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Manningford Trout Fishery winter rainbows

January 18, 2018 at 1:51 pm

A dusting of over night snow was thawing, as my friend Peter and I arrived at Manningford Trout Fishery this week. Tucked away in a quiet part of Wiltshire close to the village of Pewsey with its statue of Alfred the Great and Anglo Saxon heritage, it is better to stop and ask a local of the fishery’s whereabouts, than rely on your Sat Nav. Fed by the upper reaches of the famous Hampshire Avon, there are two lakes, Squires stocked with table size rainbows and Manor with larger fish, where we intended to fish.

Tackling up in the carpark, we sheltered in the lee of the boot lid as freezing gusts blasted across the lake, 5 C temperature reduced to 2 by the wind chill factor, the day chosen as the best of a bad bunch of forecasts. Having caught well on unweighted white lures in similar conditions at Latimer Fishery before Christmas, we opted for these to start, a home tied white chenille with a white marabou wing for me and a White Fritz with a hint of green for Peter.

Walking round to cast across the wind at the first platform, Peter was into a fish first cast before I had gathered up my tackle and I watched him land a deep clean rainbow of about 2 lb. Slotting in twenty yards further round, a rapid take took me by surprise on my first cast. Looking back at Peter he was into another fish, which he lost. A slow retrieve brought a solid take and I struck into a very good rainbow that broke the surface, before steaming off down the lake into the wind. A tumbling fight followed, seeing the deep fish briefly again close to before the line went slack. It had come off. My line was festooned with weed and called to Peter that I was moving round to find deeper water. Keeper? No deeper! The wind was snatching my words away.

Opposite an island there was some relief, trees behind diluting some of the gusts, while the main force of the wind was carrying from left to right, ideal for a right handed fly caster. Pushing the lure close to the island, a dead slow retrieve brought a response of some sort most casts, a steady straightening of the line being met by solid resistance at last and I was in once more, this time a smaller rainbow fighting hard to the net. This 2 lb 6 oz rainbow was a credit to the on site fish farm, with a thick shoulder and full tail.

Peter now had his second fish after several false alarms and now moved up twenty yards downwind, also experiencing short takes. I was into another nice rainbow, bringing it near to the bank I could see the lure in the tip of its nose. Close to the net it tumbled and the hook came out. This was the start of a frustrating half hour, with three more lost at the net. Peter had landed number three and was walking back to the clubhouse, when I hooked another which broke the surface. He gave a cheer. It came off again! There was definitely a hook there. I stopped fishing and washed down a sandwich with cups of hot calming tea.

Having weighed in his fish, Peter returned to the bank to assist two novice fly fishers, who had asked for advice earlier. One was a fly fishing virgin, what a day to learn to cast! They both managed a fish apiece before we left.

A pair of anglers walked by on their way back to the clubhouse, they each had a good fish in their bag, the best being 5 lb 8 oz, the other 3 lb 8 oz. They had been fishing Blue Flash Damsel lures stripped back fast. This can be hard work and I preferred a lighter lure with a slow retrieve, which worked for me, all I needed was to be able to get them in the net. The line tightened again and I struck hard, pulling the fish to the surface. I was not going to lose this one, letting the rod take the full force of the runs, not relaxing until the rainbow was in the net. This very silver fish weighed in at 2 lb 8 oz.

With Peter busy on his tuition duties, I walked down to the River Avon running behind the lake for a look. On my last visit to Manningford the banks had been overgrown, but now overhead trees have been trimmed and the right hand bank cleared.

This is also available as a catch and release beat, holding wild brown trout and grayling, while in season an additional stock of browns will be introduced.

This was a deep run, ideal for big grayling and trout alike. Well worth a visit later in the year with my 7 ft 3 weight rod.

Returning home, the trout were cleaned ready for the freezer, but the sight of rich red flesh put one of the rainbows on the menu for the following day.

Bread punch roach quantity tops maggot quality

January 13, 2018 at 6:22 pm

My old friend Peter suggested a laid back side by side fishing session this week, just like we used to when we were kids on the local canal. That once free canal is now controlled by a large fishing club with no day tickets available, but both being senior members of Braybrooke Community Fishing Club, we arranged to meet this morning, fishing 20 feet apart, he in peg 1 and myself in peg 2 at Jeane’s Pond.

