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Magtech 7022 rabbit stopper.

October 3, 2015 at 2:08 pm

There was an ulterior motive to  visit a local garden this week; it is time to make cider and there was a surplus of Bramley cookers and Cox’s sweet apples, just waiting to be picked. Wet weather and a family holiday had meant no visits by me for a month and the lady owner of the cottage garden was becoming anxious, due to the appearance of rabbits on her lawn again.

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Arriving in the late afternoon, I unpacked the Magtech 7022, a .22 semi automatic rimfire rifle, which when firing subsonic ammunition, is quieter than my air rifle. At the entrance to the rear of the garden, I stood to one side and scanned through the scope, searching among the flower beds for movement, spotting the rounded brown shape of a rabbit up between the apple trees at the far end. Too far for a shot to hand, I retreated behind the hedge, getting down onto the ground for a prone shot, using my shooting bag to rest the rifle.

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At about 50 yards away, the body of the rabbit was hidden behind a slight rise of the lawn, but the head and ears were visible, ducking it’s head to feed. I was confident of a kill at this range, having zeroed in the rifle on a previous shoot. The cross hairs were placed just to the rear of the eye and the trigger gently squeezed. The rabbit disappeared from view. After a five minute wait, nothing else moved and I got up, only to disturb a rabbit feeding just yards from it’s dead comrade, watching it hop into a dense flower bed ten yards away. I stood and waited. The leaves of a shrub moved, when the rabbit decided that it was now safe. I zeroed the scope down to the minimum 3 mag and scanned beneath the shrub, picking out the back end of my quarry and aimed ahead to where the chest, or head would be. Pop! It jumped and dropped. Two in ten minutes. That would do for now. After a quick walk round, it was time to pick some apples, the lady of the house giving me carte blanche and began filling boxes for the next half hour.

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I kept my eye open for rabbits further down the garden and as dusk was falling, caught a glimpse of movement on the far lawn, creeping round to see one now busy feeding down by the lodge.

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Backtracking round the garden, using the flower borders for cover, I was able to get down on the right hand side of border in the picture, pushing the gun bag and rifle out from cover, then sliding behind the scope for an easy 30 yard headshot, the rabbit slumping forward on impact. A ten minute wait saw no more intruders and I gathered up my latest prize and continued collecting apples.


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The owner’s son was pleased with the result, although I never seem to be there, when there are rabbits all over the lawn. He was also happy that the apples would not go to waste, helping me load them into the van , going off to the greenhouse and coming back with a large bag of grapes, these transformed into 4lb of jam the next day.

Thames dace fishing, worth the effort at Home Park, Windsor

September 25, 2015 at 9:37 pm

Due to domestic duties, a day long float fishing session on the Thames at Home Park, Windsor, had to be reduced down to a few hours in the afternoon this week. A team match on Sunday had produced double figure bags of roach and dace from swims spread along the length of Old Windsor AC’s day ticket water and armed with the winning peg numbers, looked forward to a full net. My morning did not go to plan and driving out of my way to get some maggots for bait, meant that it was almost 1 pm, by the time I reached the river.

Peg 5 was the nearest banker swim, having produced over 14 lb of roach and dace in the five hour match and and set up my 14 ft float rod with a 6 BB Avon float only to find on plumbing the depth, that the shelf extended well beyond stick float range and a waggler, bottom end only float was needed. Having spent ten minutes setting up the Avon rig, I decided to try this bottom only, cutting off the top rubber and locking the bottom with two AA shot, while changing the drop shots to suit a waggler pattern.

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Finding the bottom leveled out at about ten feet deep, three rod lengths from the bank, I began catapulting maggots and hemp upstream to cover the area. The float cast well and sat upright, shotted down to the orange tip, the bait just tipping the bottom, the first bite holding down and being unmissable, hitting into a good dace, but losing it in my enthusiasm to bring it up from the depths, the size 16 hook pulling out. A spray of maggots and the float sank again, another dace juddering away to the surface, this time staying on.

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I settled into a rhythm, cast, spray maggots, pick up rod and strike, the float usually going under directly out in front of me each time, reeling in slowly to bring the dace to the surface. Number ten was just visible, when the green flash of a pike burst the bubble, as it grabbed the dace, diving deep and turning downstream toward an overhanging willow. My curse had struck again and I kept pressure on, trying to steer the pike clear of the tree. I could see it was only about 3 lb, holding the unfortunate dace across the middle, as it swam back out across the river, before letting go.

