Wild trout season closer

September 27, 2018 at 11:17 pm

Despite commitments all this week, I was able to take advantage of late September sunshine for a last chance trout, from my syndicate trout stream. Despite days of rain over the weekend, the river was licking over the stones, when I arrived late in the afternoon, clumps of ranunculus weed exposed on the gravel runs.

Walking down to a once productive S bend, I got into the river to wade up through the shallows toward the upper pool, seeing the tell-tale V from a fish that had been browsing the shallows, watching it dart back into the deeper water.

Leaving my van in a layby, I had stopped to look up and down the river, searching for signs of rising fish, but despite the air being full of wheeling Daddy Long Legs, or Crane Flies for the educated among us, there was zero surface activity. Keeping my rod set up in the garage, has the advantage of more fishing time on the bank, the van allowing rod and landing net to be ready for action.

The size 18 copper headed nymph would do to start. If the Crane Flies began scudding across the surface raising a few fish, it would be an easy swap.

Heavy vegetation growth at the edges, was compensating for the lack of water, speeding up the flow as it was funneled toward the shallows and I made a series of casts, moving steadily upstream, as the nymph fished deeper water, lifting it clear of the gravel to keep it bouncing along the bottom.

Ten minutes into the exercise, the leader held for a second, then dropped back, only to veer off to the right. The sharp upward lift of my rod was automatic and a silver flash broke the surface, then dived back to the pool for a short lived tumbling fight, before racing off downstream into the shallows for a more equal battle, a nice dace skimming on its side over the rapids, straight to my hand.

Holding this dace still for a photo, said it all about the strength of dace, size for size they beat many other coarse fish in the power stakes.

Crane flies were launching off from the grass banks of the river, some dipping the water as the fought to gain height, but no fish responded to this easy meal and I continued working my way upstream, keeping in close to the bank and fishing the nymph out and up in a continual search of the bottom.

Casting alongside fronds of sunken weed, the leader stopped. Raising the rod to clear the obstacle, there was a boil as the line shot forward and another silver flash clattered across the surface, pulling the rod tip down. This was no dace, although small, it arrowed upstream into the deeper water, the 7 foot rod bending to the butt, before springing a silver trout to the surface in a shower of spray. Quickly netting the fish, its purple sheen made me think that it was a young rainbow, but the large dark spots said brown trout.

This was the last fish of the evening and the 2018 river trout fishing season for me,  a season that has continued the steady decline of a once fine wild trout stream. This two year old wild brown trout is evidence in itself, that the species can self generate, although it must be looked upon as a rare survivor.

 

Bread punch roach and dace River Blackwater bonanza

September 20, 2018 at 12:05 pm

I seem to have a habit of going fishing, when extreme weather is threatened and so it was again this week, as Hurricane Helene swept across the Atlantic toward our shores. At this time of year I put a visit to the River Blackwater into my diary. The Blackwater runs south to north and being withing 10 miles of my home at any point, I would fish it more, but generally parking is a problem, my van being too tall to get under the 2 metre barriers restricting access to most public carparks along the river. I had recently been told of a free stretch with no barriers, that ran behind an industrial estate and decided to check it out. With tackle in the van and bread from the freezer, it was worth a look, if not I could fall back on the a club stretch of Blackwater a few miles downstream.

Driving into the industrial estate, I could see immediately that parking would be a problem, designated company parking, causing the overflow of cars and vans to park up on kerbs and block entrances. I cruised the parked cars to the end, finding a space among those of a car company. Slotting in the van, I realised that I could not occupy the space for long, but while I was there, I could at least take a look at the river, which lay just through a screen of trees. The banks were overgrown, but the river was clear with little weed and I could see big chub swimming up and down, but with overhanging trees, fishing would be difficult.

Ready to drive off, I walked back to the van, only to be met by the site manager, who informed me that I was parked in a designated parking area. I apologised, saying that I just wanted to look at the river, regarding the fishing. At this his mood changed, telling me how good it was for fishing and being an angler himself, he would show me his favourite swims.

We walked up to a weir, where we could see a shoal of about a dozen bream of about 2 lb each, just sitting in the flow of the back eddy. Again it was overhung with trees, various floats tangled among the branches, evidence of attempted float fishing, it would be feeder fishing, or nothing here. We walked back to the carpark and he said “Why not have a dabble? If anybody complains about your van, say that Tony said that it was OK to park”. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I accepted his offer, loaded up my trolley and headed back to the weir.

Just upstream of the trees, close to the outfall, was a short strip of overgrown bank, that would allow me to cast a float, spending the next twenty minutes hacking away at the stinging nettles and dead giant hog weed, with a bank stick. There was just enough room for the tackle box, so set up my 14 foot Browning with a 6BB bodied stick float and was ready to fish.

