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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.

Bread punch chub and roach reward tenacity

December 22, 2016 at 2:28 pm

With visitors over the Christmas period and bad weather threatened, my only chance to fish for sometime came this week, when morning cloud drifted away to reveal a blue sky and low winter sunshine. So near the winter equinox, I needed to get out straight after lunch to manage a couple of hours on my local river. Loading my gear into the van, I was interrupted by our window cleaner, who was on his pre Christmas rounds. A carp fisherman himself, with several French caught 30 pounders to his name, the usual angler to angler conversation began, before I excused myself to get his payment, adding a little extra for his Christmas Box. He was up his ladder, when I returned, taking the opportunity to hand over the cash and escape, as precious daylight was at a premium.

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The river was crystal clear and about 6 inches down on normal, with a steady run along my bank; it looked perfect. My last visit put two chub of over 3 lbs each in the landing net before I lost my float rig. Then I was travelling light with the rod made up and had to pack up, but this time was fully equipped with tackle box and keep net in anticipation of a busy afternoon.

Running under the road, the river boils over a concrete sill, pushing toward my side, before curving round to create an eddy, the remaining water passing over a shallow gravel run at the far end. For bait I had some week old maggots, many of which had turned to casters and also coarse crumb with compressed slices for the hook. Expecting big fish the, 12.5 ft Normark was set up with a 4 No 4 ali stemmed stick to a size 16 barbless hook and 2.6 link.

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Confident in the bread punch, I squeezed up a couple of egg sized balls of crumb, putting one in down my side and the other in the slower water my side of the eddy. On my previous visit the two chub had come on consecutive casts, both on the bread punch, so was ready for action from the off, running the float through at half speed a foot off the bottom. The first trot was disappointing with no sign of a bite, the bread pellet still hooked adding to this, as nothing had been near it. A couple more bread balls were dropped in, scattering fragments in the swirling river and I tried again. Each trot was taking about five minutes to complete the 25 yards and on the third, the float lifted, then sailed under, hitting a good fish twenty yards away. I backwound as the fish made for the shallow exit, before turning to run along under the far bank, the float not visible until under my rod top. The long body of a chub was visible in the clear water trying to bury it’s head in the dead weeds at my feet, but one scoop of the landing net saw it on the bank.

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Just in the lip, the hook transferred to the landing net once the pressure was off and felt lucky to have landed this pound and a half chub, before it dumped the hook in the weeds. Picking up the chub to put it in the keep net, I noted how cold it felt, despite the cool air. Maybe that was the reason for a shortage of bites. Too cold. There was a depth of four feet close in and I set the float over depth to inch it down the inside, where I expected to find a shoal of roach. As a friend used to say, the float is talking to me, unfortunately it was saying that there was nothing there!

Allowing the float to travel round with the eddy, I had to mend the line to stay in contact, but there was a massive bow in the line, when the float eased under. A sweeping strike made contact and I was playing a better fish, that broached the surface at the shallow outlet. Another chub. Although bigger, this one was less trouble and on it’s side by the time it was netted.

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Once again the hook had the lightest of holds in the corner of it’s mouth and fell out the moment I touched it. Two chub in half and hour, slow, but encouraging, this one being about two pounds, joined it’s brother in the keep net. I kept feeding and trying various depths, but the inside line was barren and it was on another long trot around the far end of the eddy, that the float went down again. The rolling, bouncing fight told me that I was now playing a nice roach, the red fins clearly visible as it was brought along the far side.

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A deep round fish of about 8 oz, this raised my spirits, thinking that the roach had come on at last. No they hadn’t, this was it. With an hour gone and no more bites, I switched to the maggots. Feeding down the inside I went through the motions again, shallow at first for chub, then over depth for the roach, but not a sign of a bite. Needing more control of the float at range, the 4 No 4 float was eased out of it’s retaining rubbers and a 6 No 4 substituted, then shot added. Rather than wait for the float to travel down, the heavier rig was cast to the start of the eddy and the maggot mix catapulted over the area. Bites did come, but nothing that I could hit, sharp taps and dips, as the maggots were sucked thin. This second hour was hard work for no result and I reasoned that it was minnows, small roach, or tiny chub.