Although the temperature was only 6 degrees Centigrade, there was no wind and with sunshine forecast to arrive by noon, we looked forward to a pleasant few hours of fishing. Peter is a very good all round angler, but a match fisher he is not and I thought that it would be interesting to see how his old skool tactics fared against the pole with bread punch.

Peter was using rod and line with a self cocking waggler, and light shot down to a size 12 hook with double red maggot, while I set up the pole rig that I had fished through the ice with at the Fur and Feather match before Christmas. This was a 14 g carbon stemmed antennae float, shotted to 6 mm of the bristle, to a size 18 hook.

Putting in a small ball of liquidised bread just over the shelf into four feet of water, I cast in with a 4 mm pellet of punched bread and waited for a sign of a bite. Nothing happened for a couple of minutes, then tell tale rings radiated out from the bristle, before it slowly sank below the surface. A nice roach big enough to net was a good sign, although the fact that it felt ice cold was not. The hook was barely in the skin of the lip and dropped out in the landing net.

Bites were coming with every cast now, swinging most roach to hand with only the top two sections of pole needed to reach the fish. Many were under an ounce, but better fish continued to fill my keepnet.

Pete’s waggler tip stood out like a beacon 25mm clear of the surface, but it dipped when something showed interest, then sank from view. That something put a bend in the rod and his landing net went out for the first time for a six ounce roach. Just a fluke? No, the float went down again and an eight ounce roach fought to the net. I had thought that he would struggle with his double red maggots on a size 12 hook, but he was proving me wrong. My float sank again and the net came out for another nice roach.

It began to rain, not spots, but that incessant heavy drizzle that hisses on the surface of the pond, while soaking everything in minutes. Pete dragged his umbrella from its holdall, while I reached behind me for my wax cotton jacket. So much for sunshine by lunchtime. Pete made himself comfortable, somehow squeezing his six foot plus frame beneath the confines of the umbrella, positioning his fishing chair in the optimum position and sitting back with a self satisfied smile, while I struggled into the stiff jacket, pulling the hood up over my head. With the jacket left open at the front, I was able to keep the bread from the rain by spreading it over the bait tray.

The bites had slowed for me on the inside line, possibly due to the maggots being fed by Pete only yards away and I fed a ball of bread out further, while adding another length to the pole. This increased my catch rate again, but Pete continued with a steady delivery of quality roach to his net. If I had been on my own, I would have been content to fish at this range, until it had been fished out, but old rivalries die hard and adding another length of pole, while increasing the depth of the float, I went out in search of better fish.

Casting out over a ball of fresh bread crumbs, the float settled and continued down. The deep body and bright red fins of a rudd were a welcome sight, netting this fish to be sure.

We considered packing up due to the rain, but decided to continue as we dislike packing up in the rain, when all the tackle is put away wet. The fish didn’t mind the rain, they were wet already and still feeding, so we carried on. I lost a big rudd, when a pole section would not come apart smoothly due to the wet, giving slack and allowing the hook to slip free. I dropped another ball over the area to hold the shoal and fished on, taking another decent roach.

Pete had now moved out into the deeper water, finding a big roach of around 12 oz and I answered with another rudd.

The efficiency of the pole and ease that fish take the punch bread, saw me taking ten fish to Pete’s one, although his one fish often matched the weight of my ten. I pressed on with my small hook and bait combination, his big hook and bait allowed the better fish time to find the bait, while mine was consumed by the nearest and greediest.

Each punch represents a fish, the 4 mm giving more positive bites than the 5 mm. Next time out I will try a size 14 hook with 6 and 7 mm punches to see if the fish get bigger.

By 3 pm the rain had stopped so we took the chance to pack up and weigh our catches. Pete had about 15 quality roach and rudd for 4 lb.

In contrast I had over a hundred red fins for 6 lb. A good result on a cold wet day filled with banter and reminiscence.

