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Perch dominate on the Middy Stick.

August 29, 2014 at 9:36 am

I am fortunate to live in an area offering a wide range of fishing, the problem being where next? When a planned trip to Berkshire’s River Kennet fell through at the last minute, I was baited up for a fast flowing river, but with nowhere to go. Not for long. Under ten miles from my home is a river, which, like many in England, was a victim of the country’s industrial past, with mills driving machinery, while the water was used throughout it’s length to carry away waste products. Later on with the advent of the motor car, it’s flood plain was scavenged for gravel to tarmac roads, while the remaining holes became sites for landfill, or filled with water to provide more fishing. Today the river runs clear and fast through a ribbon of green, towards the River Thames, the industrial estates and housing are still there, but masked by trees.

This swim is typical of the hard fish river, the banks are worn and the trees opposite are festooned with floats and broken lines, the fence on the far side hides an automated industrial process plant, that rattles and grinds away 24/7. The attraction is that there are plenty of fish here, my only other visit being an autumn day three years before, when only equipped with bread as bait, I filled my net with roach and chub. Today I had hempseed and red maggots, being interested to see what the change in bait would bring.

I set up my Hardy 12 ft soft action match rod, with it’s companion ABU 501 closed face reel, to control a 3 No 4 Middy ali stemmed stick float, putting a single red maggot on a size 16 hook. On my arrival I’d seeded the swim with a couple of handfuls each of maggots and hemp, not being surprised when on the first trot down the middle, the float dipped, then sank slowly out of sight. The rod bent into a deep bodied roach, that flashed in the morning sunlight, as it dashed around the swim. The net went out and I brought the rod back to slide the 8 oz red fin into it. The rod top snagged in the branched above me and I watched helplessly, as the roach danced half in and half out of the water, tangling the line in the leaves, before flicking off the barbless hook. One point down to the fish. Hooking the float with the landing net, I cut the line above it and pulled the rod line through. A two loop join and I was ready again, but not before moving a few yards up, away from the overhanging branches.

This then gave me another problem, the raft of weeds now in front, that would attract any fighting fish, as proved on the second cast, when a perch demonstrated how easy it was to dump the hook, when being brought through them. Two points to the fish. A compromise position was found, I would just have to be careful with the rod top, when netting a fish. Third trot and a smaller perch obliged and I decided to swing it in, only for the lip hooked fish to wriggle off and drop at my feet, bouncing back in before I could grab it. Three nil to the fish. Mental note: net all fish.

The float dipped, then faded from view, a sideways strike to avoid the trees and I was into a solid fish that soon let me know that it meant business, running on the back wind toward the roots along the far side. As I got the landing net ready, I heard myself say “don’t loose this fish”, playing a nice perch in the open water, before bringing it close to the enticing weeds, extending the net out over them to scoop it in. Phew! I don’t know what I would have done, if I’d lost this one. Maybe I take my fishing too seriously? Next trot down, I held the float back hard, it stopped and sank. The bouncing fight told me I had a second chance at landing a roach, it diving beneath the net and into the weeds, but surfacing long enough to net it.

Like the perch, the hook dropped out in the net. I was beginning to relax now; two quality fish in the net and plenty of bites. Another half an hour and the middle line was exhausted, a few lightly hooked perch, that came off before the net not helping. I’d been feeding hemp with maggots over to the far bank and first trot down at the same depth, the float shot away, with the line following, the initial rod bending strike pointing to a decent fish, but the line eased and small chub came to hand.

More small chub followed, many too small to keep in the net, but I kept feeding heavily in the hope of a better fish, but with none showing, a change was required. There was a steady upstream wind, that allowed the float to be inched down the swim and with the stick set overdepth, eased the maggot down a against the flow. The next bite, buried with what I thought was another perch, but instead a big gudgeon, spewing maggots, was pulling like a good ‘un, I even netted it.

I missed the next few bites, sharp dives of the float. Still feeding hemp, fish were hitting the shot, a No 4 going completely. I pulled the strung out shot into a bulk and hit a dace immediately, only for it to be taken by a pike, as it struggled. The pike let go, then came back and took the stricken dace again on the surface. A new hook link needed. Another trot, held back hard and a good roach was on, fighting all over the river, going for those weeds again, but successfully netted.

No apologies for a picture of another roach, this one a fin perfect 6 oz fish. Next cast, held back at the same spot, the float sank away and an even better roach was battling towards the weeds, this one making it and snagging the hook, but staying on. I could just reach it with the landing net and lift it, but the hook remained in the weed stem, pulling the roach back over the rim of the net. Needless to say, this was another fish lost and a new hook link again. This was not the easiest of swims to fish, having also snagged the overhead branches, when netting fish, a few more times, each one requiring the line to be cut. The bait was presented again, and another 8 oz roach hooked, then lost in my haste to get it over the weeds. That was the last roach I saw. Trotting further down, another good dace took, taken in turn by the pike before it cleared the bottom. I had the pike on for a few minutes, seeing that it was only about 2 lb, but when I pressured it, the hook came out of the dace. No doubt, while the pike was still munching on it’s prize, I managed another dace.

I shallowed up again and allowed the float to run in towards the overhanging tree along the far side, pulling the bottom shot up to give a foot of free line in the hope of a bigger chub, but saw only more small chub and the occasional perch.

Deepening up again, the float would dip, but not go under, when it reached the branches trailing in the water. Something was interested, but not taking, so I tried pulling the float back a foot, then letting it go again. Bingo! The float sank away and a nice perch was on. The pike was now taking the perch, something I’ve not experienced before. Each time the perch was released, resulting in a panic stricken fish, some landed, others lost. The pike ignored the small chub that I retrieved slowly across the surface, it just wanted the stripeys.