Now the sun had gone below the tree line, while a chilling mist was covering the fields and I considered packing up, but decided to give the bread another go, scraping up the last of my crumb for a couple of balls, which I followed down with the float. At the start of the eddy, I held back hard and mended the bow in the line, sinking the float. It didn’t come up again, the line straightening with a hooked fish. Another nice chub, it headed for the exit, but turned at the shallows and raced back along the far side, before drifting across toward my net, then diving deep into the pool at my feet. Net at the ready, it rolled on the surface and came off! Curses!

Several more fruitless casts later, I packed up feeling that I’d not got the most out of this swim. Maybe the maggots were too old and tough, or should I have stuck it out on the bread? Who knows? That’s fishing.

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The dropped chub would have helped fill this net, but it’s still a reasonable bag for a cold winter afternoon. I’d watched kingfishers zooming back and forth, while pheasants strutted along the opposite bank, with the reward of a few fish.

Mirror and common carp pond prize

December 9, 2016 at 4:30 pm

A week ago ducks were walking on the ice covering my local pond, but today an unseasonal updraft of warm air from the Azores had banished the frost, to bring with it a dull day blessed by fine drizzle and the need to still wear thermals. With those left over maggots aging in the fridge, I decided on an afternoon session at the lake, but first set about modifying a heavy pole float to cope with the shallow water. Cutting the wire stem, I wound an eye up close to the float base to allow free fall of the unweighted hook link. Shotting it up, there were only about two inches between the last shot and the surface. Perfect. A quick lunch and I was ready for a couple of hour’s finding out if the foat worked.

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The carp here live in a thick soup of mud and brown water, leeched out of the surrounding pine forest, the maximum depth being not more than two feet. Setting up my 12.5 foot Normark float rod, Shimano reel with 6 lb line through to the 4 lb float rig, I cast out twenty yards and showered a few catapult cups of red maggots over the area. With three maggots on the size 14 barbless hook, suspended off bottom, I sat and waited for something to happen, keeping busy with regular firings of maggots. A couple of times the float stem dipped as interest was shown, but no more. I tried a double 7 mm pellet of bread on the hook. Again dips and a full on bite, but no fish. Maybe it was rudd?

A sound behind me warned of my wife approaching, taking a detour on the way to post Christmas cards at the nearby Post Office. She stood and shivered, contemptuous of my eternal optimism, continuing on her way with me reminding her, that I usually hook a decent fish, when she gets out of shouting range.

carp-034Large single bubbles began to burst on the surface. Something was down there stirring it up. Back to three  maggots and I cast in followed by more maggots. A carp took on the drop with the catapult still in my hands. It was on, coming close enough for me to ready the landing net, before it woke up and accelerated in the direction of the island. My wife was passing the bottom end of the lake and I called to her. No response. This was a 5 lb common and going round in circles, which needed bullying on this tackle, or I would never get it in. Mistake. The hook flew out. I replaced the mashed maggots and cast out again. Time to remind my wife that I had lost a fish as she walked away. Her phone was ringing, when the float sank away again. Dumping the phone in the bait tray, I set about playing this next fish. It was smaller, but still a handful. The phone rang, my wife answered. I informed her that I was now playing another carp. She said “Oh… Good Luck” and rang of. You can’t beat wifely support.

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Weighed in at 3 and a half pounds, this common was shaped like a barrel and in perfect trim, the hook transferring to the net. A recast over more maggots, saw the float dip and sink away slowly, until the strike sank home, then all hell broke loose, the fish standing on it’s head, flapping a massive tail on the surface. My float rod was never designed for this sort of punishment, but survived being bent to the butt several times. This was a much larger carp and on one of it’s many passes, the coarse scale pattern of a mirror carp stood out clearly. The commotion attracted the attention of a pair of anglers on the opposite bank, who arrived in time to see the broad backed monster scooped into the net.

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21 inches long and nearly 7 lb in weight, this mirror was an absolute tub at around 6 inches wide at the shoulder. The water is so shallow, yet until hooked, there is no sign of these carp on the surface. The disturbance did not put off the fish and minutes later I was in again, the new float sliding under. My body is not used to this sort of a work out, the fish with nowhere to go, but in a lateral direction in the knee deep water, pulling away at full speed. Soon a flash of orange and more irregular scales revealed another mirror.

