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Bread Punch Fishing Diaries – Book Review

March 23, 2017 at 12:22 pm

As an advocate of fishing the bread punch, with many blog posts on The Urbanfieldsportsman web site, it was suggested that a pocket sized book be written on the technique, bringing together information gathered by myself over many years, with a selection of illustrated examples of it’s use through a season on a variety of waters.

I am so confident in the method, that I rarely take a back up bait with me, unless a water has a good head of perch, in which case a few worms from my compost heap will be collected before I go fishing. No longer an active match angler, I’m quite happy to pass on some of my “secrets”, something that I have been reminded of giving away, when publishing blogs over the years.

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On a recent visit to a local lake, I fished double bread pellet on a running line waggler float, taking six carp up to 8 lb, including a 5 lb mirror. I’d started off feeding an open area 20 yards out with four balls of mashed processed bread and fished over it. After ten minutes I had the first carp on the bank. Three proper carp anglers with all the gear, bite alarms, boilies and popups, failed to catch that afternoon. I would like to have included that session in the book, as with my last blog about catching chub with bread punch on the river Wey, but the line had to be drawn somewhere and Bread Punch Fishing Diaries was published.

I have highlighted these two fishing sessions to illustrate that fishing the bread punch is not just about catching small roach on a canal in winter, but a technique that can be used anywhere for quality fish, the cover image being of a 13 lb net of rudd taken in just a few hours from a free pond. I do not fish stock ponds, preferring to fish public lakes and rivers local to my home, adjusting tackle and methods to suit the venue, but always catching on the bread.

 

 

 

Bread punch chub provide end of season finale

March 18, 2017 at 11:39 am

The last day of the coarse river fishing season often sees balmy spring like weather, but grey skies and a strengthening wind put paid to that theory. In recent years I have spent my last day catching big roach on the small river close to home, but with a couple of major pollution events since the new year, this river is now off my radar. With a club  membership that includes the upper river Wey, I took a chance that the  water’s chub would respond to my bread punch and heavy crumb feed to round off the season.

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Leaving home long after the morning rush hour, it still took nearly an hour to travel the 25 miles deep into the wilds of Surrey to locate the river, then find a place to squeeze the van into on the narrow lane by the bridge. The club handbook says of the stretch, that it is seldom fished. I’m not surprised, four or five cars are the limit on this lane. The handbook also states that fishing here suits the roving approach, with the minimum of tackle. Again, one look along the undulating bank at the boggy path, stiles and gates ahead of me, meant that the trolley would have to remain in the van. One final whinge, the river was pushing through and coloured.

Setting up for trotting a 6 No 4 Ali stem stick float, with an ABU 501 loaded with 5 lb line on my 12.5 foot Normark, I crammed a few necessities into my bait bag and headed off upstream to learn what I could about this virgin water. With plenty of twists and turns, this is what I call a real river, with the flow switching from bank to bank, creating slacks and eddies. Passing several likely fish holding areas, my progress was halted by a feeder stream, which had a bridge made up of two oddly angled planks, with no handrail, which would have challenged the SAS to cross safely. I turned round and walked back to a sweeping bend.

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This looked promising, but as on any new water, it is a blank canvas that needs a few trots through to begin to join up the dots. The bread feed had only been processed down to a coarse crumb that morning and held together with a light squeeze, dropping in a couple of egg sized balls upstream a rod length out, watching them break into attractive particles in the swirling current. The float carried away at speed from the rod top, the line spooling off the closed face reel, enough to hold the float back. After a few trots the float was set at 4 ft, with the shot bulked at the hook link, the size 14 barbless buried in an 8 mm pellet of bread. After several 25 yard trots my confidence was waning, when the float stabbed under half way down. It was a fish, not a big one, which danced in the flow, before coming to the surface, it’s silver flanks flashing briefly before it came off. It did not feel solid enough for a roach, or dace and for a 4 oz fish did not pull hard enough for a chub. With skimmers and grayling in this river it could have been either.

Putting in another ball, the float bobbed and lifted, then dived, the strike contacting a decent fish that ran off at full speed downstream, while I backwound furiously. In the coloured water it was difficult to see what I’d hooked, but the way it fought made me think that it was a trout. Rushing upstream under my feet, the fish was making for the roots of a bush, but side pressure brought it to the surface, a chub that now tried to tangle itself among weeds in the shallows, a swift sweep of the landing net making it mine.

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Phew, that was hectic, this 2 lb chub making the most of the swollen river. The hook was in the scissors of the jaw, needing the disgorger to push it free. Once released and after a calming cup of tea, I dropped in another ball of crumb, following it down with the float expecting another bite, but nothing and with the downstream wind blowing a gale, I considered moving, when the float kited over to the right.  Bang! The strike caused an underwater explosion, pulling the rod down to the water and I lifted my finger off the line, allowing it to run free to avoid a break. Bringing the rod back up to the vertical, I put my finger over the spooling line and felt the full weight of the running fish, which jumped clear. A brown trout of over a pound was now rolling on the surface 20 yards away and I dropped the rod top in response, only for the line to go slack. It had come off.