The final hour was spent teasing these perch to take, until I think they were all in my net, or like the roach had thought wiser of taking my maggots. Some came off, as most were very lightly hooked in the tip of their lips, but by end of the morning session, I had around twenty in my net, plus the bonus roach, for over 7 lb of fish.

I may return on a blackberrying visit soon, bringing along my pole saw for a bit of tree trimming.

 

 

 

Wild brown trout few and far between on the summer river.

August 22, 2014 at 4:51 pm

Weeks of bright sunshine, interspersed with heavy thundery showers, had kept me away from my small Hampshire trout river, and with more heavy showers forecast for the afternoon, I drove the ten miles from my home to arrive before 11 am, detirmined to catch a trout, or two. Walking from the gate down to the river, the corn had been cut and the hay bales were awaiting collection, life on a farm never standing still and it was clear from the well trodden banks, that fellow syndicate members had been busy too. Ignoring these hard fished areas, I made my way down to a beat unknown to me and judging by the untroubled vegetation along the banks, not visited by anyone else so far this summer.

An overgrown tree barred further progress downstream and I parted ranks of himalayan balsham to lower myself down among reeds into the river. The reeds had grown out from each bank, leaving only a yard gap for the river to surge through and I was taken aback it’s force, the restriction pushing the water up to my waste. I was now committed to wade upstream, the banks here are too steep to climb out again and I used my landing net handle to test the depth, as I pushed through the reeds towards a clearing, that opened up in front of me. This looked so good, that I was tempted to take off the size 18 gold head Hares Ear and tie on a dry sedge, even though there were no fish rising, but it had already taken me almost an hour to get to this point and I was itching to fish this virgin territory. The nymph had barely touched the surface, when a fish swirled with a splash and straightened the line, boiling on the surface, as I stripped back to stay in contact.

Not my expected trout, but a fighting fit dace, that continued the struggle in my hand. Another dace, then a small chub took with gusto. A longer cast dropped the nymph beneath a bankside shrub, it drifted alongside a clump of weed, then was engulfed, as a fish took. This was definitely a trout and a good one at that, diving back into the deep pool to it’s right, pulling hard against the rod, before breaking the surface in a shower of spray, then steaming past me into the reeds below, being carried by the strong current down towards the overhanging tree. The slack was taken up in seconds and the rod doubled over again. The trout was still on, hugging the bottom and taking line in surges, assisted by the flow. A bigger fish would have broken me, but this was under a pound and once turned, was fighting the funnel of water too, seeing a flash of gold, as it neared the surface, before diving again. Taking my time, I played it back on the reel, a pleasure for all flyfishermen, the wild brown on it’s side by the time it reached the net.

A perfect jewel of the stream, from a dreamed of pool. I have friends, who only fish heavily stocked lakes and rivers and expect a trout a cast, but for me this is the ultimate fishing, a true wild fish, hatched in the redds among my feet. The barbless hook had dropped out in the net and the trout stayed still long enough for a photo, before being released with it’s head upstream. I continued to wade, searching out the deeper runs, spooking a couple of smaller trout, that I failed to spot in time for a cast, but also tumbling another, that I did.

 A firm take resulted in a bustling fight from a tiny perch.

This equally tiny chub made a meal of the nymph.

Clouds had been gathering and now the slow pitter-patter of rain falling on the foliage all around me, turned to a full blown hiss as the heavens opened, two hours earlier than forecast. I took cover under a tree, trying a few unrewarded bow and arrow casts, while I waited for the deluge to ease, then, once the rain dripping from the leaves was worse, than the rain outside, I ventured out.

A deep run along the outside of a bend looked promising and casts were made as close to the overhanging greenery as I dared. I’m not sure what I saw first, the flash of gold, or the leader darting forward, but the result was the same, fish on. Smaller than the first brown, this one was almost luminous, it’s green-gold body clearly visible as it fought among the stones ahead of me.

The forceps had to come out for this one, the nymph embedded in it’s tongue, the very reason I only use barbless hooks. A push back with the forceps and the hook was out, this beautiful trout swimming free, rather than lying dead on the bottom.

The rain stopped as suddenly as it had started and the warming sun came out again, bringing with it rises further upstream in calmer water. By the time I’d made my way up to the area and tied on a size 18 Deerhair Sedge, the rise had stopped. Knowing that fish were here and waiting for another hatch, I dropped the first cast above the tail of the pool, where a bold take made instant contact with a boiling dace, that was soon in my hand.

The dace released downstream, a cast further up into the pool gave the same result. Where were the trout? There were two decent browns in this pool earlier this year. I can only assume they have been caught so many times by other members, that they have cleared off. Maybe they were taken by mink, there have been reports of four killed in our traps recently. I continued my upstream wade into a previously prolific area without tempting a trout to rise, another small chub being my only consolation.

Rain began to fall again and the nymph went back on, as I climbed out of the river to make for cover in a spinney, getting back in the river, when it eased.

I’d made a few blind casts under the left bank, when I spotted a slight bulge beneath the surface to the right and dropped the nymph short to the spot. A take as it dimpled the surface, had a feisty ten inch brown scurrying around in front of me, as I frantically tried to retrieve slack line. It came off at my feet. At least there were some trout in this barren looking stretch. Further up a smaller brown tumbled off without setting the hook, this time from a pool, once protected by an alder, that fell victim to the farmer’s chainsaw this year. My final cast into a deeper run along the left bank, met with a snatching take from yet another dace, that had me hoping that it was a trout. A hard fighting fish, but not what I paid my money to catch.

