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Bread punch selects crucian carp.

October 19, 2014 at 10:13 pm

A return trip to a river visited in the summer had been planned for this week, in the hope of catching some decent sized chub and roach on the stick float, before the leaves drop from the trees, but constant heavy showers had put paid to that idea. A forecast of a warm day without rain, saw me take the easy option; loading up my fishing trolley, after lunch, for the short walk to my local pond. On the way down, I could hear the feeder stream before I saw it and wondered what state the pond would be in, when I arrived. It was up a few inches and very coloured, but fish were moving, being optimistic of a good afternoon session catching crucian and common carp.

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The pond is only 30 inches at it’s deepest point and while full of small fish, it is also home to some carp up to double figures, which, when hooked only have one option …. run! The Catch 22 of this water is that light tackle is needed, just to see a bite, but a relatively heavy line and elastic are required to hang onto the better fish, if hooked.

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My choice of rig was a 0.2g carbon stemmed float on 5lb main line to a size 14 barbless on a 4lb hook link, a single No6 needed to cock the float, almost freelining. Due to the number of small fish expected, I set the line at 3 metres to hand, to swing them in, while giving control when netting better fish. Once again the freezer had been raided for bait, the last of my Kennet hemp was dragged out for the fourth time, by now less than half a pint remaining. It was the same story for the liquidised bread, accompanied by some squares for the punch, if needed. A good handful of sweetcorn was added to these left-overs and mixed with ground down carp pellets to make a coarse ground bait, that went into the swim in a line 7-8 metres out, while I tackled up.

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First cast, the sweetcorn was taken by an eager rudd, which neatly swung to hand, the first of many to come in the opening hour, the corn attracting the better quality fish, plus a lone baby tench, that zoomed off with the bait.

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Over my baited area, fine bubbles were beginning to rise to the surface, a sure sign of carp moving in to feed, pushing the rudd out, but now the bites were growing fussy, the float lifting and dithering, as the bait had it’s soft juices sucked out.

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This fine rudd was the only hitable bite in ten minutes and with the water now fizzing with bubbles, I reached into my tackle box for the bread punches and unwrapped the first square of bread. The softer bait might be the answer.

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Proof of the pudding was a lifting, dithering, bite which progressed to to a slow sink and a strike sinking the hook into a brightly coloured crucian carp. Earlier on I’d worried that I would run out of sweet corn, but now I couldn’t care less, as fish began to fill my net again, mostly small crucians and common hybrids.

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I began targeting individual groups of bubbles, the pole allowing me to gently lay the float on the surface, with the 7 mm pellet of bread gently falling through to the fish below. Bites varied from a lift of the float tip, to slow movement across and down. Each bite could be a 4 oz crucian, or something a lot bigger.

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This common ran into the lilly pads opposite, taking out the heavy pole elastic in one charge, while I added pole joints frantically to the full length of 11 metres, the steady pressure extracting the struggling carp from the pads, only for it to begin a slow arcing run away to my left, out of sight behind a bush. Once it began to roll on the surface, I knew that the worst was over, but didn’t relax until it was in the net, only then did the hook drop out of it’s mouth.

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Each punch of bread caught a fish, patience being needed as the bite developed, but the end result was reliably the same, solid resistance, followed by a furious fight.

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While waiting for one such bite to develope, a kingfisher darted across in front of me to settle on a branch to my right. I kept glancing over and watched it dive into the pond at it’s feet, returning with small fish. As I watched the kingfisher flick the fish to stun and turn it, I felt pressure against my leg. A fish had run off with the bait and hooked it’self, pulling the pole round to my left. I lifted and made contact, the surging run indicating a common carp, the kingfisher reminding me of it’s presence with a shrill call, as it sped back along the pond in a flash of torquois.

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The light was already fading fast as I dropped this pound common into the keep net and I allowed myself another few fish, before my self imposed halt to the afternoon, four and a half hours of constant action bringing me a net weighing in at a lucky 13 lb.

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A rewarding sight for any fisherman, a decent picture a near impossibility of this flapping, writhing net full.

 

 

Magtech .22 seeks out rabbits around the farm

October 10, 2014 at 2:43 pm

What a difference a year makes. Last autumn I was called to a small farm owned by a couple in their 80’s, who were at the end of their tether, due to the land being overrun by rabbits. As we had talked on that first meeting in the garden of their house, bunnies were hopping around, through hedges, in the flower beds and digging up the lawn, while further afield, the owners had given up on their vegetable garden, the surrounding area dotted with feeding rabbits. Twice weekly visits with my Magtech .22 semi auto and CZ 452 .17 HMR, soon got the numbers under control, down to the day that I went home empty handed.  Since then, an occasional visit with the HMR had kept the hedgerows in check, but today it was time for a scout round the outbuildings with the Magtech, arriving at dusk.

