, another rabbit was clearly visible sitting up on it’s haunches. At 150 yards it was well beyond the range of the Magtech, but there were two options, one to work my way toward it using the sparse cover offered by the bushes at the ride edge, or cut back into the wood to cut down the distance and hope that the rabbit was still there, when I emerged at the edge of the ride. Choosing option two, I made fast progress through the wood and crossed a ditch to slide up to the edge of the ride, pushing my gun bag out first, then positioning the rifle on it, before moving round to sight through the scope, while prone. The rabbit was still there, head down feeding about fifty yards away. Confident with a head shot, there was no arguing with a 40 grain bullet and the rabbit had enjoyed it’s last meal.

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Turning back into the wood toward a large warren, I was disappointed to see that the whole area had been taken over by badgers, with fresh digging extending out into the path, where a large hole was just waiting to trip a horse, or human. Gathering up some dead branches, I filled the hole as best I could, stuffing them deep into the passage, leaving a few protruding above the surface as a visual marker. Intending a few visits at dusk later in the season, snapping an ankle in one of these holes would not be welcome.

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Following round the path, a small group of rabbits were feeding on an open patch of ground and I stepped back into cover, moving as close as possible, before getting down on the ground to peep round the base of a bush. Two were still visible about forty yards away and pushed the bag forward as a rest, while inching out into the path. One sat up, presenting the perfect target, the shot flipping it over on it’s back. Swinging round for the second, I had a view of a white tail flashing away into the tangled undergrowth.

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These were all big old bucks, that will go toward my next batch of bunny burgers  http://www.urbanfieldsportsman.com/index.php/bunny-burgers-with-chorizo/ although I will save the loins for a tastier dish.

No doubt the equestrian centre owner will soon be complaining about the rabbits again and I will do my best to keep them down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pike among the red fins, spoil a red letter day at Braybrooke fishing lake

February 21, 2017 at 5:11 pm

Good reports from friends of catches of roach, rudd and crucian carp, drew me back for a second visit to Braybrooke Community Nature and Fishing Club’s Jeans pond. Almost hidden by trees, this quiet little haven sits within a recreation ground, surrounded by a crowded housing estate north of my local town, where the recently formed community club, have been successfully working to regenerate a once neglected area, for the benefit of all.

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Warming winds from the Caribbean brought spring time temperatures on this February afternoon, although it also meant swirling gusts that rippled the surface in all directions. Four slices of liquidised white bread and a slice for the bread punch, were all I needed for a few hours fishing, setting up my pole to fish 8 metres out at peg 13. Lucky for some?

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Dropping a couple of small balls of bread either side of my float, I expected the usual instant response of the float sinking out of sight, but it needed a couple more balls and regular casts to allow the 5 mm pellet to slowly fall through the baited area, before a very welcome dip of the float brought the first of many roach to my net.

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It may have been a slow start, but I was soon in machine mode, cast, allow float to sink, strike, feed the pole back and break down to the last two metres to net, or swing in a fish. It was all roach, some five inches, some up to ten inches, but the rhythm was the same, the pole elastic taking the strain of better fish like the one below.

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Then it happened. Feeding back the pole, I’d just released the top two joints, when a pike grabbed the roach I was bringing in. The elastic stretched out into the pond, as I tried against the strain to reconnect the extra lengths of pole to be able to control the pike. Too late, the float pinged back, the line cut by razor sharp teeth. The hook link had been 2.6 lb line to a size 16. I now tied on a size 14 barbless to 4 lb line. If the pike took again, there was now more of a chance to land it. Feeding a couple more small balls of bread, the swim gradually built up to speed again, then a small roach was snatched off the hook, as it was being brought across the surface. The pike was back. The swim went dead.

I’d invested an hour of fishing time, plus bait to the swim already, so fed again, only for a nice roach to be seized. This time the pole was at full length and the pike dived away against the weight of the pole, before letting go of the roach.

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A lucky survivor, the roach had been grabbed across it’s lower back, causing minor damage to each side around the dorsal and anal fins, although the hook had ripped the mouth. It went into the keepnet for safe keeping, showing no signs of the trauma.

It was time for a cup of tea and a sandwich, while I considered the pros and cons of  continuing in this swim, but the thought of landing this unseen leviathan kept me going. Once upon a time, in the long distant past of my youth, I would have set up a heavy float, with a treble hook rig and cast out a roach as a live bait, until the pike took on my terms, but with live baiting banned at Jeans pond and a different enlightened mindset, I decided to soldier on.

