CZ452 Varmint HMR begins post Covid catch up

May 6, 2021 at 10:26 am

Covid restrictions meant only a few visits to most of my shooting permissions last year, and now into May it is time to begin catching up on lost time. One of my first targets of the year has always been to clear a large warren of  rabbits, before the farmer puts out his cattle to graze. My time limit is the end of April, when he runs over the area with a small excavator filling in the burrows, but unfortunately his untimely death has meant all at the farm was on hold for months. His daughter has now taken over and called me in to do what I can to clear the rabbits, which have multiplied unchecked, digging fresh burrows deep enough to snap a cow, or horse’s leg.

Heading north toward the farm, I could see a massive black cloud creeping over the land in my direction, driven by a bitterly cold wind. I was quick to unload my gear, climbing a pair of gates before I could reach the field, the warren sitting in the middle surrounded by stinging nettles.

This is just a snapshot of the area, 50 yards by 300 yards long, with some interlinked burrows having collapsed leaving 3 foot deep craters. As I approached a rabbit emerged from the ground, ran ten yards and stopped when it saw me. It was about 60 yards away, an easy shot with the HMR normally, but a gusting side wind was blowing the rifle off target on the bi-pod sticks and even a body shot missed. I could see heavy rain advancing across the adjacent field in my direction and just made the lee side of an oak in time.

I stood and watched a rainbow glow in the sky, before it faded when the rain eased, using my time to scan the area with the scope. Rabbits don’t like rain, or cold winds and I had both in Spades. There was nothing about until the wind dropped and the low evening sun came out. A head appeared, then ducked down, another bounded like a gazelle from one burrow, then ran a 100 yards to disappear again.

I decided to invest my time on a raised area of burrows, with a clear view down the bottom half of the warren, having caught sight of movement among the nettles. Extending the legs on the HMR’s Harris bipod, I got myself comfortable, pulling up the hood of my jacket over my cap to keep out the still gusting wind plucking at my body. The movement was increasing, with flashes of fur, or twitching ears, but nothing worth a shot. Increasing my scope to 12 magnification, I saw that a rabbit had left the sanctuary of the nettles to feed on the nearby grass. The rifle was already in my shoulder, the cross hairs were on and the rabbit jumped clear of the ground as the .17 ” bullet struck home. One down. With the wind almost directly behind, the shot was spot on.

15 minutes later a pair ran out of cover close to the first about 130 yards away and I easily tracked them through the scope, but they would not stop trotting around. One of them turned back to cover. It was now or never, taking the shot as it turned toward me. Number two crumpled.

The other rabbit turned to join it’s friend, pausing to sniff the air, the impact causing it to jump clear of the ground. I waited for twenty minutes, but there were no more positive shots and I went down to collect my prizes, scattering another unseen pair as I concentrated on my footing, burrows being everywhere.

Walking back, another black cloud was beginning to block out the sun. I had intended staying until dusk, but more rain was in the air and I bagged up the rifle, making my way back to the van, only to see a sitter in my path, but maybe next time.

Th following day the rabbits were quartered to two loin backstraps and a pair of back legs each, ready to join the freezer as bunny burgers.

Chopped red onion, apricots and garlic were placed in a pan and lightly browned, then added to the minced rabbit, chorizo and pork lardons, liberally dusted with mixed herbs and a couple of tablespoons of Worcester Sauce. A couple of  slices of ground seeded brown bread with a beaten egg to bind and I was ready to fold it all together. The last job was to get out the burger press, laying out 14 on trays for overnight freezing.

The best part of rabbit pest control. Tasty food. Click on the Recipes page of this blog for more.

 

 

 

 

Bread punch finds the roach at Jeanes Pond

April 21, 2021 at 1:37 pm

A full week of sunshine, despite frosty mornings, drew me to Braybrooke recreation ground again this week in the hope of a few tench and crucian carp before the annual May fishing shutdown. Arriving at 2 pm a cold east wind was blowing across the pond and I set up with my back to it, while the sun heated up my front. People say that anglers are half baked and in this instance I definitely was.

There was no sign of surface activity, while the pond had a green algae bloom, which was strange for this time of year, but a ball of liquidised bread over the shelf  into five feet of water induced a positive bite immediately. The No.5 elastic came out of the pole tip as the fish flashed through the mirk and I netted a 4 oz roach.