 

Bread punch crucian carp defy the storm

January 4, 2018 at 4:45 pm

Plans to fish my local river were put on the back burner, when the latest weather system to hit the UK, storm Dylan blasting through at 70 mph bringing torrential rain and sleet that pushed up the water levels beyond the banks. Hot on its heels came storm Eleanor dumping more heavy down falls over night. The forecasters had predicted a dry, but windy day to follow and while my wife had trotted off to the January Sales, I loaded up my fishing trolley for the half mile walk down to my very local pond.

The pond is termed a balance pond, its function being to absorb any excess flood water flowing down the stream that runs into it. The stream was close to its banks and I could hear the rush of water as I neared the pond. Drowning this out was the drone of wind through branches and as I began to walk the bankside path, a powerful icy gust stopped me in my tracks. The pond was being frothed up by the unrelenting wind, the only clear spot being in the lee of a giant oak surrounded by a tangle of brambles, the area having a cosy swim down out of the wind. Although well wrapped up against the cold, with thermals and a wax cotton jacket, the thought passed through my mind, “Why do I put myself through this?”

The wind was roaring through a gap in the trees to my right, causing a back eddy of air to whip up mini whirlwinds in front of me. This was the first time that I had fished this swim, as it has a stump sticking up from the bottom 20 metres out, providing an obvious escape route for a running carp.

Crucian carp were my target fish today and I tipped enough coarse ground bread crumb into the bait tray for a few hour’s fishing, lightly squeezing up three egg sized balls and feeding a line toward the stump at 7, 8 and 9 metres. The pond is very shallow and I set my small waggler float at 500 mm to fish just off bottom, the size 16 hook carrying a 5 mm punched pellet of bread.

The swirling wind made it difficult to swing the bait out, but adding another length of pole made it impossible to hold straight, when the wind cranked up to its full strength, moaning through the trees like a siren sending out an alarm. Looking up at the heavy boughs of oak above me, I wondered if I could take cover should one snap free. Winds over 70 mph were recorded close to my pond today and I was right to worry.

Among the ripples, the bright yellow tip of my float continued to blink on and off in the waves, then it stayed down. A lift saw a tiny rudd swung to my hand. At least something was biting today.

This rudd got the ball rolling. Too small for my net it went back in. Better fish followed on each cast.

An on, off bite met solid resistance from a hard fighting crucian, my extended net just reaching to the edge of the rushes to scoop it to safety. At home, a landing net handle 500 mm longer, a present from my wife at Christmas, sits in my rod bag. Travelling light today, I had grabbed a pole and my old handle.

Next cast saw the line speeding toward the stump as a common carp raced away with the bread. Side strain let the elastic do all the work and the fish turned back to the margins, holding it away until it rolled on the surface. Another good fish in the net.

The float was away again, this time a much larger rudd was pulling out the elastic.

These crucian carp have grown steadily in the pond, fish of this size now the norm.

The elastic zoomed out again as another common made for the stump, before being brought under control. The commons had come out to play.

The next cast brought disaster, as another common fought for freedom, finding a sunken log in which to transfer the hook, the line going solid. Pulling for a break, the elastic stretched out and the log moved toward me slowly, until it was beneath the rushes in front of me. At full stretch I could not get the landing net beneath it, eventually giving up and breaking the hook link.

Putting out a couple more balls of bread, I tied on another another hook link. Time for a cup of tea and a sandwich. The wind had veered round to the south, blowing across the front of me, lifting dead leaves from the ground onto the pond to make casting pot luck. I hooked my keepnet, the reeds in front of me and leaves on the surface. The session was becoming chaotic. Whenever the float landed in clear water, it was under again and another crucian carp was in the net.

Small heavily coloured crucians had moved onto the feed, these fish content to sit sucking the bait, rarely moving off with it, the odd dip of the float the only indication, but each lift of the pole saw another on the line.