It was a slow start again and the roach seemed to have gone, rudd having moved in, taking on the drop.

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Shallowing up, I was back in the groove once more, these rudd being clonkers, although there were a few lipless wonders among them, evidence of barbed hooks and poor handling.

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The best of this bunch was a golden rudd, again without an upper lip, that fought well against the heavy pole elastic.

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Possibly twelve ounces, this rudd and his friends were  building a respectable weight in my net and was hoping to top ten pounds, before the afternoon was out, but whether it was the sun sinking into the trees, or Mr Toothy the pike, I don’t know. The bites dried up. The other anglers around the pond were packing away their gear, but I was not ready yet and balled in the last of my crumb. With no bites at four feet, where I had been catching the rudd, I slid the float up two feet and went back down for the roach.

It was all systems go again with two, or three ounce roach every cast, then lifting a roach up on the strike, the elastic pulled out again. I lowered the pole to the water to take off the tension and waited for the pike to turn the fish, but it hadn’t read my script and kept going to my left. I put on two more lengths of pole and followed it, the elastic stretching deep into the gloom of the pond, while my carbon pole was taking on a dangerous curve. It was stalemate for a while, before the pike turned back toward the bank, shaking it’s head, before surging across in front of me to stop for a sulk.  Convinced that I had the better of this still unseen fish, I was tempted to lift the pole, but was restricted by the alder over the water. Keeping the pressure on, the float came to the surface, then was gone again with another run. Ping! The hook line had gone again, cut like a knife.

I finished off my tea, then tied on a new hooklink to find the roach still there. I doubted that the pike would back after that and felt that at least I had taught it a lesson, although my heart was not in the session any more and packed up after a few more small roach.

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As I pulled my net from the water, the sound of many fish splashing, then the weight as I lifted it out, made me think that I had reached my target 10 lbs, but the scales tell the truth and they settled at 8 lb 8 oz. In the circumstances, a really good weight for the cost of a third of the price of a 40p Tescos white loaf.

 

Carp put a bend in the rod at last

February 17, 2017 at 12:46 pm

Due to my recent reports of pollution on my local river, the Environment Agency are keeping me informed of their actions to improve the conditions on this urban waterway, beginning with the removal of trees to improve access for anglers, while allowing more light to reach the river bed. Meeting the local EA officer for a chat in the car park and a walk along the bank to view their intentions, which also will include work to improve the flow, plus the restocking of chub and roach to replace those lost, filled me with hope, but also a feeling of grief for the fish lost.

Returning home for lunch in the sunshine, produced a growing itch within me, that needed to be scratched; putting a bend in a rod, but time was against me.  I’ve been promising myself a lure fishing session on a pike filled canal 15 miles away, but that will have to wait for another day. With a carp pond only half a mile down and with wifely permission fresh in my ears, half a dozen slices of bread were whizzed up in the liquidiser, before the van was loaded ready for the short drive to the carpark.

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The pond had it’s usual mix of bird life, mallards, plus the noisy Canada geese, which had been joined by a dozen overwintering mandarin ducks, the drakes showing off their plumage to full effect.

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Before tackling up my 12.5 ft Normark float rod, I mixed up a tray of bread crumb and ground bait, wetting it down to soak. The plan is then to set up ready to fish, while keeping an eye out for a member of the duck feeding fraternity to arrive with a bag of bread.The ducks, especially the geese, can spot a feeder from a hundred yards and gather at the water’s edge in anticipation. While the chaos of the feeding process is under way, I lob tennis ball sized clumps of ground bait out into the swim, in this instance six balls in a rectangle 15 to 20 yards out. Being shallow, the balls need to break up on contact, to avoid the geese coming over later for a feast from the bottom.

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Using a modified pole float, with a fine tip, I cast a double punched 7 mm pellet of thick toasty bread into the baited area and waited. Although flat calm there was a drift on the pond from right to left and after mending the line, the twitch had attracted a fish, the float dipping, almost to the tip, then popping up. On the third dip I struck. Nothing. Bait gone. Rebaited , I cast into the same spot for a repeat performance, this time the float holding under. Missed again. With the float carrying all the weight and the hook link free to swing, the fish were just sucking at the bait with their lips. I added 3 inches to the depth and recast. After initial interest, the float remained static. Maybe the bait was gone? I lifted the rod slowly to see if the bait was on and the surface erupted as a carp was on for a second, watching a V shape zoom across the surface.