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In the now low light, the pic could not do justice to this golden mirror carp at 19 inches and 4 lb 8 oz. I was now ready to pack up, offering my swim to the onlooking anglers, but on refusal made one more cast. Having planned a short session, I had no reviving hot cup of tea with me this time and had to summon up the last of my reserves, when the float sank away again. The fish was unseen for several minutes, after the first run, bringing it back to under my feet, in and out of the landing net, then off again. My audience commented on the power of what we could see to be a common carp larger than my first, which refused to give up, but the hook held and number four was on the bank.

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I can understand why anglers get obsessed by carp, putting them on a pedestal, but like most fish, once you get them feeding, they are an easy fish to catch. I was pleased and also exhausted catching these carp. My float idea worked a treat and of the three fishing that afternoon, I was the only one to catch.

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It took three of us to get these fish in the landing net, before lowering them back into the water, no room for any more.

 

Roach and chub from the deep freeze

December 4, 2016 at 5:04 pm

With maggots from last weekend still in the fridge, any fishing expeditions were scuppered by days of sub zero temperatures, that had put a covering of ice over the local ponds.

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Not wanting to waste my aging bait, the van was loaded up and the flask filled with piping hot tea for the ten mile drive south to the river Blackwater, hoping for a few winter chub. I’d been promising myself a visit to a swim, that I had passed in the summer,  where the flow runs beneath an archway of overhanging branches, which looked like it oozed chub. Trundling my trolley along the meandering bank, the sight of two anglers side by side in the very spot, stopped me in my tracks. Enthusiasm gone, I retraced my steps back to the car park, where a well worn swim beckoned. At least bait would have been going in here, holding a head of fish?

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Setting up with a 4 No 4 ali stick, there was a steady 3 ft deep trot along my bank, where brambles overspilled into the water, with a protective branch trailing. Having fed a couple of handfuls of red maggots while setting up, I was encouraged to see indications of a bite first cast, holding back, then letting go, seeing the float dive deep.  A sweeping strike met instant resistance, that gave way to a small perch of a few ounces, which was soon in the keepnet. The maggot was untouched, but I added another in the hope of a better fish and followed more maggots down, this time missing the bite. Next trot another small perch was in the net, having paused a second on the strike, the size 16 hook just in the lip.

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Bait still untouched, the float was eased back toward the overhang, where it sank again, the line following down. Counting to three, I struck. Yes! The rod bent over to a fast running fish, that stayed deep and I backwound to ease the pressure on the small hook. There are barbel here, but when the fish turned out in an arc to the middle, I saw the deep green flank of a very good perch, before it rushed back to the bottom. Keeping on the pressure, the pound perch was soon on the surface, being drawn to the landing net, the red maggots visible in it’s lip. Gills flared, it gave the dreaded head shake inches from the net and the hook flew out. Drifting downstream it remained on the surface briefly, then rolled over and away.

After that there were no more decent bites, that perch had taken the shoal with it. I tried to get them back, sticking it out for another half hour, before deciding to change waters. Keeping the rod set up, breaking down the top joint to get it in the van, I loaded up and headed back to the weir pool near home. If the swim was empty, I would fish, if not a warm kitchen would be welcome on a freezing day. The pool was clear and it took only minutes to settle down to fish.

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Frozen mist hung in the air and ice was visible in the margins, as I fed a couple of handfuls of reds into the eddy, watching them being swept round to the white water. Dropping the float in under my rod top, it travelled a few feet and buried, the rod bending over in response as a small chub retreated back to the weir. I swung the chub in, maggots spewing from it’s throat.

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Feeding more maggots brought another fish, this time a hard fighting roach, right on the edge of the foam.

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Having started fishing again at about 1:30, there were only a couple of hours of light left on such a dull day and I set about making up for lost time with another roach.

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A hot spot developed just where the slow water entered the fast and casting in with the float well over depth brought a bite every time, the roach tally rising.

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More like this followed, then, bang, something much bigger took, speeding across the fast water, backwinding saving a lost fish, putting on side strain to keep it clear of the bush to my right. Once back in the eddy, it was only a matter of time, until it was ready for the landing net, the two pound chub’s white mouth wide open.