Due to the age of it’s owners and a son unwilling to take on the farm, the outbuildings are in a sad state of disrepair, while offering plenty of hiding places for burrowing rabbits, that seem to delight in a game of Hide and Seek. This yard was no different and white tails were melting into the undergrowth, as I rounded the corner, unable to get a clear shot among the rubbish dump. Stalking through, a thump to my right highlighted a big buck stamping a warning, as it turned between a gap in the fence. Swinging the rifle round, it’s shoulders were in the cross hairs for that moment, the barrel spat and the rabbit fell forward without a twitch. At 15 yards, the RWS 40 grain hollow point subsonic bullet had passed straight through, stopping the buck instantly, the report from the silencer being quieter than my air rifle.

At the boundary of the yard, I waited for more movement, shielded by the shed and a tree, being able to view back down toward the far fence. Within minutes I could make out a rabbit picking it’s way through brambles from the lane adjacent to the yard. I had time to wrap the rifle sling round my are left arm, which would help steady the shot, when it came. The rabbit passed in and out of view, as it made it’s way through to the fresh grass 40 yards ahead of me. It appeared from behind a pile of logs into a space, I fired the instant it stepped forward and missed. The bullet rattled through the brambles, startling the rabbit, which turned and ran toward me. I squeezed the trigger and missed again, but it continued on it’s path running into the next one seconds later, a perfect head shot tumbling it over. Two in ten minutes, good going, the Magtech being light weight and a semi automatic, proving the right tool for the job.

With no more signs, I gathered up and made my way down the path towards the barn. Opening the gate, I looked up to see rabbit number three sitting staring at me twenty yards away. In slow motion, I eased the rifle up, but watched it spring away, through the next gate to stop briefly, then bound off behind the barn. Continuing round, to appear at the other end of the barn, there it was again, sitting waiting for me. This was a fifty yard standing shot. I needed to get closer and rest the rifle on the wooden fence. Ducking down, screened by brambles, I reached the fence and peered over. Gone again.

This was cat and mouse time. I decided to move on and stake out an area bordering a stream, where old straw bales provide the ideal spot for lying out in wait. With the scope adjusted to the edge of the brambles along the bank, 40 yards away, I reflected on last year, when I shot seven rabbits from this very vantage point. The light was fading fast, when a brown smudge popped up among the brambles. The farmer’s cat? The scope illuminated a rabbit. Aiming at the white bib of it’s chest, my shot flipped it over backwards down the bank. I couldn’t wait to see if any more were coming out to play, I needed to pick this one up and get on my way. My heart slumped, when I saw where the rabbit had ended up. It was in the stream beneath brambles. Sliding head first down the bank, I could just get my hand past the the scratching thorns, my finger tips able to get a grip on a back leg and drag it back up. Then I had to get out. Madness.

Walking back, the barn rabbit’s ears were on show, could I get a shot? Not from here. I walked back round to the gate and there he was ten yards away. I raised the rifle. Boing! He was gone again. No time now. Better luck next time.

 

 

 

Cider making

October 4, 2014 at 7:37 pm

Last year I was overwhelmed with offers of apples for cider making, resulting in two fermentations and a surplus of bottles relative to my consumption, but this year was different story, a cold wet spring and shortage of bees resulting in many bare apple trees this autumn. Of late, a ready supply of Cox’s and Bramley’s, mixed with a third locally gathered sour crab apples, has resulted in a medium dry cider of around 7% alcohol content, that has livened up many a BBQ.

As the month of October approached, I was on the lookout for donor trees in the area, following a visit to a farm, where last year the owner was pleading with me to take away bags of apples, while now he had none. I usually make at least 5  gallons of cider a year, which at 20 lb of apples per gallon means a good reliable supply is needed. A wooded bank behind my house had only yielded 25 lb from three different trees varying sour to sweet, way down on expected, the trend continued where ever I looked. My last shot was to return to a green lane close to my old village, which runs through farmland on the way to a  long closed schoolhouse, where a variety of feral apple trees have grown amongst the hedgerows, no doubt seeded from domestic apple cores discarded by pupils in days past. As a road to nowhere, the lane has almost returned to nature, kept open by the occasional walker and deer, but for my wife and I, it provided us with an untapped source of apples. The fruit was hard won, brambles having taken over much of the lane since our last visit, but the remembered variety was still there, some almost good enough to grace the supermarket shelf, while others were small, hard and tart, gathering about 40 lb in total. Picking another 10 lb of sweet red Royal Gala from our own trees, we were ready to start.