It was all smaller crucians now, plus the occasional rudd for variety and with conditions worsening, I set my finish time for 3:30. My flask of hot tea was empty and I was looking forward to a fresh hot cup at home, when the float buried and I lifted into the best common carp of the day. The elastic was out again, as a massive gust pulled the pole round against the fish, finding myself fighting the wind and the carp at one time. The common stayed on, despite the lack of control and as it was netted, I decided to pack up before the four hours were up. It had been hard work fighting the elements and the fish.

Once again the bread punch had shown its versatility, the 5 mm punch surprisingly attracting bigger fish than the 6 mm. Weighing up the net at the end, the scales hit the 14 lb limit. There may have been 20 lb there, but it was not important. I’d survived a battering and wanted to go home.

Walking back up the hill to my home, I passed two workmen pavioring a driveway. “Been fishing in this weather? We have to work out here, what’s your excuse!” I couldn’t answer, all I could think of was that hot cup of tea.

Festive pheasant pasties with sweet potato

December 23, 2017 at 9:10 pm

Gifted three brace of pheasants by a shooting friend, I occupied one end of the kitchen, while my wife was busy at the other end. The birds appeared to have run the gauntlet of several guns before hitting the deck and with several entry wounds in each, they were unsuitable for roasting, but ideal candidates for some pheasant pasties, alongside more of my popular pheasant burgers with apricots. With only days before Christmas, my wife had her sausage roll and mince pie production line in progress, getting ready for the annual influx of family to our home. This gave me the idea to try pasties with a savoury twist, by adding spicy mincemeat with a dash of whisky. Instead of traditional swede, I also substituted sweet potato, giving a touch of the exotic to a humble pastie.

The end result, a sweet tasting pasty more suited to accompany the after dinner nibbles and mince pies, than the main course. Offered up warm and sliced, they were the perfect match for late evening mulled wine. Hope there are some left for the New Year Bash.

Ingredients

600 g Minced Pheasant pieces (Coarse Blade)

200 g Sausage meat

400 g Potato, diced into 10 mm cubes

400 g Sweet Potato, diced into 10 mm cubes

200 g Red Onion, coarsely chopped

1 Rosemary sprig, stripped and chopped

3 tbs Mincemeat

3 tbs Whisky (Blended)

250 g Butter

Salt and Black Pepper to taste

2 packs Short Crust Pastry

1 Egg, beaten

Method

Cut the sausage meat into rough 20 mm cubes and add to the pheasant strips as they are minced to allow an even blend in a large bowl. Stir the vegetables into the bowl and sprinkle over the rosemary, followed by the seasoning. Scoop out the mincemeat from the jar into the mix, trying to get an even spread of the fruit throughout. Last but not least, add the three tablespoons of whisky, making sure to stir up from the bottom to avoid waste! Cover the bowl with cling film to infuse for at least an hour in the fridge. If making up your own pastry, this is good time to do so, also allowing time for the pastry to chill in the fridge.

Roll out the pastry into 3 mm thick squares and place a dessert plate over as a guide, cutting out a 170 mm diameter disc. Using a brush, paint round the upper outer face with the egg approximately 25 mm wide. Scoop out about two tablespoons of the meat / veg mix into the centre of the disc, piling up into a heap, adding a knob of butter to the top. Take two opposing sides of the disc and bring them up to meet above the centre, pinching them together between fingers and thumbs, working back down to the ends, creating a long oval. Pinching the thumb between two fingers of the same hand, go back over the join to form the traditional pasty zig zag pattern over the top. Place on a baking tray ready to cook at 180C for 50 minutes, or freeze, painting over the outside with the egg wash to give a gloss to the finished pasty.

An afternoon’s work in the kitchen made the most of what is now considered an often unwanted by product of organised game shooting.

 

 

 

Roach fishing through the ice

December 17, 2017 at 4:23 pm

The alarm went at 7 am. It was still dark. Out of the window the grass was white with frost. I had organised a Fur and Feather fishing match with my local club today and had to attend whatever the weather. Distant memories of the feelings of dread, having to fish winter leagues on similar frozen mornings with my old matchteam, came flooding back. It was going to be hard.