I had set up a 4 x 16 antenna float to fish a 6mm punch of bread on a size 16 hook, only the top two pole sections needed to fish over the drop off and next cast saw the float bury again with another decent roach.

With the float set just off bottom, the roach kept coming, nothing big, but enough to keep me entertained.

Small rudd were now beginning to intercept the bread on the way down, despite bulking the shot close to the hook.

I decided to make up a heavy mix of  feed, liquidised bread, ground carp pellets and fine fish meal, which had produced a net full of crucian carp from another local pond the week before, putting in three balls four metres out, where there is another two feet of water, in the hope of attracting some better fish.

After twenty minutes, bubbles began bursting on the surface above my new feed area and I added depth to the float, plus three sections to the pole, to place my bait on target. The float settled, a ring radiated out from the antenna before the float slowly sank. I lifted and the elastic came out as a better roach fought back, keeping the tension on as I shipped the pole behind, sliding the fish into the landing net.

The next cast, the float bobbed then sank. Missed it. A tench? In again and the float dithered for minutes, before finally sinking away. The float stayed down with the elastic out, as the unseen fish rushed around. Crucian? Tench, or small carp? I was almost disappointed, when a good clonker roach, flashed beneath the surface, taking my time to tire the fish, ready for the net.

Not the desired species, but welcome none the less, the hook coming out in the net, it having been in the tip of the lip, evidence that the water was probably too cold for tench.

I was on a roll, another good roach came to the net, that heavier feed had done the trick. Then it happened. Having hooked another decent roach, the elastic suddenly stretched away as a pike seized the fish, the float thankfully pinging back, when the hook came out. I put in a couple more balls of feed, but the swim was dead, the shoal had gone.

There was nothing to be had near the bottom and I shallowed up again, coming in closer, taking smaller roach and rudd, scaling down to a 5 mm punch, after dropping a few as I swung them in.

The local middle school had now finished for the day and a large rowdy crowd occupied an area close to me, arguing, shouting and generally showing off to the opposite sex. A football was taken from its owner and booted high in the air into the pond, logs were retrieved from the woods and thrown in. Oh, what fun. I decided that it was time to go, when three lads appeared carrying a ten foot branch. I persuaded them to not throw it into the pond. They left it and wandered off, only to sneak back while I packed up, throwing it in before running off. Note to self, come earlier, or later in the day to avoid a repeat performance.

Maybe it was the pike that had ruined my afternoon, not the antics of the local school kids, after all we were all young once. On the plus side, the bread punch continues to give me consistent results.

 

 

Bread punch crucian carp come in from the cold

April 18, 2021 at 1:36 pm

A frosty morning followed by warming afternoon sunshine, persuaded me to try the shallow pond a short walk from my home for a late afternoon session this week. There was still a chill wind from the north east blowing, but settling down in a sheltered corner with the sun in my face, I could believe that spring had finally arrived.

Setting up the pole with my usual 3BB modified canal waggler rig, to a size 16 barbless hook, I added water to a mix of liquidised bread, ground trout pellets and fine fish meal, plopping four soft balls into a square metre, seven metres out. The rig was set to fish off bottom at two feet deep with a 6 mm bread pellet and swung out to drop through the baited area. The float sank immediately and a rudd was first in the net.

I had expected small rudd to start, but this was above the usual size, my next above average too.

The rudd were getting bigger with each cast, maybe this is the new normal?

The net came out for this one, the bites being predictable, a few dips followed by a slow sink away.

Another beauty followed, the keepnet beginning to fill as the landing net came out again.

A less positive bite indicated a change of species, sharp bobs of the float, followed by a slow submerging run confirming a crucian carp, that pulled out the elastic, the fight belying it’s size.

The rudd were worth catching, but crucians are a favourite of mine, the little battlers always giving a good account of themselves. Next chuck and I was in again, breaking the pole down to the top two each time.

Faced with another crucian bite, I struck earlier, not waiting for the sinkaway and paid the price, losing the fat crucian at the net, which dashed back and put the shoal off the feed, allowing monster gudgeon to get in on the act.