Signal crayfish and mink are both on the increase on our water, despite the best efforts of the voluntary bailiffs to reduce their numbers, which may be the reason for so few trout taken this session. It had been hoped last year, that the rapid growth of the wild brown trout, would provide a bumper season, but that has not happened, the prime feeding areas being occupied by coarse fish. A rumble of thunder brought my visit to a close, I had still caught trout, had caught on nymph and dry, while fishing in the heart of the English countryside on a clear chalkstream, what had I to complain about?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Small river stick float fishing, gets surprise results.

August 13, 2014 at 6:19 pm

Too good to waste, maggots in the fridge and hemp in the freezer, bait left over from my previous session on the wide open spaces of the river Thames, were brought out for a visit to a tiny river, a couple of miles from home, a few days later. A change in the weather matched the difference in the venue, the long, hot days, had given way to thundery showers and sunny periods, bringing with them a drop in temperature. This was to be my first taste of summer fishing on this shallow, meandering water, which is formed, when two streams come together, one gaining in size as it makes it’s way across the fields, while the other acts as a drain to a large part of the town, only coming out into the daylight at the confluence of the two.

Never more than twenty feet wide and rarely over three feet deep, I’d only fished here in the winter with bread punch for the roach and chub, so this was like a new water to me, the bare banks were now transformed by six foot high himalayan balsam plants, this invasive species crowding out the slower growing natives. I’d made a beeline straight to my old winter roach swim, only to find the balsam barring my way, a thick jungle from the river to the raised pathway.

I continued down the path searching for a fishable swim, until I reached a spot where a bend passes close to the wooded banks and a narrow band of balsam occupied a thin strip of level bank. Opposite, a fallen tree had restricted the width, quickening the pace of the river. Perfect. Balsam is easily pulled up and I’d soon cleared a path through and placed my box just upstream of the fallen tree.

I’ve been fishing all my life, but there was something about this swim, that got me excited, the main flow pushing past the obstruction and directing it towards my bank and under overhanging trees, where a back eddy formed to run against the opposite side, lower down. Many opportunities to catch the wide range of fish known to populate this water, which include carp, bream and chub. I was not being too ambitious today, just looking forward to a few hours watching the float going under, until I ran out of bait. With my soft actioned, 12 foot Hardy rod, balanced by a closed face ABU 501, I was ready for anything.

I plumbed the depth and set the 3 No 4 Middy ali stick a few inches deeper, with the main shot bulked under the float, plus 2 x No 6 shot down the line. While tackling up, I’d prebaited a few handfuls of hemp, followed by some red maggots and my first cast saw the float dip and slide away as it tracked down the middle of the swim. The rod bent into good fish on the strike, the dull flash of a roach showing through the coloured water, as it reacted to the hook, fighting hard in the fast water and swimming upstream along the opposite bank. A lift of the rod and it swam across to my waiting net.

A fin perfect roach, that demonstrates the quality of fish available from this urban environment in a public park, with a busy road buzzing with traffic, only yards away on the other side of the river. With the hook rebaited and a few grains of hemp fed in, the float sped away again and a hard fighting gudgeon put an initial bend in the rod.

This was bad news, these clonking little fighters can take over a swim, when after bigger quarry, so only fed hemp for the next few cast, although it didn’t stop the gudgeon queueing up. Then a different fish again, as a succession of rudd moved onto the feed.

This was the first of many rudd that grabbed the maggots as they fell through, some needing the net to lift them out, the occasional roach and very small chub, also joining the party. It was now a fish a chuck. Swing the float in, check it’s progress and strike as the float sank away. A different solid rushing fight put a bend in the rod, and a small perch was now being swung to hand, the first of several.

These were the first perch I’ve taken here, having only fished bread, but they were all welcome, fighting well above their weight. The shallow, but coloured flash flood water gave no clues, but there must have been hundreds of fish down there, only visible, when the rod bent into another one. The roach started to come on strong, some now spewing mud and hemp, when I unhooked them.

For a bit of river that had obviously not been fished this year, the roach had soon cottoned onto the hemp and I kicked myself for not keeping my leftover tares, which would have selected the bigger roach, although I wasn’t doing bad on the maggot.

An elder tree overhung where I sat and a trot through with a berry gave a plunging bite that produced another perfect roach. They really took the berries, but the bites were missable, so I returned to the maggot, which gave a steadier bite, although the fish in the end could not be determined, until struck. One sideways take got me confused, as the fish bored deep and rushed off down stream, needing rapid backwinding to avoid a likely break. It turned and ran right in to my feet, then popped up on the surface.

It was a case of shock horror, when I slipped the net under this barrel shaped gold fish. I’m used to seeing them cruising around my pond at home, not charging about the river like a little bully boy. Maybe washed out during the winter floods, or released when it got too large for a tank, it certainly was the surprise of the day.

 

With roach of this quality on tap, it was difficult to call a halt and I fished over my intended 3 hours by another 30 minutes, that “just one more fish” feeling, taking me back to my childhood days fishing with my dad.

A quick weigh-in saw the scales bounce round to 11lb, a fanastic haul of previously uncaught fish and I still had some bait left to feed in, when  I packed up. The float never got the chance to test out the river beneath the trees, or in the bay. Maybe a visit with some bigger baits next time?

Thames roach, better late than never on hemp and tares.

August 7, 2014 at 5:23 pm

Continued high temperatures drew me to the banks of the Thames at Windsor this week, with the hope of a decent net of roach on hemp and tares, following reports that the day ticket water at Home Park was responding well to these seed baits. Memories of school holidays spent on this very stretch, shoulder to shoulder with my friends, pulling out roach and dace, as the fish flashed through the water chasing the hempseed, will never be forgotten, or repeated; the Thames of those days being very coloured and highly polluted, but full of coarse fish, eager to grab our bait. Today the Thames runs clear for most of the year and the Environment Agency have figures to prove that it is in better condition, but try convincing the old timers that it is so and you will see their eyes glaze over, hearing tales of catches past.

