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Trout river fly fishing gets a cold start.

April 15, 2014 at 7:23 pm

Following months of floods, a couple of last minute working parties revealed many changes to the flow of  our syndicate trout stream, where trees had been washed out from the banks, creating new pools, while existing pools had been gouged out deeper, depositing banks of gravel at the tails. Known eddies were gone and fresh ones born. On my first visit of the new season, I was greeted by a different river and decided to walk downstream for half a mile then fish my way back.

Last year this was one of my most productive stretches, where the pool above spilled against the bank forming a deep eddy, but part of the bank is gone and much of the eddy is now a gravel bar. A new challenge yet to be tested.

Most of the rocks from the small weir have been washed downstream. More holding spots, or snags?

Although early April, it felt more like February, with a cold wind blowing downstream, but the sight of swallows, back from Africa, sweeping across the meadows and tortoiseshell butterflies mating among the nettles told a different story. Before I reached my intended starting point, where a smaller stream enters our river, I passed a previously ignored stretch, that now had more character, clumps of  weed between clean gravel runs looking very fishy and decided to stop and give it a try.

Getting down into the river, even through my waders, the river was very cold and not expecting any airborne fly life, I tied on a heavyweight version of my Black Devil nymph to get down to the gravel bed, this usually working well, bounced along the bottom in early season. I didn’t have long to wait for a response, when the leader darted forward, as the nymph passed beneath an undercut bank, a small brown briefly flashing gold in it’s struggle to successfully throw the hook. The downstream wind and too much slack line caused me to lose contact. More concentration and work was needed. Casting up and across as I moved upstream round the bend, there were more stabbing takes and another tumbled seven inch trout. This was an area, where we saw several spawning redds last year and these small fish are probably the result.

I continued up until I reached a deep pool, where the river cut round the roots of a tree and began prospecting the nymph, missing an easy take, that ran upstream. I was convinced that the size 14 nymph was too big for these small trout and rooted through my flybox for something smaller and came out with a size 18 tungsten copper wound Pheasant Tail. This looked very much like a mini version of the Black Devil, that I’d just taken off and began casting hard into the corner to sweep round the roots. Getting too close on one cast, I lifted off to avoid getting snagged and the line went solid. My heart sank. Roots! Then it fluttered, when the line rebounded slowly, and the white belly of a good trout began a zig zagging roll, deep in the pool. You couldn’t do it if you tried! A flash of golden green was all it took to turn and exit the pool at speed downstream, doubling over my seven foot rod, as the ratchet on my reel screamed. In survival mode, I gave line until it turned, then began to reel the fish back, as it searched out both banks for a snag, getting it close, before it rushed off again. Thinking I had it beat, I began to bring the possible 2lb brownie back, only for it to start rolling and thrashing on the surface out of control in the current. The barbless hook lost it’s hold. Another fish lost!

Shortly after I’d begun fishing again, I heard a “plop” behind me and turned round to see what looked like a rise. I discounted this, as there were only a few grannoms scudding across the surface and continued with the nymph. On hearing another “plop”, I saw the surface downstream was dotted with rises. I managed to get out of the river and made a hasty, wide detour of the bank downstream and re-entered the river below a band of dimples and swirls over a sandy run. The pheasant tail was repeatedly cast among these rising fish with no takes. Tiny black black flies were in the surface film, while grannoms and the occasional olive were airborne. A small elk hair grannom emerger was tied on, the leader greased to within a few inches of the fly and cast in. Due to the strong current, the fly could only travel a few inches before it dragged, so short flicking casts was the name of the game.  The rise was over, but a swirl and a solid strike soon had the first trout of the season in my hand.

Not the biggest fish in the world, but after a difficult afternoon, I was happy with this one. Back in again, there were more takes, misses and on/offs, before a more solid resistance was felt and a ten inch wildie was giving a good account of it’s self all the way to the net.

While this one was recovering in the net, the rise started again, dimples and swirls. A good fish was rising close to the bank, where after a few casts he took and I dragged the trout across to set the hook, before it, like the others, zoomed off with the current. About twelve inches and ten ounces, I was enjoying the fight from this beautifully coloured wild brown, as it dived and rolled in the clear river below me, when once again it was free. The hook had broken at the start of the bend on the body. I had another emerger, but felt that I’d done enough damage for one day and it was time to leave.

Flies used on the day, with the broken emerger centre.

Walking back, I passed several individual rises, but nothing like the mass hysteria I had just witnessed, which resembled a mayfly hatch in it’s intensity. Whatever they were feeding on, probably grannom nymphs by the way they took, I was lucky to be there at the right time.  With warmer weather forecast. I’m looking forward to my next visit.

 

 

CZ452 .17 HMR spring rabbits

April 10, 2014 at 11:57 am

Winter rain had kept me away from this landlocked field since November, with no access for my vehicle, it’s a case of walking in over a wooden bridge along a footpath. Most of the time the bridge was under water, or approached through a quagmire created by the horses on either side, so after a couple of abortive visits, I’d not been back.