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Once in the net, the hook dropped out, although still full of fight, it nearly flipped out of my grip, when faced with the keep net.

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By 3:15 the light was going fast and I was now having trouble hooking the maggots without bursting them, so this 8 oz roach was the last of the day. The camera was already slowing down and I needed a last shot of the final net.

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Some of the eight roach were hidden in the folds of the net, but I was satisfied with this image, which sums up what winter fishing is all about, and justified the change of venue.

Colne and Frays roach cold comfort

November 30, 2016 at 5:28 pm

A rare chance to fish a river of my boyhood came this weekend, when a local fishing club offered the use of it’s West Drayton water in exchange for my club’s stretch of the Thames at Windsor. As a twelve year old, I used to cycle the five miles from my home to fish for dace, where the clear water of the river Frays joined the Colne, a few hundred yards below Thorney Mill. At that time stone loach could be caught under the Frays bridge by lifting stones among the clean gravel, while flyfishermen were a common sight pursuing brown trout. Continued upstream pollution events during the 1960’s, transformed these once magical rivers into evil smelling, fishless drains for over a decade. Now with many of the factories gone and water treatment improved, the Colne and Frays are back to their former glory, large bream, chub and barbel the main targets for anglers.

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Meeting in the carpark on a cold Sunday morning, this was a new piece of water to most of the club, the match secretary setting off upstream to search out the swims and place a numbered peg in each. After agreeing to join in the club match pools to fish the fast flowing Frays, there were more anglers than swims available, so extra pegs were put in on the two weirs, which spill off the main Colne above Thorney Mill. It was my luck to draw the lower weir, where I was faced with near static clear water, more suitable to the pole, than the stick float rod I’d brought.

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Setting up with a 4 No 4 ali stemmed stick float, I plumbed the depth at five feet and ran it through with a single red maggot on the size 16 barbless hook. Not a touch. Not even a minnow. After ten minutes, it was time to try a different approach. I’d also brought some food processed bread to use as heavy mash ground bait for the the Frays chub and squeezed up a small ball, lobbing it upstream.  Baiting with a 5 mm pellet of punched bread and dropping the float  in behind it, I watched as it made slow progress in front of me. A ring spread out from the float tip, then another. A bite! It went under. I missed the strike, almost too shocked to move. Cursing my brain freeze, the float was dropped back to the spot. Again it sank, but this time the rod bent over as a decent roach flashed silver, deep in the pool. The landing net slipped under this fish and the hook dropped out from the skin of the lip.

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Canal tactics with the pole would have suited this swim, likewise liquidised bread would have been the feed, rather than the chunky, coarse bread floating down to the fish. It would be a balancing act today, enough feed to keep them interested, while not feeding them off.

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Over the next hour the bites kept coming, taking time to develope,  the roach were very cold to the touch, even with my frozen hands, striking early before the float had fully sunk well away, usually meant a miss. bread-082

With the fish seven metres out, the pole would have been perfect, being able to strike directly above, against striking through four metres of water, while a chilling east wind was putting a bow in the line and dragging the float. Excuses, excuses, a bad workman always blames his tools, I knew what I was doing wrong, but couldn’t remedy the fact that my pole was at home in the shed.

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This was the best roach on the day, after which the bites got fussier and the fish smaller, tiny chub and minnows taking over the swim. Word filtered down the bank of some big fish lost and landed from the Frays, on the other side of the Colne and needed some better fish. With the main flow of the weir 20 metres out, I doubled up on float size to 8 No 4, making underhand casts to the lip of the weir, following down with pouches of red maggots. Despite the wind, I could hold back and mend line back to this heavier float, set deep at first dragging through, but when the bites failed to come, the float was shallowed to four feet. There was now a bite a cast, but it was chub, roach and perch of a few inches dipping and dithering the float, even minnows were pulling it under. Big chub, bream and barbel occupy this weirpool, but a couple of empty cans of luncheon meat on the bank pointed to their usual diet, treble maggot and lumps of bread flake not interesting them. The whistle blew for the end of the match and I packed my gear away, waiting for the scalesman, being the last in line. At least I had a few nice roach to show for a very cold day.

