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CZ 452 Varmint HMR against the elements

April 19, 2018 at 4:27 pm

A dull cold morning transformed into bright sunshine, driven by a brisk wind and convinced that a balmy afternoon would follow, I headed out to my new permission eager to get some more rabbits for the freezer. Due to the wet weather of late, the farmer has been reluctant to let his cattle out for the spring pasture. Once the cattle are on the land, he does not allow shooting, so every visit is a bonus.

Rather than abating, the wind increased, scudding clouds across the sky as I patrolled the land, checking out previous kill sites. In the west the sky was beginning to darken and I was having doubts about my decision to drive the 15 miles to the farm. Higher temperatures had been promised this week and my vision of a warm afternoon bringing rabbits to the surface to sunbathe was disappearing fast.

A 30 minute stake out, a hundred yards from the usually productive pylon, revealed only a pair of very young kits, dancing in and out of the brambles, but no caring adults. I couldn’t wait all day. The kits will be bigger in the summer.

Walking back into the wind, I could make out two brown blobs 200 yards away, the scope confirming the sighting of a pair of big adult rabbits. In this wind I would need to be within 80 yards to be sure of a head shot, the gusts coming to the left of head-on, could blow the tiny .17 inch diameter bullet well off course. Heading directly for them, I kept low, the pylon behind me masking my outline, until about 100 yards away, where a shallow gully allowed me to cover more ground unseen. Pushing the HMR onto the higher edge, I could seen the two rabbits clearly, one was hunched with its back to the wind looking in my direction, the other partially obscured by grass, side on. The head-on rabbit was clearly visible, but a wind drifted shot to the body would ruin the meat and opted for the one to the right, head down feeding. Again not an easy shot, to the body yes, but I had to guess where the bullet would end up in its head. Aiming for the upper shoulders, I expected a right drift of 3 inches to the brain. I fired and they disappeared from view. A search of the area revealed nothing. I must have missed completely.

Walking the fields, I saw several other rabbits slink off into the now rapidly growing grass, two more weeks would see the end of it until haymaking. Near a hedge, white tails were bobbing away to cover and decided to invest the time to wait for them to come back out. Overhead the clouds had joined up to form a darkening mass and the unceasing wind was beginning to spit with rain. Like humans, rabbits dislike wind and rain, it seeming that the chance of a rabbit was declining with the weather.

Movement in the hedge got my attention, but again it was frolicking kits tormenting me, scurrying around. Constantly scanning around was rewarded by the sight of an adult rabbit sitting up behind me to the right. I swung round and aimed at the upper chest, the tailwind carrying the bullet to its target.

Although it was only 4 pm, the clouds had brought on premature darkness and as I cleaned this rabbit, heavy raindrops had begun to fall. So much for spring. The shower was brief, but enough to send me back to the van and home.

Bread punch finds quality roach and rudd at Braybrooke pond

April 13, 2018 at 2:58 pm

A last minute change of plans left a few hours free for fishing this afternoon, although a rain shower as I loaded up my tackle gave me second thoughts. The day had dawned grey and misty, but a sharp, cutting wind from the east had blown that away, bringing brief showers and drizzle. With top to toe thermal insulation and a waterproof jacket, I was ready to face the unseasonal elements at Jeanes pond in Braybrooke Park.

It was not exactly blowing a gale when I arrived, but it was drizzling with fine rain for the first half hour as I set out my stall to fish and after making sure that all I needed was to hand from my tackle box, with my jacket hood over my cap, I settled down in my own cozy little world.

Plumbing the depth, I found that the inside shelf fell away to 2 metres deep, with just the top two sections in place, ideal for some close in fishing with the bread punch. Hoping to target better sized roach and rudd close to the bottom, I soaked my bread crumb feed, to allow it to sink quickly through the top layers, where the small stuff live. A couple of balls of the sloppy mix were dropped over the shelf, followed shortly by the first cast of the afternoon. The float settled and sank away, lifting into a three ounce roach.

Small, but perfectly formed, this would do well for a start. The next cast saw the pole take a set, as the No 6 elastic was pulled from the top two sections.

Ah that’s better, a solid roach failing to shake free the size 18 barbless. Another ball of feed and they were queuing up for the 5 mm pellet of punch bread.