I put in two more balls of feed and began to catch rudd again, another clonker coming below.

At last the crucians came back, pinprick bubbles bursting on the surface, heralding their appearance.

This little barrel of fun gave me the right run around, diving in and out of the landing net in quick succession, before I scooped him in third time lucky. A local angler had arrived with his daughter and set up covering a couple of swims across from me. For every small rudd that they caught, I was catching three crucians, Jim coming round to see what I was doing, asking about the advantages of the pole over a rod and line, while showing him the bread punch in action.

Crucians tend to push the bait around, often sucking on the bread until it is gone. Most are hooked just in the top lip and I can’t ever remember one needing a disgorger.

The crucian haul continued to grow, the small area packed with competing fish, encouraged by the occasional ball of feed spreading out on impact with the surface. I was now in the swing with the crucian bites, when the float bobbed violently, then disappeared to be met by an elastic stretching run, as a black tail broke surface.

This tench did not play ball, diving under the landing net among the snags, before I fished him out, a very firm grip needed to remove the barbless hook. Small tench were abundant in this pond a few years ago, but seemed to disappear. If they are back it is good news, as this one is about 8 oz larger than before.

With my packing up time fast approaching, I made this gudgeon my last fish of the day, but the just one more cast rule was invoked and I hooked a juvenile common carp.

A burst of large bubbles over the feed and with no more rules in the book to break, I cast into the middle of them. On the drop, the float slanted sideways and sank out of sight. The strike was met by the characteristic straight line run of a much better common carp, which stretched out the elastic toward the opposite bank lily bed, following the fish with the pole, until it turned back in my direction, requiring rapid feeding of the pole into the bushes behind me to stay in contact, while breaking down to the top two sections to play it to the net.

With carp in the swim it was tempting to stay longer, but my bread squares had run out of holes, this common carp a fitting end to a very busy three hours.

The splashing sound of my keepnet being pulled from the pond brought Jim back for a photo opportunity, once the mixed bag was poured into the landing net for my last shot.

 

Over 8 lb of quality fish in three hours to wave goodbye to Winter.

Skimmer Bream save the day at Kings Pond

April 10, 2021 at 5:54 pm

Feeling like I have just come out of hibernation, I ventured out to fish, when the temperature was due to scrape into double figures at a promised 11 degrees Centigrade warm spell this week. A Jet Stream that often wanders down from Iceland, has kept the UK suffering with wind chills down into the negative zone and fishing has suffered accordingly. Being officially Spring, I had put my thermals away a month ago, but regretted it when I arrived at Farnham’s Kings Pond. Winter work parties had cut back the trees that form a windbreak between Badshot Lea Big Pond and an ice cold wind was now sweeping across the 0.7 acres of Kings.

Walking round in a fruitless search of a swim that was out of the wind, I was met by glum looks and shaking heads, when I asked how it was fishing. So far only one of the six hardy souls fishing so far had a fish, a single 3 oz roach. This time last year I had been lucky to find an empty swim, now I was spoilt for choice.

In my hibernation, I had removed a troublesome No 5 light elastic from the top two telescopic sections of my pole and replaced it with a shorter length in the top section. Expecting a range of fish from roach, bream, tench and crucian carp, this would prove a good test of the tension of the elastic, but judging by the reactions so far, I would be lucky to catch anything.

Today bites would be at a premium and I set up with a 4 x 14 fine antenna float rig with a size 18 barbless hook, to fish a 5 mm bread punch over the shelf into the deeper water, this starting 4 metres out at a metre deep, falling away to 2.5 metres at 6 metres. Feeding a couple of small balls of sieved liquidised bread over the shelf produced no bites in fifteen minutes and I replumbed the depth to just off bottom at 6 metres, holding back against the drift. Another couple of feed balls and the float dipped and slowly sank. I struck. Missed it. Another 5 minute wait and I missed again. This repeated a few times before I switched to a 4 mm punch.

Next cast the float dipped and sank away and rattle at the end produced a very small roach, that was cold to the touch. No wonder these fish were not interested in a bigger bait.

A few more even smaller roach followed and assumed that the feed ball was breaking up early, attracting the smaller fish, many falling off the hook in the wind. I mixed up a heavier mix of bread with some Haiths sweet spice mix, forming a tight ball that dropped straight through to the bottom. Bulking the shot close to the hook, I lowered the bait in over the top and the float cruised under. A lift of the pole and a roach was bouncing the pole top.