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Not too damaged, the dace swam off without a second look, but the damage had been done to the swim and had just started catching again, when a massive barge came charging down from the lock, close to my bank, pushing a bow wave ahead of it and sucking everything behind it, including my keep net, which was dragged one way, then the next. Cursing that the barge had been so close, the reason for it came chugging upstream, an equally large barge.

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Like two juggernauts passing on a narrow road, it must have been a hairy moment for those on board the two vessels.  My swim was now stirred up and any fish scattered. Nothing for it, but to start again, laying a base of hemp on the line and feeding at intervals. A couple more dace, then missed unmissable bites, with smashed maggots. The fish had come up in the water chasing the bait and I shallowed up by two feet, hitting a fish first cast, the tap-tap bounce on the rod top telling me it was a decent roach, the landing net coming out for the first time.

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Showing signs of at least one visit to a keepnet, this was the start of a roach, or dace a chuck, the float going under upstream of me now, often before I’d picked up the rod, after each feed with the catapult, the fish hooked deep in the mouth, feeding with confidence. Wop! The pike had struck again, this time a roach was seized and was sure a bigger pike had taken it,  hugging the bottom, bending my rod right over, surging upstream, then turning to sulk on the bottom, probably to turn the roach before swallowing it. I pulled for a break, not wanting to waste time trying to land what was now an immovable object, only for it to begin a slow drift downstream toward the willow. The line sang with the tension, but with 5 lb main line and 3 lb hook link, all I could do was backwind to avoid breaking my rod. Then it was over. The hook link had been cut on one of the razor sharp teeth, only six inches remaining.

This was not going anywhere to plan. Tying on another hook link, the sound of an amplified voice warned of the next obstacle to come. Two speed boats accompanying a pair of rowing eights, full of young novice rowers from the Eton College boathouse, just upstream of the bridge, came drifting down towards my swim, their tutors and coxes calling out instructions, thrashing their oars through the water in front of me.

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I endured this for the next 20 minutes, barely able to cast, or feed, just in cast they thought that there was bad intention, when firing maggots in their direction. Eton College own most of the land bordering the Thames at Windsor, although the bit I was on is owned by the Queen. The bites had stopped and I increased the depth again, fishing closer to my bank, now getting a gudgeon a cast, plus the odd perch, losing a pound plus stripey at the net, when it shook the hook out.

The Eton College clock had long struck 3 pm and decided to go for broke, firing out my maggots until they were gone, the bites now telling me that bleak had moved in, the float bobbing and lifting, these shiny silver fish taking on the drop.

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Every now and then the float would sink out of sight and a dace, or roach would come swinging to hand, but with bleak making the running, I was happy to put the rod down, when the chimes rang out 4 pm. It had been a testing few hours, but the sound of churning fish, as I lifted out my net was a fair reward, my digital scales showing 2.7 kg, translated to 6 lb in old money, not bad for under three hours fishing.

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I could not help having a “What if” moment looking at this bag. More time and bait, no pike, or boats, that’s the trouble with anglers; never satisfied.



Trout river saves best till last.

September 21, 2015 at 4:23 pm

Due to the last visit to my syndicate water being cut short by foraging ruminants, I was keen to return the next day, but then it rained. Not just a shower, or two, but real rain, for days. At last some pace on the river, with a bit of colour to it. With a busy week, I was only able to slot in a couple of hours after an early dinner, the sun already low in the sky at 6 pm. Once bitten, twice shy, I gave the farm fishery a miss and parked at the lower end, where my only company would be the less attentive sheep.

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With little time to spare, I hurried down to the main feature of this section, an S bend, where a deep pool has formed,which gives way to a fast, shallow run at it’s tail. There was a gentle upstream wind, ideal for the dry fly and worked the Dry Sedge up the pool, the flow just right, giving minimal drag to the fly. OK, there were no rises, flies lifting off, or Daddies skating across the smooth surface, but a fish can often be tempted up to take and enjoyed ten minutes watching the line unfurl from the cast, the fly dropping with the merest dimple, anticipating a casual interception each time. Nothing.

