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Busheyleaze Trout Fishery, Letchlade

December 15, 2012 at 5:38 pm

Following an invite to join two friends on a visit to Busheyleaze Trout Fishery at Letchlade  on Wednesday, it was too easy to make my excuses and say no. Probably the coldest day yet, with frost from the previous day still coating my car windscreen and covering the lawn, I shook my head in disbelief as I switch off my phone. They must be desperate.

The pair arrived at 10:30 am to find the lake half  frozen with frost coating the trees, joining a few other optimists at the water’s edge. Buying a half-day, three fish ticket each, they started out in front of the lodge, Pete using an Orange Blob and Ken with a Blue Flash Damsel, retrieved with a slow figure of eight. Very light takes and a few rainbows lost suggested a static offering was needed, so Ken set up with a Bloodworm under an indicator and soon had a five pound rainbow in the net. Pete followed suit and despite iced up rod rings, banked a four pounder. Ken was the first to reach his limit and posed for a picture to prove a point; you can still catch, even when the ground is frozen solid.

Pete’s limit followed shortly after, another four pound rainbow making a run for it beneath a sheet of ice, before being steered to the waiting net. I still think that they were crazy to go, knowing the conditions they faced, but hey, that’s fishermen.

 

Roach Therapy

December 12, 2012 at 3:51 pm

Fishing a five hour canal match in December is no compensation for the loss of flyfishing from your life for a few months, but having signed up for a canal match series in warmer times and gained enough points to put me in second place overall, I arrived at the Basingstoke canal with some optimism on Sunday.

After toiling to my peg with a puncture in one of my trolley tyres, I found myself next to my championship rival. A battle of the giants. We wished. My killer method is the bread punch, fished on a carbon pole over small balls of liquidized bread, one of the secrets being able to judge just how much to feed, too much and they won’t take the small punched pellet of bread bait, too little and the shoal will disperse. I always start off without feed and begin to feed the bread depending on the number of fish, usually roach, taken in the first few minutes. Lets just say that it was twenty five minutes before my bristle float, rotated and dipped a fraction of an inch and held. A lift of the pole and a two ounce roach broke my duck. Not good. My rival was still without a bite and others along the bank were studying their floats intently, so I put in another small ball and fished over it. Nothing. That little roach felt cold in my near frozen fingers, which if I hadn’t already guessed it, was a sign of a hard match to come. The carp family of fish, to which the roach belongs, go dormant below a certain temperature, time to try another method.

I changed my pole rig and put a worm tail on the hook, the float sinking out of sight before it got a chance to cock. A small perch. Good. Being a predator evolved from colder climes, perch will feed under six feet of ice, so on went another worm and another little perch was in the keep net. About this time my rival made a shout of approval, as he finally struck into his first fish. Bad news, his landing net was out to net a good roach. Probably more weight than my fish together. So we continued, until the final 90 minutes, when any sign of a bite dried up. The whistle blew at last to end the competition. We were out of the money, but I needed a lot more weight to have pulled ahead in the points. No chance, he had half an ounce more and was still ahead. Knowing I can’t fish one of the matches due to my MG Owners club’s New Year Lunch, my wife’s favourite event, that’s me out of the running for another year, unless I win all the other matches and he blanks.

After a hard match, when you begin to doubt your ability to catch fish, it’s good to go somewhere that you can bag up, so Monday afternoon saw me on the banks of a tiny river that runs through a park near my home, armed with the remains of my bread bait not used on Sunday’s match. Fed by two streams, one from the local water treatment works, the river is always warm and has a good head of roach. Just what I needed to get rid of my canal blues. I set up with a light stick float,  lobbed a ball of liquidized bread over towards the far bank and trotted down with the current. A couple of yards and the float bobbed before cruising off to the side, as a small chub intercepted the bread punch pellet. No need for the net, another cast, another small chub, this time eight ounces, put a good bend in my rod making a run for the tree roots opposite. The river here is only about two feet deep, but the fish are invisible, until you set the hook with a flash of silver. Another ball of feed and the roach began to line up for the bait, mixed with the odd rudd, or skimmer bream. A lady walking her dog stopped to watch, saying that she didn’t realize there were fish in the river and stayed to chat. With every fish, the lady’s little Jack Russell got excited, barking and pulling at it’s lead, until she bade her farewell. I was now able to concentrate on the job in hand, banishing Sunday’s match from my mind.  The fish  slowed down after a hectic two hours and I pulled my keep net out to reveal a decent haul of silver fish, the bright red fins of the roach and rudd standing out in the cold light. Wish I’d had this lot yesterday.