This was a better roach, but I would have expected the elastic to have come out a few inches to absorb the shock as I struck. The next roach did not test the elastic either.

The next bite proved to me that I should have adjusted the elastic, striking into a good fish, maybe a crucian, or a roach that bounced deep under the pole, bending the top, but not extending the elastic. Laying the pole over to one side, I began steadily working it back to me along the bank, due to bushes behind. It came off the size 18 barbless. The elastic seemed free enough, pulling it through the tip by hand, but being already stretched over its metre length, it was obviously too tight. I carried out a quick bankside mod by removing the top two telescopic tips, sliding out the top and removing the elastic bung in the end with the orange No 5 elastic attached and unhooked it. Cutting a spare piece of blue No 6 elastic, I formed a loop, passed it through the orange loop to pull back and reattach the linked pieces to the hook. This has relieved the tension by 40 mm. If I feel that I need even less tension, I can add a longer loop of blue.

I carry a screw in my tackle box, which acts as a handy extractor that fits into the end of the bung.

Back to the fishing. The wind had increased and holding the pole against the crosswind was hard work, while the ripples made bite detection an all or nothing affair.

The next roach stayed on, the elastic coming out a couple of inches on the strike. More adjustment was needed, but not today. My fingers were now cold, the temperature having dropped further as the wind swept across the Big Pond. There were now only two of us left on the water, the others seeing sense and retreating home. Deciding to give it another hour, I fed two more tight balls of the spice mix and dropped the rig in over it.

The bite, when it came, sank slowly, taking the last metre of line to the float with it. I struck and the elastic stayed down. Thud, thud. This felt like a decent skimmer, the pole tip following the elastic as the fish fought back. I lowered the pole, bringing it round parallel with the bank, feeding it through my fingers, until I reached the top two. The elastic was out of the tip with the weight, while responding to the dogged fight. By now the skimmer was on the surface and slid into my landing net. The hook dropped out in the net. The elastic had done its work.

This skimmer had been worth the wait. A couple more roach followed and stayed on, but I also missed a couple of unmissable bites, where the float sank slowly out of sight and I braced for a decent fish, only to see a bare hook. Lack of practice?

Another unmissable saw the elastic out again, that thudding fight taking the fish out toward the middle before the elastic brought it back, a better skimmer bream rolling several times on the surface, as I eased it to my bank and the net.

Again the hook came out in the net, this fish just hooked in the skin of the mouth. I kept going for a little longer, but pleasure fishing is supposed to be just that, I have endured too many Winter League matches, where points are everything and the smallest gudgeon can make a difference to your team’s result. I don’t need to do that anymore and after this last roach, I packed up.

It was hard to judge the amount of feed needed, probably feeding no more than 6 oz of liquidised bread, plus a sprinkling of flavouring, double punching with the 4 mm punch to conceal the size 18 hook. A 20 may have been better.

On a cold blustery day the two skimmer bream saved the day and I look forward to my next visit, when I hope that the tench and crucians will be in feeding mood.

Roach and rudd shine at Braybrooke

April 1, 2021 at 8:12 pm

A week of  warm weather had transformed fish activity at my local Jeanes’s Pond at Braybrooke Recreation Ground late in the afternoon this week, with the surface alive with topping fish. Having fished only ten days before and found the fishing hard, but rewarding with some decent roach on a size 18 hook and 4 mm bread punch, I was hoping for some early tench and crucian action, plus maybe a bonus carp, or two.

Setting up a 4 x 16 antenna float rig to a size 16 hook, I plumbed the depth to find the 3 ft shelf dropping away to 4 ft with the pole at 3 metres. Mixing up about 4 oz of heavy liquidised bread with a liberal sprinkling of halibut micropellets, I damped the lot down and plopped in four balls between three and four metres out, watching them fall through quickly to the bottom. Starting with a 6 mm pellet of bread at three metres there was a bite first cast with a sail away from a small rudd.