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The scales went round to 2 lb 3 oz and was pleasantly surprised to be placed second, being squarely beaten by a net of four fish, a 4lb chub included among an 8 lb plus bag.

 

 

Black Friday nature walk with the Magtech .22

November 26, 2016 at 11:19 am

Lured back to the high street by Black Friday discounts, my wife hoped to complete her Christmas shopping in one hit. With me acting as her driver, she was dropped off in town, while I continued on to the northern outskirts for a visit to the equestrian centre, in the hope of a few rabbits for the freezer. I say hope, as it has been slim pickings since a concentrated effort in the spring had reduced numbers, some once hotspots, now showing no sign of habitation.

It was a glorious mild afternoon with the sun throwing long shadows, as I walked along the lane from the stables and noticed that the owner had been busy clearing a long abandoned heap of stable waste, which had rotted down to rich black compost. Once covered in grass and pock marked with burrows, it had been my first and last port of call for an evening potting rabbits from the comfort of straw bales with my Webley Viper air rifle. Those days and the rabbits have long gone, although the grassy bank occasionally hosted a few occupants and had always been worth a look.

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Further along the lane is the next point of interest, a small clearing which acts as a general dumping ground, where through the trees I spotted a pair of big rabbits with their heads down feeding. Keeping low, I crept round from the side, rifle raised and ready. One was already spooked and gone, but the other was sitting bolt upright to the left of the rubbish heap. The shot flipped the rabbit over and it lay there kicking, which is just a reflex, but I prefer another to the head to make sure. Walking forward, the second rabbit appeared from behind the heap, making for the brambles on the right, pausing at the edge long enough to be stopped in it’s tracks with another shot.

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That was a good start. After paunching and skinning, they were bagged up, before moving on toward the wood, searching for the dark rounded outlines of more rabbits along the ride at it’s edge.

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On such a mild day, I’d expected to see a few rabbits out sunning themselves, but no and walking the length of the ride looking for recent droppings, sadly confirmed the fact that rabbits don’t seem to live here anymore.

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Moving into the wood, a rabbit bursting from undergrowth at my feet, bounded through the leaf litter to the safety of bushes at the end of the clearing. Following along the path, I stopped and listened for movement. It was close, probably intending to double back, and I slowly walked into the area.  Only feet away it jumped up, invisible in the autumn undergrowth, startling me as it scurried through the bushes before stopping again. Even with the magnification down to the minimum 3, the image was blurred, but the shot was unmissable and I fired. It leaped in the air and disappeared from view again. I could not find it, crossing back and forth, it was gone, maybe down a rabbit hole at the base of a tree yards on from the spot. If hit at that range, the shock alone would have killed it.

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That was my last sighting of a rabbit, starting out on a traverse of the boundary round the 80 acres that produced nothing, even where I had shot two six weeks before, was empty. Thinking about it, the rabbits may have been keeping their heads down, but my walk was interrupted by a deep red fox, a pair of muntjac deer, pheasants, screeching green parrots, wood peckers, jays and magpies, while kites soared overhead and pigeons clattered out of the trees as I passed. Surrounded by houses, a hospital and schools, I am fortunate to have this among my permissions, even if my work here is almost complete.

Back in the traffic, my wife was waiting at our agreed pick up point in the town centre, the sweet smell of perfume filling the car, her wrists testing grounds for expensive fragrances soon to be given as presents.

 

 

Braybrooke Community Nature and Fishing Club net Jean’s pond

November 18, 2016 at 7:18 pm

It’s not often you get anglers complaining, that they have too many fish in their pond, but that’s what happened at the recently formed Braybrooke Community Fishing Club, the members calling in the Environment Agency to destock some of the thousands of small roach and rudd populating their Jean’s pond. On my doorstep, I had not been aware of the water, only five minutes drive from my home, until invited to fish last month, when I had caught a mixed bag of fish, topped off by a four pound plus tench. I had no complaints of my catch.

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Invited down to watch the EA net the pond, I arrived to find agency worker Stuart persuading fish to leave the safety of a lily bed, before the net was drawn to the bank, revealing hundreds of their target small rudd and roach.