Scraping ice from the windscreen, I remembered long drives in the dark to distant canals; at least this would be a short hop to my local pond. A hundred yards from home I stopped behind a car at the exit of my housing estate, blocking its way was another that had gone straight on at the roundabout. The road was like sheet ice. When we all got going again, my wheels slid on the slope.

It was no surprise to find the pond like a skating rink, the club chairman already busy with a grappling hook on a rope smashing through the frozen surface at each swim. A 30 minute delay was agreed and after the draw for the numbered pegs, we made our way to our swims to begin netting out the broken ice.

With the match reduced to three hours, I was prepared to struggle for bites, setting up a canal rig on the pole with a fine wire long shank size 20 barbless hook to fish small 3 and 4 mm bread punches, just off bottom. Plumbing the depth there was a drop off close to the bank, which allowed me to fish with only the top two joints, swinging the rig out to the ice and dragging it back to fall off the edge. A couple of tiny balls of finely liquidised bread placed close to the ice went in to start things off and I waited.

With the float bristle shotted to sit 6 mm above the surface, it sat there for five minutes, before a slight tremble of the float was followed by a slow sink of a few millimetres. I struck and there was resistance on the line, the elastic pulling from the tip. I netted my first roach.

Each time I put the rig out, the tremble and slow sink was repeated. I had six roach before the first of my competitors, the club chairman, swung in a tiny roach. I was still catching fish and was confident enough to put in another small ball of feed, also seeding a dozen casters at the edge of the ice for later.

My main rival was John the chairman, who has fished the pond since a child, going on in later life to be an accomplished match angler. I was catching more fish, but his were bigger. The 3 mm punch was giving better bites and after two hours there were 28 fish in my net. I put on a caster, dropping in over the seeded area. The float went straight down and I was playing another nettable roach.

Great, the roach were on the caster. No other bites in the next five minutes saw me switch back to the bread. Putting in another half dozen casters, I pulled out a piece of compressed rolled punch bread to give a more hookable 3 mm pellet. The bites continued, but I began to miss them, hitting one in five. John on the bank opposite had netted a good roach worth a dozen of mine. I went back on the caster and hooked another net roach.

I needed a lot more of these, but depite a few dips of the float, no more came on the caster. I was still missing bites with the rolled bread and realised too late, that it was too hard on the hook for the fish to take into their mouths. They could pull the float under, but the hook would not set. Getting out a fresh slice segmant, with only minutes to spare, I put another half dozen small roach in my net before time was called.

Three hours of hard work for 1 lb 13 oz on the scales was only enough for second place for me, the winner being John the club chairman, who had also fished the bread punch and caster, finding some better roach toward the end for a 2 lb 15 oz total. There was a tie for third with 14 oz.

Before the match it had been suggested that we draw lots for the seasonal prizes and go back home to our beds, but all caught something, with prizes for all.

The origin of the Fur and Feather match was a contest at Christmas fishing for meat prizes in harder times, when a voucher at the local butchers shop could be redeemed for a turkey, or a ham. Now days a bottle of whiskey, or a box of chocolates are a welcome substitution.

Environment Agency keep their promises

December 14, 2017 at 7:01 pm

As part of fishery improvements in my area, the Environment Agency had promised a restocking programme on a variety of waters, inviting me along on a whistle stop tour accompanying their unique fish delivery vehicle this week.

First stop was Roundmoor ditch, which carries the outfall from a Water Treatment works of a large town, into the River Thames. Once known as the “Mucky Ditch” for obvious reasons, it now runs bright and clear, offering a stable environment for fish. Acting as a natural barrier between the town and a medieval common, the banks have been eroded due to the grazing of cattle over many years, increasing the width and reducing the depth. Part of the ongoing work is to rebuild the banks, adding fish holding berms, while fencing the banks to protect them from cattle. Last year there was an initial restocking of dace, chub and roach and this week the Agency were back with another five hundred each of roach and chub to boost the stock.

Fish farm worker Nick Gill had driven down from the E A’s Calverton, Notts fish rearing facility that morning, getting straight into action seeding this fast flowing stream with its allocation of fish. With a schedule to keep, Nick was soon on his way to the next drop.