Cold Comfort

December 9, 2012 at 8:06 pm

My plan this week was to bother the jack pike, that had given me grief on a coarse fishing match the previous weekend, where several roach were snatched before they reached the net.  I went out on a bright morning, armed with my favourite plug, only to be disappointed. The canal was frozen over!

I returned home, as my wife was planning a shopping trip to our old local town and decided to cadge a lift to a small landlocked horse field, where I have permission to shoot, but rarely visit due to the lack of parking. It is flanked by the car park of a large central hospital, which is always full and by large houses backing onto the fields with no parking at all. Access is down a private lane, leading to a footpath, then into the field. The lease holder has car access to the field, I have to walk from wherever I can park.

Dropped off at the bottom of the lane, we decided on a time for my pick up, based on the two hours free parking in town. Twenty minutes later I’d reached my stake out point with a view along a blackthorn covered warren.

With the HMR set on it’s tri-pod, I scanned through the scope, an area in the lea of the now cold north wind and spotted a couple of sun bathing rabbits. I took the first shot at 60 yards and swung round to pick off the second at around 120. Job done. I waited another twenty minutes, but no more shows, so went over and picked up the two bucks. With the website in mind,  I’d taken my camera and posed the two rabbits alongside my rifle, the low sun giving a good contrast. Click. Beep. The battery was dead. Very annoying, as I’d taken an extra picture of the warren before this. With the carcasses skinned and cleaned and nothing coming out to play, another warren further along looked promising, but the sun was sinking below the trees and the wind getting stronger, not ideal for bunnies, despite their fur coats.

Time to go. The temperature was dropping like a stone, reminding me it was early December, as I made my way back to the footpath. A dozen pigeons were grazing, passing within 30 yards, before they clattered up and away. A shot would have been easy, but the HMR would have just left a pile of feathers. Further on a muntjac deer picked it’s way through the undergrowth, stopping to look at the strange camo clad figure trudging towards it, then making off with a flash of white tail. Ten minutes early for my pick up, which was a first, a stile provided a welcome seat, while I waited … and waited. Now my wife was twenty minutes late and the chill was creeping in. Another five minutes and I rang her. She was still shopping. The car parking had been extended to three hours, maybe she should have rung? Hrumf. Good job it wasn’t all day parking!

CZ 452 Varmint .17 HMR Rimfire

December 7, 2012 at 9:02 pm

 

The CZ 452 Varmint .17 HMR  is my most accurate and powerful rifle. Mine has a 16 inch barrel and a trigger mod to ease the trigger pressure. Necessity forced me to purchase this rifle. When I began shooting over the various farms and pieces of land that I cover, the majority had never been shot over and the rabbits were running and breeding free, undermining trees, pathways, destroying crops and grasslands. In those days, I was able to consistently take four, or five rabbits per visit where ever I shot, using my Webley Viper at ranges up to 35 yards, due to their lack of fear of humans. I learned where the rabbits would be and could stalk within range with ease.