What a clonker, this roach/rudd hybrid started with a slow thumping fight that ended with the fish dashing in all directions, the elastic cushioning the runs as I followed it with the two metre section of pole.

Another monster from the deep at my feet, the mouth said roach, but the body said rudd. The one below was a definite rudd, the missing top lip a common sight on this pond.

The inside line continued to provide plenty of action, just the occasional small ball of feed keeping them interested.

Still they came. The bites took their time to develope, slight dimpling of the float resulting in the steady sink of the tip, each fish lightly hooked in the lip, most dropping out in the landing net.

After an hour, the bites on the inside slowed and I fed a few small balls of feed further out, fitting another length of pole on to fish at four metres .

The first cast at four metre brought another clonker, that fought all over the swim, the net coming out for most fish.

Back in the groove again the net began to fill with quality roach and rudd. I had used half a pint of feed and wetted down another quarter, putting in another three balls at four metres. This was too much as smaller roach and rudd began taking on the drop, causing a few missed lift bites. Shallowing up the float brought faster bites, but smaller fish, getting one a minute. I stopped feeding and set the float back to two metres.

This did the trick and I was back among the quality fish, this ragged lipless wonder fighting deep, until ready for the net.

This was the last of the day, I had punched my way through half a slice of bread, counting over 60 holes and guessed that I had about 8 lbs, the scales being the proof of the pudding at 8 lb 8 oz.

Trout stream shows promise

April 6, 2018 at 7:23 pm

A few days of warm dry weather, saw the flood level dropping on my syndicate trout stream this week, but with heavy showers forecast to follow, it was now or never and I loaded up the van for my first visit to the Hampshire river today.

Just two weeks ago I stood at this spot and watched a snow blizzard blowing horizontally across the river. Spring is creeping into gear, but two days of temperatures in the low doubles is not going to make much difference.

The river was still carrying surplus water, but the gravel was clean under my waders as I worked my way upstream to a favourite pool, watching the line for tell tale movement, as my gold head Hares Ear bounced along the bottom back toward me. This pool and the one above have given me some early season sport in the past, but today nothing was happening.

More swirling water, the expected Grannom flies swarming just above the surface absent, as I cast the gold head nymph to all the likely and not so like spots on the river. Looking down the gravel was clean, washed by regular flood water this winter. A good sign for fly life hatches later on.

Once again no sign of a take, but it was good therapy just standing in the flow pushing the fly line out with my 7 foot No 3 weight rod, against a gusting downstream wind.

Further down I met three of the syndicate’s bailiffs, trying to catch up on cancelled work parties, cutting out trees to form more flow deflectors to be put in place later in the year, when the levels drop back further. Talk was of more fish to be stocked and weed to be sourced to provide a better habitat.

It is early days yet, spring may be late with no sign of fly life, but nature has a habit of making up for lost time. Another two weeks could see a trout rising at every corner. As anglers we live in hope of better days.

A true wild brown trout taken on an early season visit a few years ago, when this little river was full of surprises.

CZ 452 Varmint HMR accuracy reward

April 3, 2018 at 1:36 pm

With the possibility of more snow, but the certainty of rain for the rest of the week, I made the effort to find time to visit my new permission this afternoon. The farmer would like to put his cattle onto the new grass early next month, but too many rabbit burrows on the land are causing him concern for the beast’s well being. At the beginning of this month he had gone over the land with his digger, flattening and filling as many burrows as he could find, but another dozen have reappeared in that time.

Driving toward the farm, four rabbits were clearly on view at the base of one of the electricity pylons, but crossing the field in their direction, the flashing of white tails meant that they would be safely underground, before I was anywhere in range. Circling round to the left, I found a depression in the ground which offered a degree of cover about 80 yards away. Later in the year this will be a patch of stinging nettles, but today they were immature plants, which proved they were still capable of making my palms itch. Adjusting the rifle bibod up another few inches allowed a view of the pylon base with its bramble topping and I settled down to wait for some movement. In full view of cars passing along the lane, but shielded from the pylon, I lay prone until a rabbit emerged from a burrow, its head and shoulders clear, when I squeezed the trigger.