As I made my way down to the far end of the water by the road bridge, I met young Vince, who was busy creating his own memories of sunny days on the Thames. Having set out his stall on the shallows, he proceeded to net a quality roach on his pole line, making it all look too easy. Baiting with tares over a bed of hemp, the modern day matchman gave me a lesson on how it should be done, his light weight, but expensive pole and finely balanced terminal tackle, giving him perfect presentation of the bait and the best chance of hooking a fish.

Arriving at my chosen spot, the idea of trotting a stick float down the swim, was defeated by thoughts of Vince and how well the pole had presented the bait in the deeper water. Setting up the pole with a 6 No 4 ali stemmed, bodied stick float, I plumbed the depth and found the river bed shelving away to about seven feet at nine to ten metres, well within range, but a two handed affair with my twenty year old pole.

Clipping a bait dropper to the line, I repeatedly filled it with hempseed and dropped a path of the seeds along the nine metre line, adding a few tares for good measure, before trying a tare on the hook. The float dived the first trot and held. I lifted straight up and felt a slight rattle on the end of the line. A tiny dace of a few inches had taken the 6mm dia tare. From a bite like that, I was prepared for the thumping fight of a good roach. Over the next ten minutes, such bites were missed, or more small dace and bleak were brought to the surface.

Still feeding a pouch of hemp each cast, I tried double maggot on the hook. This time a couple of  dips of the float and it sank away. The strike pulled out the elastic. A good fish? No, a small perch fighting for all it was worth. Another trot, another perch. At least these gave a good account of themselves. More followed to a half pound, needing the net. Each time I put on a tare, or elderberry, another good hemp hook bait, I would get dips and dives from bleak and small dace. Bringing a small bleak to the surface, there was swirl and the elastic came out again, boring deep. A large perch had seized the bleak, hooking itself and now running hard, parallel to the bank. Too late, I saw where it was heading, a submerged shopping trolley. It swam in and out again, leaving my hook among the caging.

I rang the changes with the hook bait, swapping between tare, elderberry, maggot and even hemp seed it’self, but apart from the occasional small perch, small bleak and dace lined up to get on the hook.

I’d continued bait dropping hemp, with a spray of seed upstream of the swim and two hours into the session the float held down and the distinctive bounce of a roach pulled out the pole elastic to absorb the shock. Only a four ounce roach, but the landing net went out anyway and the first of my target fish on a tare was finally in the keepnet. It was 4 pm.

The small dace were still queuing up, but once again a slow solid bite and this time the elastic came out and stayed there, the flash of a larger roach, deep beneath the surface, giving plenty of warning to get the net ready, as I passed the pole back behind me and reduced it’s length to seven metres.

At last a better roach, this time on an elderberry. The bright sunshine and heat of the day was now gone and it seemed that a good bag was on the cards. I had intended to pack up at 5 pm, but a call to my wife was now needed to advise her of a late arrival home.

A couple more roach, then the solid rolling fight of a big dace kept the elastic out. As I began bringing it towards the surface, the line went solid, and the pole bent into the weight of a pike that had grabbed the dace. All I could do was follow the pike around with the pole, but when the pike tried to turn the dace to swallow it, the line came free and the dace skittered to the surface, followed by the pike, lifting the damaged fish clear, just in time.

Another big dace, this time grabbed from behind, possibly that large perch, lost earlier. I’d already had one snatched from the line and another with the pike on and a broken hook link. It was only  big dace though and I continued to catch small ones and roach without trouble.

This was my last roach of the five hour session, my decision to pack up coming from a large barge rushing downstream for a late appointment, that sucked the water from my swim in passing, dragging the keepnet clear of the water, to leave the fish thrashing, only to be tumbled over again from the back wash. a hazard on the Thames that seems to be increasing.

I was sorry to see that many of my pristine roach had lost scales, due to the constant passing of boats at speed and the best, that I could do was to return them, after a quick photo.

 

Rudd provide hot pole action.

July 28, 2014 at 6:39 pm

It was one of those hot listless days, with the temperature hovering around 30C, when every movement seemed to take double the effort, that I decided to visit my small local pond for the second time this summer. The afternoon had been spent searching out the shadiest parts of the garden, while my enduring wife turned down offers of various outings, as they came to my mind, as “Too Hot!”  Surprisingly, the suggestion of a walk down to the pond after Tea, was looked upon as an acceptable joint activity, which saw me spring into action, scurrying around gathering up bits of tackle and bait. Refreshed, the tackle trolley was loaded and a ten minute stroll saw us at the bankside by 6 pm, seeking the cover of a tree, which soon proved short lived as the sun moved round to bring it’s full force to bare.

My preferred summer method on this pond is to feed curried hemp, with 6mm cubes of luncheon meat, dusted with curry powder and left over night in the fridge. This switches on the native common and crucian carp population quickly, while tending to keep all, but the largest rudd at bay. Today was a rushed, unplanned affair and my only ground bait was a mix of liquidised bread, with ground, hard carp pellets, the hook bait being sweet corn straight from the freezer. As I tackled up, rudd were already swirling on the surface and I knew that getting through them would be a problem, but thought that heavy balls of feed would soon bring in the carp to push them out. Wrong.

Six egg shaped balls of feed were put in, leading away from the lily bed to the centre of my swim, 8 to 9 metres out, while I set up a 4 x No 10 pole rig with 5lb line through to a size 14 barbless on a 3lb hook link. The pond has a uniform depth of only 2 feet and with crucians as a hoped for target, I wanted to see their fussy bites, while the commons, which rarely run to more than 2lb, can often prove cagey too.