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At this stage, I was convinced that there were no fish in front of me. I could see the gravel, where the tail rushed over the shallows, so any fish should have seen the fly, while I was far enough below that, to be out of their sight. Time to get out the box of nymphs, a size 14 Flash Back Gold Head Hares Ear falling to hand. The Flash Back nymphs work well in coloured conditions and my choice was borne out, when a bulge appeared beneath the surface, as the line drifted back toward the shallows. A sharp lift of the rod set the hook into a good dace, which tumbled across the surface, before being swept downstream into the fast water, soon to be skating on it’s side to the net.

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My next cast must have landed right on the nose of another fish, which took on the surface the instant the nymph landed. I missed the take, a decent size whatever it was. What a contrast, from nothing on the dry, to all action with the nymph. Tugs, swirls, fast stike, or slow, I missed them all. Probably a shoal of dace in this fast water down the middle.

I cast far up into the pool over the deep, slow bend. Halfway back, the leader disappeared into a tunnel, I lifted and felt the dull kick of a good fish, an instant later seeing the full shape of a large trout, as it launched vertically clear, it’s rudder like tail skimming the surface, before it crashed back in. I was as surprised as the trout, watching it spiral round the pool, leaping again, before heading upstream taking line. I followed, then realised that my landing net was still on the bank below the shallows. Giving more line, I backtracked, scooping up the net in my free hand, promptly slipping over in the muddy wheel tracks of a tractor, where it had crossed the shallows. I did not deserve this trout, which was still busy trying to escape upstream, but managed to keep the rod high, scrambling to my feet, bringing my emotions and beating heart under control.

The fight was now on my terms and I countered every run, it’s final burst taking it over the lip of the tail, but it was on the surface and the force of the current pushed it closer to my outstretched net, a boot full of water worth the sight of a fin perfect wild brown trout.

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What a beautifully marked fish, it’s big jaw a sign of spawning duties to come. After such a battle, there is always a reluctance to return the fish immediately, just wishing to admire it’s perfection, but after a quick photo session, I held it facing upstream in the edge, until it pulled free of my grip to swim back to the pool.

I had no desire to fish after this and anyway clouds had moved over the sun, bringing twilight suddenly. I had a long trek back to the road, a gate and a fence to climb; it was time to go, probably being my last session on the river before the season ends.

Trout stream sport against the odds.

September 19, 2015 at 11:18 am

On my return from the Isle of Man, with it’s rivers packed with healthy wild trout, signs of continued heavy rain while I was away, drew me back to my small syndicate chalk stream, where I hoped for a redeeming few hours fly fishing, before the end of the season. I should have known better. Running through arable land for most of it’s course, nitrates and abstraction from farm boreholes have done their worst this season, the lack of flow has resulted in hard packed gravel beds festooned with furry sludge. Walking down river from the road, I could hear only the barest trickle of water over the stones and on rounding a bend found that the farmer had been busy cutting trees again.

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This time it was a stand of mature oaks lining both river banks, a tunnel of trees that had kept trout safe from herons and cormorants, while providing challenging sport, were now gone, reduced to saleable logs. The reason? Fear that they would blow down onto his barn. We have the fishing rights, but they have to give way to the working farm.

I had intended a few casts at the cattle drink, but the field opposite was full of bored bullocks, which looked my way as I approached, some following along the bank and decided to push on down past a stile before fishing, but the sight of a rise in the next pool down stopped me in my tracks. Before I had reached the tail of the tree lined pool, the fish had risen again and I pressed myself against a tree, making a side cast to the spot with a dry sedge. Up it came and the rod bent into a fat young brown, which raced round the pool, before coming to the net.

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As I climbed the stile, I could see fish rising in the pool below, which is protected by high banks and a tree canopy, the only approach being from the river and walked down looking for an entry point, finding water shallow enough for my wellies, where I’d needed waders earlier in the season. Wading up toward the deep pool, I responded to a rise beneath an overhanging branch, setting the barbless hook into a six inch brown. A depressing start to the evening, was already baring fruit, catching on the dry fly is always a pleasure, whatever the size of fish.

Within casting range of the rises, I missed the first two offers, but the third resulted in a shower of spray and a deep fighting fish, that dived back into the pool, not a trout this time, an equally hard fighting dace.