With the wind now at it’s worst, I gathered up my tackle and walked down to the next bend, where a sandy beach backed by a high bank offered shelter. The flow was directed along the far bank under several trees, although the wind was blasting this bank too and I gave up fishing an eddy under a stump, unable to keep a bow in the line from dragging the float. With this wind a heavier rig would have coped, but I was stuck with my original choice, however another greedy chub chasing the crumb feed made up for the lack of presentation, by sinking the float out of sight. Yes! I was in again and back winding to slow that initial rush, before the chub turned to swim along the opposite bank, fighting me and the current, that white mouth visible beneath the surface as I brought it across to the net. A pound plus fish.

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I was now realising that I had owned a permit for this water for a year and waited until the last day available to fish it. What a waste. These were fat fish, full of fight, caught in not ideal conditions. I was confident now that there were more fish to be had and cast again, hooking and losing a much smaller fish a few casts later. More crumb and a bumped fish made me think about a smaller punch, but the flow was washing bread from the hook and stayed with the 8 mm pellet.

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Walking to the end of the beach, I trotted the middle, the flow carrying the float over to my side towards a fishy looking groyne covered in bramble, holding back each time short of the jungle. Ten minutes of this and more feed being washed down kept my eyes glued to the orange float tip, as it passed close to the obstruction, pulling back and letting go. The line and float zipped downstream and I lifted to meet the full weight of another chub as it tried to get beneath the obstruction. The old Normark has a lot of backbone and I leaned back to heave the fish clear of the wooden posts, the line scribing a zigzag pattern on the surface, before making for deeper water. Maybe I’ve been catching too many lake fish lately, but these chub were in top condition, fighting all the way to the net.

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This one lived up to the chub name, being round like a barrel, giving me arm ache, staying deep and resisting all attempts to bring up until it was ready. The sun had come out and the wind eased, but decided to continue my exploration, walking down to a long nearside eddy that I’d passed on my way up.

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There was a definite crease between the fast and slow water and I hoped to find a few roach in the slack, dropping a couple of small balls in along the crease and switching to a 6 mm pellet of bread. The float wandered around in the eddy without a touch, so introduced another ball just in the flow followed by the float. The float bobbed and dipped with a bite then nothing. The bread was gone.  Encouraged, this was repeated. Again no bait. The slice had dried out losing doughiness, going flaky. Getting out a fresh slice, I punched another pellet that looked a lot better and cast in. The bobbing began again, then the float sank away and I lifted into not a roach, but another chub that steamed off at full speed to the middle. Battle commenced again, the pounding fight giving way to the odd head shake by the time it was ready for the net.

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With another nice chub on the bank it was time to go. The bread had proved itself once again, this time on an unknown water. The locals would probably say that legered, hair rigged meat would catch more and bigger fish, but I was very satisfied with my session. The 35 year old Normark is a heavy rod by today’s standards, especially in a strong wind, while in my opinion the ABU 500 series of  closed face reel is still the best stick float trotting reel going.

Waggler and maggot top pole and bread punch at Braybrooke needlematch

March 7, 2017 at 8:17 pm

An invite to join an ex team mate and match fishing rival John, for a pleasure fishing session at Jeanes pond in Braybrooke park, seemed like a good way to catch up, while catching a few fish. John usually arrives at about 10 am after a leisurely breakfast and I aimed to get there about then, but the tone of the day was set with a phone call at 8:45 to say that he was already at the pond. Gathering up liquidised bread from the freezer, with a slice of white for the hook, I mentioned to my wife that John was obviously very keen, being more competitive than me. ” I find that very hard to believe” she quipped.

I soon found out what sort of a session it was going to be, when I arrived to find him sitting rod in hand, waiting for the off. He was ready to dual, deciding to fish out toward the middle with maggot feed over a running line waggler rig, knowing that I would be trusting my day to the pole and bread punch.

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Overnight rain had passed through, revealing spring sunshine, although a sharp breeze was ruffling the surface. This was my third visit to the pond and chose to fish peg 5, which juts out into the water. Plumbing the depth, I found that the swim dropped away very steeply, being 6 ft deep at only 4 metres, and even deeper at 6 metres, leaving little line left between my float and the pole tip. Electing to fish up on the slope with the pole at 4 metres, John was swinging in his first roach, as I fed a small ball of crumb close to my float. The ball of feed did it’s job attracting fish to the area and I too was soon swinging in a small roach, followed by a clonking roach soon after.

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This was a welcome fish, as the majority were much smaller and I began counting them in. John was on 5 and I was on 15, but his were better fish. Going up from a 5 mm punch to a 6 mm just seemed to mean more missed bites and not bigger fish, so I switched back, the smaller punch proving a point with a nice rudd.

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I was still getting plenty of small roach, while my better fish seemed to equal John’s better fish at his lower catch rate.

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I was still ahead by more than twenty fish, when a trial cast with two more pole joints and an increase in depth, brought this rather scabby rudd, that was missing it’s top lip, evidence of rough handling and barbed hooks.

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More small roach followed and missed bites brought me back to the 4 metre line, where again  I was rewarded with a good roach.

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John hooked a pike, that snagged him close to the bank, then bit through the hookline. My score was climbing and I could tell that he was getting rattled, as I counted off the fish. With a hooklink to tie, he was even considering switching to the pole, but time and bait had been invested in the waggler line, so he soldiered on, soon hooking a big rudd, which I came round to net for him.