As can be seen from this picture, a wide mix of apples is to be preferred, if actual bitter/sweet cider apples are unavailable. Two vital items needed for cider making are a press and a means of reducing the apples to a pulp. A garden shredder is my pulp provider, while a bolted and glued frame of 4 x 2 inch hard wood provides the basis of the press, a bottle jack from the garage being the crushing power. My wife roughly chops the apples, cutting out any bruising and other nasties, before dropping them in the shredder. The pulp drops into a plastic bowl, which I collect in an ice cream carton lined with a window net mesh, folding the mesh to trap the pulp, then placing the parcel between two plattens of on old pine shelf on the press. The jack pushes the plattens together, forcing the juice out into a stove enameled oven tray, this is then emptied into a six gallon plastic bucket. It is important to use plastic and non-metallic utensils and buckets, as the apple juice is acidic and will introduce corroded elements to the juice otherwise.

Cider making should be a social event and after four hours, which included cups of tea and lunch, the juice was ready to receive a sachet of cider yeast scattered over the surface, to start the fermentation process. A stir after twenty minutes and the juice was transferred into demijohns, working out exactly at three gallons. Into the top of each demijohn, a swab of cotton wool keeps out unwanted microbes, while allowing the ferment to breath out, as the yeast beings to multiply, causing bubbles to rise to the surface, along with dead, used up yeast, as the sugar is converted to alcohol.

The following morning, at the base of these demijohns, the yeast can be seen, while at the neck, the dead yeast is forcing the cotton wool swabs up. As good house keeping, it is OK to remove the swab and hook out the dead yeast with the back of a spoon, replacing the swab with a fresh dry one. The dead yeast will continue to grow for a few days, until the ferment slows down as the sugar is converted. This will be the time to finally clean the neck and put an air lock in place, leaving the demijohns in an out of the way place, that is not too cold, to begin the maturing process. I keep mine in a corner of the kitchen.

Depending on the cider you wish to produce, there are several phases, that can be followed. The cider can be left as it’s in the demijohns for up six weeks before siphoning (racking) off into a clean demijohn, leaving the lees behind. At this stage the cider should taste sweet and can be left in a cool place to settle and clear, then bottled in strong bottles to mature further. If the cider is too dry at this stage, racking should take place again and sugar syrup added to taste, then bottled. This will produce a still cider of around 5%.

I prefer a slightly sparkling, stronger cider and rack off when the fermentation has almost stopped, after about three weeks, bringing just a squirt of yeast through into a clean demijohn, while adding 4 oz of white sugar dissolved in hot water. The air lock is put back on and the cider will start to gently work again on the sugar, increasing the strength, the cider being slightly hazy. Leave until fermentation stops after another 7 – 10 days, racking for the last time into a clean demijohn, bringing through just a squirt of yeast again. At this stage I taste again, it will be quite dry and tangy. If you prefer dry cider, add one tea spoon of sugar to the pint bottle before filling and capping, sweeter, add two tea spoons. Once capped shake the bottle to mix. If you have a demijohn bung, then you can mix in that, by shaking it before bottling. I use old “Spitfire” beer bottles and have not burst one yet, using a simple capping tool to seal the bottle tops. I store my cider on shelves in my garage, where over the winter, the liquid will fine down to a clear golden colour. When the cap is popped, there should be a pleasing hiss and a sign of vapour in the neck. There will be just a trace of lees in the base of the bottle, which should be poured carefully to avoid introducing it into the glass, as it is bitter, wasting about half an inch. The poured cider should be clear with just a hint of effervescence. Enjoy.

 

 

Mink raid trout stocks.

October 2, 2014 at 9:02 pm

There were only days left of the 2014 trout fishing season and decided on a last visit to my syndicate’s Hampshire chalkstream, hoping that recent much needed rain, would liven up the wild brown trout population enough to provide a few hours sport.

The deeper pools, once offering rewarding fishing, now appear devoid of trout and I made my way to faster water, where experience told me I should find some feeding trout. The rain had brought a riffle to the surface and I worked a small gold head nymph among the pockets formed among the gravel runs. The leader straightened long enough for quick upward lift of the rod and I was playing a hard fighting six ounce brown that zig zagged upstream, before dropping back into the net.

As the trout had flashed from side to side, I’d seen marks on both it’s flanks, but was sickened when I saw the V shape of a mink’s teeth had almost severed the brown’s tail and wondered how the fish had managed to escape from such a firm grip. Escape it had and I did my best to release the wildie with the minimum of fuss, holding it facing upstream, before the trout darted from my grip against the flow to disappear among the gravel. I’ve had many coarse fish escape the jaws of pike and survive, the pike’s teeth being like tiny razors, while the mink have larger crushing teeth, which in this case had caused severe damage.