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The river is full of dace this year, where trout aught to lie, this pool having provided some of my best fish over the years, it having been named Dead Cert by previous members for it’s reliability. I continued to fish and the dace obliged, hoping that a decent brown would get to the fly first, but dace like these are still worth catching.

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The cattle had now followed me across the river at the cattle drink and the river changed colour, halting the rises.

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The bullocks were now crowding the stile and decided that retreat was the safe option, continuing downstream to a bridge, before making my way upstream again. The cattle had decided to cross back, muddying the river again. I’d had some good sport and resolved to return before the end of the season.


Isle of Man fly fishing for brown trout

September 12, 2015 at 6:22 pm

Known worldwide as the home of the TT motorcycle races, the Isle of Man can boast excellent game fishing too, with runs of salmon and sea trout up it’s short rocky rivers and well stocked reservoirs, while the resident brown trout will provide sport on light tackle at any time of the day.

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The bonus of trout fishing on the Isle of Man is the scenery encountered along the way, finding out of the way gems missed by most visitors, this being the river Neb a mile above the estuary. A trout can be seen rising on the right of the arch.

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These trout have to be some of the most distinctly marked browns, that I have caught, this one taking a dry sedge on the river Neb. Unlike the mainland, there are no riparian fishing rights, all rivers are controlled by the I o M government, a weekly £27 river license allows fishing in all the rivers, where you can gain access to the water. National Glens and Government owned lands also give access to miles of fishing.

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One of many browns netted from the Neb at the Raggatt, an overgrown wasteland, when I first visited, but recently transformed into a park with managed banks, having seating for anglers and walkers, but also the ideal spot for ball chasing dogs, their owners seemingly unaware of the needs of anglers.

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Another example of  the Neb trout, well rounded and full of fight. I watched a brown twice this size cruise up along side my fly, give it nudge with it’s nose, then slowly sink back to the depths. Must try harder next time.

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A pool on the Foxdale river, in the parkland grounds of the DEFA offices at St Johns, where I bought my license, which was home to several above average browns, all taking the dry sedge fished upstream. The best came from a deep tree shrouded pool, that only allowed a bow and arrow cast into the back eddy formed by a waterfall, watching a dark shape rise out of the depths, turn over and take the fly, then running off downstream beneath overhanging branches. I could only fight the fish with my rod tip held under the raging waterfall, reeling it back, until ready to pull into the net.

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This was just a taster of the river fishing in the Isle of Man, these waters all with in walking distance of my accommodation, a ten mile drive will put you on the Sulby river near Ramsey, or the Dhoo near Douglas, while many smaller rivers, like in Glen Maye below, will give plenty of sport.

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River Neb fly fishing sea trout in the Isle of Man

September 9, 2015 at 6:06 pm

Visiting the Isle of Man for the Manx Grand Prix motorcycle races, my fly fishing gear was a priority addition to the holiday packing, this hilly principality jutting from the Irish Sea, able to provide excellent sport to the angler prepared to search out the deeper pools of the rivers flowing out of it’s many wooded glens.

The ferry had left the English mainland in bright sunshine, but as the Island came into view, it was shrouded in dark clouds and on docking in Douglas at 6 pm, headlights were needed to light the way along the narrow rain drenched roads to Peel. The following day dawned bright and clear,  but a walk to the nearby river Neb, showed that it was in spate, full of dark brown peat water, washed down from the hillsides high above Glen Helen. There would be no fishing today, or the next, but two dry days saw the river back to a steady pace and according to a Manxman met on the bank, it was full of sea trout and salmon, fresh run from the sea.

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I’d only come equipped with my trout gear, expecting to catch small brown trout on my 7 ft rod, but the chance of a sea trout got me to the bank, just as the sun was setting. Sea trout will usually lay dormant in deep water during daylight, dropping back into shallower runs, as the light fades, the early ours of darkness, or just before dawn, being the most active.

Making up a leader with an 8 lb point, I searched through my trout flies for a suitable candidate, initially settling on a traditional sea trout fly, a silver and blue Peter Ross, but it looked insignificant against a modern reservoir standby, a Blue Flash Damsel, with it’s gold head, flashy blue tinsel and long tail.