Time was getting on. I hadn’t started, until 2:30 pm, it was now 3 o’clock. Single bubbles were beginning to appear on the surface of the baited area, while a dark mud stain was visible. The fish were there rooting through the ground bait, but being very casual with the bread bait. Finally a proper bite, the float slowly sinking away, as I struck, taking up the bow in the line with a sweep, that made soft contact with something. It was carp already swimming toward me, that exploded with power, once it felt the hook. At last a bend in the rod right through to the butt, as the unseen fish swerved away from the bank making for the island, while I backwound at half speed to slow it down. With 6 lb line to a size 14 barbless, there were no fears of a break, but with plenty of snags on the bottom, there are no guarantees. The fish came round in a circle, close to the bank, just beyond my landing net, then rolled. A nice common. Continuing to roll, I pulled it toward my landing net and in. Phew! that was hard work.

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22 inches of brute power, not pristine with slight tail damage, but just what I needed to break my duck. The hook had been barely holding the top lip, coming out once the pressure was off. Now confident that I had it sussed, I missed the next bite. Sitting with my hands on my knees, I had watched the float dive away with the line following and made a grab for the rod too late. At least the bites were regular and the next strike made firm contact with a much smaller common, that seemed unable to understand that I was in charge, diving all over the place, coming to the net at the third attempt.

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The baited area was now stained with black mud from fighting and feeding carp, however, casting to a recent bubble usually brought an immediate response of interest, the float dipping a few times, followed by a slow sink. The next fish was another biggy, heading straight for the island at a speed I could not stop, the line singing in protest as it reached the shallows of the island, the carp rolling in a foot of water, before everything went solid. It had snagged me and dumped the hook. Pulling for a break, a line of bubbles indicated the the snag was free, a bundle of twigs dropping it’s contents as I reeled it back

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How do they do this, transferring the hook to a branch in seconds. Tying this lot together was a tangle of 20 lb line, possibly from a night fisherman overcasting into the trees. Once free, I cut the line up with my scissors, before finding a litter bin. If a duck, or goose were found tangled in this heavy line, the authorities would soon call a halt to fishing on this pond.

I was still missing bites. Leaving them too long often meant no bait, the bread softening up in the water, being sipped in like soup by the carp. It could take ten minutes for a bite to develope, or fail. Next bite will be a fish. Then it was.

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About two pounds, I thought it was a bigger carp, pulling hard to my left, trying to find sanctuary among the tree roots along my bank, but giving up against pressure of rod and reel. It had been a while since the second carp, the sun had sunk behind the houses, a cool breeze was beginning to blow across the pond toward me and without my winter layers of clothing was beginning to feel the February chill.

With my need to catch a rod bender satisfied with three carp, I was ready to pack up, gathering my bits and pieces together, when looking up I couldn’t see my float. It had been right out in front of me, but I now spotted it close to the bushes on my right. Reeling up the slack, I swept round in a strike and was in again, mud stirred up by the turbulence of another much larger common swirling up to the surface, following the fish as it disappeared round the corner out of sight. Side strain and backwind turned the forward motion out into the open water, where line was regained and the golden flank of another common carp momentarily broached the surface. The fight was still on, but I was winning, each pass bringing it closer to the net, until success, it was in. Needing both hands to grip the net and lift it onto the bank.

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What a tub. This fat common was in danger of running aground in the shallows at my feet and if I needed a bonus fish, this was it. Just a second with the disgorger and the hook came free from the side of it’s mouth. A minute later, the net was lowered into the water and the broad back submerged like a submarine and the carp was gone.

These carp give you quite a workout and certainly felt in need of a cup of tea, as I pulled the trolley back to the van.

Blankety, blank defeats optimism on poisoned river

February 15, 2017 at 8:39 pm

Despite a major oil spill on my local river, a flood seemed to have improved the water quality and a couple of anglers reported catching a good net of roach and chub, but before I could get down for a test fishing session, more oil was seen pouring from a drainage outlet of the town. Ever the optimist, I decided to take the short drive to the river anyway, to see for myself, but first impressions were not good.

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A small boom was covering the outlet from one of the drainage tunnels, while a larger boom stretched the full width of the weir, all very serious stuff, backed up by yet another boom reaching across the gravel shallows, fifty yards down stream, which was visibly catching surface scum.

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Below this the river appeared normal, the local duck population looking in fine health, as they gobbled down bread offered by school children enjoying a half term break.

My target swim was a few hundred yards further down the path, a spot where a recent tree fall had reduced the river by half, creating a deep, smooth flowing run about three feet deep.