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That cheered him up, this fish cancelling out several of mine, although I countered with another good rudd.

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With the pike gone, John’s swim continued to build, with much better fish coming to his net, while mine were getting smaller. Time for a change back to the 6 metre line, dropping the float among two balls of crumb. All day the bites had been fussy, with a few dropped fish, most just hanging onto the skin of the lip The next bite said small roach to me, but the elastic came out and the fish stayed down, the dull flash of a good rudd, willing it to stay on.

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We had agreed to finish at 2 pm and the words from John “That’s it, all in” then “Fish on” made my heart sink, as too late I had switched to the deeper line and found better fish, my last, a 4 oz roach, being No 80 in my net.

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John came round to my swim, while I pulled the keepnet out, the sound of a good bag greeting him. On the scales my fish went just over 8 lb, not bad for four hours, the eighty fish averaging under 2 oz each.

We then walked back to John’s, where the sight of many fewer, but much better quality silver fish said it was going to be close. John’s expert arm lifted the net, and he grinned. “I think I’ve done you Kenny” He had too, by about 12 oz, the scales settling at 9 lb.

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It was a fair cop. Two opposite methods had put good bags on the scales, it could have gone either way, the real winners being the members of this prolific water.

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John with his winning smile and impressive net of quality roach and rudd.

 

 

CZ 452 .17 HMR and Magtech 7022 answer the call

March 3, 2017 at 3:35 pm

Last week I was pleased to get a call from one of my farmers in South Bucks, to tell me that he had moved his horses from a paddock and wanted to know, when I could come over to shoot the rabbits, that were once again increasing in numbers. This small farm is one of three dotted along a rural lane and he grazes Dexter cattle on the other two, which both have elderly owners, who have also given me permission to shoot over their land. Having not visited these farms since the Autumn, he got me up to date, as to how the other owners were, before we agreed to meet this week.

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An overcast, windy morning had given way to a bright afternoon, when I arrived at the farm, which has a mixture of grazing pastures ideal for the CZ HMR, while around the buildings I prefer the quieter .22 Magtech. The farmer was waiting as I drove into the yard and was eager to show me two rabbits feeding near the far fence eighty yards away. Without even putting on my jacket, the HMR was pulled from it’s case, a five shot magazine fed into place and the rifle cocked ready to rest on the fence for a shot. Unaware of the danger, the two rabbits were preoccupied and I sited on the one stretched out in the sun, causing it to leap up, when the bullet struck home. The other one ran in startled circles, before disappearing into the hedge.

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With nothing visible, I walked into the adjoining farm, where from the gate I can see the length of a narrow ten acre field.

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The sun was already low and it was the shadow of a rabbit, standing out almost black, that I saw first. With little cover at this time of year, I decided that it was better to shoot from 130 yards, than to chance spooking it by trying to get closer. Getting down prone for a shot off the bipod, with the magnification set at 12, I centred on the head, knowing that the light breeze would only drift the tiny 17 grain bullet a few inches at most. The rabbit just rolled over without a kick, the bullet passing right through it’s chest cavity and out the other side.

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Continuing along the hedge line I saw no more, but circling back along the other side, a rabbit was sitting up close to the entrance gate a hundred yards on. As I got down on the ground, the sound of the bipod clicking into place, caused the rabbit to sit bolt upright, ready to run and wasted no time in squeezing the trigger once the crosshairs found their mark.

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Back through the gate, a short walk along the path saw me overlooking the paddock again, where another pair of rabbits were busily feeding, moving from spot to spot. Further than the original pair, I followed one of them through the scope, the rifle again resting on the fence, until ready for the shot, that knocked it down.

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I waited around with the farmer for twenty minutes, but there were no more shows, even in the 15 acres abutting the paddock, despite his assurances that it had been alive with rabbits that morning. Loading up the van, it is only a short drive down the lane to the third farm, where I took out the Magtech .22 for a walk around the farm buildings.

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As I stalked the path, rabbits darted across it into the brambles through the fence, too fast to attempt a shot and I continued on to the field beyond, toward another warren in a hedge line. A rabbit was visible at 200 yards, but had melted back into the bushes, before I could get within range. The HMR could have taken it on, but I had made my choice of weapon and waited around in the cover of an old oak, in the hope of the rabbit venturing out again. Looking back, rabbits were out on the hill again and made my way back to the farm in cover, hoping to surprise a few, but sighting on the first, the sun now shining beneath the clouds ahead of me, was whiting out the scope. All I could hope for was to get as close as possible and pick one off, when they saw me and fled back to their holes among the brambles.

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That’s what field craft is all about, learning the habits of your quarry. The rabbits did just that, potting this one as it threaded it’s way through the prickly jungle. Walking back to the van, I heard honking geese, the lady owner giving her flock their evening feed, going over for a chat to inform her, that I was back on the scene for another season.