A few more like this and smaller, saw me bulking the shot 15 inches from the hook, with the float deepened for the bait to rest on the bottom in an attempt to get away from the small stuff. It didn’t work, there was a layer of small rudd that intercepted the bread as it sped to the bottom. The float would bob up, I would lift then make contact half way up, these small fish gorging the hook in seconds.

I decided to scrape together my remaining feed and put it in, while throwing in a couple of decoy balls of lighter straight liquidised bread out further to take away many of the smaller fish. This seemed to work, as although I was now waiting longer for a bite to develope, they were generally better rudd.

Roach had moved in on the feed on the 4 metre line, the bites when they came being more positive.

 

By now it was obvious to me and the other three anglers, that we were still too early for tench and carp. At least I was getting bites and the occasional net roach. I continued, they packed up.

In under three hours I had knocked out about 50 silvers, roach and rudd, the bread punch bringing a steady flow of bites.

 

Fussy roach respond to bread punch at Braybrooke

March 23, 2021 at 9:01 pm

Spring had finally arrived this week, when I arrived at Jeanes Pond for a few hours of afternoon sun trying to coax a few bites out of the resident roach, following some harsh winter months so far this year. I was not very optimistic following a report of a friend, who had persevered for five hours, trying all he knew to put half a dozen fish in his net the previous week.

Set in the middle of a large housing estate, Braybrooke Recreation Ground had its fair share of local residents taking the air and enjoying the first warm day this year. As I set out my stall on the bank, I scanned the surface for signs of life, but the lack of topping fish made me think that I was still too early. I decided that a small size 18 hook with a 5 mm punch, to a lightweight 4 x 14 antenna float was the way to start, with only the minimum of fine sieved liquidised bread feed. There was a gentle breeze blowing into my bank and I assumed that the warmed surface would thermocycle down from my bank. That’s the theory anyway and on a potentially hard session, it’s good to have a bit of science on your side.

I started off with just a handful of plain liquidised crumb in my bait tray, damping it down enough to pinch together. Plumbing the depth, I found 3 feet close in dropping to 4 feet, 6 feet out and opted to fish with just the top two sections of pole, dropping a 20 mm ball of bread in at two metres, watching it fall quickly through the cloud to the bottom. Last year this pond had been plagued by tiny roach and rudd and no bites were preferable to a net of them.

Swinging the float out in line with the feed, the breeze drifted the float slowly back to my bank without any sign of a bite. I had set the float to fish six inches off bottom at two metres, expecting it ground on the bottom a meter out, which it did, giving me a brief flutter of excitement, when I mistook the dip of the float as a bite. Two or three casts later, a tell tale ring radiated from the antenna. Now, that was a bite! The float dipped and dithered, then held and I struck. Missed it. This time a bite straight away, that held and bobbed, before slowly sinking. Missed again. Maybe the punch was too big? I got out my 4 mm punch and pushed the pellet round the bend in the hook. My last outing was on the river after chub using a 7 mm punch, this 4 mm looked minute, even on a size 18 hook. Next cast, a more positive bite and I hooked something. A small rudd.

Not too bad. At least it was a fish after ten minutes. Next cast the float sat, then sank slowly. I was in again. this time a small roach.

At least there was life beneath the surface, albeit small. The smaller punch was working, the fish just sucking the bait, being hooked in the top, or bottom lip. With ten small silvers in the net, I ventured in another small ball of feed. The fish were freezing to the touch and I guessed more curious than hungry and didn’t want to feed them off. A slow bite that half pulled under and I was playing something decent, that was fighting deep, boiling the surface with turbulence and bouncing out the elastic. The net was out and a proper roach was guided in.

This is what I had come for, the small stuff was the scouting party and I hoped for more of the quality fish. This had come from less than a metre out, right on the bottom and I added another 3 inches to the depth, while putting in another small ball of feed off the end of my top two. A couple more scouts and the float eased down, lifting into another pole bender, that flashed in the sunlight.

This time a rudd, showing signs of damage from a pike, scales and some of the tail missing. Pike of all sizes inhabit this pond and I expect to encounter one taking my fish on every visit. The bites were slow to develope, but the fish were growing in size, so I wasn’t complaining.

Another clonker that fought like the clappers on the lightweight rig, the tiny offering of bait the answer.