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I had been saving this swim since the summer, then it had produced a steady supply of roach, rudd, perch and chub, plus the odd skimmer bream, all caught off the rod top, where they were queuing up to take the maggot bait. Two winters ago it was almost exclusively quality roach, that had seized my bread punch pellets.

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Today conditions seemed perfect, a nice green tinge and gentle flow, would have had my anticipation on full alert, but I had already spotted pools of oil reflecting up from shallow depressions, left stranded by the high water at the weekend. Bearing in mind that the fishing may be difficult, I selected a small stick float rig with a size 18 hook and punched a 5 mm pellet out, to start proceedings, following an egg shaped ball of liquidised bread down the swim.

For the next hour I rang the changes, running through shallow, over depth, holding back and laying on. Not a ripple, or a dip of the float to encourage me. The bread remained on the hook, unless tested by myself for softness. I had always assumed that, if I had been able to trot as far as the overhanging tree, a chub would take the bait every time, but had never been able to put it into practice, due to the float being dragged under by a fish long before it got that far. Last resort was to break a small worm in half and put it wriggling on the hook. Surely a small perch, or gudgeon would oblige? Not a touch. Various people stopped to ask if I’d managed to catch a fish, all aware of the recent pollution. One couple, regulars on this stretch had also not seen a bite, when fishing the day before.

The last Ace up my sleeve was to pack up and drive a couple of miles downstream to where water surges over a weir from the town water treatment works. Even on the coldest of days, this swim produces double figure nets of roach and chub, with the likelyhood of a bonus bream, or carp. This could not fail me.

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Oh, yes it could! Now tackled up with a 14 ft rod and a 4BB stick, I fed balls of bread to my left to drift into the faster water coming over the weir, which back eddies into the flow from the main river. The hot spot has always been at the edge of the foam, holding back bringing a sail away bite every time. After an hour, chub and roach would venture up into the slower water to hoover up the bread crumb draping the bottom. Not today thank you! Again a worm was ignored, even when held back and trotted down the foam. I usually complain to my wife about this swim, the constant leaning out over the high bank to net fish, giving me back ache. This time it was complaining about having blanked twice from two different swims on the same afternoon.

My only hope is that the fish are still there, but put off their feed by the chemicals drifting down to them, although as the water coming over the weir is from a source way above the pollution, those fish would not have been affected, so what is going on? Time will tell.

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Just one example of the variety, that this swim could produce, even a carp putting in a surprise appearance.

Winchester .22 42 gn subsonic versus RWS 40 gn subsonic field test

February 9, 2017 at 6:52 pm

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A letter from the Thames Valley Police dropped onto my door mat this week. Before tearing it open open, the fear of a speeding fine filled my mind, had I been caught by a hidden speed trap? No, it was a reminder that my Firearms Certificate was due to run out in six months and that I needed to renew it as soon as possible, to avoid not being covered. When I last renewed, the whole process, including a visit from the local Firearms Officer, had taken under six weeks. Now due to the “current peak renewal period” it was now six months minimum.

Terrorism raises it’s head in all walks of life today and no less with legally held firearms, various government departments processing information back and forth, with more detailed intelligence checks needed by the Information Research Bureau, including contact with an applicant’s GP and deeper checks on referees. My information is the same as my last two applications and hope for a clean run through. I will be putting in a variation on the new .17 WSM (Winchester Super Magnum) bolt action rimfire. Maybe that will slow it down.

One of the requirements, when applying, is that the current certificate has to be sent along with the application form. What’s the problem you say, well without the actual certificate, ammunition cannot be purchased, as all bullets bought have to be written by hand on the back of the certificate, along with the signature and number of the Registered Firearms Dealer at the time of purchase. This means that my stock of ammunition needs to last at least six months, until I receive my new certificate.

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HMR ammunition has been unavailable at my RFD for months with promises of a new batch in the country “any day now” for at least a month. Only able to purchase 200 at a time, I’m already well into the last 100, so do I hang on for a few weeks in the hope of a delivery, or end up running out once the warm weather arrives? With two new permissions to explore this is a possibility.

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.22 subsonsonic ammunition is readily available, but my semi automatic Magtech will only recycle certain brands. Eley subs were the best through this rifle, then they became unavailable in my area. I tried 40 grain Winchester, but these jammed on every other round. Recommended German made RWS, I tried them and they worked well, being accurate and quiet. Having bought 500, I was now down to the last 200 and in need of a top up, but guess what? The RFD has stopped stocking them too.

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Winchester have recently brought out a 42 grain bullet with slightly more power than the RWS, which is supposed to give better recycling in a semi auto, being heavier with a speed difference of 1065 FPS to the slower 990 FPS of the RWS. I bought a box of 50 and set off to my nearest permission to give them a comparison field test.