I threw out a couple of balls of liquidised bread to my side of the flow, ready to use a 6mm bread punch on a size 14 barbless hook.

First cast in the float sailed away and a hard fighting roach swung to hand.

The swim was no more than two feet deep, and I bulked the shot round the base of the float, with two No 4 shot six inches apart up from the hook. This rig worked well with no tangling, the heavy float allowing me to hold back despite the ever increasing wind.

Every put in was followed by a take, the roach often hooking themselves each time I held back hard, although this sometimes meant a bounced fish. I was catching steadily, putting in another ball and watching the shoal of roach rip into it.

Who said that perch don’t take bread, this being one of two that I caught. Roach continued to line up for the bread, having found a sweet spot on the crease between the outfall and the eddy, an under hand cast laying the float behind the bait each time, the fish grabbing the bread as it fluttered down to the bottom.

All this changed in minutes, as the sound of the water rushing over the weir drowned out the roar of the wind gusting through the trees. Upstream extra water was being released into the river, forcing the back eddy to reverse its motion and strong enough to drag my keep net round. Where I had been holding the float back against the steady flow, it was now coming back toward me. The roach were still there taking the bread, but I now began to drop lightly hooked fish. Casting out into the strong flow, the bites had changed, lightning dips and bangs of the float indicating dace, knocking off the bait in seconds. Stopping the float put me in direct contact with the fast biting dace, rattling the rod top and briefly flashing over before throwing the hook.

Got one! More by luck than judgement, setting the hook, then releasing the line allowed the dace to run, before lifting into it again. This seemed a better tactic, but their tumbling fight in the more powerful stream, saw more dace throw the hook, than reached the net. Roach were still among the dace, the more positive bites, meaning fewer lost fish.

As quickly as the rush of water had begun, it slowed again and the catching spree continued along the crease, another ball of bread concentrating the roach in a tight area. I was aware of Tony standing to one side watching me swing in fish after fish. When I asked how long he had stood there, he said “Six fish” then looking at his watch “Four minutes”. I had hoped to find one or two of the bream among the roach, but had probably struck too soon on the slower biting slabs.

Tony had never seen the bread punch in action and could not believe that it was so effective on “his” river. I said that I would be packing up at 5 pm, having fished for five hours by then and he said that he would come back for the weigh in.

The larger roach had now pushed their way to the front and going up to a 7mm punch seemed to increase the number of netters.

What a clonker! The big roach just kept coming, despite the wind that was now blowing leaves and twigs into the river and making an underhand cast impossible, a powerful overhead cast the only way to get the float out to the crease.

Like a tap being turned on, the weir began to roar again, transforming the the eddy into a whirlpool, the dace sweeping over to my side, some good ones among them.

Control of the float became difficult with the wind billowing the line back toward me, while the float was swept away in the flow. It was time to put the rod down, get out the cheese and pickle sandwiches, followed by a cup of tea. There was an area close to my bank, that looked static and I dropped the float in, but this was full of tiny chublets and gudgeon, taking several of each, before giving up to brave the elements again.

The quality roach were still there and the landing net was coming out for every other fish.

The weir shut down again and I put in another ball of liquidised bread, just to keep the roach in place, each cast bringing another.

At 5 pm the roach were still feeding, but I could hear the traffic building up on the main road behind me and I had promised to be home by six, so the rod was brought in and I took stock of the session.

The bait tray told the story of a busy afternoon, having fed a third of a loaf of liquidised bread.

As promised, Tony arrived to help me weigh in the net, I guessed it at 12 lb, while he suggested 15 lb. Lifting up the scales was an effort and the 14 lb scales bounced, then settled back to 13 lb 8 oz. I am sure that if I had set up my much softer Hardy 12 footer, I would have landed more fish, but would it have coped with the stormy winds as well? Ah well, who cares? I had had another great session on the bread punch, shame about the car parking.

Trout from the jungle

September 9, 2018 at 8:01 pm

Following up on a recent visit to my syndicate trout stream, I was back again for more punishment this week. The farmer has enclosed the river in electrified fences to keep his cattle out of the river, which in turn has made fishing from the banks extremely difficult and often painful, as I found out, when the aluminium handle of my landing net made contact with the wire, while trying to stand on the thin strip of bank between the river and the fence. The intermittent shock ran up my arm, leaving me with the feeling, that I had been hit on the left elbow by a hammer. Not pleasant, when stalking a visible trout. Add to this the untended banks and overhanging trees, that require cautious and accurate casting to avoid snagging the fly. Summer working parties were promised by the bailiffs, but never arranged.

This is a typical, once productive series of pools, that is now unfishable with a fly rod. An hour with a brushcutter would transform this bank. Wading my way through this jungle, I found the room to cast, seeing the leader jag upstream and struck, dragging a minnow clear of the water.