 

 

 

Magtech 7002 rabbit season opener through the woods

February 23, 2017 at 1:13 pm

Over the New Year, extreme cold and wet conditions saw me preparing for a new season by stripping and cleaning my rifles. The Magtech 7002 .22 semi auto rimfire benifitted from the full strip treatment, removing all those sticky carbon deposits, that can slow the return of the hammer and hamper the automatic feeding of the next bullet, while also oiling the trigger and hammer mechanisms. The barrel I left alone, as the rifle is as accurate as ever, a recent bullet comparison test giving very agreeable results for a .22 semi auto at 50 yards. A .22 barrel needs time to lead up after cleaning, and should only require cleaning if accuracy falls off.

A period of freak warm weather for February, saw me visiting the equestrian centre for the first time in months to check out the current rabbit stock, which had appeared to be struggling in November. First impressions can be misleading, but after parking the van, I walked twenty yards to look through the gate of a small paddock, which although empty of horses, had two rabbits on view 80 yards away. Before I could do a holdover shot at them, they trotted into the undergrowth at the far end. Turning to leave, a rustle through the brambles to my right revealed another rabbit, only feet away, that bounded over the bank and along the ditch out of sight. This was a good sign.

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Sunshine and little breeze had fooled the rabbits into thinking that it was spring, but it had also attracted the young female horse owners, who were out enjoying their half term school holidays exercising their mounts, by cantering round the various rides at the 80 acre centre. With every chance of being disturbed, while patrolling these open areas for rabbits, the only option was try the wood.

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The floor of the wood in February is usually carpeted in snow drops, but the cold weather had them behind, just pushing through the leaf litter, while now they were really confused in the warm sunshine and trying to set flowers. My attention was drawn by dry leaves being displaced at a trot and expected to see a pair of muntjack deer disturbed by my presence, but just caught sight of three big rabbits running from cover, full tilt across the open ground of the wood to bushes at the other end. Two collided and went tumbling in their haste to get to safety. With horse riders in the vicinity, a wild shot at them would have been irresponsible and dangerous, but a studied look to see where they had stopped was more valuable.

Walking into the brush to my side, I found two new holes, the scrapes fresh earth. The rabbits had been caught feeding in the open away from their holes and would probably return soon across the open ground, and found cover against a tree trunk, with a clear view to where the rabbits had taken refuge. Lying prone, with the Magtech rested on my gun bag, I waited for movement at the far end 50 yards away. A rabbit appeared, sitting up to test the air and I took aim, a clear view in the scope, illuminated by the sunlight. A gentle squeeze of the trigger and it toppled over. Another unseen rabbit bolted forward into the cover of another bush. After ten more minutes, I walked over to the bush to see several holes among the roots, then down to collect my prize.

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This large buck won’t get the chance to father any more offspring, but walking further into wood, a group of four kits shuffled away into the undergrowth, as fast as their little legs would take them, so maybe he has done his work already. On my November visit, I bemoaned the fact that I had been too successful in my shooting efforts, but now could see that they have been busy, while I have been away. Passing out of the side of the wood, I had a clear view along two of the rides, where at the far end of one, another rabbit was clearly visible sitting up on it’s haunches. At 150 yards it was well beyond the range of the Magtech, but there were two options, one to work my way toward it using the sparse cover offered by the bushes at the ride edge, or cut back into the wood to cut down the distance and hope that the rabbit was still there, when I emerged at the edge of the ride. Choosing option two, I made fast progress through the wood and crossed a ditch to slide up to the edge of the ride, pushing my gun bag out first, then positioning the rifle on it, before moving round to sight through the scope, while prone. The rabbit was still there, head down feeding about fifty yards away. Confident with a head shot, there was no arguing with a 40 grain bullet and the rabbit had enjoyed it’s last meal.

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Turning back into the wood toward a large warren, I was disappointed to see that the whole area had been taken over by badgers, with fresh digging extending out into the path, where a large hole was just waiting to trip a horse, or human. Gathering up some dead branches, I filled the hole as best I could, stuffing them deep into the passage, leaving a few protruding above the surface as a visual marker. Intending a few visits at dusk later in the season, snapping an ankle in one of these holes would not be welcome.

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Following round the path, a small group of rabbits were feeding on an open patch of ground and I stepped back into cover, moving as close as possible, before getting down on the ground to peep round the base of a bush. Two were still visible about forty yards away and pushed the bag forward as a rest, while inching out into the path. One sat up, presenting the perfect target, the shot flipping it over on it’s back. Swinging round for the second, I had a view of a white tail flashing away into the tangled undergrowth.

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These were all big old bucks, that will go toward my next batch of bunny burgers  http://www.urbanfieldsportsman.com/index.php/bunny-burgers-with-chorizo/ although I will save the loins for a tastier dish.

No doubt the equestrian centre owner will soon be complaining about the rabbits again and I will do my best to keep them down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pike among the red fins, spoil a red letter day at Braybrooke fishing lake

February 21, 2017 at 5:11 pm

Good reports from friends of catches of roach, rudd and crucian carp, drew me back for a second visit to Braybrooke Community Nature and Fishing Club’s Jeans pond. Almost hidden by trees, this quiet little haven sits within a recreation ground, surrounded by a crowded housing estate north of my local town, where the recently formed community club, have been successfully working to regenerate a once neglected area, for the benefit of all.

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Warming winds from the Caribbean brought spring time temperatures on this February afternoon, although it also meant swirling gusts that rippled the surface in all directions. Four slices of liquidised white bread and a slice for the bread punch, were all I needed for a few hours fishing, setting up my pole to fish 8 metres out at peg 13. Lucky for some?