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It was a cold, damp, but still afternoon and I set up two targets side by at fifty yards, checking the zero on another target using the RWS. The zero had not moved and single shots gave hits in and around the 10 mm bull. Ideal for rabbit head shots. Of these ten shots, one did not recycle. Firing ten of the Winchester, there were no misfires and similar accuracy, although the report through the silencer was deeper in tone, but not loud. Happy so far.

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Moving on to the test targets, I fired five RWS  shots in five seconds, a good test of the semi auto Magtech. The first shot went straight through the bull, two edged the 10 mm bull and the other two hit the main target area with a maximum deviation to the left of 20 mm centres, these two being the last fired. Maybe warming of the barrel, or pilot error, but pretty good for rapid fire and a certain kill on any rabbit.

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Next up was the Winchester 42 grain, again similar results, one in the bull, two others edging and two out to the left, the furthest at 22 mm centres, but an almost identical pattern as the RWS. Most of the RWS were just below the centre of the bull, while the Winchesters were above, possibly due to the extra speed and power of the bullet giving less drop despite the additional weight.

This test was enough to give me the confidence to buy another 300 Winchesters  and with .22 High Velocity Remingtons already in the ammo box, the top up brings me near my 650 limit for .22 rimfire.

Hoping to try out the Winchesters on a rabbit, I went for a walk along the hedgerows, but nothing was on show and with the light drizzle turning to sleet, I headed back to the van.

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A post script to this blog was a phone call saying that my 17 Hornady were now in stock, so it was a quick drive to the RFD to use the FAC to buy enough ammunition to see me through the application period. The assistant in the sports shop said that I would be lucky to get the new certificate in six months, as he has been waiting for nine!

 

Death of an urban river

January 28, 2017 at 2:50 pm

News of a fish kill on my local river was met by disbelief this week. A tank containing toluene, a toxic industrial paint stripper, had leaked at a business unit in the town and the chemical had been washed down a surface drain during heavy rain. A chemical with the ability to cause nausea and sickness, toluene can mix with water if agitated, which it did, when it passed over a series of small weirs. The Environment Agency was alerted by members of the public complaining of the strong heady smell coming from the river, which was traced back to the surface water drain from the town.

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Due to the high flow levels, banks were awash and there were no early signs of fish being affected, but as the river settled back down to normal, dead fish were washing up five miles downstream.

In denial that my regularly fished stretch could have been a victim of the pollution, I decided to put it to the test, setting up my tackle a hundred yards from the outfall.

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The river looked perfect, with a hint of green colour and I set up a stick float rig ready to trot the opposite bank among the roots along the overhang. Preparing for my first cast, I noticed that there was a smell of oil in the air, while underfoot the bank had a slimy covering. Not good.

My most successful winter method in this swim, is to fish a 5 mm bread punch pellet on a size 16 hook with liquidised bread feed and expect a bite, usually from a chub, first cast. Not a touch. The float drifted 10 yards before I retrieved it, the bread pellet still on the hook. Another ball of bread was followed down by the float with the same result. With another ball put in just beyond the middle, I adjusted another six inches on the depth and followed the cloud down holding back at intervals in search of the obliging roach. Again nothing, my only sign being a slow pull under, but the strike revealed a twig dragged up from the bottom. The last resort was to set the float even deeper to lay on with the rod rested, surely a gudgeon would take the bread, these small fish a curse once they move in over the feed as it settles on the bottom. By now there would be a dozen, or more fish in the net, but now there were none.

In that disappointing 30 minutes, the realisation that the river was devoid of living fish, had struck home and pulled in my empty keep net. As it disturbed the bottom, a mini oil slick rose to the surface. Packing up, I scraped the sticky mud from my boots and walked my trolley downstream in search of evidence of fish mortality. From the high bank my eyes soon attuned to the ghostly pale outlines of dead fish, trapped on under water obstacles, strung out like grim necklaces. On the bank opposite, a 3 lb chub lay stranded by the flood, it’s silver flanks holed by birds, or rats.

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Further down this sickening sight was waiting, fish caught among the reeds as they were washed down stream, here roach, chub and perch just a snapshot of the carnage.

What next? This small river was already the focus of work between the town council and the environment agency for improvement, tree cutting, flow improvement and the creation of safe fishing platforms already in the pipeline. This work could be carried out as per schedule in the next few months, only for anglers to find little, or nothing to catch. Once the river environment is considered safe to restock, it will take years to recover to the level of the past few seasons.