A few more casts and the same result, another minnow. That pool could once be relied upon to produce a few dace, maybe a chub and even a trout, but now it seems to be minnow alley. I moved on.

Wading up through shallows, I made casts toward the tail of this pool, where in low water I have often had a trout. A sharp tug saw an instant response, but the nymph flew back into trees behind me. I was able to pull the branch down with my landing net and retrieve the nymph. Moving further into the pool, I searched the area with the size 18 copper headed spider, inducing movement, lifting and dropping the rod top as I brought the line back. The line went solid and a flash of gold ahead signaled a brown trout beginning an explosive fight in the clear water, as it dived for roots. It was not big, but having been catching roach of the same size recently, more powerful by far. My net was ready as it ran round the tail of the pool and I scooped it up.

A true wild brown trout of about 10 inches long, a rare sight these days on the river. The hook had dropped out in the net, being just in the tip of the nose, the trout probably activated more by curiosity, than hunger. Stepping back into the trees, I held the trout upstream in the shallows, until it kicked away.

With confidence boosted, I made my way downstream again, intending to work my way up through a section not fished this year, but found the river choked by reeds.

I continued upstream again, until I reached the pool where last time I had three perch, but this time the total was one small perch lost as I lifted off. Upstream, between the trees, a trout was rising noisily, splashing at unseen flies. Wading beyond my waist, may have got me within casting range, but the chances of extracting what seemed to be a very large fish from among the roots and fallen branches seemed very remote and I climbed back out. From the stile, I could look down into the deep pool, but the trout failed to perform, invisible in the shadows.

Time was getting on and a final dabble in a fast flowing run-off saw the leader stop and I lifted a small dace clear of the river. Close to the road, a pound plus brown waited in the stream for offers of food and I negotiated the electric fence in an attempt to make a cast, getting an electric shock and catching my line in an overhanging clump of vegetation. This is where I came in. The trout swam to safer water and I went home. Time is running out on the season. Last year I had 18 trout, compared to only a few this.

 

 

 

 

CZ452 evening HMR stake out

September 5, 2018 at 7:13 pm

Making my monthly courtesy visit to one of my farms, I climbed the hill overlooking the yard, where I have a clear view over about 300 yards to the sides and good sight of the sheds ahead of me, where the lady owner keeps hens, ducks and geese.

The wet spring and hot summer had been perfect for haymaking and the barn was stacked out, with the surplus filling the yard, giving cover for a marauding fox, that had already taken a couple of chickens and a prime egg laying duck.

This had resulted in Ruth, the owner, having to sit out on guard with a big stick to ward off the fox. The irony is, that the fox had been dumped overnight in the driveway of the farm by an animal rescue group, who left the tame animal to fend for itself. The next morning the fox was curled up on her doorstep and Ruth decided that she would feed it, hoping that, if fed, it would not worry her birds. Wrong. A week later it dashed into the yard and dragged off a duck, fatally wounding it, despite Ruth’s best efforts to revive the bird.

A fox’s nature is to kill and sooner or later, that cuddly looking animal will revert to its inborn character. Ruth was now locking her prized birds away at 5 pm each evening, as the fox was doing its rounds between then and 7 pm, just in time for my visit. I had come for rabbits with the HMR, the 4.5mm  diameter 17 grain bullet ideal for them, but a bit lightweight for a fox beyond 80 yards, but a head shot at that range would do the trick, if I got the chance.

I settled down at the top of the hill and waited for movement. It was pleasantly warm with the sun on my back, but the sight of a big rabbit trotting slowly around the edge of the barn, brought me to my senses. Following the rabbit in the crosshairs, as it approached the gate, I held fire. It stopped and I squeezed the trigger. A half jump and it toppled over, an ideal fox bait. I left it there.

Later, after a movement to my right, I spotted another rabbit entering the gateway at the top of the lane in front of the barn. This was an 120 -130 yard shot, but with no wind, easy with the HMR, the rabbit spinning round with the impact. I left that one there too. Both rabbits gained the attention of a pair of magpies, but fortunately for them they flew off. The HMR makes a mess of magpies.

I was intending to leave at 7 pm, when the extended shadow of the fox appeared behind the barn. The animal was invisible to me at first, but there was no mistaking the deep red coat, as it danced toward the dead rabbit, briefly bending down to sniff it, then slipping behind the shed out of sight. Out it came again and I concentrated on the rabbit. It stopped short and looked straight at me on the hill, turning away to the right behind the barn. I kicked myself for not taking the shot, its white bib clearly in my sights for a second.

Picking up the rifle, I ran to the right, hoping for a shot, as it passed the other side of the barn, only to see it loping off toward a stand of willows at the bottom of the field, the white tip of its tail following into the long grass.

With the sun behind me, I thought that my head and shoulders profile would be masked by the sun. OK for rabbits, but not a wily fox. I retrieved my rabbits and headed for home.