Ten miles south is another Thames tributary, the River Cut, where the Agency have been working on an ambitious plan for months, clearing banks and creating berms to speed up this mud filled channel, which is part of a green corridor between new houses and a major road on one side and an established housing estate on the other. Despite many years of neglect as a convenient dumping ground for unwanted shopping trolleys among other things, beneath the surface, shoals of roach and chub have been quietly providing excellent sport to those prepared to battle their way through to the banks.

This has now changed with the formation of the council backed Braybrooke Community and Nature Fishing Club, whose aim it is to promote fishing as a healthy outdoor activity for all ages in the local area. Given control of this council owned land, the Club, which has raised money through varies schemes and aided by the Environment Agency, are well on the way to achieving their goal, with the provision of fishing platforms for fit and disabled anglers.

Watched by an appreciative audience of council workers, Nick was busy again emptying tanks holding twelve hundred chub, and a thousand roach to replace fish lost following a series of oil spillages into the river.

Working next to one of the recently created fishing platforms, Nick also introduced a thousand dace into the water, the dace, though not a naturally occurring fish this far from the Thames, will thrive once the berm work has been completed.

Last port of call for the day, was the short drive to Braybrooke’s Jeane’s Pond for a delivery of three hundred small tench, to replace two thousand small roach netted out by the Agency a year ago, which were moved to another town water.

Given the honour of introducing the tench to Jeane’s Pond, club secretary Danny has been invaluable; his experience in the Police Force and as a council officer, has allowed him to negotiate a way through the paper work jungle needed to raise funds and to gain permission for the bank works, from associated nature organisations based around the river Cut.

Disappointing those poised with cameras waiting for him to take a header into the pond, non fisherman Danny hopes to find time to take up the sport next year.

 

Bread punch roach come in from the cold

December 8, 2017 at 3:07 pm

A slight rise in temperature from 6 to 8 Centigrade and the promise of a dry afternoon from the forecasters, enticed me from a warm home onto the bank of my local pond to test out a rediscovered pole this week.

Stacked with roach, this old clay pit set in the centre of a public recreation ground, would be the ideal place to check the tension of the new No 6 elastic, that I had fitted through the top section. Too tight and it would bounce fish off the size 18 barbless hook, too loose and it would not set the hook. I had adjusted the tension back home in the workshop, but a session on the bread punch would allow a decent shakedown.

I chose a swim with my back to the open football pitch, where the wind was blowing the falling leaves over toward the opposite bank, good for fishing, but already getting chilly around my nether regions. This would not be a long session anyway, as starting after 1 pm, it would be too dark to see the float by 4.

Plumbing the depth, I found the drop off into deeper water 4 metres out, where I expected to find the fish. Setting my float just off bottom, I tried a cast with punch only. Not a touch. Earlier in the year the float would have sailed away, but now it just sat there. A small ball of liquidised bread changed that. Recasting over the slowly sinking cloud of crumbs, the float sank away. A firm strike and 4 inches of elastic came out of the pole tip as a small roach was lifted with minimal resistance from the water and swung to hand. It was like gripping an ice lolly. Frosty mornings and northern winds had reduced the water temperature dramatically since my previous visit and I expected a difficult afternoon.

The bites were slow to develope, the float settling, showing tiny dips, before holding down a fraction. I struck at every positive movement and was rewarded by a fish every time, most less than an ounce, but after a dozen small roach the elastic stayed down, when I struck as a better fish bounced its way to the landing net.

This was not as bad a session as I thought, yes the bites were minute, taking up to two minutes from fish to fish, but they were still coming. Another nice roach stretching out the elastic again before coming to the net.

In the first hour I had taken over two dozen roach, the smallest balls of feed keeping the fish interested, without filling them up. The wind was now increasing, causing my knees to knock, despite thermals beneath my jeans, but the float kept holding down and roach continued to swing into my numb fingers.

Another hour and the light was already on the wane as I topped up the white crumb for the final time, having used less than half a pint. With the float shotted down, it was becoming difficult to see the tip, the catch rate had gone up and down, but with 48 fish in the net, it was still a decent bag for such a cold afternoon. The quality of the roach also surprised me, with several around 4 oz.