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Dropping a couple of small balls of bread either side of my float, I expected the usual instant response of the float sinking out of sight, but it needed a couple more balls and regular casts to allow the 5 mm pellet to slowly fall through the baited area, before a very welcome dip of the float brought the first of many roach to my net.

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It may have been a slow start, but I was soon in machine mode, cast, allow float to sink, strike, feed the pole back and break down to the last two metres to net, or swing in a fish. It was all roach, some five inches, some up to ten inches, but the rhythm was the same, the pole elastic taking the strain of better fish like the one below.

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Then it happened. Feeding back the pole, I’d just released the top two joints, when a pike grabbed the roach I was bringing in. The elastic stretched out into the pond, as I tried against the strain to reconnect the extra lengths of pole to be able to control the pike. Too late, the float pinged back, the line cut by razor sharp teeth. The hook link had been 2.6 lb line to a size 16. I now tied on a size 14 barbless to 4 lb line. If the pike took again, there was now more of a chance to land it. Feeding a couple more small balls of bread, the swim gradually built up to speed again, then a small roach was snatched off the hook, as it was being brought across the surface. The pike was back. The swim went dead.

I’d invested an hour of fishing time, plus bait to the swim already, so fed again, only for a nice roach to be seized. This time the pole was at full length and the pike dived away against the weight of the pole, before letting go of the roach.

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A lucky survivor, the roach had been grabbed across it’s lower back, causing minor damage to each side around the dorsal and anal fins, although the hook had ripped the mouth. It went into the keepnet for safe keeping, showing no signs of the trauma.

It was time for a cup of tea and a sandwich, while I considered the pros and cons of  continuing in this swim, but the thought of landing this unseen leviathan kept me going. Once upon a time, in the long distant past of my youth, I would have set up a heavy float, with a treble hook rig and cast out a roach as a live bait, until the pike took on my terms, but with live baiting banned at Jeans pond and a different enlightened mindset, I decided to soldier on.

It was a slow start again and the roach seemed to have gone, rudd having moved in, taking on the drop.

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Shallowing up, I was back in the groove once more, these rudd being clonkers, although there were a few lipless wonders among them, evidence of barbed hooks and poor handling.

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The best of this bunch was a golden rudd, again without an upper lip, that fought well against the heavy pole elastic.

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Possibly twelve ounces, this rudd and his friends were  building a respectable weight in my net and was hoping to top ten pounds, before the afternoon was out, but whether it was the sun sinking into the trees, or Mr Toothy the pike, I don’t know. The bites dried up. The other anglers around the pond were packing away their gear, but I was not ready yet and balled in the last of my crumb. With no bites at four feet, where I had been catching the rudd, I slid the float up two feet and went back down for the roach.

It was all systems go again with two, or three ounce roach every cast, then lifting a roach up on the strike, the elastic pulled out again. I lowered the pole to the water to take off the tension and waited for the pike to turn the fish, but it hadn’t read my script and kept going to my left. I put on two more lengths of pole and followed it, the elastic stretching deep into the gloom of the pond, while my carbon pole was taking on a dangerous curve. It was stalemate for a while, before the pike turned back toward the bank, shaking it’s head, before surging across in front of me to stop for a sulk.  Convinced that I had the better of this still unseen fish, I was tempted to lift the pole, but was restricted by the alder over the water. Keeping the pressure on, the float came to the surface, then was gone again with another run. Ping! The hook line had gone again, cut like a knife.

I finished off my tea, then tied on a new hooklink to find the roach still there. I doubted that the pike would back after that and felt that at least I had taught it a lesson, although my heart was not in the session any more and packed up after a few more small roach.

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As I pulled my net from the water, the sound of many fish splashing, then the weight as I lifted it out, made me think that I had reached my target 10 lbs, but the scales tell the truth and they settled at 8 lb 8 oz. In the circumstances, a really good weight for the cost of a third of the price of a 40p Tescos white loaf.

 

Carp put a bend in the rod at last

February 17, 2017 at 12:46 pm

Due to my recent reports of pollution on my local river, the Environment Agency are keeping me informed of their actions to improve the conditions on this urban waterway, beginning with the removal of trees to improve access for anglers, while allowing more light to reach the river bed. Meeting the local EA officer for a chat in the car park and a walk along the bank to view their intentions, which also will include work to improve the flow, plus the restocking of chub and roach to replace those lost, filled me with hope, but also a feeling of grief for the fish lost.

Returning home for lunch in the sunshine, produced a growing itch within me, that needed to be scratched; putting a bend in a rod, but time was against me.  I’ve been promising myself a lure fishing session on a pike filled canal 15 miles away, but that will have to wait for another day. With a carp pond only half a mile down and with wifely permission fresh in my ears, half a dozen slices of bread were whizzed up in the liquidiser, before the van was loaded ready for the short drive to the carpark.

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The pond had it’s usual mix of bird life, mallards, plus the noisy Canada geese, which had been joined by a dozen overwintering mandarin ducks, the drakes showing off their plumage to full effect.