As soon as the float hit the water, it dipped under and the first of too many rudd felt the hook, a pristine golden fish had sucked the sweet corn to the back of it’s throat in a second. The pole was going in and out at speed, with a rudd a minute slipping into the keep net. My wife commented, that pole fishing was not proper fishing, as the solid layer of rudd showed no sign of deminishing, it reminding her of a party game, when a child, where a stick with a string and magnet attached, was lowered into a tub of tin fish, a shiny fish sticking to the magnet each time it was lowered into the tub. These were some of the best rudd I’d taken from the pond and pressed on determined to build a decent weight.

Small bubbles were now bursting on the surface, a sure sign of carp on the muddy bottom, but still I couldn’t get through to them and decided a cast away from the feed might be the answer, putting the float close to a clump of weed. This time the float merely settled instead of zooming off, then rings appeared around the float. Ah, a carp at last. The rings progressed to dips, then a slow submerge off to the right. A firm lift and I was into something heavy, the elastic came out and stayed put as the something slowly made a beeline for the weed bed. A big carp, that hadn’t woken up? I didn’t have a long wait to find out what it was, a round shape the size of a soccer ball, briefly surfacing, before diving back down as fast as it’s paddles would take it. A large terrapin!

Hugging the bottom, this released pet resisted all of my attempts to bring it to the bank, paddling away from me as hard as it legs would carry it, needing to hand line it within rage of the landing net, then dragging it across to my pitch, where it retracted into it’s shell. The barbless hook was in the terrapin’s mouth somewhere, but I stopped short of trying to take it out and cut the line as close as I could, much to my wife’s amusement. The fuss had attracted the attention of a couple of other anglers and I walked it round to show them, before continuing to the other end of the pond and releasing it.

This whole interlude had taken 20 minutes of productive fishing time and I quickly tied another hook to the link, sweet corn on and a cast in. The float sailed off. The rudd collection continued.

The sun was still hot, I was dripping with sweat and my wife was growing tired of the repetition, rudd following rudd. A cool drink was required and she volunteered to walk home to get one, arriving back just as I netted my first carp of the evening. A crucian hybrid. This had given a good fight, making it to the lily bed, but coming out again. I needed that drink.

The fed area was now a mass of bubbles and the rudd had moved out, each bite being indicated by the slightest of movement from the float, crucians nudging and sucking the bait, before moving away with it. Others just sat with the bait, sucking the goodness out to a skin. Some of these I hooked, some splashed to the surface and came off.

A few times the tiniest of bites saw the elastic fly out as unseen commons accelerated into the weed bed, or the lilies, the elastic unable to buffer the runs, the 3 lb hook link parting like cotton. Next visit I shall take a rig with 8lb to 5lb hook link and hope that it doesn’t affect the quantity of bites.

A welcome sight were some small tench, being larger than those caught last year, punching far higher than their actual weight.

As the sun began to sink behind the trees, some better hybrids put in an appearance and it was a case of saying just one more fish, until with the light going fast, I had to call a halt at 9 pm.

This pound plus common took on the dot of nine, the last hour finally bringing the quality fish I’d been after all evening.

A terrific mixed bag of fish taken in under two and a half hours of hectic fishing, this free fishing among the houses always throwing up a surprise, or two, the terrapin being the strangest.

 

CZ 452 .17 HMR makes hay while the sun shines

July 22, 2014 at 3:57 pm

A warm wet spring, saw rapid growth of the grasses and thistles on most of my shooting permissions this year, good news for the cattle farmers, but not for the shooter required to keep the rabbit population in check. One of my farms has had little attention from me this year, due first to the absent farmer penning his animals close to the yard, creating a living security barrier to keep people off his land, including me, then, when he finally let the beasts onto the land, due to the soft ground, the grass was so long, that the rabbits were hidden. Arriving this week, the grass had been cut and the hay gathered in.

This small farm is on a reclaimed landfill site, where methane is drawn off to power an electricity plant, while on two sides, land fill continues with huge trucks dumping loads of rubbish, to be bulldozed flat and covered with earth. Not your rural ideal, but the farm is a haven of wildlife, returned to beef production, all be it, used to rear and fatten young bullocks and heifers, while a large bull keeps guard over his charges.

With calves in tow, these cattle can be unpredictable and having already been bumped a few times by over enthusiastic bullocks, I stay well clear and with the land divided down the middle, opt for the ruminant free zone every time.

The land slopes down toward the active landfill site and I circled round to approach the top of a tree lined hedge line, that harbours a large warren, several rabbits being visible in the distance. If the land had been flat, I could have set up with the HMR on the bipod and picked off my targets from this position, but the curve of the slope masked the rabbits from view, when prone; a fifty yard crawl being required. Although cloudy, it was a hot sultry day and the sweat was soon dripping from my brow, as I shuffled forward, pushing the rifle and shooting bag ahead of me. Still the rabbits were hidden, just the tips of their twitching ears visible.

My bipod is a Harris, extendable to 27 inches and now within fifty yards of the first group, I couldn’t chance getting closer, so my next tactic was to extend the legs out to 15 inches, about the max for prone shooting. Through the scope, I could just make out the head of a rabbit and fired, only to see a puff of dirt and grass as the bullet slammed into the curve of the slope twenty yards away, the rifle firing low at that point, due to scope height. Untroubled, the rabbits continued feeding and now the bipod legs were extended further to over 20 inches, allowing me to sit up and shoot with the legs resting on my boots. Four, or five rabbits were now in clear sight over the brow and selecting the largest, took head shots on two in quick succession, before the rest scuttled back through the hedge.

Sitting it out for another ten minutes, I waited for more movement ahead of me, until another large rabbit stepped through the wire fence 80 yards away. The Harris legs were lowered to the default setting, my target stopping on a raised hummock long enough for a clear shot behind the eye, that sent it into a back flip. Scanning with my scope further along the hedge line, more rabbits were out, but beyond them, workers were still on the site beyond the field 250 yards away, well within range of the .17 bullet, if a ricochet occurred. With no more safe shots available, I gathered up and cleaned my prizes.

