CZ 452 Varmint HMR against the elements

April 19, 2018 at 4:27 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bread punch finds quality roach and rudd at Braybrooke pond

April 13, 2018 at 2:58 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trout stream shows promise

April 6, 2018 at 7:23 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CZ 452 Varmint HMR accuracy reward

April 3, 2018 at 1:36 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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