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The BFD was tied on, but the weighty head made for a looping cast on the short rod and I battled with a gusting upstream wind, blowing from the Irish Sea only two miles away. Plenty of small trout were rising, some jumping clear of the water and was tempted to try an upstream dry Sedge, before the sun disappeared behind the trees, but persevered, casting down and across, getting the occasional pluck, as these small fish pecked at the tail. A swirl and a solid pull got my heart racing for a moment, lifting the rod into a high flying brown of about six ounces, that cartwheeled across the surface, before fighting hard with the flow of the river.

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Not my target fish, but as it would turn out, the biggest brown of my visit. Fishing with worms and spinners are legal trout fishing methods in the Isle of Man and I would think the preferred method of many locals for migratory fish, these banned on most mainland rivers, while fishing any fly downstream is also not permitted on the chalk streams of the South of England, a Blue Flash Damsel also a definite no no.

It would have been easy to pack my waders, but had only packed wellies, mainly in case of a rainy visit, which restricted access to many of the pools, tending to fish in gaps between trees and gorse bushes. The light was going fast and I’d had a few near misses among the branches, but skill, or luck kept me clear of the greenery.

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A large fish had jumped 30 yards downstream and I was on edge, ready for a take, when one came, but again a hard fighting brownie was the result, good sport on light tackle, this plump fish was returned with the minimum of fuss, due to the pinched down barb of the lure.

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Under the trees it was now getting difficult to judge my casts and walked back down to the large open pool, where I’d begun the evening. Here the light was better and a safe backcast allowed me to explore a deep run below the trees along the opposite bank, swinging the lure across into shallower water. The river was alive with the movement of fish, sea trout were disturbing the resident browns, causing them to leap clear, while there were constant swirls and splashes from these larger fish. A hump raised up behind my lure, as I retrieved it upstream, not taking, but swirling away, when I lifted off. My anticipation was on full alert, following a series of fierce plucks and recast to cover the same area, when it all went solid. Milliseconds later, the surface erupted with a head shaking boil and a tail slapping jump, as the bar of silver zoomed across to the deeper water, swimming at full tilt upstream, line spilling from my reel, as it went by, my tiny rod bent double in response. I followed it upstream for ten yards, laying the rod over to avoid overhanging branches, the sea trout easing off the pressure, but still pulling hard against the flow of the river. It turned and came back down, with me stripping line, desperate to stay in contact, aware of the barbless hook, shorter straight line runs, giving way to head shaking. I got back in the river, the shallows engulfing my boots, as I guided the streamlined fish towards my net, lifting it out in triumph, only for the lightweight net to collapse, when one of it’s arms pulled out, dumping the fish unceremoniously onto the bank.


Not the best picture in the world, but the best of a bad bunch in the low light conditions. At 16 inches long, this would have made a fine meal, but these fish do not come my way very often and I was happy to return it to the river. I just hope it made it to the spawning grounds, avoiding the worms and spinners of the locals.

Crucian and common carp curry take out

August 22, 2015 at 4:42 pm

Rumours that my local pond was to be drained down for work on an undermined pathway, were confirmed, when I found my way blocked by builder’s fences on arrival for an afternoon of carp catching this week.

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The fences extended to the far end of the pond, which still had open space and having invested time and energy walking to this point, doubled the distance with a detour through a nearby wood to access the recreation ground. Being the school holidays, all but one swim were occupied, this one a parrot cage with an overhanging tree and an impenetrable bed if lilies.

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Intending to fish the pole, the overhanging branches would not be a problem, as I would be shipping the pole back to only 2 metres to land my fish, while intending to use my heaviest elastic, to a 6 lb line with a 5 lb hook link attached to a size 14 hook, in an attempt to haul any wayward carp out of the lilies, which has claimed too many of my better fish in the past. If I’d had access, my ideal swim would have been the one opposite, drawing fish out to a baited area beyond the lilies.


Trying to avoid the plentiful rudd, the plan of attack was no bread based ground bait, but a bed of curry flavoured hempseed, with loose fed cubes of Spam luncheon meat, also dosed with curry powder, over the top and on the hook, feeding an area 7 to 9 metres out, before tackling up. First cast in, the float slid away and the elastic bounced with a quality rudd. So much for the plan!

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My faith was restored on the following cast, when a dithering bite, that drifted slowly beneath the surface, resulted in the elastic stretching out beneath the lilies, before a perfectly formed crucian carp came to the net.