With no time to wait for more rabbits, I paused to note the number and depth of the burrows, some appearing to continue straight down for six feet. Picking this one up, I made my way back across to the centre, where a fallen tree gives a degree of cover, but also a convenient platform for cleaning rabbits. Half way over, a big rabbit was feeding part hidden by the rough ground of the warren, too far for a safe shot to hand, but not visible from ground level. Changing direction I hoped to come up from behind, but it saw me and bolted for the ditch along the edge of the field. As that opportunity faded, another arose in the shape of another bunny emerging 100 yards away. Getting down, there was a clear shot with the extended bipod and sent the little .17 ballistic bullet on its way to claim another for the pot.

The farmer’s attempts at filling the burrows was a wasted effort, these spring rabbits full of energy and able to reconnect with the existing underground tunnels.

Back at the fallen tree, I began preparing the rabbits for bagging, looking around every now and then for new targets, being interrupted by the sight of a deep brown buck leaving the safety of a burrow to feed in long grass. Only its ears were visible and I shut down the bipod to rest on a fence post, aiming into the grass to where the head should be. Squeezing off the shot at 80 yards, the animal cartwheeled forward out of sight and I climbed through the barbed wire to collect it.

Well out of range, back toward the farm, I could see three more rabbits feeding near some willows and walked steadily in their direction. On my last visit I had taken a successful shot at over 160 yards, but they had all filtered back into the undergrowth long before that this time. Taking advantage of the fact that the rabbits had their heads down, I moved in closer to about 120 yards, settling down into a shallow depression in the uneven field and waited.

The sun had come out and I watched a red kite wheeling over the farm, making its shrill call. Spring is on its way. Movement beneath the willows got my attention. A pair of rabbits began chasing around. As I said spring is in the air. One came out on its own. No breeze to worry about. Cross hairs on, squeeze and it toppled over.

Another healthy doe to carry back to the fallen tree for cleaning, then the half mile trek back to the van ladened down with the day’s harvest. Once more the accuracy of the CZ 452 HMR had proved its worth.

Bread punch roach and rudd shine

March 23, 2018 at 4:28 pm

A busy week left only an afternoon free for a few hours fishing and decided that the local Jeane’s pond was the easiest option on a cold windy day. Taking the short walk from the car park, I found the pond becalmed, the wind passing high over the top through the surrounding trees and opted to fish along the north bank.

No sooner had I set up and begun to fish, than the wind turned to blow across the playing field, through the gap toward my peg, causing my float to be pulled back and forth in the drift. A couple of missed bites made my mind up to move, packing most of my tackle away again for a two stage migration to the west side of the pond. This was not perfect. I’d stopped here earlier, but the swim in front of me was full of fallen branches from the trees behind and had to spend the next ten minutes fishing them out with the landing net.

This is a public park and while setting up again, I encountered another fishing hazard; friendly walkers. You know how it goes as you are sitting with rod in hand. “Are there any fish in here? Have you caught anything yet?” The answers “Yes lots” and “Not yet” leading to “What sort of fish?”, etc, etc. Being a bit of a fishing ambassador, these conversations can often run on.

It was a full hour since arriving, that my float went back into the water. Finding the shelf about four metres out, I put in a couple of small balls of liquidised bread, one on the edge and another five metres out, the size 18 hook carrying a 4 mm pellet of punch. Earlier I had invited a friend to join me fishing, but he had decline, after hearing reports that the pond was not fishing at all, with a recent junior match only producing a total of five fish over three hours. Expecting the worst, I was surprised to see the float dive seconds after it had settled on the water, although the four inch rudd that came to hand did not. The first half dozen fish were all very small rudd, but then resistance and a better rudd was guided into the landing net.

This one had come from the five metre line and I took a chance by putting another small ball just past it. The rudd were very cold to the touch and I did not want to overfeed the swim, but was keen to hold and bring in a few better fish. Its always a balance on the punch.

I need not have worried, as another rudd was soon working the pole elastic, the float sinking away steadily each time the rig went in.

Roach now moved in and the landing net was in regular use, many of the fish lightly hooked, the barbless dropping out in the net once the pressure was off. I had gone up to a 5 mm punch, which seemed to be attracting larger fish.

What a beauty, this fine roach worth the visit on its own, keeping the elastic out all the way to the net.

There was no slow down in the bites and more feed switched the rudd back on, a 7 mm punch giving a slower fall to the bait and lift bites.

I had begun the session using rolled bread for the smaller size punch, but swapped to plain slice for rudd on the drop.

