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.