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That first hour ran like clockwork, only putting in a few grains of hemp every other cast and no loose fed meat, the float kept going under, a small tench, crucian, or common carp taking the 6 mm cubes offered at the edge of the lily pads every put in. A lift of the float, that shot sideways into the jungle of pads, was the beginning of a tackle test, my pole bending in an arc, as the elastic followed the float deep into the tangle of roots. Keeping my pole flat to the water, the red elastic eventually defeated the runs, the common carp making a break for the open water, each charge getting shorter, until it was ready for the net.alls 028The surface was now a mass of churned up mud and bubbles, which had put the other fish to flight, the next half hour being barren, with the occasional half hearted dip of the float, not even the small rudd seemed interested.Soon desperate for bites, I mixed some bread and ground carp pellets with the remaining hemp and balled it in, cutting the cubes smaller with scissors, also scaling down to a size 16 hook to 3 lb line.

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The response was immediate, with a decent crucian making off with the bait, the juddering fight briefly taking the fish under the lilies again, before coming to the net.

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This pond holds a mixture of commons and crucians, plus a variety of hybrids of the two, some with fins that span from bright red to black.alls 030At one time I had collected a gallery of onlookers, as the net came out at regular intervals, demonstrating the efficiency of the pole over rod and line, giving them a grandstand view, when another decent common carp ran away with the bait, stretching the elastic to it’s full extent.


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There was a sigh of relief all round, when this one was landed, one of my fan club obliging with the camera. The next cast, the float zoomed away again, bumping the pole top, as a bigger common hooked itself, first taking elastic across the pond and I added two more lengths to the pole. My hopes of keeping this fish in the open water were dashed, as it turned relentlessly back toward the lilies, pushing them aside as it dove deep among the leathery pads. For five minutes, I was still in contact, the fish pulling out elastic, then easing back and was confident I would get it out, giving it slack every time the line went solid, for it to start to move off again. Eventually it all went solid with no sign of movement and I pulled for a break, and was relieved to ping the rig back less the hook. 6 pm had been my intended pack up time and with just 15 minutes left, decided to return home early for a change.

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With fish like these only a short walk from my home, it would be a great pity if the bank reconstruction results in a “fish rescue” that changes the balance of this pond, which proves a training ground for young anglers, while boosting the egos of the not so young like myself. This net weighed in at 14 lbs and did not include one of my bigger carp, that managed to jump ship, just before this picture was taken.

Rabbits today, Jam tomorrow.

August 10, 2015 at 5:24 pm

I was enjoying a day off, sitting in the sun reading a newspaper, when the call came. “You’ve got to get over here! It’s like Watership Down in my paddock. I can see fourteen rabbits out there right now. Bring your rifle over as soon as you can!” I was miles away at the time, not due back until the the next day and agreed to visit the following afternoon.

This was the man, that had called me in two years ago to deal with his rabbits, which I did, getting them down to low single figures, putting my head over the fence from time to time to get the occasional straggler. Then he put a nervous horse in the field and the shooting stopped. I’d shrugged my shoulders and warned that it wouldn’t take long for them to become a menace once more. They were on their way to ruining the grass again, when I visited a month ago, putting a large dent in their numbers, but this sounded like a major stake out job, taking the CZ .17 HMR and the Magtech .22 semi auto for good measure.

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I arrived, armed to the teeth, to find an empty paddock and not a rabbit in sight. I waited at the fence for ten minutes, but nothing came out, apart from the farmer. He was shamefaced, apologising for getting me over on a fool’s errand, but that’s how it goes. The day before had been still and warm, while now a cool wind was gusting across the fields, blowing in a few heavy showers. They don’t like rain, or too much wind.

I walked over to the far corner, between the fence and a small hay barn, laying out my padded rifle bag for added comfort, to lie prone with the HMR on it’s bi-pod, sighting along the fence, with a clear view to the far end of the paddock. At first I was quite comfortable lying there, watching the world go by, several times tempted by fat wood pigeons to take their heads off, but knew that one shot would keep the nervy rabbits in their burrows for even longer. I was getting fidgety, when a slight movement at the far end of the paddock caught my eye. A juvenile rabbit had edged out of a bramble bush to begin feeding close to it’s bolt hole. I checked the range setting on the scope and allowed for the wind, which was gusting from right to left. At 120 yards, this was not a guaranteed shot, the rabbit jumping high in the air, to then tumble over with a broken rear leg, the bullet hitting well off target. Another was chambered and fired, this time stopping the struggle. This is the achilles heel of the HMR, the tiny .17 inch dia. bullet only weighs 17 grains and is easily blown off course in gusty conditions, a steady wind being easier to allow for.