We have two mink traps and several crayfish nets on this part of the river, all of which have taken their toll on the amphibious predators, but they are still out there feeding their young on anything they can get their teeth into, be it covered in fur, feather, or scales. For me, the absence of fish in the deeper pools is down to these mink having room to maneuver, while in the shallower runs, the odds are more in favour of the trout. The Animal Rights movement, that released thousands of mink from farms decades ago, have to be condemned for their efforts, which has resulted in some small rivers being stripped of wildlife.

Ten yards upstream the rod bent over again and another wild brown trout was splashing towards the net, this one being fin perfect and unmarked, lifting my mood to a more optimistic level.

This plump brownie turned out to be my last trout of the season, one that had started with much optimism, despite the failure of the Hawthorns to appear, the Mayfly had made up for this with many better size browns coming out to feed. How the mink problem can be countered I do not know and if the river is restocked, will we be giving these voracious animals reason to stick around.

Stick float nets a mixed bag from the weir.

September 15, 2014 at 9:41 pm

Left over red maggots in my fridge were beginning to turn to casters and with my mother’s words, “Waste not, want not” ringing in my ears, I took some equally left over cooked hemp seed from the freezer and drove the two miles down to my urban river. Usually a winter venue for me, where big roach and chub are the target, I was interested to see what the warm weather would bring.

The river flows left to right into the fast flowing outfall from the town water treatment works, the plan being to feed heavily with the maggots and hemp, with the occasional introduction of sweetcorn, in an attempt to attract the carp, that are known to inhabit the stream, although I had yet to catch one.

I set up my 14 ft match rod with a 5lb main line loaded ABU 501, the 4 No. 4 ali stick having a 3lb hook link to a size 14 barbless, more than enough to cope with any sudden runs I thought. The depth is only about 30 inches and I fed out in front of me, aiming to create a hot spot at the crease, where the fast weir water meets the slower river.

First cast in and the float zoomed away as a plump rudd took the two red maggots. A good start, that was followed by three more, then a brief rod bending run from another species, a perch disappearing down the weir stream at speed.

I swung in the rudd, but the landing net was needed for this battler, the hook dropping out in the net. The rudd lined up to take, just where the float entered the foam, watching the line movement for a strike, when again another species charged off with the maggots, this time a six ounce chub seeking out the fast water.

From now on the chub got smaller, crowding out the better fish. Initially I returned the tiny chub, but decided the only way was to speed fish my way through them, while still feeding every cast. A change to sweetcorn on the hook put me back in touch with the rudd, although the invasion of mini chub were not immune to the larger bait. As the chublet threat subsided, gudgeon took their place, when I bulked the shot and laid on over depth, although many put a bend in the rod, as they hugged the bottom.

The pace was hectic, as fish after fish dropped into the net, the hot spot almost glowing, there must have been hundreds of fish down there frantically rooting out the maggots from the bottom. The float sank and my rod wrapped round in an instant, as a much more determined fish hooked it’self and ran across the faster water towards the trees, while I back wound my reel furiously to save a break. Running upstream along the far side of the weir, the fish was making for a tangle of branches and I held the rod out across the river, keeping on the pressure, until it dropped back down, around the bend, requiring another quick change of rod angle. Bringing it back upstream on my side, a flash of golden brown scales indicated my waited for carp, but it was not finished yet and made straight for a bush on the corner of the weir, where it managed briefly to loop the line over a sunken branch. A hard pull towards the slack water and the net, claimed the fifth species of the afternoon, a crucian carp, which on reflection was another feral goldfish, my second from the river this season.

This crucian had taken maggots, but I swapped back to sweet corn in the hope of another, only to be straight into the rudd again, trotting it down the run, holding back hard, they were sinking the float with abandon. Now out of the fridge, the red maggots had begun to turn to casters rapidly and thought that a couple on the hook were worth a try in the hot spot. Bang. A good roach was pulling hard in the flow, species number six.

The hemp and maggot/caster mix continued to go in, every cast was a fish of some sort, I was like a robot, working hard to empty the river. Twice more I hit into immoveable objects, that turned tail and made for the sanctury of the opposite side of the weir pool at impossible speeds, twice my 3lb hook line parted like cotton, despite an instant back wind of the reel. The compensation would be another roach, rudd, or perch next cast and I kept at it until the maggot box was empty, a look at my watch indicating under four hours of fishing, that had passed in a blur.

A true mixed bag from a small river not given a second glance by most who drive by, on this occasion spinning the dial on the scales beyond 11lb, before being slipped back into the water.

 

 

 

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.