My worst fears were justified, when I climbed the style from the bridge, the rabbit population had exploded over the mild winter and young kitten rabbits were bouncing about among the hedgerows, evidence of my lack of attention to their parents over the past six months. The land owner keeps about a dozen horses on this field and is not happy sharing his grass with their furry relatives. Walking along the hedge line to my preferred shooting position, I could see rabbits two hundred yards away observing my approach and getting ready to melt back into the foliage. With a gusting crosswind, I was not prepared to chance a shot beyond 100 yards, the light weight 17 grain HMR bullet taking on a mind of it’s own in these conditions, a head shot not a certainty and a miss, or wounding a probability.

By the time I reached my chosen spot, the grass was clear ahead and I tucked myself back into a recess in the hedge and made myself comfortable, lying on my opened out gun bag. At this point I realised that I should have brought my camo net, which I could have draped over the small bush in front of me for more cover.

I didn’t have long to wait, when two rabbits bounded out from my side of the hedge and began feeding 50 yards away. I waited for the one in clearest view to present a head shot, then sent it leaping skyward with a reflex kick. The other one sat up startled, then ran off as I shifted the bolt to chamber another bullet. Once upon a time, in the early days of shooting this field, I could take two, or three at a sitting, these days the click of the bolt can have them running for cover.

I settled down again and watched the world go by. It was good to feel the warmth of the sun again, while long tailed tits flitted through the bushes and a robin sang. Every now and then a pair of frisky rabbits would get my pulse going, as they raced in and out of the hedge in front of me, not stopping long enough for a shot, but keeping me on my metal. It was while watching an out of season pheasant strut casually out from the dark of the blossom covered thicket, that I noticed another rabbit had appeared, as if by magic, from it’s burrow 80 yards away. I swung the CZ452 round and fired, the echoing crack of the rifle being joined by the thwack of a successful head shot.

Through the scope I could see more rabbit activity on the far side of the field 250 yards away and decided to up sticks and work my way round using cover from the bushes to get within range. Picking up my kills, I was making my way over, when the sound of the landowner’s 4×4 scattered my intended targets, as he made his way down to feed the horses. That was it, game over, he would spend the next hour tending to his charges. Time for me to go, but not before showing him that I was back on the scene again.

 

CZ 452 HMR and Magtech 7022 keep the customers satisfied.

March 27, 2014 at 6:22 pm

A couple of warm weeks banished the snow drops from the woods, to be replaced by the bright faces of daffodils and with green shoots and blossom appearing in the hedgerows, spring seemed to be rushing towards summer this month. The wind changed and we were back to the cold, with showers of hail raking the fields, forcing a warm jumper to be retrieved from the drawer.

Also fooled were the rabbit populations on my permissions, their body clocks switching over to summer time, bringing them out in force to feed and gather bedding. The wet start to the year kept me off  much of the land and I have been on catch-up ever since. Getting permission to shoot on a landowner’s private property can be difficult, but a few weeks of good results can seal the deal and hanging onto that right, means regular visits to keep the numbers down.

My first visit this week was to a previously infested farm, long off the urgent list and now on the courtesy list, but a phone call confirmed that small groups had begun to appear again among the hedgerows. With no cover and spooky rabbits, this was going to be a case of lying out and waiting for long range shots with the CZ 452 .17 HMR.

A recent shower had chilled the late afternoon air, as I entered the chosen field, where in the distance I could already see rabbits hopping to cover among the dividing hedge, a long cold warren being repopulated. Laying down my camo net onto the wet grass gave some respite, before lying prone with the HMR mounted on it’s bipod, the remaining net being draped over the rifle to break up the hard steel outline. In this raised position I could cover an arc, which spanned from 90 to 120 yards along the hedge, well within the point and shoot zero of the rifle. In twenty minutes of waiting for a movement, the temperature had plunged and I was beginning to regret not making an earlier start, when a scan through the scope confirmed a brown blob over to my left was a frantically feeding rabbit. At 12 magnification, I could see that it was facing away from me, no good for a shot yet, a hit in the body would destroy the meat. Waiting for it to turn, my eye caught another movement dead ahead. The scope locked onto the head just behind the eye in seconds, this unlucky rabbit rolling over without a kick, less than a minute after leaving it’s warm burrow. The first rabbit was now sitting up listening and would have been dead before it heard the next shot. At this a couple more materialised from the grass, their flicking white tails giving the game away, but they were soon out of sight among the hummocks. The same pair began chasing around behind the hedge, but I couldn’t get a clear shot, until eventually one stopped in a gap long enough to pay the price, a dull thud echoing back from 120 yards away.

No more rabbits presented themselves in the next ten minutes, so I went down and collected these, noting several new burrows among the roots. I will have to be back sooner than intended.  Further up the slope, I had a view along the edge of a line of blackthorn, where I’ve had some success in the past, but there was nothing showing, so decided that a chat with the farmer would be more productive, with the chance to show off the results of my labours over a fresh brew of tea.