Moving to the other side of the field, I shot another three in the next hour and decided to call it a day, before the dreaded traffic built up for the drive home. Fortunately the farmer arrived as I was climbing the yard gate and was able to show him my spoils for the afternoon. I assured him that with the grass gone, I could get back down to business again.

 

 

 

Wild brown trout flyfishing come rain, or shine.

July 15, 2014 at 7:14 pm

Following a 230 mile round trip to collect my sister from Weymouth for a family gathering, I thought a visit to my local syndicate river was off limits, but as she and my wife settled down in front of the TV for their evening soap fix, I made my escape with the minimum of pleading on my part. The sun was blinding, as I drove west to the river, but rain was forecast for later, with heavy showers to follow over the weekend, so this was my only chance to fish this week.

Walking along the overgrown banks, I was pleased to see just a hint of colour, as the river babbled over the shallows. I’d not fished this section all season, even missing out on Duffer’s Fortnight, when mayfly were rising fish all over the river. The winter floods had created a new run along the opposite bank, which extended into a long pool and thought that it offered refuge for a fish, or two.

There were plenty of grannoms scudding about the surface, but no rises, so a Black Devil nymph was tied on to search out the deeper pockets for trout.  I waded downstream in cover of the right hand bank, before moving out to the middle, where short upstream and across casts could be made to cover the faster water. A short six foot leader, greased to float within 18 inches of the fly, is all that is needed in this sort of fishing, casting and recasting, while watching the floating leader. The slightest, stop, twitch, or a “buzz”, when the line seems to vibrate, must be responded to with a quick lift of the rod. My little 7ft Shakespeare Odyssey 4/5 weight rod is perfect for this and minutes into the session, the line darted forward 3 inches and I saw the flash of gold from a small brown, before it tumbled off.

Moving upstream a few yards, there was a back eddy formed behind tree roots jutting into the flow and I tried casts directly to the edge of the flow and into the slack, but it was a cast higher up into the full flow, that met with a solid take. There was a brief explosion of resistance at the head of the pool, then slack line as a ten inch wild brown turned and dashed down stream into a bed of streamer weed, bursting onto the surface once contact was made again. To avoid the bundle of energy from bouncing off, I gave it line, then drew it back upstream, once it’s head was down.

These small browns will take advantage of every depression on the riverbed, ambushing their food as it rushes by over their heads, darting out and back in an eye blink.

I now moved up the shallows, casting into every nook and cranny, but no one was home and found myself at the tail of the next pool, where the river turns sharp right, offering deep water and cover at the edges, a happy trout hunting ground for me in the past. Again no rising fish were showing and I prospected the nymph along the edges, gradually casting further into the pool with no response, not a good sign for this part of the river. A sudden heavy rain shower forced me back into cover, while the evening sun continued to shine beneath the cloud. There must have been an impressive rainbow somewhere out of my sight, as I huddled against the bankside bushes. I took the time to change my leader length by looping in another two feet of 4lb line and tying on a heavier Gold Head Hares Ear to get deep into the pool, the trout not in their expected places hard under the banks.

With the sun back out and the smell of fresh rain still in the air, I began the search process again, disappointed that a good fish that had been growing larger each season was no longer present under bushes to my right. Wading further into the pool, I made an extended cast up to the bend and watched the nymph sink to the depths. The leader did not drift back, but stayed put and I lifted to avoid an assumed snag, that burst into life and headed off round the bend upstream. It hugged the bottom fighting hard, definitely a trout, not a chub, zig zagging across the the pool to appear briefly at my feet, one of the many silver browns that have populated the river. The fight tailed off as the trout turned back to the deeper water, bringing it’s head up and with my landing net still leaning against the bank downstream, I made a successful lift with my left hand under the fish for the capture.

Fin perfect and in prime condition, this was my second and last trout of the evening, the sun shining beneath yet another storm cloud, that was about to empty it’s contents over the Hampshire countryside. Content to hold onto my prize, until a kick of the tail sent it back to the pool, I climbed out of the river and made it back to the van, as raindrops began bouncing off the roof.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Urban carp secret among the houses on bread punch.

July 10, 2014 at 7:17 pm

On a recent visit to a friend, who had just moved into my neighbourhood, I took a wrong turn on his housing estate and found myself at a dead end, my way blocked by a tree shrouded pond among the houses. Apart from a few openings in the trees, where ducks had been fed, the pond was completely overgrown. It had at some time been the ornamental pond to a large house, ivy covered steps and an inaccessible boat slipway surrounded by rusted railings, baring testament to this. The house and grounds were now gone, replaced by modern, but expensive houses hidden behind high walls and gates.

The lake is fed by a stream flowing from a nature reserve a mile upstream, where I’d seen carp swimming in it’s protected waters and wondered if any had migrated down to this little haven. A quick walk round before getting back in the car confirmed that this shallow pond did indeed hold a stock of fish, dimples in the middle at least indicating a shoal of rudd.

A few weeks later, I was forcing my way through the untended undergrowth, to an area just big enough to get my tackle box down, next to the stream inlet. A bit of trimming with snips soon had a space to get the pole working, although staking out my net, I realised that there was only six inches of water in close.

I hadn’t brought my boots, which meant that jacking up the box on it’s legs, further out in the pond, to find deeper water, was not on, unless I fancied wading in bare feet. I’m not that keen, so had to like it, or lump it. This decision was eased, when I plumbed the course of the stream and discovered another 18 inches of water. Perfect.