The sun was now hot, boosted by the blinding reflection, which forced me to start a new feed area as the sun moved round. Feeding two metres to the right, the small stuff was back again for a while, until I was playing a better roach again.

I was now feeling overdressed, having been caught out too many times this year, that extra jumper was now being regretted, but the fish were still coming to the net and time would be lost taking it off.

This roach had a strange blister on it’s head, but still fought well. The bites were now really slow to develope, the wind had dropped completely and the float would sit for several minutes before the first tell tale dip of the float began to grow into something to strike at. I missed a few of these bites due to impatience, but they were worth the wait.

The local primary school had now chucked out and noisy gangs of eight year olds were chasing around the banks, “Where are you running to?” one chasing group shouted to the leader “I don’t know. Follow me!” he screamed. The peace was shattered. Another group found logs that had been removed from the pond and began throwing them back in.”Oiy!” I shouted. A pause and the logs continued.

I decided to pack up after my next fish, another roach this one also with part of the tail missing.

Another nice roach apart from the missing tail and scale drop that seems to be common on the better fish now. It used to be on the rudd, but now the roach have it too.

“Whatcha caught Mister. Come and see what this Man has caught” The crowd gathered. Fame at Last.

A very satisfying net of roach, when I was expecting a hard time.

 

 

 

River Whitewater work party progress

March 21, 2021 at 1:42 pm

With only a couple of weeks before the 2021 trout flyfishing season opens on the River Whitewater, members of Farnborough and District AS were busy this weekend getting their three mile stretch of the Hampshire chalk stream ready.

The team split in two, half clearing the banks and trimming back over hanging trees, while others carried out much needed work constructing a safe bridge over a steep sided, often water filled drainage ditch.

Early in the day, a hen mallard flew out from the bankside undergrowth as it was being cleared, revealing a nest with a dozen eggs.

Work stopped on this section of bank and the mallard was soon back on her clutch of  eggs.

The Farnborough club engaged a commercial crayfish fisherman last year, who has been been setting nets along the river, at one time collecting 50 kilos a week. Several nets were in place along this stretch, one that we examined having over a dozen large signal crayfish trapped waiting for collection.

It is hoped that once the numbers of this invasive species are under control, the wild trout spawn will have a chance to develope and grow. When I first joined the flyfishing section of the club, juvenile wild brown trout were present in large numbers, often at nuisance levels, but now they are a rare, but welcome sight. To complement the wild trout population, the club will be stocking a limited number of triploid brown trout throughout their section of the river.

Walking downstream to view the new bridge, the farmer had been busy adding to his stock of wood for sale, while also erecting 300 yards of cattle fence, again without consultation with the club, who have held the riparian fishing rights to this water for over 50 years. If he had consulted the club, we would have asked for the inclusion of a couple of access gates through the barbed wire fence, now we will have to wade across the river, or approach form downstream at the stile. The only good thing about the fence is that it will keep the boisterous young bullocks, that are brought on at the farm, well away from the anglers.

The new bridge at the stile was a work of agricultural art, with heavyweight railway sleepers bedded down into the ground over the ditch.

I can testify that the new sleepers are firmly held in place by steel brackets, while a wire mesh covers the woodwork giving a non slip surface. This ditch has ben a problem for years. Too wide to jump, with sides too steep and slippery to climb. The Farnborough club’s new management team are to be congratulated for their enthusiasm and ongoing improvements, which will result in a better angling experience for the paying members.

 

 

Bread punch crucians and rudd blow away the Lockdown Blues

March 3, 2021 at 5:30 pm

With news that the Lockdown travel restrictions are to continue for months to come, a few enquiries confirmed that nowhere local was fishing due to the continued cold weather. I had experienced this the previous week on my local river, when I struggled to connect with fish, bites being reduced to nibbles. Scaling down to a size twenty hook and 4mm punch of bread, while putting an extra shot under the stick float, had given me something to strike at, but my tally after an hour was five tiny roach, two sticklebacks and an old sock. I packed up and returned home. The same swim a year before had put several chub to over a pound, with quality roach in my net.

Frosty mornings and glorious afternoons have become the norm lately and with the mist beginning to lift this week after lunch, I decided to try the pond within walking distance of my home, although the gloomy responses from a couple of other anglers around the pond did not lift my hopes.