Later in the week it was the turn of the equestrian centre on the edge of town, somewhere that had so many burrows on the rides, that an accident was just waiting to happen, this being when a young lady rider was injured, after her horse tripped on a burrow. That was ten years ago and within two years of  twice weekly visits, I’d decimated the rabbit numbers to within manageable quantities, mostly around the outer edges. With horses in the fields, the supersonic crack from the HMR would cause mayhem, so I only use air rifles, or on this occasion the .22 Magtech 7022 semi auto rimfire, which is very quiet with it’s moderator. The owner saved me a walk round the 80 acre site, pointing out the hedge line along the far boundary, where he had put warning branches in the holes.

This was one of my first permissions and it remains the most interesting, having once been part of a 17th century stately home, the big house and lake are still on one boundary, while the land stretches south towards the town and an old green lane, it’self bordered by urban greenery, a golf driving range, football pitches and allotments. These borders have not changed since medieval times and there are few straight lines along them, making it ideal for short range rifles, with plenty of cover for getting up close and personal. My route took me past the old wooded driveway, which is raised above a moated ha ha wall, this area was once a happy hunting ground for me and the rabbits that populated it, but now it is devoid of my furry friends. Left alone for a few years though, they will be back.

With undulating ground, a fixed rifle bipod is limited on this permission and have found a home made bipod a great shooting aid. This only took about two hours max to construct using a Hike telescopic walking stick and a plastic coated tubular garden pole, an old leather belt and of course some sticky black plastic tape.

On my walk through, I spotted a pair of rabbits feeding about 100 yards away in open ground, but was in clear view and didn’t fancy crawling forty yards to get in range. With the HMR, this would have been a case of resting it on a fence post, or the bipod for an unmissable shot, or if approaching through the wood, I could have fired from cover down from the ha ha at 30 yards. I made a mental note for next visit. This time I walked steadily towards them to test their reflexes, one sitting up at 80 yards and both trotting off by 60. I continued on to my intended area, where the path zig-zags round the edge of more woods and a peek around a holly bush, revealed three rabbits feeding on the path, the nearest 70 yards away. Backtracking, I cut through the wood, trying to avoid treading on branches and dead leaves, placing my feet as carefully as possible, until I reached a point, where there was a clear view down the path.

There were still two left and placing the Magtech in the vee of the bipod, while still within the trees, I fired at the nearest 40 yards away, a satisfying “whomph” telling me that the chest shot had hit home. The remaining bunnie darted back to it’s burrow yards away, before I could bring the rifle to bear. Moving up to the next corner, a quick look through the bushes showed more feeding rabbits only 20 yards away. Stepping back, the scope was reduced to 4 mag, I got down and belly crawled to the corner, where the rifle was pushed through the grass for an instant head shot. This startled the rest into a stampede back to safety, none waiting round to see what had happened.

Two more big rabbits for the pot. I continued my walk round, but saw no others and as this had been only a scouting trip to find the hot spots, I was soon back at the van to join the rest of humanity in the traffic.

 

 

Pike Lure Fishing brought up to date

March 18, 2014 at 11:55 am

When this picture dropped into my e-mail inbox from fellow club member Lee, along with an invite to join him on his next pike fishing session, I jumped at the chance, just to go along with my camera to see how it was done.

 

 For our morning session, Lee took me to his local water, where this near 12lb pike was caught on a lure,  a well matured gravel pit surrounded by trees, with features every twenty yards, bays, roots and reed beds in abundance. Early mist had cleared, with just a hint of ground frost and the lake had returned to it’s normal level following flooding, a white tide mark evidence of the level two weeks before.

Lee’s tackle was a revelation to me, a seven foot Savage Gear lure rod, coupled to an Okuma Tormenta bait caster reel, loaded with sinking braid, that gives a direct feel from rod top to the lure. A far cry from the nine foot heavy feeder rod and Garcia ABU 506 closed face reel loaded with 15lb mono, that I have been using for years. Likewise a small selection of his lures, jelly eels and various multi-bodied plugs were an example of how far lure fishing has come since the simple Mepps spoons I’ve used in the past.

We walked the bank first, with Lee pointing out where he’d had pike before, starting to fish at an inviting looking reed bed, expecting a strike, or a follow from each cast, his outfit easily capable of reaching the edge of the reeds fifty yards away.

This is usually Jack Alley, but today the smaller pike could not be persuaded to take, despite frequent changes of lure. Lee joked that he wasn’t used to fishing under pressure, feeling the need to put a fish in front of the camera. We moved down into a heavily wooded area, where he’d had good pike before and a few casts in, there was a swirling boil just feet from the bank, as a big fish veered away from his lure.

Encouraged by this promising action, Lee rang the changes in an attempt to tempt this fish, but maybe the clear water was against us and it failed to move to the lure again. As the saying goes, “here’s one I had earlier”, a finely marked nine and a half pounder from this swim a month earlier.

 We moved on, trying each gap in the trees, expectant of a take at the slightest tap of the rod, as the lures worked their magic among the roots. This is the attraction of lure fishing, with dead and live baiting for pike, it’s a waiting game, but a lure can be taken the moment it hits the water, or just on lift off, going from inaction to explosive action in a matter of seconds.