Taking several better rudd in quick succession on the 7 mm punch worked for a while, then the size of fish reduced again, with a few missed bites, so it was back to the 5 mm punch, a positive bite bringing the last decent fish of the day.

As I was netting this rudd, over my shoulder came “Oooh. Have you caught a fish mister?” It was young Emmeline and her friend, not yet teenagers, but both home after school, done up to the nines with make-up and varnished nails. “Can I hold the fish? Oh it has blood on it. No, its the red of the fins. Can we catch a fish mister?” So began a mini teach-in. The inside line was full of small rudd and with two of them holding the same pole at one time, they each got to hook and swing in their own fish. I took the hook out to allow them each to return their fish.

It was time for me to return my fish, tipping them into my landing net for a photo, then weighing them in at over 7 lbs. Not bad for 3 hours actual fishing time. The girls were impressed.

They merrily thanked me and headed of in the direction of some equally young lads. “We’ve been catching fish!”

 

 

CZ 452 Varmint .17 HMR scores after the snow

March 21, 2018 at 10:30 am

What strange weather we are having in the south of England at the moment. Two days of snow left a thick carpet four inches deep covering the land, then the wind changed from freezing to just very cold and the roads cleared, but the snow remained on the land. This morning I awoke to see my garden still white, but by 10 am the sun was out and I could see the snow retreating. By lunchtime I was making plans to visit my new permission later in the afternoon.

Filling the van with fuel, and three sets of roadworks delayed my arrival, by which time the sun was hidden by a blanket of grey cloud and the air temperature was dropping fast, driven by an increasing north wind. The good news was, no snow. This area had missed the main onslaught over the weekend and I hoped for some steady rabbit action.

I got the feeling that I had arrived too late. There was nothing in sight. This time of year bucks like to sit out, being warmed by the spring sunshine, but spring was rapidly turning to winter again and they had all gone indoors. Scanning the warren through the scope from across the field, a brown smudge proved to be a rabbit 200 yards away. I needed to get across the open ground without being seen and moved sideways along my hedgerow, until a broad oak in the opposite hedge line was between me and the rabbit. I then headed over the field in cover of the tree, stopping to get down about 80 yards away to check round the trunk that the rabbit was still there. It was, but hidden by grass from the prone shooting position, just the tops of its ears being visible. Back behind the tree, I moved closer up a slight incline. Still only ears on view. Sighting on the expected head below the twitching ears, I clicked my tongue. The ears pricked up and I fired, somersaulting the rabbit. Got it. A big doe.

Scanning through the scope again, I could see a pair of rabbits out feeding close to an electricity pylon and worked my way along a hedge, until I was in range. Getting down prone about a 100 yards away, I realised that there was no safe backstop, the lane and a house clearly visible 50 yards beyond. The bullet could pass through, or a miss could prove deadly to someone. This is the main problem with urban shooting. I had to walk away. A shot from the opposite side of the field will be safe, but I would have to leave that for another day.

Cleaning the rabbit in the field, I kept my eyes open for more, seeing another pair close to an old willow, across the adjacent field. Packing away my kill, I walked slowly toward them. They stopped feeding and sat up. I stood still. They continued munching. Another 10 yards and they were sitting up again. I could hear a helicopter flying very low and slow across the fields towards me and looked behind to see its yellow belly. My immediate thought was that it was a police helicopter, alerted by a good citizen, that there was a man with a rifle in the field. The word ELECTRICITY was readable. They were surveying the cable line.  The pair of rabbits were still there. I got down prone, the rifle on the bipod, the range about 150 yards. The wind was behind me and I sighted the scope to maximum. Spooked by the sound of the helicopter, the rabbit turned and ran. The other one was still there and aimed for the top of its head and fired. It rolled over.

I paced out the distance, 168 paces. Further than I thought, but not a problem for the HMR with a tail wind, the bullet dropping four inches to pass through its chest. This time a big buck.

The helicopter continued on its low level flight across the field and I was reminded of an occasion, when it was the police. I was shooting rabbits at a crowded warren on a remote farm in the Chiltern Hills. Not remote enough, a dog walker had reported hearing what he described as a Wild West shootout and called the police. A police helicopter flew over and circled a couple of times. By now I had stopped shooting and was butchering a dozen rabbits. I held up my firearms licence and an officer jumped out and came over, while the helicopter hovered at a distance. He was happy with my paperwork and it was smiles all round. Not a pleasant experience, even when you are legally shooting.