I settled myself down at the top end of the pond and made up a shallow mix of feed, just 4 oz of liquidised bread, dusted with ground carp pellets and a red spice additive. The pond is about two feet deep above mud and a sloppy feed works well here. There is a post that sticks up in line with the pole line and I fed several small balls my side of it. I set up a cut down waggler rig that only takes three No 4 shot, with a size 16 hook and a 6mm punch of bread and cast in. The float went down immediately and a small rudd was swung to hand.

This was already an improvement on my expectations and several rudd later there was a solid resistance on the strike and a small crucian carp was skidding across the surface toward the landing net.

More rudd, then a big gudgeon cartwheeled toward the net. This pond is so shallow, that most fish break the surface when hooked.

These gudgeon are massive, a remnant of the days when a brook ran through the pond, the brook culverted away, but flowing through in times of flood, the pond acting as a balance pond.  The float kept going under with more rudd slideaways, while a bobbing bite produced crucian number two.

More feed brought a flurry of gudgeon, each one a couple of ounces and out fighting the rudd.

These gudgeon seem to have taken over from the small tench that were almost a nuisance a few years ago. Just when they were getting to a decent size, they disappeared. Maybe they are feasting on bloodworm all day and are no longer interested my bread, hopefully to reappear as two pounders in the future.

This was my last crucian, I had put in the last of my feed and pinprick bubbles appeared around my float before I lifted into this little battler. Putting the float back over the bubbles, an even bigger gudgeon took the punched bread, giving a good impression of a crucian as it scudded across the bottom.

I reckon this one was at least three ounces, maybe there is a record to be caught in this pond?

A chilling east wind now began to ruffle the surface along the pond toward me and bites became difficult to spot, watching the line at the pole tip being the best indicator, the rudd moving off with the bait.

The wind dropped again, but so did the temperature, the pond going to flat calm as mist began to form over the surface. The other anglers had left already and decided that I would have one last cast, the float slowly sinking away, to be met by an eruption on the strike as a good fish fought back hard. I thought that it was a better crucian and was surprised to see a good rudd come to the surface at the landing net.

I now gave it another fifteen minutes, just in case there were a few more decent fish around, but his small rudd was my last fish.

  The bites were still coming, but I had had my fun, the bread punch again finding plenty of fish.

From this swim in February a few years ago, I had over 20 lb of common and crucian carp, but that had been a very mild winter, this year I was happy for small mercies and went home with a smile on my face.

Looking forward to a complete 2021 trout fishing season

February 28, 2021 at 4:56 pm

A bright, but frosty morning greeted second planned River Whitewater work party of the year this weekend, the first having been cancelled due to a local Covid 19 outbreak. Our first sight of the Hampshire trout stream brought a shock. The farmer had cut down the riverside alders downstream of the farm bridge, extending down to the copse.

As we had passed through the yard, we had seen crates of freshly cut logs ready to be put in a barn for drying out, fuel for the ever growing domestic wood burner trade, now part of the farm’s regular income. The Farnborough club have the riparian fishing rights over this water, but the farmer does what he likes on the banks, including fences. I just hope that he leaves the stumps where they are to sprout new growth and offer bolt holes for the trout. More light getting through to the riverbed, will also help weed growth and provide cover.

These images were taken before last season, this one up to the bridge.

This image was from the copse looking back to the farm. All these alders are gone.

We can only look forward and plans are already underway to transplant ranunculus weed from a lower section of the river into what is now barren gravel.

From the farm bridge we walked upstream to begin clearing the banks, while cutting back far bank  brambles and overhanging branches, that had claimed flies during last year’s shortened season. It was good to see that the wild trout population had been busy creating spawning redds along the riverbed at intervals. We hope that the efforts of a couple of commercial crayfish trappers will have had an effect on the chances of the juvenile wild stock, with reports of 50 kilo hauls of signals a week up to the autumn.

This area benefitted from a much needed trim, with far bank branches and brambles cut back hard along the deep run that spills out from a deep pool top centre of this image.

Cutting back this bank was hot, back breaking work in the late February sunshine, but team work cleared the area ready for the new season, while with the aid of chest waders, the far bank head of the pool was made more accessible to a cast fly.