I was trying to get to 60 fish before the two and a half hour mark, beating it by ten minutes. Enough was enough, my knees had almost seized up, the wind was gusting and due to a rapid drop back down in the temperature, I could not control my shivers, despite several layers of clothing over my thermals.

The new elastic set up had not lost a fish, the old pole with the bread punch putting 5 lb on the scales.

Waste not want not

December 7, 2017 at 5:28 pm

Reluctant to venture outside due to bitterly cold winds, I resolved to sort through my tackle with a view to chucking some of it out this week. Reels were stripped and greased, while new lines were purchased for the various spools. A fly reel was partially seized and put to one side for later attention. At least it was now on the work bench instead of still attached to my fly rod, where on several occasions it had caused trouble, because I meant to fix it each time I returned home, only to lean the rod against the garage wall and forget it.

An almost new swing tip rod, the latest technology for still water bream back in the day, was taken out of its bag, sighed over and put back again. Must give it a go next season. My little 7 ft Hardy split cane spinning rod was put to one side, the moth eaten rod bag needs replacing. I’ve got another one somewhere? I bought this rod when I was 17, it doubled as a fly rod catching River Colne dace and chub, while in the same year, casting a Mepps spoon, I landed a 32 inch pike from the Thames at Romney weir in Windsor below the Castle. At least this has seen some use in recent years, with pike from the Basingstoke Canal and perch from my local pond.

I found a 9 metre carbon pole. I’d forgotten that I still had it. This pole had given me my biggest match win ever in the early 80’s on the Grand Union Canal, bread punch bringing me a net of roach and skimmer bream in baking heat for a weight of about 7 lb, that topped the weight of the 140 strong field. Even sharing part of the winnings with my team mates left me with a tidy sum, which went toward an 11 metre carbon pole, that was lighter and stiffer, with more street cred than its predecessor. Kept as a spare, until another 11 metre pole found its way into the rod bag, the 9 metre ended up alongside the swing tip rod in the loft.

I took the pole out of its bag. It was in perfect condition. A put over type to improve stiffness, opposed to the more modern push in narrow poles with more advanced carbon fibre, that are straight as a die at 18 metres, I remember this one getting floppy beyond 7 metres. There was still a white elastic fitted to the top section. A good pull and it broke, perished. The sort out stopped there. I would fit a new elastic and with no street cred left, use it for close in punch fishing.

The top ferule I had made from PTFE, a very slippery plastic. This was OK, but the bottom bung, which I had turned from nylon, was replaced by an up to date adjustable one that was cut down to suit. Fitted with a new blue No 6 easy slip elastic, I was ready to give it a go. All I needed was some mild weather.

Pheasant burgers with apricots

December 1, 2017 at 4:30 pm

Its good to have friends who shoot and even better when they have some surplus pheasants going spare. This week a nice fat, maize fed brace came my way and I decided to make some burgers, adding ready to eat apricots to complement the richness of the pheasant meat.

Building on the experience of my tasty rabbit and chorizo burgers (also on this blog) and substituting sausage meat for pork lardons, the recipe below produced a stunning burger that gets the mouth watering every time.

Ingredients

1kg Pheasant meat minced (coarse)

250 g Sausage meat, cut into 25 mm cubes

150 g Ready to eat apricots, rough cut to 5 mm cubes

1 Red onion finely chopped

1 Clove garlic finely chopped

1 Sprig rosemary

1 tbs Mixed herbs

1 tbs Worcester sauce

1 tbs Cooking oil

1 Thick slice wholemeal bread, reduced to bread crumbs

1 Egg (beaten)

Season to taste

Method

On a low heat, soften the onion and garlic in the oil and allow to cool.

Strip the rosemary leaves from the sprig and reduce with the bread in a liquidiser. This will allow the herb to be evenly spread.

Over a large mixing bowl begin to mince the pheasant, adding the cubes of sausage meat at regular intervals, which will result in an even mix of the two meats. Being low in natural fat, pheasant needs extra fat such as pork lardons, or sausage meat to aid cooking.