Driving back down the lane, there were now three rabbits feeding around the pylon and I stopped to choose a safe vantage point. I was tempted to get the rifle out, but time was against me and I continued down the lane to join the rush hour traffic.

 

Trout stream work party blizzard

March 19, 2018 at 9:57 am

When the early March work party was cancelled on my syndicate trout stream, due to the Beast from the East snowstorms, another was booked for the  middle of the month. In that time snow turned to rain threatening the work party with flooding, but the river levels were subsiding again and work on another flow deflector was planned for this weekend. Then the Beast from the East 2 was forecast to sweep across southern England during Friday night with travel warnings in place.

Rising early, there was no sign of snow, the forecasters had got it wrong again. Checking my email, Facebook and phone texts, there were no cancellations, so with tools loaded, set off on the fifteen mile drive to the river, arriving to find myself alone in the car park. Sipping a cup of tea from my flask, I was aware of wisps of snow fluttering down on a freshening wind. I would wait another five minutes, then return home. The crunch of tyres on gravel was welcome, as bailiff Kevin’s 4 wheel drive pulled alongside. A sick list of flu victims, meant that it would be just the two of us, not enough labour for the intended task, but weather permitting, we could tidy the upstream bank for the start of the fly fishing season in two weeks time.

Fly fishing in two weeks time! As if it had been waiting for us to step through the gate, a full on blizzard blasted horizontally across the river in defiance of our intentions. The best antidote to the cold is hard work and we made our way upstream, cutting back old and new growth, folding saplings down into the water to create summer cover.

Madness, or what? At the weir on the upper boundary of the fishery, we called it a day, the snow had beaten us into submission. It was settling and who knew what the road conditions would be on the eastward drive home?

Back at the farm, green had already turned to white, transforming the landscape. Walking to the cars, the open exhaust of a motorbike broke the silence, standing still as the farmer’s son, grinning from ear to ear, gunned his machine over the farm bridge toward the wooded hill beyond. We thought that we were bonkers?

Bread punch crucian carp bonanza

March 15, 2018 at 3:08 pm

Rain, snow and yet more rain have relegated my thoughts of an end of season chub session on my local rivers to a pipe dream this year. Two nil poi river visits, saw me taking the walk to the recreation ground near my home, where the pond has never failed to satisfy my need to catch fish.

The pond had not escaped the extreme weather either. A week before ice was covered with snow and the following thaw saw the feeder stream so full, that the pond expanded beyond its banks. Today, all was back to normal, but with no surface activity, I wondered what sort of a session it would be.

With liquidised bread from the freezer, I was hoping for a few crucian carp and possibly a common carp, or two, but all swims are a blank canvas, until you start to fish. Being shallow, with soft silt mud from the stream, I added water to the bread crumb to form a sloppy mix, that would spread on contact with the surface and snow down to cover the mud, a four ball, metre square area, eight metres out, giving me a good starting point.

Extending the pole to seven metres, I swung out a small waggler, set to two feet deep, to fish a 5 mm pellet of punch bread on an 18 hook, just off the mud bottom. The float sank away immediately and a fin perfect rudd came to hand.

I’d be happy to catch these all day, but the next dithering bite suggested a crucian and the juddering fight, cushioned by the extended elastic, confirmed my hopes.

What a beauty. This fat crucian the first of many, that moved over my bread feed, throwing up pinprick bubbles to burst on the surface. The sun had come out and suddenly winter had turned to spring, thermals and a thick jumper soon proving to be the wrong clothing choice.

The crucians were now coming like clockwork, cast in, dip,dip, sink of the float, lift, elastic out, pull back pole to top two, then let the elastic do its work, crucian on the surface and net. This fan tail a variation of the hybrid common-crucian theme of the pond, that was causing me to overheat. Between fish I stripped off the jumper, emerging to see the float under and another fish on.

A better rudd, its fins bright red in the sunlight, needed the net. A crucian fan tail was next, the hook on the outside of its lip, many dropping out in the landing net.