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Catches like this above, chub and roach taken on the stick float with bread punch from the very swim that drew a blank during my test session this week, or the one below, when maggot and caster resulted in a mixed bag of roach, rudd, chub and perch, which was topped off by a 2 lb bream are now consigned to history.

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Having moved into the area six years ago, I was amazed by the quantity and variety of fish in this unobtrusive little river and was quite smug in emails to angling friends struggling to catch on the river Thames, where I used to live. My emails grew into regular blogs, never failing to fill a net in just a few hour’s fishing.

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Roach like this one were every other cast and it is heart breaking to know that this healthy fish now lies dead in the mud, due to human failings. If there is a financial settlement, it will never compensate for the loss of a fishing gem.

 

 

Trout fishery versus working farm

January 24, 2017 at 7:25 pm

Following up on my recent syndicate trout stream working party, I travelled back to see for myself the improvements that the farmer had carried out during the close season, without consulting the anglers as to the effects on the fishing.

The fishing lease was signed many years ago, long before the current occupier took over the farm from his aging father, who had left the river management to the anglers, but in recent times the new broom has been working hard to maximise the financial return from the land. The lease allows for six feet from river to field, but barbed wire and electric fences have been placed on the very lip of the banks, preventing anglers from fishing these areas without waders. My first season was fished without waders, being able to cast and land fish from these same inaccessible banks.

With this in mind, I was worried as to what would be waiting, when I reached the new farm bridge.

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With farming equipment getting bigger every year, the old bridge was past it’s sell by date, being constructed of old railway lines and wooden sleepers. Now constructed of girders and steel plates, the bridge has grown in width, while it’s span has been stretched by about six feet, the old supporting banks replaced by large concrete blocks. To achieve this, the river upstream had been diverted down an old mill race, reducing the flow to a trickle, while the construction work was carried out, displacing many of the fish stocks. Always worried about flooding around the farm buildings, the river can now pass unrestricted downstream.

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A view of the old bridge showing the wide support buttresses, which restricted the flow, then accelerated it through the arch, creating a long deep pool at it’s exit and generous slacks  at the sides. This was one of the best holding areas on the fishery. With no change in the flow, the pool will soon silt up to be replaced by fishless shallows, as is the case just upstream of the current bridge.

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I wonder whether I will see a trout like the one above again, which took a fly from the surface, deep in the shadow of the old bridge, landing it a triumph during my first season on the water.

I now walked down to the old cattle drink, where using a mechanical digger the farmer had dug out gravel from the shallows at the tail of the upstream pool to make up the banks.

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Looking more like a canal, than a chalk stream, the once wide gravel run is now deep and slow moving,  in contrast to it’s previous form. Providing that these new banks do not sprout more electric fencing, this now extended pool could actually improve the fishing in time, although all the existing underwater fly life has been dug out and heaped upon the banks.

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These shallows tapering back into the pool above used to hold many trout, the wild brown below also taken during my first season on the river from this very spot.

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There are still two more working parties before the start of the season, when it is intended to work on a neglected stretch, where willows have grown out across the river, restricting the flow, while giving a safe haven for pike and mink. I don’t think that the river will return to the glory days overnight, but providing the farmer lets us get on with it, we can begin the recovery and in the words of the song, things can only get better. Can’t they?

Trout stream working party cure for January Blues

January 19, 2017 at 5:39 pm

January is known as the most depressing month; the Christmas and New Year celebrations are history, while many cold and wet days are ahead, before the early signs of Spring banish the Winter Blues. With the first working party date reached in my diary, I was keen to get down to my syndicate trout stream, to see what work was needed to make 2017 better than last year.

2016 had seen a collapse in the fishing on this Hampshire chalkstream, a report of trout left stranded in a field following floods, big pike, mink, crayfish, plus major work by the farmer to construct a new bridge and build up the banks, had all combined to give new members a very negative impression of this once prolific fishery.

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With only four of the thirty members available on such a dour, drizzly morning, we decided to carry out some tidying up work on the upper stretch, starting with a flow deflector that had been planted using fresh willow cuttings  a few years before to stop bank erosion, where there had been a cattle drink.

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Willow will throw out roots into any wet surface, the cuttings, pushed vertically into the gravel, have grown to form a solid living barrier, that has been laid like a hedge, speeding up the river, which has in turn gouged out a deep fish holding run from the once shallow gravel.

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Untouched for a couple of seasons, these alders were in need of a severe haircut with the chainsaw to allow easier casting and fewer lost flies, while the team also cleared underwater obstructions.