Two hours had passed quickly and each new area offered up several choices of holding spots, this bay being a pike fisher’s dream, but once again Lee’s efforts were frustrated and we moved to a narrow spur, that at first glance had nothing going for it, until I saw a small fish jump, followed by another. Either a small jack pike, or a perch was attacking a shoal of roach. Another change saw a fish bodied lure with a bright jelly tail clipped on and cast out to the topping shoal.

Third cast through, the rod bent into an arc, as the lure was seized and Lee instinctively struck hard to set the barbless hooks, a boil on the surface indicating the exact take point. The rod kicked as the pike shook it’s head, before heading for open water, pulling hard on the reel drag. I went back to collect the landing net, returning in time to hand it over to Lee for the end game of an epic battle, the look of satisfied relief on his face saying it all. This young, fit guy had still managed to break a sweat on a cold morning.

 Job done! What a fin perfect beauty. A quick spell in the weighing bag ran the scales round to 11lb 8oz, then this heavily camouflaged killing machine was slipped back in the water. Not content with his capture, Lee ran the lure through several times more, saying that two, or three pike will often work together to drive a shoal of bait fish into such an enclosed area. Not today though and both with family commitments that afternoon, we headed back down the motorway.

A week later another photo dropped into my inbox. Lee had been busy again. While visiting relatives in Leicestershire, he’d found time to pop down to the river Soar for some R&R and bagged a personal best 3lb 6oz perch.

This was taken on a Savage Gear 3D white crayfish lure.

Roach queue up for bread punch on the Middy stick

March 11, 2014 at 7:30 pm

A return visit to my local river, found the level down nine inches and running at a slower pace than last week, when trying for roach, I struggled in the conditions, being broken by two big fish, carp, or chub. After being broken for the second time, I’d left with a feeling of unfinished business, determined to return before the end of the coarse fishing season, for a decent crack at the roach,that live in the fast water of the outfall.

Not wanting to be broken again by big fish, I’d scaled up my tackle to a six No6 Middy alloy stem stick float on a 5lb main line, with a size 14 to 3lb hook link, a compromise that I hoped would not put the expected roach off taking my bait. I needn’t have worried, as minutes after introducing a couple of balls of liquidised bread down the middle of the run, my float gave a couple of rapid dips, then sank out of sight and the first of many clonking roach was putting a bend in my rod.

 The hot spot was the edge of the fast water, often just holding the float back as it drifted into the area, hooked a fish. More feed brought the roach out into the main river, and I was getting into a rythm, cast, trot, hook and play to the net, until I tried to rush a half pounder, which came off, taking the shoal with it. For a while small chub and big gudgeon took their place, the chub dashing all over the river, while the gudgeon bored deep. Some of the gudgeon were monsters approaching 8 inches long and very fat, hugging the bottom, giving the impression of a much bigger fish.

The Middy alloy stem stick is now one of my preferred floats for most shallow river conditions, the tip rising up on the shoulder, when held back, while the bulk of the float stays down, giving more control to ease the float through a swim. My next bite entered the foaming weir stream and headed upstream, the strike hitting into solid resistance, that had me guessing at the species on the end, a deep thumping fight keeping the fish out of sight, until brought up to the surface for the net, revealing a roach-bream hybrid of about 8oz.

Next to take was another unexpected fish, a 6oz rudd, the float sailing away as the rig followed a ball of bread down the swim. Another hybrid, a rudd, a few small chub and several gudgeon coming in quick succession.

This interlude was soon over and the roach moved back in on the bread feed with a bang, getting larger with each trot and I make no apologies for including more pictures here. I love catching roach, especially big ones.

The roach above could have been a season best for some people, but the float kept going down and they continued to fight their way to the net.

The bites were beginning to get few and far between in front of me, so I made a cast to the middle of the faster water and trotted down towards the bend, striking when the float dived, hitting into a fish that ran hard down stream and backwound rapidly to counter it. A chub I thought, but then saw a broad flank with a flash of red, a good roach and the best of the day, which treated with respect, I netted minutes later.

This was a deep fish that, when laid against my bait tray, had it’s tail over the edge. The tray measures 11 inches, so the roach was over a foot long. A couple more smaller, but equally deep roach followed from the fast stream, before trying a change to a brandling on the hook, having raided my compost heap for the worms before I left. I’ve often thought the concrete structure of the weir could hold some perch, but usually only fishing bread, I never catch any. Hooking the size 14 hook once through the head of the brandling and letting it be taken by the flow back in towards the weir, it zoomed out of sight.

Not a perch, but a 4oz chub had seized on the live bait, where several times the 6mm bread pellet had passed. This was not a fluke and these small chub lined up to take the worms, until one came in under my feet to be missed by the landing net and dive into a submerged bramble, snagging the hook. I pulled for a break, only to then flick the float into the bush on my right. Again pulling for a break the precious float hung suspended over the water.