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Before tackling up my 12.5 ft Normark float rod, I mixed up a tray of bread crumb and ground bait, wetting it down to soak. The plan is then to set up ready to fish, while keeping an eye out for a member of the duck feeding fraternity to arrive with a bag of bread.The ducks, especially the geese, can spot a feeder from a hundred yards and gather at the water’s edge in anticipation. While the chaos of the feeding process is under way, I lob tennis ball sized clumps of ground bait out into the swim, in this instance six balls in a rectangle 15 to 20 yards out. Being shallow, the balls need to break up on contact, to avoid the geese coming over later for a feast from the bottom.

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Using a modified pole float, with a fine tip, I cast a double punched 7 mm pellet of thick toasty bread into the baited area and waited. Although flat calm there was a drift on the pond from right to left and after mending the line, the twitch had attracted a fish, the float dipping, almost to the tip, then popping up. On the third dip I struck. Nothing. Bait gone. Rebaited , I cast into the same spot for a repeat performance, this time the float holding under. Missed again. With the float carrying all the weight and the hook link free to swing, the fish were just sucking at the bait with their lips. I added 3 inches to the depth and recast. After initial interest, the float remained static. Maybe the bait was gone? I lifted the rod slowly to see if the bait was on and the surface erupted as a carp was on for a second, watching a V shape zoom across the surface.

Time was getting on. I hadn’t started, until 2:30 pm, it was now 3 o’clock. Single bubbles were beginning to appear on the surface of the baited area, while a dark mud stain was visible. The fish were there rooting through the ground bait, but being very casual with the bread bait. Finally a proper bite, the float slowly sinking away, as I struck, taking up the bow in the line with a sweep, that made soft contact with something. It was carp already swimming toward me, that exploded with power, once it felt the hook. At last a bend in the rod right through to the butt, as the unseen fish swerved away from the bank making for the island, while I backwound at half speed to slow it down. With 6 lb line to a size 14 barbless, there were no fears of a break, but with plenty of snags on the bottom, there are no guarantees. The fish came round in a circle, close to the bank, just beyond my landing net, then rolled. A nice common. Continuing to roll, I pulled it toward my landing net and in. Phew! that was hard work.

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22 inches of brute power, not pristine with slight tail damage, but just what I needed to break my duck. The hook had been barely holding the top lip, coming out once the pressure was off. Now confident that I had it sussed, I missed the next bite. Sitting with my hands on my knees, I had watched the float dive away with the line following and made a grab for the rod too late. At least the bites were regular and the next strike made firm contact with a much smaller common, that seemed unable to understand that I was in charge, diving all over the place, coming to the net at the third attempt.

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The baited area was now stained with black mud from fighting and feeding carp, however, casting to a recent bubble usually brought an immediate response of interest, the float dipping a few times, followed by a slow sink. The next fish was another biggy, heading straight for the island at a speed I could not stop, the line singing in protest as it reached the shallows of the island, the carp rolling in a foot of water, before everything went solid. It had snagged me and dumped the hook. Pulling for a break, a line of bubbles indicated the the snag was free, a bundle of twigs dropping it’s contents as I reeled it back

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How do they do this, transferring the hook to a branch in seconds. Tying this lot together was a tangle of 20 lb line, possibly from a night fisherman overcasting into the trees. Once free, I cut the line up with my scissors, before finding a litter bin. If a duck, or goose were found tangled in this heavy line, the authorities would soon call a halt to fishing on this pond.

I was still missing bites. Leaving them too long often meant no bait, the bread softening up in the water, being sipped in like soup by the carp. It could take ten minutes for a bite to develope, or fail. Next bite will be a fish. Then it was.

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About two pounds, I thought it was a bigger carp, pulling hard to my left, trying to find sanctuary among the tree roots along my bank, but giving up against pressure of rod and reel. It had been a while since the second carp, the sun had sunk behind the houses, a cool breeze was beginning to blow across the pond toward me and without my winter layers of clothing was beginning to feel the February chill.

With my need to catch a rod bender satisfied with three carp, I was ready to pack up, gathering my bits and pieces together, when looking up I couldn’t see my float. It had been right out in front of me, but I now spotted it close to the bushes on my right. Reeling up the slack, I swept round in a strike and was in again, mud stirred up by the turbulence of another much larger common swirling up to the surface, following the fish as it disappeared round the corner out of sight. Side strain and backwind turned the forward motion out into the open water, where line was regained and the golden flank of another common carp momentarily broached the surface. The fight was still on, but I was winning, each pass bringing it closer to the net, until success, it was in. Needing both hands to grip the net and lift it onto the bank.

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What a tub. This fat common was in danger of running aground in the shallows at my feet and if I needed a bonus fish, this was it. Just a second with the disgorger and the hook came free from the side of it’s mouth. A minute later, the net was lowered into the water and the broad back submerged like a submarine and the carp was gone.

These carp give you quite a workout and certainly felt in need of a cup of tea, as I pulled the trolley back to the van.

Blankety, blank defeats optimism on poisoned river

February 15, 2017 at 8:39 pm

Despite a major oil spill on my local river, a flood seemed to have improved the water quality and a couple of anglers reported catching a good net of roach and chub, but before I could get down for a test fishing session, more oil was seen pouring from a drainage outlet of the town. Ever the optimist, I decided to take the short drive to the river anyway, to see for myself, but first impressions were not good.