Some of the farms are open with hedgerows and it didn’t take long for the rabbits to slip back into the safety of their burrows once I got within a hundred yards. A much more powerful rifle was needed. HMR stands for Hornady Magnum Round, a .17 calibre copper jacketed round with a ballistic plastic tip, mounted on a .22 Magnum rimfire case. The small calibre bore accelerates the 17 grain bullet to supersonic speeds which equate to 245 ft lb muzzle pressure, which when compared to the legal air rifle limit of 12 ft lb at the muzzle, illustrates the power of this round. The bullet is pointed and spins at such a rate, that it’s gyroscopic effect is to keep it on a flat trajectory. When setting the 4 – 12 x 42 scope sights of mine on a still summer’s day, I was amazed at it’s performance. Dead on at 100 yards, at 120 yards the bullet only dropped about 10 mm. At 200 yards it drops 4 four inches. With the range of this rifle a decent scope with a parallax front ring is vital. My best shot to  date was a rabbit sitting up,  estimated about 200 yards away. I aimed between the ears near the top. I fired and thought I’d missed due to the delay, but then it jumped and fell over, shot in the back of the neck. I paced it out at 186 paces.  Accuracy at this level can not be repeated, even in relatively light winds. On the day mentioned earlier, when setting up my sights, a slight head wind started up and those 120 yard 10 mm groups opened up to 30 mm. Still fantastic though.

 I shoot with my HMR off a bipod in the prone position, as it is quite front heavy, due to the 20 mm dia tapering varmint barrel, but I do take shots to hand, usually at close range targets, knowing that if the cross hairs are on, then the target will be hit. The negative of this round is that there is a terrific percussion within the animal, any mid body shot will destroy the meat. Side head shots are a must, a head on shot will usually travel the length of a rabbit’s body and exit out the back, often breaking a leg as it does so. Corvids, very hardy, tough birds are no match for this bullet and often appear to explode on contact. For this reason, I would not shoot pigeons with this rifle, as it is a waste of very good meat.

This HMR is the perfect tool for pest control, a recent request by a farmer to shoot the rabbits on a grazing field saw me run out of ammo. I usually take about twenty five bullets, two clips of five plus more in a plastic case, more than enough I thought. I’d shot a few as I’d walked the field edge, then saw the main warren, where the grass had been turned into a dust bowl, by the root gnawing vermin.  I got down into a comfortable prone position along a hedgerow, with a full view of  the area and began picking them off at ranges between 100 and 150 yards. At this distance the muzzle report is muted, most of the “crack” going out to the sides from the supersonic bullet, the head on blast being absorbed by the silencer. Rabbits will usually continue feeding, while those around them leap up and drop and this was the case here, although towards the end of the session, which lasted about five minutes, a few were running about in confusion. I was reminded of film of the Somme, the bolt being worked, another clip fitted, reloading, etc. The final tally was nineteen, due to a few missed moving shots and a couple of extras to make sure.

 

Magtech 7022 (Mossberg 702) .22 Semi Automatic Rimfire

December 7, 2012 at 8:51 pm

The Magtech 7022, or Mossberg 702 “plinkster” as it is known in the US, was my first rimfire rifle. I’ve seen this rifle for sale in the children’s section of sporting gunshops in the US and sells for well under $100 USD. I paid £100 in the UK for mine, although by the time I’d added a scope and a couple of spare ten bullet magazines with 500 Magtech subsonic hollow points, the price was nearer £200. The rifle is very light, around 4 lb, which has pros and cons. The plastic stock and pistol grip give a confident feel to the little semi auto, but the trigger pull is very long with little feel and I have found myself thinking of the trigger, without concentrating on the target and missing, or due to it’s light weight, pulling to the right. This can all be cured with plenty of target practice, while a shooting stick, or bi-pod help.  I also glued a strip of neoprene rubber to the butt to prevent it slipping against my shoulder.

To improve the feel of the trigger, I removed the trigger assembly by pushing out the two 5 mm pins and pulling it out of the bottom of the rifle.  Looking down from the top with the trigger released, you can see the ground trigger catch plate, part of the bolt hammer. On my rifle this appeared quite coarse and with a thin screw driver, applied a smear of fine valve grinding paste to it, then cocked and released the trigger. The grinding paste is wiped off by it’s mating part, when the trigger catches. I also added paste to the arm that lifts the hammer to release it, this being a rough stamping and adding to the gravelly feeling of the trigger. An hour of constant cock and release (can be done in front of the TV) of this mechanism produced much smoother surfaces on these parts and a noticeable improvement in the feel of the trigger pull. Afterwards I washed the assembly out with white spirit and gave it a good spray with carb cleaner before oiling.