Although there was still over an hour of daylight, I decided not to be too greedy and quit while I was ahead, having finally found my searched for shoal of big river roach, plus a few surprise fish along the way. I also learned that the chub will go on feeding, if you switch from bread to worms.

I had a final look at this impressive over eight pound bag of mostly roach, taken during a busy three hour session from this small tributary of the Thames, then set about rescuing my float from the bush.

 

Shed idea pays off in rabbits

March 6, 2014 at 11:08 pm

My last fishing expedition had resulted in tangles and broken lines, so it was time to retire to the comfort of my workshop to tie hooks and make up some stick float rigs. This is, in modern terminology, my Man Cave, with a bench running the 12 foot length, a swivel office chair, a good vice, a heater and even a downgraded music system that can entertain me with radio, or CDs. Through a connecting door is my garage with a lathe, a press and pillar drill. Surrounded by my various tools and boxes of bits lining the bench, it’s the ideal environment to work on fishing tackle, or my rifles, while planning my next outing. Man Heaven. The Shed.

The other door is opposite the kitchen door and this opened with my wife offering a cup of tea and asking if I would like to go shooting that afternoon. In wife talk, this means, if you want to go shooting, you could drop me off in the town for some shopping on the way, then pick me up on the way back. This is not ideal for either of us, as we are under a time pressure limit to do our things, ie number of shops to be visited for her and number, or lack of rabbits to be shot and cleaned for me within an agreed time. Obviously I agreed to her wishes, as anytime fishing, or shooting, is time to be savoured, although it’s amazing how the time goes, when you’re having fun.

This was going to be a brief hit and run excursion for me, with probably no more than 90 minutes field time and decided to have another crack at the rabbits near the entrance to one of the farms. They are always there, when I drive in, lazing on a hill to my right, but scatter as I drive by to park from the lane. This is not good PR for me, as the farmer got me in to shoot the rabbits and there they are for all to see. I’ve been picking them off one, or two at a time with the HMR  at range , but a new approach was needed. One option would be to park up the lane and stalk within range, but shooting from a public highway is not legal and there is no gate apart from the main entrance to get onto the land.

While sipping tea, the idea came, that maybe it was the sight of me at the window of the van, that was scaring the rabbits. What if I reversed in? They might not see me from the other side of the cab. It was worth a try and after dropping my good lady at her hunting ground, I set off for mine. Approaching the farm entrance at a crawl, I could already see several rabbits on the hill and drove past, then slowly reversed in on my mirrors, not looking over to the hill. It was working. I slid out of the driver’s door with my Magtech 7022 .22 semi auto, fitted the ten shot magazine and cocked the action behind the cab, then resting on the windscreen, looked over to see how many were left. There were seven rabbits, framed by the branches of a tree, about forty yards away. With it’s homemade moderator, the Magtech is almost silent, the thump from the RWS subsonics hitting home being louder. The first two were a foot apart and went down in a few seconds, the others, startled, ran; one not far enough though and stopped at the edge of the brambles and the third shot bundled him over.

 It was over in under ten seconds. I waited a few minutes, as sometimes a startled rabbit will jump back out, but not this time. Three out of seven is pretty good going. The semi auto can fire rapid shots, but the shooter needs to take the time to get a good steady bead to hit anything. I’d rather not take the shot, if it risks a wounded runoff.

With these three cleaned ready for the butcher, I swapped over to the .17 HMR , climbing to a vantage point with a view over much of the farm, but with time ticking, I called it a day after twenty minutes of non activity. Not even a crow, or magpie to test my sights on. As I drove away, I wondered if the reversing trick would work next time.

Chub and roach against the odds.

March 3, 2014 at 7:36 pm

For three months my small local river has been up and down like a yo-yo and the last outing at the beginning of the year, when the levels dropped for a few days, had yielded mostly gudgeon, taking only a couple of my target roach on the day. With just a couple of weeks left to the season, my chances of getting a decent catch of roach have been reliant on some deluge free days. The river has two sources of water, the natural one, which drains the local pine forest and the main cause of the sudden rises in levels, when it acts as a drain to the town and it’s surrounding housing estates.

Where the river is joined on a bend by an outfall from the town water treatment works, I set out my tackle in the hopes of repeating past success among the roach that gather in the aerated water. Despite dry days, the river was still rushing through though, causing surface ripples as it passed over the slower water beneath, while coupled with the colour of strong coffee, the odds of even getting a bite seemed stacked against me. With more heavy rain forecast for later in the day and the rest of the week, it was a case of now, or never.

 A fallen tree to my left had created an eddy at my feet and I set up with a Preston 4 No. 4 alloy stem stick to trot this shallow edge, down to an over hanging bush. With bread punch bait and liquised bread as feed, I dropped a couple of balls in upstream and watched them disappear into the murk, as they washed by. Set six inches over depth, the float was eased towards the bush at half speed, until it reached the foam and held for a minute. No bites. Each time the 7mm pellet of bread was missing on retrieve, probably dragged off by the strong current. I shallowed up a foot, dopped in another ball of bread and followed it down with the float. At the bush the float dived away, I struck and the rod curved over with a fish. A couple of vicious bounces of the tip and it was off. Curses. Not a good omen to lose the first fish, especially a decent one on a hard day.