A runaway bite saw the elastic stretch out as a common carp made a bee line for the post that stuck out of the water in front of me, side pressure changing its mind to the point that it rushed in the opposite direction, burying its head in the dead reeds, the wrong side of my keep net at my feet. The 2 lb fish was marooned and flapping on the surface and I had to lift the landing net over the keep net to scoop it up. Not so easy, the hook came out and the carp stood on its head trying to burrow through. The carp won the battle and struggled free. Time to sit back and calm down with a soothing cup of tea. This was not a match, the sun was out and a woodpecker was hammering away at a tree in the woods behind me. I enjoyed the moment.

Bites had not slowed in the two hours since my original baiting of the swim , but decided to put in some more feed to keep the ball rolling, dropping in a couple more balls of bread into the area.

Gathering up my tackle again, the next cast brought what I at first thought was another common, but the initial run gave way to the tumbling fight of the best crucian so far, a silver flanked fish. This was in contrast to my next fish, a true crucian carp.

The procession of fish filling my keep net continued and was aware that a good weight was building, counting up the number of punch holes in my bread after three hours indicating about seventy fish so far.

I would try to get to five hours, the weather was kind and the fish were still coming, but I was already getting tired. Another cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit provided by my wife on her way to the supermarket helped. Another couple of bait balls were put in and I was ready again.

This small tench was a surprise, a summer fish no doubt warmed by bright sunshine on the shallow pond.

A rare sight was this gudgeon, an ancestor of the original brook inhabitants, before the pond was dammed.

Look at the tail on that! A fan tail that was almost as long as its owner. The constant playing and netting of fish was beginning to wear me out after four hours slog and resolved to pack up after one more decent fish, it coming in the shape of a fat crucian.

I had caught a whole range of fish, rudd, tench, gudgeon, common carp, but mostly crucian carp of all sizes, my bait, half a pint of liquidised bread and a slice of bread for the punch. Pulling my keep net out of the water was a heave, my best weight of fish for a long time.

Almost over brimming my landing net, my 50 lb scales stopped at 26 lb, the best I have ever managed on the bread punch in four hours fishing. Loading up my trolley, I began the uphill walk back to my home, for a well earned cup of tea and another of those chocolate biscuits.

CZ 452 Varmint .17 HMR season opener

March 8, 2018 at 6:28 pm

Only days ago the countryside was covered in snow, but winds from the south brought air temperatures back into the positive, although despite bright sunshine, it was still in single figures due to a cooling wind.

One of my landlords had acquired more grazing for his cattle, but there was a problem, too many rabbits. Calling me over for a meet up, he pointed out the problem areas and I took the CZ HMR with me on my first walk round. Following a scrubbed out hedge line, I saw three rabbits sit up and watch me approach. With a gusting crosswind, the 120 yard shot was not on, so I changed direction into the icy chill, in an attempt to work round into a firing position that had the wind behind me. A shallow gully gave a degree of cover, but I was spotted and saw a trio of white tails bobbing off toward a fallen tree, then out of sight. I was surprised to see so many rabbit droppings around, signs of a healthy population.

Propping the rifle up onto the raised edge of the gully with the bipod locked in place, I covered an area sloping away to the tree giving shots out to 110 yards, the angle across the wind giving a maximum of 30 degrees left and right. The lightweight 17 grain plastic tipped HMR bullet is easily blown off course, but this would keep it to a minimum. Nothing showed for ten minutes, then something moved to my right and I lifted the HMR round to cover the area. A rabbit was working along the other side of the fence toward the tree. It stopped and I fired in that instant. It dropped out of view behind long grass. I waited another ten minutes, just in case of another target, then made a bee line for the spot. A devastating head shot, characteristic of the HMR had stopped it in it’s tracks.

Placing the rabbit high on the fallen tree, I scanned for more rabbits, before continuing my recce, finding the biggest warren I’ve ever seen, which covered an area at least a hundred yards by twenty five yards, the ground raised up and pock marked by countless holes, with fresh excavation work everywhere. This field had previously had a few private ponies left to roam and can understand why the new occupant wants the rabbits gone, the loss of one of his beef cattle to a broken leg, could prove costly.

Cover from the fallen tree would provide the ideal shooting position during daylight, while the flat field will give safe access in darkness with the night vision. I passed beyond this warren, finding another half the size about two hundred yards further down. Reaching the hedgerow at the edge of the field, a pair of electricity pylons held more burrows at their bases, brambles masking more fresh digging.