This pool has held several good fish for me in the past, including the over wintered beauty below.

In three hours, dead trees washed down by the floods had been removed, access points to the river improved and banks cleared, but more important was the fact that we have a fresh start to look forward to following a year of uncertainty.

Spring sunshine in the English countryside. What more could you want?

 

Quality roach queue up for the bread punch at the weir

February 16, 2021 at 4:03 pm

Floods, then a big freeze have kept me away from the bankside for nearly a month and after a mild, dry morning, I went in search of roach on my local river Cut this week. Usually a good bet for roach is a weir, where water from the town water treatment works discharges into the river. I tried to reach this swim a few weeks ago, but the river was over the banks and running along the road. Now it looked perfect.

This swim usually has a powerful back eddy pushing upstream, but today there was a defined narrow crease running back toward the weir under the tree stump. This is where the roach lie and after a few balls of liquidised bread slightly up stream of me, I followed down with the float to the crease, the float sank and I lifted. It was solid, a snag was lying downstream of the stump. I pulled until the hook link broke, getting my float back. Not a good start. I now noticed a float caught in the crease above the stump. I was not the first.

I looped on another size 16 hook to my 6 No 4 ali stick rig and started again, the bait just tripping bottom. I had fed a couple more balls just upstream, this time further across to avoid the snag and first trot I held back just as the float reached the crease, the float giving a bob, then sinking. This time it was a good roach, that surfaced, before rushing round the pool, eventually turning on its side to slide over to the landing net.

Following another ball of feed, the float held, then went under before it reached the crease. Again a battling roach dashed back to the foam, before being brought upstream to the landing net, which from the high bank was a stretch, even with the 3 metre landing net, using my foot to support the weight as I brought it up to my box.

Bigger than the first, it was only lightly hooked and wondered if the roach were just sucking at the 6 mm pellet of punch. To draw the shoal from the crease I kept small balls of feed going in upstream of me, which seemed to work, as the float dragged under once the float had settled and I was playing a quality roach under my rod top, backwinding to ease the pressure on the hook, which was just as well as it dropped out in the landing net.

Three quality roach in five casts and I was feeling pretty pleased with myself, when I followed a bite too far into the crease and I was snagged up again, losing another hook. I usually carry a few ready tied hooks of each size from 14 to 20 and I looped on my last size 16. The flow from the outfall had increased and the eddy was pulling the float closer to the stump, the hot spot catching my hook six feet away and guessed that the floods had lodged a big branch down there, which I would not shift with my 3 lb hook link.

To cope with the increased flow, I raised the float by six inches to hold back harder, inching the float to the edge of the crease; bites were still fussy, but a strike to a slight hold down brought contact and another rod thumping roach.

It was difficult to keep the float away from the snag, knowing that six inches either way would be a fish, or another lost hook. Bites tended to develope a few feet from the snag and it was tempting to strike early, sometimes I missed, some I bumped, while others I hooked.

Sorry for the blurred image, but it was still a good fish.

This roach was swollen with spawn.

My next fish was a surprise skimmer bream, which took on the drop and moved off at speed. Thinking that it was a chub at first, by the surging fight on contact that took it dangerously close to the tree, I hauled back putting a good bend in the rod, before it changed tack and headed for the opposite bank and surfaced.

I have had bream of over a pound from this swim in the past, but this is the first for some years.

Shortly after the skimmer, the snag claimed another hook and I was down to size 18s and lost the next good roach, when I tried to keep it out of the snag.

The fish were safe where they were in relatively calm water with plenty food coming their way, while I caught the occasional one, that was tempted out by the fluttering piece of punched bread.

These were all quality roach and I wondered what had happened to the gudgeon and small chub that usually steal my bait.

How did this roach stay on, the hook just in the skin of the lip.

This was my last fish of the afternoon, yet another clonker roach that ran out into the foaming weir race, while my 14 foot Browning took the shocks of its pounding fight, my back beginning to ache from the constant leaning out to reach them with the landing net, the hook holds too light to chance swinging them in, this one proving me right, when the hook dropped out in the net.

A chub and a hook lost while trotting along the brambles opposite, was the decider for me to pack up early and hope that someone armed with a grappling hook will do the honours on that snag.