With no more offers on the inside line, I gave the fast water a go, throwing the feed upstream into the fallen tree, while adjusting the float to fish deeper, just checking and running the float through each yard down into the foam. The float dipped and I missed it. Next trot, bang, the float slid sideways and I was in again. Off again. I checked the hook. I’d finally run out of my old Mustad fine wire size 14 crystal hooks, having bought the box of 100 in Days of Olde and was trying out a heavier gauge 14 whisker barb. Maybe I wasn’t striking hard enough. I came back inside and at the bush watched the float stab down and across, paused, then a firm lift had the rod tip pulling down into the river with the force of the running fish. I backwound hard on the reel to ease the pressure and the unseen battler was checked midstream round the corner, it swimming back towards the bush in a power run. Pushing my 14 foot rod out over the stream, the fish turned and rolled; it was a decent chub, not a monster, but needed care to get in the net.

A fish at last, still no roach, but there was time to draw them up into my swim. A couple more trots down and I was in again, a juddering fight, which I thought was a roach at first, until the white mouth of a smaller chub broke surface. This was better, another miss, then a big gudgeon. Hope THEY aren’t moving in. Half way down the swim, under my rod top, the float sank away and the rod bent double, as a big fish zoomed across and upstream into the sunken branches of the fallen tree. It bucked and dived hugging the bottom, running past my feet towards the bush roots. Sidestrain, then ping, the hook link broke at the knot, sending the rig into a messy bird’s nest tangle round the rod top. What to do now?

Cutting away the tangle, it was quicker to rethread, tie on a new loop and fit another float rig, this time a heavier Middy 6 No.4 alloy stem to cope with the faster water. 5 minutes and I was back fishing.

Bulking the shot a foot from the hook, I ran through under depth to the foam and saw the orange tip glide upstream towards the outflow, striking harder now into a hard fighting 8 oz chub, that stayed on to the landing net. The barbless hooks set themselves in a fishes lip with the minimum of effort, while these new hooks needed pushing home. The so called microbarb, also held on once set, making removal harder, while hooking my wool jumper and the landing net needed scissors to get free. I’ll try pinching the barb down next time.

Another chub followed soon after, putting in a small ball each trot, bringing bites a yard up from the foam. Then at last, bob, bob, under and I was playing a very good roach, that darted about the swim, at my feet one second, on the far side the next, eventually getting it’s head out to slide over into the net. A deep 10 oz fish.

I’d tried going over depth again, holding back hard, keeping a tight line to the float and got this roach, so I followed through again with a repeat performance, this time an 8 oz fatty, the roach seemed to want it slowed right down in the fast water, where the bread was now coating the bottom.

This was the method for the roach then. Holding back following another ball, the float sank and the rod pulled round before I had a chance to strike. This was a very big fish, a chub, or even one of the carp that live here, a dead weight that just sat in the flow, nodding the rod top. For a moment I had that sinking feeling, thinking I had hooked the bottom, but raising the rod to test my theory, the rod pulled down violently and stayed there as the brooding monster decided my fate. I knew I was just a passenger on this trip and with only a 2lb 8 oz hook link, was in no position to dictate terms. After what seemed an age, the float tip began to move upstream and accelerated beyond the fallen tree as I gave line, my rod beneath the surface in an arc. Upstream the river shallows and I could hear the slow wallowing splash of the unseen beast of a fish and just as I thought that I stood a chance with it, the line went slack and I reeled back my float rig, minus the hook.

I sat in reflection for a moment, before tying on another hook, did I even want to continue? A rumble of thunder from an angry sky made my mind up for me. It was going to chuck down and I didn’t fancy carrying my gear back up the lane in another downpour.

A quick photo and my seven fish returned, I packed away with speed, lumbering back to the van with my gear, just as spots of rain were splatting on the already waterlogged surface of the lane. Having parked next to the Road Closed due to Flooding sign, which was ready for the next onslaught, I loaded up, switched the wipers to full and splashed home.

CZ 452 .17 HMR Varmint targets winter rabbits

February 25, 2014 at 7:57 pm

Constant rain since December, has resulted in sodden fields and flooded ditches, dampening my desire to lie in wait for the odd rabbit to appear from it’s cosy burrow. My experience has been, that rabbits share my dislike of wet weather and with the likelihood of heavy showers most days, my rifles have remained hidden and unloved in the gun cabinet. Two things got me back out in the fields, the first, a call from my local butcher pleading for more rabbits for his customers and a dry afternoon following heavy morning rain. I’d been feeling guilty about the butcher, as I had been keeping his cold store stocked, then deserted him, knowing that his other supplier was probably also leaving him short.

As I drove through the farm gate, I kicked myself for not making more of an effort in the preceding months, as several rabbits sat enjoying the late afternoon sun on a small hill overlooking the yard, scattering back to brambles and safety.