Add the onion and apricot then stir in, sprinkling on the bread, herbs, egg and Worcester sauce, turning the whole until an even blend is achieved.

Either roll into balls and flatten into patties, or place in a burger press between grease proof sheets and press out perfect burgers every time ready for the freezer.

That is just about it, either grill, or BBQ. Serve in a bun, or without. They are delicious!

 

 

 

Latimer Park Fishery winter rainbows delite

November 29, 2017 at 5:48 pm

The last few days of November were suffering a chill Arctic blast, when my friend Peter rang to invite me to fish as his guest at Buckinghamshire’s Latimer Park Fishery this week. He had just returned from a successful three hour fly fishing session, landing four and dropping another three rainbows, before retreating back to the comfort of the clubhouse and the woodburner. I had been waiting for this call all year and Peter had left it a bit late to remember his old pal, but who was I to complain, when an opportunity to fish this exclusive fishery was on offer gratis.

Word of Peter’s success must have spread, as the banks were lined with hopeful club members, when we arrived, the single figure temperatures no deterrent to this hardy bunch. Blowing from the Northwest, the wind was perfect for a right handed cast, running down the length of the Capability Brown inspired lake, left to right, overlooked by Latimer Place.

Peter produced a well chewed unweighted white lure from his box, “This is what you want”. No problem, I had one that I had made many years ago, white chenille wound round a long shank hook, with a bunch of white marabou for a trailing wing must be one of the easiest to make, yet most successful fry imitators going.

Punching a line out toward the middle, where the deeper water of the dammed river Chess lies, I waited for the lure to sink close to the bottom, before starting a very slow figure of eight retrieve, watching the line set into a gentle curve with the wind drift. To my right on a jetty, Peter was into a fish first cast, only to lose it seconds later. Further down, close to the dam, one of the boat anglers had hooked into a big fish, which was taking him all over the lake. Every time I looked up, he seemed to be playing it.

On my third cast, the bow tightened, not a pull, but I struck anyway and felt the solid weight of a nice rainbow, seeing it flash in the bright sunlight. This is a clear shallow lake, where the rainbows run hard and fast, the trick being to give line, keeping the trout below the surface, yet applying enough pressure to stop them boiling and throwing the hook. This one fought well, helped by a full tail; hooked in the tongue, it had taken with confidence.

Ten minutes later the line tightened again and I was playing number two, a similar size 2 lb rainbow, this time hooked firmly in the scissors.

The white marabou lure only needed a quick run back and forth through the shallows each time to clean off any blood and it was ready to catch again. It is nothing fancy, but effective, black chenille and black marabou an easy to create alternative.

Off the jetty Peter was getting regular takes from the deeper water, but failing to make contact with most, having only one rainbow for his efforts. The wind was now picking up, sweeping waves along the lake and requiring extra effort to cast the line out toward the middle, while hands wet with handling fish and line were now beginning to numb with the cold. A firm pull saw my rod arc over again, almost in unison with Peter, who had also set his hook, both fish running back to the centre of the lake.

Smaller than the first two, this rainbow was soon netted and returned, Peter already netting his third fish before I could make another cast. With three fish each, Peter opted for the comfort of hot tea in the club house, leaving me to catch the seventh and last fish on our guest permit, suggesting that I tried the jetty, as there were a lot of fish out in front of him.

Taking him up on the offer, my first cast saw the line streak out, striking into thin air. Stabbing takes were the order of the day here. Usually ignoring these, while continuing the slow retrieve, will result in a build up to a firm take, but not today. I missed several quick pulls, before a cast straight back in after a miss, saw the lure taken on the drop, the rainbow pulling the rod top down hard and I was playing number four, which began head shaking, a sign of a lightly hooked fish. As the rainbow rolled close to the bank, I could see the lure in the tip of its lower lip, but the hook held to the net, only to drop out once the pressure was off.

I could have taken this rainbow, but chose to release it to grow, two fish would give me enough work to do on my return home. The sun was bright, but ineffective against the increasing wind, two busy hours had staved off the cold, but now it was time to join the others in the club house.