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A raft of autumn leaves had hampered the netting operation, the first session resulting in plenty of leaves, but no fish, the second more successful, although there were a large number of quality fish in the net, many being returned to the water. Dropping the lead weighted mesh in a circle from a boat each time, most of the near surface area of the pond was covered and the Environment Agency men were satisfied with their efforts, after four hauls.

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One of the reasons for the destocking, was the lack of natural predators apart from a few perch, the members having no knowledge of any pike in the pond for years, but the surprise of the morning was…..a pike.

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Where there is one pike, there must be more, the morning’s work providing only a brief snapshot of the pond stock. No tench, or crucian carp, of which there are many, came to light, but an estimated thousand small silver fish were put in the water tank ready for transportation to one of the other Bracknell council controlled ponds. Members will debate the need for the netting, but preparing for the morning, community workers with grappling hooks dragged a wide selection of detritus from the water, sunken logs, a dozen cycles, children’s scooters and shopping trolleys piling up on the banks before they were done. This once neglected gem is getting ready to shine again.

Less than a year into this community project, the club is going from strength to strength, attracting novice and returning anglers to the sport, while providing families the opportunity to meet with their neighbours, to take part in a variety of nature inspired events, which have included birds of prey, reptiles and bat walks. In an increasingly inward looking world of mobile phones, it is a pleasure to see bright eyed young children taking a keen interest in their surroundings.

Autumn roach bread punch fishing

November 15, 2016 at 6:57 pm

Desperately needed rain came relentlessly to my local river last week, in days pushing the levels over the banks, as the acres of concrete and tarmac from the surrounding housing estates, flushed the excess rainwater down land drains into the watercourse. This vital job done, the river settled down again, running clear with a steady flow and with a few afternoon hours unexpectedly available, I made the short drive to the recreation ground car park. Beyond the tennis courts, five -a-side football pitches and crazy golf, the river appears from it’s subterranean route beneath the town to flow through a narrow green corridor between a main road and houses.cut-097

Leaves were falling like confetti on my arrival, not helped by a brief, but heavy shower of rain as I tackled up my lightweight 12 ft Hardy rod, ABU 501 reel combo, with a 3 No4 Middy ali stem stick float. The only bait available had been several slices of white bread, saving a couple of slices for the punch, while the remainder was whizzed down in the liquidiser for feed.

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Very shallow on my side, the flow was running along the opposite bank, where a couple of small balls of bread feed were followed by my float rig. Dip, dip, sink; I struck into the first cast, bringing a roach to the surface immediately, the float set at two feet, taken on the drop.

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Some of my canal fishing mates may say that a size 14 hook is too big for a 5 mm pellet of punched bread, but it works well on this little river, a larger pellet often giving a less positive bite. Next cast in, the float went straight down and a better roach was bouncing the rod top.

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The occasional small ball of feed had the roach lined up, passing the twenty mark long before the first hour was up.

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Breaking the chain, the next bite saw a fish rush off downstream in response to the strike, the Hardy taking on a good bend, as a small chub ran back under the tree, before turning to run along the opposite bank upstream of me, popping up onto the surface for the net.

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The roach had been happy to take the bait with the float running through, but the bites were getting fussy and decided to deepen up by six inches, holding the float back to half speed getting an instant pull under, the culprit being a deep fighting gudgeon.

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Holding back the float had it’s problems, the leaves stacking up against the line hiding the float tip, bites often being indicated by a ripple from the leaves. Mending the line back behind the float also became difficult, trapping the line and dragging the float, as the leaves continued to cover the surface.

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Roach were now competing with gudgeon for the bait, some real clonkers fighting like mini barbel, hugging the bottom as they dashed about. This fat one was at least 2 oz in weight.

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By 3:15, the light was already fading, the sky a dull grey as a fine drizzle filled the air, but the bites were still coming, small chub and rudd adding to the mix, fishing on in the hope of a decent chub, or roach to end the day.

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Stretching out the session for another 30 minutes, this rudd was my last fish, it becoming difficult to see the slot in the punch to hook the pellet. By now the drizzle had graduated to proper rain and I cut the rig from my line to avoid being tempted to continue.

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Evidence of never a dull moment on the bread punch, over fifty fish in a relaxed two and a half hours session. Home in time for hot tea and biscuits by 4:30 pm.