 I parked up behind a shed and sorted out my gear, before sneaking back, loaded rifle in hand, for a quick look at the hill. I was in luck. A big rabbit was just visible among the thorny undergrowth only thirty yards away. A bit close for the HMR, but zeroing the scope down to the minimum magnification, it’s head was clearly visible for a shot. Supporting the weight of the rifle on the corner of the shed, I squeezed the trigger and watched the rabbit disappear, the crack from the silencer echoing back from the fence behind. Had I hit it? At that range the scope gives a view above the point of impact, due to it being mounted above the barrel, so a slight amount of hold over is needed, aiming above the head to hit the brain.

I walked up the hill to where I’d seen the rabbit, but couldn’t see it, then looking down, the white belly fur was visible deep inside the bramble bush, where it had rolled down. On these occasions, a small spaniel is required, to send down to retrieve the fallen animal, or bird, but I don’t own one and not wanting to waste a perfectly good rabbit, I began trying to pick my way through the tangled web of thorns, using my knife to speed the process.

Fifteen minutes later a fat buck was at my feet, well worth the trouble and time extracting it. The sun was now getting low and I needed a few more like this one to please my butcher, so it was time to move on, no time for a stake out, I’d have to see what I could find walking round the fields. Reaching a gate, I scanned the fence line and saw two grazing rabbits sixty and seventy yards away.

Resting on the gate post, the nearest jumped and fell over and I swung round for a second shot at the other, only to see the white tail flashing, as it ran the length of the field into the next. I waited a while to see if any others would appear, then moved down to where I could view along a hedgerow, a good vantage point in the warmer months.

Eighty yards away a dark round shape was confirmed through the scope as another of my target species and reluctant to shoot prone off the bipod on the boggy ground, a convenient gatepost proved a solid support to put number three in the bag. The light was now falling away fast and I walked round and collected my spoils, returning to a central spot from where I could see the hill from earlier. The rabbits were back out, but too far for a decent shot and masked by branches of a tree about 150 yards away. Keeping low, I made my way up the slope towards the hill to get in range, the low light an aid, as I watched the activity ahead, getting within eighty yards before settling down to shoot off the bipod. Several were chasing about, but one was sideways on, a perfect target. Hoping again to get more than one, I held it in the cross hairs for a moment, fired, watched it drop and moved round to the next, which jumped up, then tumbled down the slope, scattering the rest.

 Walking down the hill back to my cache of rabbits, in a gateway, silhouetted against the path,  was a dark shape. The farmer’s cat? A scope check picked out the hunched shoulders and long ears of another rabbit, too far at sixty yards for a reliable shot to hand, but getting down prone, an easy kill off the bipod. Six. All I had to do now was paunch them for the butcher. A walk back to the van for my head torch and I was in business, the rabbits hanging in the shop by 6pm.

 

Bread Punch finds skimmer bream on the Basingstoke Canal

February 14, 2014 at 5:04 pm

Last week I coped with a flooded Basingstoke Canal at Fleet, for a net of quality roach and skimmer bream, before a rare barge came by and dispersed the fish. I resolved to return for another session soon, not realising that continued flooding of my local rivers, left the canal as my only option this week. With a month’s rain falling in a few days and waiting for another storm to pass that morning, I was prepared for worse conditions, when I arrived on the canal bank this week.

I’d bought a bait dropper to get my liquidised bread down to the bottom, but there was no need, the canal having fallen to near normal level and pace, while the chocolate coloured water had now cleared with a healthy tinge of green. The sun was out with just a waft of downstream wind. Just about perfect conditions. A heavy float was not needed and I pulled out an old favourite, a modified Dubois with a bristle insert, taking  five No 8s shirt buttoned down towards the size 20 hook.

Having caught at seven metres last week, I started with an egg sized ball of liquidised bread on that line and trotted through, the float dipping, then sinking away moments after it cocked. A small roach, followed next trot by a better net roach, both taking a 4 mm pellet of bread. This was looking promising and after about ten, two to three ounce roach, I put in another ball of bread. More roach. I was hoping for skimmer bream on this visit and decided to try along the far shelf, dropping a couple of bait cups over at nine metres, as an investment and came back over to the seven metre line. First trot the float slowly sank and disappeared. A delay, then a firm lift of the pole, saw the No 4 Elastic stretch out, with the slow thud of a skimmer and the flash of silver below the surface. Shipping the pole along the bank, I detached the top three and slid the first of my target fish into the net.

This 8oz skimmer, was followed by an identical fish next cast, a roach, then a 4 oz skimmer. I put in another small ball. A couple more small roach, then nothing. Over fed it? Time to try the nine metre line.

First put over, the float dived back on it’self and I was into a hard fighting roach, the elastic pinging out as it zoomed about, biding my time netting it, as all the fish so far had been lightly hooked, the hook dropping out in the net with most fish.

 Next trot over, the float tip raised, then dived away. Typical little roach?  Not this time. The elastic came out and the float stayed down, seeing the steady flash of a decent skimmer, as it was drawn over to my side of the bank.