 

 

Today there were no signs of rudd on the surface, and opted to fish a new small dibber float, baited with a 7mm pellet of bread punch along the stream channel, just held back against the gentle inflow of water and put a couple of egg sized balls of liquidised bread in to get things moving. I was still sorting out my gear, getting comfortable, when my pole was almost pulled from my hand, as a good fish ran off with the bait, followed by the stretching pole elastic. I managed to fit a on a couple more metres of pole before the run stopped heading out, but then watched as it made for the trees on my right, more pressure and it rolled on the surface, a pound plus common carp.

A lucky start to the session? Another ball of bread was met by a swirling boil beneath it and the float slid away before it cocked. The elastic was out again, as a smaller common kited across the surface. They must live in this channel, waiting for the bread meant for the ducks, from the mums and kids of the estate.

Then the rudd moved in, some nice four ounce fish among them. Time for a heavier feed, mixing the liquidised bread with ground carp pellets and water, to put a thick carpet straight on the bottom of the channel, from six to nine metres out. I’d sneaked  some sweet corn from the freezer on my way out, but this was still frozen, so stuck with my biggest bread punch, squeezing two pellets together on the 14 hook. A typical rudd, lift and run bite was met with a solid juddering fight and a nice crucian carp was skating across the shallows.

The procession of fish to my net continued, until a slow sink away of the float saw the elastic go out and stay there, as a very large carp made it’s mind up what to do, before powering at a steady pace across the pond, while I extended my pole to it’s full eleven meters in pursuit of the fast disappearing elastic. Trying to keep an angle between the pole and this unseen lump, I hung on against the pressure. The possible double figure fish was not fighting, just swimming around stirring up the mud, anytime it wanted to really test my tackle, there would only be one outcome. The carp would win. Win it did, after what could have been ten minutes, a sudden spurt saw the elastic ping back into the tree to my side. The rig was tangled, but the 6lb main line allowed me to pull it out, less the hook on it’s 3lb line. It may have broken me, or the hook pulled out, I couldn’t tell. After this exertion my hands were shaking too much to repair the rig and reached inside my box for my well used waggler pole rig. The sweet corn had now thawed in the sun and I mixed a dozen pieces into the heavy mix and rebaited with it. The float lifted flat and another crucian was on, the earlier commotion not putting them off.

A rustle through the undergrowth behind me heralded ten minutes of nightmare. A big black labrador came charging into my little private clearing with a well chewed tennis ball in it’s mouth and dropped it beside me. It wanted me to throw it into the pond, picking it up and dropping it, panting and gesturing towards the water. I am not a doggy person, but on occasion have humoured the occasional dog in this way, but not when I have a swim full of fish eager to bite. With this he jumped in and turned expecting me to play, charging about and stopping, waiting for me to throw in the ball. “Oh bother”, or words to that effect. Another rustle and it was “Charlie’s” owner standing next to me. Charlie now went into hyperdrive, running back to the bank and out again. “Are you fishing?” the owner enquired. I just gestured around me in resignation. The owner reached down and threw the ball to the middle of the pond. Game over. I began packing up. “Sorry, we come here every day. I’ve never seen a fisherman here before!” I wonder why?

This had the makings of a fantastic haul of fish, under three hours of the bread punch, putting at least ten pounds in the net, the next three on the corn held the promise of many more. The penalty of these urban waters is that we anglers are intruding into the world of the general public, who have no understanding of our passion for fishing and it is us, who have to give way to the dog walkers, cyclists, duck feeders, etc.

 

 

 

 

Latimer Park Flyfishery Birthday Treat

July 5, 2014 at 11:10 am

My longtime friend Peter’s offer of a birthday treat, as his guest at Latimer Park Fishery, was gratefully accepted this week, following his report of three good fish he’d caught  before 9 am the previous day. Collected from my home and transported to this little jewel in the Buckinghamshire countryside, we arrived at 10:30 to be met by a dour faced bailiff, who told of very few fish caught by members that morning.

The priority for Peter and I was to enjoy the day for what it was, a day out in good company at a picturesque venue; catching fish would be a bonus. A slight ripple gave us confidence, Peter setting up with a red nymph, his successful fly of the day before, while I opted for legged gold head Hares Ear nymph, to be slowly worked back, off the bottom on a figure of eight retrieve. The two Latimer lakes are formed from dams across the Chess, which flows out of the chalk above the nearby town of Chesham, the river running in it’s channel down the centre of the upper lake, requiring a good cast to find the deeper water. There was little surface movement and no response to either nymph, so it was time for a change on my part to a buoyant Deerhair Sedge, the same fly serving me for years on rivers and lakes, when the fishing got hard. On a long leader, tipped down to 6lb breaking strain, I cast to the centre and waited in vain for a rise to this tasty looking morsel. Plan B, twitch the fly back to me, three inches at a time, every minute. Five minutes into this regime, a nose emerged on the surface observing the fly, another twitch and the line sank as the sedge was sucked in. A steady lift, pulled the line from the surface, making a solid contact, before catapulting the line back at me, as the hook lost hold.

Another missed fish for me and Peter changed over to a dry fly, getting into a trout straight away, which he then lost. This exciting, but frustrating interlude continued, until Peter was at last playing a good fish to the net. This 3lb rainbow was knocked on the head and another two pounder shortly after released. The guest rules are that we could catch seven fish in total, killing our first fish each, then the last fish of the day, whoever takes it. I was now feeling left behind, and was relieved to see a positive take of the fly, lifting into a big fish, that tail walked away from me and came off. Retrieving the line, a curled end to the tippet, showed that the line had parted at the knot, taking my favourite sedge with it. Together we had taken many a fish over the years and now it was gone. Tying on a replica, my next cast saw the fly vanish seconds after it touched the surface and I was playing another good fish, that just refused to come in, realising that I’d hooked it in the gill plate, which allowed the rainbow to swim away from me.