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Dragged to a central point, the trimmings soon began to pile up, but a fire, started despite the miserable wet conditions, was soon burning furiously, acting as a focal point for an impromptu warming coffee break.

Talk of an electrofishing survey in the coming months, when any pike caught could be relocated, followed up by a plan to restock with brown trout on a piecemeal basis throughout the season, was encouraging news. Pest control had also accounted for fifteen mink and about six thousand invasive signal crayfish, the only down point on a positive day, being that the chief bailiff had forgotten to bring any potatoes to bake in the ashes of the fire. Maybe at the next working party?

 

 

 

Perch no substitute for pike at Braybrooke

January 10, 2017 at 6:47 pm

Knowing that a couple of old friends would be fishing at Jeane’s pond in nearby Braybrooke park today, I’d hoped to join them for some roach fishing, but a couple of prior engagements saw the morning slip away into the early afternoon, with an hour’s plug fishing my only opportunity to catch.

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A cold morning with a chill wind, had given way to a bright mild afternoon, but my friends were gone, no doubt undertaking their grandfatherly duties on the school run. Pegs one and two showed evidence of recent occupation, it not taking Sherlock Holmes to see a scattering of liquidised bread and the odd dead red maggot on the bank, that the local pigeons and sparrows had yet to clear up.

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Detective work over, I set up my ancient seven foot split cane spinning rod and ABU 506 reel, attaching a 70 mm Rapala Countdown sinking plug in the hope of hooking a pike. On their last visit to the pond, my now absent friends had complained of  a pike attacking roach, as they brought them in, the carnivore attracted to the silver fish activity. Visiting the next day, a pike had taken my lure on the drop, while casting around these same pegs, but had failed to set the hooks in it’s bony mouth.

Now possibly less that an hour after their visit, there was every chance of another pike, but my efforts around the two pegs drew a blank, despite the plug giving an award winning impression of a sick and dying roach.

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Walking round into the shade, I saw a small fish jumping like a skipping stone across the surface, close to a bankside tree. A clear sign of a predatory fish chasing it’s supper, I cast the plug to drop among the ripples and retrieved. The tip pulled round and I struck in an instant. Dead weight. A small branch came to the surface, then dropped off at my feet. This snaggy spot was worth another cast, or two. Minutes later the tip bounced round with a proper take. It was a fish, but not a big one, that pulled deep into the pond without too much resistance, if a pike, it was a baby; all being revealed as a 4 oz perch surfaced, shaking it’s head ten yards away.

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Neatly hooked in it’s bottom lip, the barbless was out in a second, this little perch happy to take on a fish one third of it’s size. A few casts later, the rod tapped on the retrieve and another small perch jumped clear throwing the hook. I had a smaller Rapala in my bag, but decided to soldier on. Moving round to cast into the area from the other side, boils behind the lure indicated another fish chasing, but not taking. The regular anglers speak of large perch in this pond, but none showed today and after another half hour’s entertainment with no sign of a pike, I was ready to face the rush hour traffic.

Winter common and crucian carp bread punch bonanza

January 5, 2017 at 2:59 pm

When a friend suggested a post Christmas fishing session on a usually prolific local pond, I took the precaution of walking down to check it out, finding the surface covered with a thin layer of ice. Relaying the news to my friend, he  decided to cancel. The following day saw heavy rain, then an overnight frost, but bright morning sunshine promised a dry day and I decided to venture out for a few hours after lunch. By mid morning, clouds were scudding across the sky, driven by a bitter wind from the north and my wife was questioning my sanity again, as I loaded up the fishing trolley for the short walk to the pond.

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The sight of frozen puddles along the path did not bode well and when I reached the pond, sheets of ice were spreading out from the margins toward the middle, but the far end was free of ice, kept open by ducks, although it was rippled by gusts of wind. So far my investment had been to take liquidised bread and some punch slices from the freezer, plus a five minute walk, which with thermals and several layers of clothing had got me warmed up nicely. Circling the pond, I found a spot with the wind and “sun” on my back and set out my stall to give it a go. If it was no good, home was not far away. Only problem was that there was a traffic cone, courtesy of the local yobos, on it’s side ten feet out. Using my landing net pole, I managed to roll it round to sink in deeper water, just beneath the surface. Out of sight, out of mind.