A small roach did follow next trot, then no more touches, so I switched back to the seven metre line and hooked another skimmer first cast. I continued to alternate lines, keeping my feed to a minimum. Each time I changed, I seemed to get a skimmer first, or second trot. The roach were still there, but not crawling up the rod, the whole session having a relaxed feeling, a bit like catching the skimmers, a steady fight, eventually ending in the net. Going up to the 5mm bread pellet made no difference to the size of fish, so the preferred 4 mm stayed on. By 3:30 the bites were getting scarce and if I was to beat the traffic, it was time to pack up. Pulling in the net, I could tell I had a decent haul.

A dozen skimmers and double that in roach, made for a busy two and a half hours on this hard fished venue, some of the catch showing the signs of being in more than one net, while others were pristine. A quick weigh in saw the scale pass 7lbs, before the catch being returned.

 

 

Bread punch nets quality fish on the Basingstoke Canal.

February 8, 2014 at 12:58 am

The wettest January for 250 years, gave way to an even wetter start to February and I had been scanning the weather forecasts for days, in an attempt to get a few hours pleasure fishing in, when today came up as dry with possible sunshine. Still not trusting the over night forecast, I waited until this morning, before making my decision to go. Years of Winter League matches, sitting out in all weathers for the good of my team, have given me a deep dislike of fishing in the rain. Cold I can take, but the creeping dampness, that gets into the bait and down your neck, after five, or six hours on the bank, is no longer my cup of tea.

By 10 am the last shower had passed and as blue replaced grey, I was on my way to Tesco to buy their cheapest medium white loaf, returning home to process it through the liquidiser, saving a couple of slices for the hook. Now committed, my tackle was loaded into the van, before a quick sandwich and a peck on the cheek from my wonderful wife, who saw me off, shielding her eyes from that rare sight, the sun.

Arriving at 12:30, the Basingstoke canal at Fleet looked good as I carried my gear from the car park, but on closer inspection, it was very coloured and flowing right to left like a train, more like a river, than a sedate canal. Added to the mix was a gusting down stream wind, which meant rooting through my pole rigs for something that carried plenty of weight for holding back against the flow, that would also be immune to the swirling gusts.

This old Dubois pole float is probably on it’s fourth life, but still worth it’s 5 No 4 weight in gold, although my match fishing chums would cringe at the sight of it. Dotted down to the tip, it is super sensitive, “flashing on and off” at the slightest nibble. I plumbed the nearside shelf and started off just over it at 6 metres, the float set slightly over the one metre depth with the bulk shot a third up and 4 No 8s shirt buttoned down towards the hook. In this flow, I hoped that as the rig was held back, the bread pellet would swing up, then drop as it was eased down the swim.

I fed an egg sized ball of squeezed bread upstream of my peg and watched it break and drift down, before vanishing in the murk, dropping my rig in to follow it down, checking it in the flow at intervals. The float sank away, solid resistance. Skimmer?. No, instead, the first of many pine branches, blown in from the gales a few days ago. Ten minutes of this and not a bite. I would have expected a few roach by now. Another joint on and another ball of feed upstream made the difference, the float was checked, then sank slowly away. This wasn’t a snag and the No 4 elastic responded to the slow pounding fight of an unseen fish, as it took full advantage of the increased flow, taking my time to bring it to the surface for the net, the tiny size 20 just holding the edge of it’s lip.

A fish at last, this 10 oz roach-bream hybrid putting a smile on my face. Next trot through, the float sank away again to be met by solid resistance as the elastic pulled out, a slight bounce from below the surface indicating a much better skimmer bream. It was steady as you go again, allowing this pound plus lump to dictate the running, getting it in the net was the priority.

Once again the hook was barely holding in the soft tissue at the tip of the nose. With big fish in the swim, I tried going up to a 5 mm pellet, but missed the next bite, so returned to the 4 mm, taking a nice roach next cast.

 More roach followed, then the elastic was out again with another decent skimmmer rolling on the surface. This was looking to be a session to remember. The hot spot being ten feet down the peg, reminding me of the Thames. The smaller roach were coming from the head of the swim, taking on the drop.

A few minutes later the float sank away to be met with a juddering response, as a large roach began fighting for all it’s worth, chasing across the canal, while I fed on more joints. Again the elastic saved the day and a near one pound roach was guided into my landing net.

I’d just slipped skimmer number four into the keep net, when the sound of an engine made me look up. A barge was powering upstream against the current towards me, only shutting off the throttle at the last minute, the three guys on board apparently unaware of my presence.

The barge scattered the shoal, stirring up the mud across the canal, having passed over my swim and effectively killed it. Once the mud had settled, I fed again and rang the changes, trying to find the better fish, but apart from a few more small roach, that was it. I stuck it out until 3:30 with barely another bite and packed up.

This lot were mostly taken in that first hour, before the boat and with thoughts of what might have been, I will return. Arriving home, I laid my nets out to dry in the afternoon sun and went inside for a cup of tea, returning minutes later to find them soaked by yet another rain shower. Another storm was on the way.