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A small boom was covering the outlet from one of the drainage tunnels, while a larger boom stretched the full width of the weir, all very serious stuff, backed up by yet another boom reaching across the gravel shallows, fifty yards down stream, which was visibly catching surface scum.

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Below this the river appeared normal, the local duck population looking in fine health, as they gobbled down bread offered by school children enjoying a half term break.

My target swim was a few hundred yards further down the path, a spot where a recent tree fall had reduced the river by half, creating a deep, smooth flowing run about three feet deep.

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I had been saving this swim since the summer, then it had produced a steady supply of roach, rudd, perch and chub, plus the odd skimmer bream, all caught off the rod top, where they were queuing up to take the maggot bait. Two winters ago it was almost exclusively quality roach, that had seized my bread punch pellets.

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Today conditions seemed perfect, a nice green tinge and gentle flow, would have had my anticipation on full alert, but I had already spotted pools of oil reflecting up from shallow depressions, left stranded by the high water at the weekend. Bearing in mind that the fishing may be difficult, I selected a small stick float rig with a size 18 hook and punched a 5 mm pellet out, to start proceedings, following an egg shaped ball of liquidised bread down the swim.

For the next hour I rang the changes, running through shallow, over depth, holding back and laying on. Not a ripple, or a dip of the float to encourage me. The bread remained on the hook, unless tested by myself for softness. I had always assumed that, if I had been able to trot as far as the overhanging tree, a chub would take the bait every time, but had never been able to put it into practice, due to the float being dragged under by a fish long before it got that far. Last resort was to break a small worm in half and put it wriggling on the hook. Surely a small perch, or gudgeon would oblige? Not a touch. Various people stopped to ask if I’d managed to catch a fish, all aware of the recent pollution. One couple, regulars on this stretch had also not seen a bite, when fishing the day before.

The last Ace up my sleeve was to pack up and drive a couple of miles downstream to where water surges over a weir from the town water treatment works. Even on the coldest of days, this swim produces double figure nets of roach and chub, with the likelyhood of a bonus bream, or carp. This could not fail me.

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Oh, yes it could! Now tackled up with a 14 ft rod and a 4BB stick, I fed balls of bread to my left to drift into the faster water coming over the weir, which back eddies into the flow from the main river. The hot spot has always been at the edge of the foam, holding back bringing a sail away bite every time. After an hour, chub and roach would venture up into the slower water to hoover up the bread crumb draping the bottom. Not today thank you! Again a worm was ignored, even when held back and trotted down the foam. I usually complain to my wife about this swim, the constant leaning out over the high bank to net fish, giving me back ache. This time it was complaining about having blanked twice from two different swims on the same afternoon.

My only hope is that the fish are still there, but put off their feed by the chemicals drifting down to them, although as the water coming over the weir is from a source way above the pollution, those fish would not have been affected, so what is going on? Time will tell.

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Just one example of the variety, that this swim could produce, even a carp putting in a surprise appearance.

Winchester .22 42 gn subsonic versus RWS 40 gn subsonic field test

February 9, 2017 at 6:52 pm

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A letter from the Thames Valley Police dropped onto my door mat this week. Before tearing it open open, the fear of a speeding fine filled my mind, had I been caught by a hidden speed trap? No, it was a reminder that my Firearms Certificate was due to run out in six months and that I needed to renew it as soon as possible, to avoid not being covered. When I last renewed, the whole process, including a visit from the local Firearms Officer, had taken under six weeks. Now due to the “current peak renewal period” it was now six months minimum.

Terrorism raises it’s head in all walks of life today and no less with legally held firearms, various government departments processing information back and forth, with more detailed intelligence checks needed by the Information Research Bureau, including contact with an applicant’s GP and deeper checks on referees. My information is the same as my last two applications and hope for a clean run through. I will be putting in a variation on the new .17 WSM (Winchester Super Magnum) bolt action rimfire. Maybe that will slow it down.

One of the requirements, when applying, is that the current certificate has to be sent along with the application form. What’s the problem you say, well without the actual certificate, ammunition cannot be purchased, as all bullets bought have to be written by hand on the back of the certificate, along with the signature and number of the Registered Firearms Dealer at the time of purchase. This means that my stock of ammunition needs to last at least six months, until I receive my new certificate.

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HMR ammunition has been unavailable at my RFD for months with promises of a new batch in the country “any day now” for at least a month. Only able to purchase 200 at a time, I’m already well into the last 100, so do I hang on for a few weeks in the hope of a delivery, or end up running out once the warm weather arrives? With two new permissions to explore this is a possibility.

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.22 subsonsonic ammunition is readily available, but my semi automatic Magtech will only recycle certain brands. Eley subs were the best through this rifle, then they became unavailable in my area. I tried 40 grain Winchester, but these jammed on every other round. Recommended German made RWS, I tried them and they worked well, being accurate and quiet. Having bought 500, I was now down to the last 200 and in need of a top up, but guess what? The RFD has stopped stocking them too.

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Winchester have recently brought out a 42 grain bullet with slightly more power than the RWS, which is supposed to give better recycling in a semi auto, being heavier with a speed difference of 1065 FPS to the slower 990 FPS of the RWS. I bought a box of 50 and set off to my nearest permission to give them a comparison field test.