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In summer, a lily bed stretches out from the right, an escape route for the larger carp of this pond, but today only a few died back stalks were visible and I threw a few balls of bread along it’s edge. In summer this would have resulted in a boil of small rudd attacking the ground bait, but the surface remained undisturbed apart from the wind.  Selecting a small 2BB waggler pole rig with a size 14 barbless, I was soon ready to fish, a 6mm bread pellet swung out on the 7 metre pole, being taken on the drop by a palm sized rudd.

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The rudd here vary in colour from the usual silver with bright red fins, to greens and gold flanks with matching fins.

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The bread punch was proving again to be the best cold water method, the float following the bait down each cast without hesitation.

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The next fifteen minutes saw rudd swinging to hand in a steady flow, before a steady sink of the float had the pole elastic extending beneath the surface, when a small common cruised off with the bread. A quick dive into the lily bed was countered and the pole shipped back behind me, the top two removed to play the hard charging carp to my waiting landing net.

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The hook dropped out in the net, the all important elastic doing it’s job to stay in contact with the fish. There are much larger carp in this pond, but this one would do very nicely for a starter, the reign of the rudd being over from this point onward. Bubbles were already appearing on the surface, a sign of crucian carp and my next cast had the bright yellow float tip, which was dotted down to the surface, flashing off and on, as it bobbed up and down with a bite. The No 8 shot four inches from the hook was lifted by a fish, revealing more float tip. I struck and felt the weight of a nice crucian, before it began it’s erratic fight, again shipping back instantly to the top two lengths of pole, letting the elastic do it’s work.

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Not a crucian carp, but an exotic looking fan tail with extended fins, this barrel shaped fish hugging the bottom all the way to the net. The wind was still gusting behind me, making bite recognition difficult, the float appearing and disappearing in the ripples, each time it failed to show, I lifted into another fish.

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The small pond is full of hybrids, this fan tail having more common carp in it than crucian, although the next carp was definitley a crucian….I think.

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An hour into the session, the cutting wind dropped, but the sky went black with a cloud and the first of several short bursts of rain hissed on the surface. My hood was already up over my cap from the wind and felt cucooned from the elements, each shower passing in minutes, causing only slight discomfort. The bites had slowed since the rain and I plopped another ball of bread out in front of me, putting the float in close to the cloud of crumb. It zoomed off, followed by the elastic, another common was fighting for freedom.

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The common carp were now outnumbering the crucians, each one stirring up the black mud as they fought, which seemed to attract more into the swim, this smaller common making an unsuccessful dash for the lilies.

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Taking a detour on her walk to shop at Tesco, my wife appeared by my side, just as I netted another common this one close to a pound.

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I was now into my third hour, longer than I’d expected, the wind and rain had gone, but the clearing sky had dropped the temperature and the chill was creeping into my bones. Reaching into her handbag, she found an After Eight mint to help see me through this fish catching spree and then returned home to make me a flask of tea. What a woman!

I scraped up my last ball of crumb and put it in. The bites had not slowed, in fact the float gave bite indications the moment it settled, but they were more fussy, not coming to a conclusion fast enough for me. I began striking at any positive movement, a lift, or dip. I hit most, missed a few and lost a some, including a pole bending common that came off at the net, that would have taken the hook in further, if given more time.

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These heavily coloured crucians were the main culprits of the dithering bites. They would attack the bait on the drop, then sit off the bottom doing nothing with the bait in their lips. I was catching these, almost by numbers. Cast in, wait a minute, lift, break down the pole and net. So lightly hooked, they all needed netting. Being tempted to swing them in, often resulted in a dropped fish.

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I was pleased to see this small tench. I don’t know how they got into the pond, but they are getting bigger each year, this the best yet.

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My wife arrived in time for the netting of yet another fan tail crucian, the welcome cups of hot tea spurring me on. With time now denoted by fish, she stayed for a few more, before continuing to the shops. Having worked in a factory during my life, the fish were coming as though on a production line, getting into a rhythm only slowed by the size of fish. I’d lost count of how many caught, but my bait box told the story, each punch of bread being a fish.

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As 4 pm approached, the float dipped under and I hooked into the best fish of the day, a common of well over a pound, that ran toward the middle, before giving into the pressure of the elastic.

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The light was now fading fast and made this my last fish, unclipping the rig from the pole, before I could be tempted to go on. The session, on a day, during the coldest week of the winter, topped all my expectations, this being confirmed when I lifted the keepnet from the water.

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For a non commercial local pond, this was a fantastic haul taken in under four hours. It bounced my usual scales, which go up to 6 kg, so rooted in my box for my 50 lb scales, managing to hold the net up long enough to see the needle stop just short of 20 lb. Bread punch rules.