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I stayed put and waited. At that range, the rifle report would have been minimal and was hoping that more would follow. As they say “Hope springs eternal” and it seemed like an eternity, before a rabbit crept out from the brambles. Another juvenile, it conveniently moved round to give me a side on shot, aiming at at the upper body for safety, to watch it slump forward without a kick. In an hour nothing had emerged along the fence line and after a further ten minute wait, gathered up my kit and walked over to pick up the two rabbits.

buckhurst 001This was not the result I’d been expecting when I set out and have learned my lesson in the past, to take descriptions of hoards of rabbits with a pinch of salt. My attention was now focused on the bramble bush, which was loaded with blackberries, it being unusual to see such abundance in early August.

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To add value to the trip, a spare bag was soon being filled with the plentiful ripe fruits of the field, taking occasional looks along the fence, as I busied myself with this new distraction, gathering about 3 lb in no time, enough for several pots of jam. Nothing else had come out of hiding and decided it was time to go, meeting the farmer at the van, showing him the bag of fruit. “Want some apples to go with those?” he said, pointing at his overloaded Bramley apple trees. I didn’t need asking twice and was soon filling another bag with ripening apples, the ideal companion for blackberry and apple jam.

Returning from my brief scrumping expedition, a look back revealed a lone rabbit sitting out beside the wire fence 80 yards away. Keeping his distance, the farmer waited for me to return with the rifle, then watched as I rested the it over the garden fence and dropped the rabbit. Having only used shot guns, he is impressed by the range and accuracy of the HMR, letting out a “Whoop!” at my success.

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Three rabbits is better than two and another visit is scheduled soon. In the meantime 13 lbs of jam have been made and distributed among friends and family, with enough fruit left over for my favourite, a blackberry pie.

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Blackberry and Apple Jam

August 7, 2015 at 2:14 pm

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Blackberries are one of nature’s freely available bounties, even in cities there are wild corners where brambles grow, producing their fruits throughout the month of August. I am fortunate that my country pursuits give me access to land not visited by the general public, where the fruits are able to achieve their maximum size.

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A recent visit to a farm orchard provided me with the main ingredients for blackberry jam, fresh, fully fruited berries and unripe sour Bramley cooking apples.


For 5 lbs of Jam

2 lbs of clean blackberries

3/4 lb of peeled and cored sour apples (cooking apples)

3 lb of sugar (Jam sugar if possible)

1/2 pint of water


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Place the blackberries in a large saucepan, or preserving pan with 1/4 pint of water and stew slowly to bring out the juice and soften.

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Cut the apples into thin slices and stew slowly in 1/4 pint of the water, until soft.

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Add the apples to the blackberries and mix together, then pour in the sugar, turning and stewing, until the sugar is fully dissolved.

Rapidly bring up the heat, stirring the mix constantly to avoid burning the jam. This will liquefy the mix, the bubbles will growing bigger and noisier. This is a sign that the setting temperature is close. If a cooking thermometer is available, test the temperature at this point. When a temp of 220 F or 104 C is reached, the setting point, remove from the heat.

If no thermometer is available, place a dessert plate in a fridge before starting the process, so that it is cold, when the noisy boil begins. Remove the plate from the fridge and drip some of the hot liquid onto the plate, then return it for a minute to the fridge. The jam on the plate should have produced a skin, which will wrinkle, when pushed and will not stick to the finger, when lightly touched. Continue to stir and boil the jam, testing at intervals, until this condition is met. Another ready sign, is that the jam on the spoon will begin to congeal, watching for signs of drips solidifying.

A thin sugary scum will have formed on the top of the jam, which may be scraped to one side, before pouring the hot liquid jam into warmed, clean jam jars, using a jug. Pour a small amount into each jar and swirl round, before completely filling, to avoid breakage.