At this point a car pulled up in the lane behind the hedge and the occupant came over. These meetings can often be difficult, as not everyone in the countryside agrees with the shooting of cuddly, furry rabbits. I need not have worried. He lived in the lane overlooking the field and my landlord had gone on to tell him of my intentions to clear the rabbits. He had seen me and popped over to offer me shooting over the ten acres behind his house, which was suffering the same fate. A double bonus! Passing on his phone number and the code to his gate, he warned of the two big guard dogs he kept in the field, to deter people from running lurchers over it. “Make sure you ring me before going into the field, so that I can lock them up!” No worries on that account! My new permission had also suffered with lurchers, due to the public lane and he hoped that fewer rabbits would make the visits less attractive.

Following an old hedgerow back to the fallen tree, many burrows became evident. With only about a month to go before the cattle are released onto the land, I had better get busy.

Using the tree as a cutting table, I began cleaning the shot rabbit, a big meaty doe. Eighty yards away another rabbit popped out of a burrow and surveyed the scene with its back to me. In seconds the rifle was rested on the tree trunk, the cross hairs planted on the back of the neck and the trigger squeezed. The impact tumbled the rabbit forward.

Another big doe for the freezer. I would like to have stayed longer, but with a commitment that evening and traffic to join, I had to make tracks back to the van, ignoring another pair of sitters on the way.

 

 

 

 

Big Freeze opportunities

March 2, 2018 at 9:23 pm

With the UK grinding to a halt, as the Beast from the East swept snow across the North Sea from Siberia, storm Emma rushing north, picking up rain over the Bay of Biscay, collided with the freezing east winds over southern England. The stage was set for unprecedented snowstorms, that continue to halt road, rail and air travel. With most schools closed, Government advice in many areas has been to stay at home.

Unwilling to attempt the uphill road out of the housing estate, we left our car on the driveway and walked to the supermarket for more provisions yesterday, pausing only to feed the ducks that were keeping an area free of ice on the local pond. The first day of spring the weatherman said. Yeah!

The return trip saw the start of a snow storm that continued into the night unabated, to greet us this morning, deep, crisp and even. No walkies today. With a stock of logs from the wood pile, I was ready for a day in front of the fire watching TV, when an email message pinged through. The work party planned for tomorrow on my syndicate trout river was now postponed for a couple of weeks. I had already discounted the event. Ten miles of twisting English lanes in this weather? Not a chance.

On a day like this it is hard to believe that the trout fishing season is less than a month away. That message was a prompt to at least check out my river fly fishing kit, which had been hung up in the workshop and ignored since the season ended.

My last few sessions had seen me struggle with a reel that was reluctant to turn, forgetting to look at it until the next outing. Bringing the fishing bag out of the cold into the warmth of my study, the reel was soon stripped and the cause found. It had been dropped on the fixed outer rim, resulting in a dent that had pushed through to the spool rim, restricting rotation. Back in the workshop, with a screwdriver placed in the slot and reel body rested on the vice, a few taps on the screwdriver pushed the dent back out. Back in the warm it took minutes to reassemble and prove the success of my repair. A free running reel with a sweet sounding ratchet is a fly fishing must.

While in the mood, the fly line was stripped from the reel and run through a tissue soaked in line cleaner, until the dark deposits ran clear. Ten minutes later the line felt supple to the touch. Another last minute job done well before time.

With no other distractions, the fishing bag was tipped out. I’d had a flybox open while fishing and tried to retrieve the flies from my bag on the bank, obviously not too successfully, as klinkhammers and sedges of various sizes now revealed themselves among the lining. Returning these dry flies to their appropriate box, I realised that I had too many, being unable to resist the many offers in flyfishing catologues.

Opening up the box of nymphs, again the same story, too many, although I only had a couple of my own tying of Black Devil.

My most successful early season fly, probably because I have confidence in it, this nymph has just enough weight to bounce along the bottom, where I think that it represents a caddis, although it is a buzzer pattern. Another visit to the cold workshop, saw a quick return complete with fly tying materials and vice. After ten minutes preparation, I was ready to start on the first Black Devil, having four new recreations with the varnish drying by lunch time.

After lunch and more logs on the fire, my enthusiasm had waned. Those deer hair emergers would have to wait. The snow was still falling steadily and I had TV to watch.