Eventually this fully finned, 20 inch, three pounder was on the bank, following what seemed a ten minute fight and during which time, Peter had hooked and landed yet another rainbow, which he released. This left us another three to take and with the wind swinging round, making casting difficult, we retired back to the club house for some lunch, topped up with plenty of banter with other club members.

During lunch the wind had dropped to nothing, leaving a flat calm with no apparent surface activity. We decided to change tactics to fish with small nymphs 18 inces below a yarn indicator. Arriving at the bankside, we could see from strings of small bubbles, that trout were feeding among the clumps of blanket weed on the edge of the deeper water and targeted this area. My first cast saw an instant, but hesitant response to the Diawl Bach nymph, the indicator bobbing and dipping, before gliding under, to be missed on the strike. Peter was having the same trouble and we both missed many unmissables, before I twitched back at a bob of the indicator and felt the solid pull from my second fish.

This perfect, recent stock fish was barely hooked in the nose, a sign that curiosity, not hunger had resulted in a visit to the bank. I held the fish in the cool water, until it was ready to swim off, the fight taking a lot out of this plump rainbow. The fun continued with plenty of offers and missed trout, during which time the sunshine had resulted in more blanket weed floating to the surface, making the static indicator tactic the only reliable method.

My third rainbow was hard won and fought like a demon, at one time spinning away from me and wrapping it’self in line and weed, torpedoing around the shallows, before I bullied it into the net. Peter had also hooked a fish, our joint seventh and it was this two pound rainbow that was taken. Static, or twitched artificials had worked on the day, the fish not interested in following a lure, or nymph, most of those members, who slogged away retrieving, going home fishless.

All in all an enjoyable day and certainly a birthday treat with a chauffeured cross country drive home. Thanks Peter.

 

 

 

 

 

Big chub on the dry fly compensates for small trout

June 24, 2014 at 12:32 pm

With the mayfly hatch long gone, I was not expecting much from a brief visit to my syndicate trout river, allowing a couple of late afternoon hours to keep the fishing urge at bay. Parking at the bridge, the river was still slightly coloured from a tributary half a mile upstream, that has been discharging run-off water all season.

No rain for over a week had dropped the level to a point, where I felt safe to enter the water downstream of the bridge, the winter floods having scoured out a deep run along my bank. Nothing was rising, but I’d seen trout mopping up mayfly here a fortnight before and knew it was worth trying a few casts with the bodied Mayfly still attached to my line from last time out. False casting to get the line out, the fly dropped close to the bank under the trees, where a back eddy meets the faster water and was consumed in a boiling rise immediately, catching me unawares, but making contact.

These wild brownies fight to the last and with my landing net out of reach, planted handle down in the bankside mud, I waited until the trout drifted back to my hand, to be released once unhooked. The mayfly was now sodden and I tied on a deer hair Sedge to search out the faster runs, making contact with, but losing seconds later, another small brown. It was time to climb back out of the river and and make my way across the uncut meadow to the downstream S bend.

From the high bank I could see fish rising all over the pool and circled round to avoid spooking them, getting into the river at the fast flowing tail and wading across to the inside of the bend, where the slower flow allows better presentation of a dry fly. Close to the outer bank a good fish was rising steadily to anything that drifted past, even a bumble bee and with the Sedge still attached, I measured my cast, planting the fly just upstream to drift into a solid take. The very silver fish jumped vertically clear of the water like a Polaris missile, it’s whole body quivering with energy, before plunging upstream into the deep pool and taking line against the ratchet. Picking up my landing net, I waded out into the pool in an effort to head it off, should the tumbling trout try to get downstream into the fast water. The pressure soon told and the shiny specimen was in the net.

Moving up, I targeted another regular riser in mid stream, but missed the take, as it made a grab for the skating fly. This put him down with no more rises. Further up a fish was dimpling along the side of the reeds, a small trout I thought, but the instant the fly was sucked in, the surface erupted from the response of a very large fish, that bent my rod to the butt, as it dived deep into the pool. This was a seriously large fish, that stayed down as it searched for an escape route, continually pulling back against retrieved line. At last it began to come back to me , only to run again, this time to the outside of the pool, where it turned and headed downstream. A massive chub. Staying in contact, with my long handled landing net wedged under my left armpit, I waded down and across in an effort to head it off, before it reached the rapid water at the tail of the pool. At this point it turned again and began to swim upstream, being able to bring it over and down into my waiting net.

This was my biggest chub ever, let alone on a flyrod, measuring 22 inches from nose to fork and helped return my respect for a fish that I have often regarded as “one run wonders”, this chub keeping me occupied for at least five minutes, with no certainty of being netted. Returned facing upstream in the net, it gathered it’s thoughts for a minute, then bolted back to the depths.

All the commotion caused by landing the chub had put an end to the rising fish and deciding to continue for another half hour, I tied on a gold head Hares Ear nymph to get down to the bottom of the pool. I missed two lightening takes, before making contact and seeing a silver flash beneath the surface, assumed it was a dace, but I was wrong, another bright wild trout coming to hand.

A near identical trout followed, our river being full of these bright brown trout variations. I’m not complaining, they fight just as hard and hopefully will be a few ounces bigger next season. While searching the pool upstream with the nymph, I heard a rise behind my left shoulder and saw a ring of water spreading out from just above the tail on the far side.

Keeping low, I eased my way back down to the bend and tried drifting the nymph over the now rising fish to no avail, so the Sedge was tied back on and second cast another small brown was on, dropping back into the run to put a bend in my rod.

My need to catch fish satisfied, I made my way back through the wilderness to the van and joined the early evening rush hour home for tea.