Once filled, the jars need to be sealed, ideally with readily available kits, which consist of a grease proof disc to drop onto the still hot jam, a larger cellophane disc, which is placed over the open neck of the jar and a rubber band, which is then used to retain the cellophane disc over the neck.  If lids are available, screw these on too. Belt and Braces.

Don’t forget to label your jam, name and date. This will avoid mixing up vintages over the years, as jam will begin to ferment, if left for several years.

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This was the result of my latest jam making session, 13 jars of Blackberry and Apple, with enough left over for a pie.

Low water brown trout rise to the occasion.

August 6, 2015 at 9:39 pm

Fitting in a successful evening visit last week to my local trout stream, just before a weekend of heavy rain, I was looking forward to a river full of oxygen, pushing through at a fair pace, when I arrived late in the afternoon, but was sorry to see it barely covering the stones.

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Unlike last week, nothing seemed to be rising and I followed the right hand bank downstream, over the stile and into the copse below, where I could see that somebody, probably the voluntary bailiff and his helper, had been busy cutting down the Himalayan Balsam, that had previously blocked the path, although the river was still not fishable from the bank, which made all this effort pointless.

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It was disappointing to think that an organised working party would have cleared the banks in a couple of hours, while also providing a social event for the members. A short email message and the press of a button would have done the trick. Knowing how difficult it would be to fish further down, I turned round and made my way upstream again.

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Reaching the small weir, a fish was rising below the outfall, while another was active in the pool above and I waded in ready to make my first cast of the evening with a Deer Hair Sedge.

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With a tree above and behind me, only short side casts were possible, the seven foot rod flicking the fly between the rocks, casting and recasting to avoid drag, adding line a foot at a time, until the trout rose and was on. Only about eight inches, the little wild brown fought round the pool, before sliding into the net.

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Feeling confident, I waded up to the tail of the upper pool and placed the fly, where the rings had spread. A slight boil, then a take. Yes! A better brown was on, searching out the deeper water, then the roots to the side of the pool. It all went solid. Snagged. I was able to wade up, following the line down with my hand to the fly. The trout was gone, but I broke the root free and retrieved the Sedge. A few false casts soon got the Sedge floating high in the water again, but I’d disturbed this pool too much for any other interest and moved up to the cattle drink.

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A few fish were showing here too, but proved to be small dace again and as I’d caught a good trout between the trees last week, moved up to another once highly productive pool, that only raised a five inch trout parr, which shook it’self free as I lifted it off the surface. The air was now full of dust, as a combine harvester began to work the field to my left and I ducked back into the trees, more in self preservation than to fish.

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Wading up through the shallows toward the tail of a very deep pool, the smooth surface broke with a splashy rise, just beneath the overhang of a bush. Had a caterpillar dropped in, or some other terrestrial to be gobbled down by an opportunistic trout?

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The dust from the passing harvester was now fogging the air and settling like a scum on the surface, as I inched my way along the left hand bank, stopping when the depth suddenly increased, another step would have seen the water up to my waist, too deep for comfort. Pressing hard back to the roots, I began measuring my side casts toward the overhang, when the fish rose again, nudging a spinning fly on the surface, before side swiping it down. Only ten feet away, it should have been easy to place my fly ahead of the fish, but whether I was rushing the casts, or not, the line would not go where I wanted it to go. Probably not enough of the heavier fly line was out of the rod. The line landed in an untidy zig-zag on the surface, the Sedge dropping like a stone, creating it’s own ripple and the fish rose up through the middle of the ring and virtually hooked it’self, momentarily standing on it’s head, when the strike stopped it’s forward motion. It went berserk, tail walking and leaping on the short line, while I struggled to keep my rod under tension. A silvery trout, but not a rainbow, it at last dived into the deep waters of the pool upstream, away from obstructions, turning at the shallows, to head back toward me, drawing the brown back to fight under my rod top, until it was ready for the net.

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This was not a large trout, maybe eleven inches, but it gave it’s all on the light tackle. The Sedge came out in the net and I was able to point the fin perfect brownie upstream, where it kicked away from my grip to sink back to the pool.

Mission accomplished, I was back at the van before 6 pm, this visit giving about 90 minutes of anticipation and a few minutes of heart stopping action. With river levels so low, and the banks overgrown, I have no desire to return for a while, but will try to find time for a late season session in September.