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It was a cold, damp, but still afternoon and I set up two targets side by at fifty yards, checking the zero on another target using the RWS. The zero had not moved and single shots gave hits in and around the 10 mm bull. Ideal for rabbit head shots. Of these ten shots, one did not recycle. Firing ten of the Winchester, there were no misfires and similar accuracy, although the report through the silencer was deeper in tone, but not loud. Happy so far.

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Moving on to the test targets, I fired five RWS  shots in five seconds, a good test of the semi auto Magtech. The first shot went straight through the bull, two edged the 10 mm bull and the other two hit the main target area with a maximum deviation to the left of 20 mm centres, these two being the last fired. Maybe warming of the barrel, or pilot error, but pretty good for rapid fire and a certain kill on any rabbit.

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Next up was the Winchester 42 grain, again similar results, one in the bull, two others edging and two out to the left, the furthest at 22 mm centres, but an almost identical pattern as the RWS. Most of the RWS were just below the centre of the bull, while the Winchesters were above, possibly due to the extra speed and power of the bullet giving less drop despite the additional weight.

This test was enough to give me the confidence to buy another 300 Winchesters  and with .22 High Velocity Remingtons already in the ammo box, the top up brings me near my 650 limit for .22 rimfire.

Hoping to try out the Winchesters on a rabbit, I went for a walk along the hedgerows, but nothing was on show and with the light drizzle turning to sleet, I headed back to the van.

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A post script to this blog was a phone call saying that my 17 Hornady were now in stock, so it was a quick drive to the RFD to use the FAC to buy enough ammunition to see me through the application period. The assistant in the sports shop said that I would be lucky to get the new certificate in six months, as he has been waiting for nine!

 

Death of an urban river

January 28, 2017 at 2:50 pm

News of a fish kill on my local river was met by disbelief this week. A tank containing toluene, a toxic industrial paint stripper, had leaked at a business unit in the town and the chemical had been washed down a surface drain during heavy rain. A chemical with the ability to cause nausea and sickness, toluene can mix with water if agitated, which it did, when it passed over a series of small weirs. The Environment Agency was alerted by members of the public complaining of the strong heady smell coming from the river, which was traced back to the surface water drain from the town.

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Due to the high flow levels, banks were awash and there were no early signs of fish being affected, but as the river settled back down to normal, dead fish were washing up five miles downstream.

In denial that my regularly fished stretch could have been a victim of the pollution, I decided to put it to the test, setting up my tackle a hundred yards from the outfall.

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The river looked perfect, with a hint of green colour and I set up a stick float rig ready to trot the opposite bank among the roots along the overhang. Preparing for my first cast, I noticed that there was a smell of oil in the air, while underfoot the bank had a slimy covering. Not good.

My most successful winter method in this swim, is to fish a 5 mm bread punch pellet on a size 16 hook with liquidised bread feed and expect a bite, usually from a chub, first cast. Not a touch. The float drifted 10 yards before I retrieved it, the bread pellet still on the hook. Another ball of bread was followed down by the float with the same result. With another ball put in just beyond the middle, I adjusted another six inches on the depth and followed the cloud down holding back at intervals in search of the obliging roach. Again nothing, my only sign being a slow pull under, but the strike revealed a twig dragged up from the bottom. The last resort was to set the float even deeper to lay on with the rod rested, surely a gudgeon would take the bread, these small fish a curse once they move in over the feed as it settles on the bottom. By now there would be a dozen, or more fish in the net, but now there were none.

In that disappointing 30 minutes, the realisation that the river was devoid of living fish, had struck home and pulled in my empty keep net. As it disturbed the bottom, a mini oil slick rose to the surface. Packing up, I scraped the sticky mud from my boots and walked my trolley downstream in search of evidence of fish mortality. From the high bank my eyes soon attuned to the ghostly pale outlines of dead fish, trapped on under water obstacles, strung out like grim necklaces. On the bank opposite, a 3 lb chub lay stranded by the flood, it’s silver flanks holed by birds, or rats.

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Further down this sickening sight was waiting, fish caught among the reeds as they were washed down stream, here roach, chub and perch just a snapshot of the carnage.

What next? This small river was already the focus of work between the town council and the environment agency for improvement, tree cutting, flow improvement and the creation of safe fishing platforms already in the pipeline. This work could be carried out as per schedule in the next few months, only for anglers to find little, or nothing to catch. Once the river environment is considered safe to restock, it will take years to recover to the level of the past few seasons.

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Catches like this above, chub and roach taken on the stick float with bread punch from the very swim that drew a blank during my test session this week, or the one below, when maggot and caster resulted in a mixed bag of roach, rudd, chub and perch, which was topped off by a 2 lb bream are now consigned to history.

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Having moved into the area six years ago, I was amazed by the quantity and variety of fish in this unobtrusive little river and was quite smug in emails to angling friends struggling to catch on the river Thames, where I used to live. My emails grew into regular blogs, never failing to fill a net in just a few hour’s fishing.

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Roach like this one were every other cast and it is heart breaking to know that this healthy fish now lies dead in the mud, due to human failings. If there is a financial settlement, it will never compensate for the loss of a fishing gem.