The Magtech subsonics were not ideal in this rifle, probably due to inconsistent loading of the bullet charges. Some would not fire at all, while others were zingers. With a semi auto a good charge is needed, or the firing pin will not be returned fast enough to miss the new unfired bullet entering the chamber, which will then jam the mechanism. These could usually be cleared by  working back and forth with the cocking lever, but sometimes the fresh bullet would bend and need to be prized out with a small screwdriver. Not a safe operation. Despite regular stripping and cleaning, all these problems were solved by switching to Eley subsonics, a much cleaner bullet, that did not leave the same gritty deposits of the Magtech bullets. I did side by side range tests with these bullets at 70 yards, the Magtechs producing an elongated oval top to bottom, showing a variation in power, while the Eley subs gave a more circular shape. At that range the circle was about 30 mm dia with a few outside, possibly down to the shooter. Firing a 40 grain bullet, this is enough to stop any rabbit in it’s tracks, the target area switching from head to chest area, a big target at that range. If you do miss, you’ve got another nine shots to go. 

 A negative feature of the 40 grain subsonic hollow point bullet, with it’s low 1030 ft/sec velocity, is it’s looping trajectory, when shooting at range, rising around two inches at fifty yards to drop into it’s target at 75 yards. I’ve used this to my advantage several times, when long grass obscures all but the twitching ears of a rabbit. A shot aimed into the grass below the ears, will see the bullet rise over the grass initially, before dropping with a smack into it’s head. A bit like using a catapult. A 3 – 9 x 50 scope is fitted to the Magtech and gives a clear image in low light and when hunting in darkness with a lamp for rabbits and foxes. For foxes I have a ten round clip with Remington high velocity Yellow Jacket hollow point cartidges, which I have marked with bright yellow paint for quick, easy identification.

 This rifle decimated a warren that had ruined acres of  land belonging to one of my farmers. The warren was in discarded slabs of tarmac and concrete on council land adjacent to his field, the rabbits passing through the fence onto his land to feast on his crops and dig up roots. The first I saw of it was at twilight and as I entered the field, the ground ahead became a moving mass of grey making for the exit, tumbling over themselves at the fence. I had some success, but the farmer came up with the winning plan. He dumped a long line of composted straw, parallel with the fence  30 yards out, about 4 ft high, which gave me cover when entering the field from the lower end, from where I could pop up and start firing. Point and fire chest shots had a 60% instant success, another clip and more fell, the last clip to finish off. At this time I had two butchers and a couple of pubs to supply, while friends were also filling their freezers. A local resident complained that it sounded like the Wild West. To me it was a one sided OK Coral. That field now has virtually been cleared over the years, what was left of the warren moving on to safer pastures. The economics of that field no longer add up for me, but I return a couple of times a year to mop up survivors, as a good will gesture.

Shin Sung Career 707 .22 Carbine (PCP)

December 7, 2012 at 8:46 pm

 

The Shin Sung Career 707 .22 carbine has the potential to be the most powerful air rifle available. In the UK the transfer port fitted was only 1mm dia to meet the legal 12 ft lb legal limit. This is easily reached by removing the barrel and can be opened up without any special equipment. When I bought mine, as a kit of parts, the transfer port had been drilled out to 5mm, which would have given around 80 ft lbs. Coupled with the now banned air bullet, which was designed for the rifle, a lethal weapon could be produced. In Asia these weapons are used to shoot large tree monkeys. Having a Firearms Certificate, my Career is fitted with a 2.5mm dia transfer port, which rates it at 28 ft lbs and is a registered firearm.

I bought this rifle for it’s accuracy at range, safely dispatching a rabbit at 50 yards. While owning rimfire rifles, a couple of my landowners only wanted air weapons used on their land and having thinned out the rabbit populations to some extent, getting within shooting range was becoming more difficult. It has also proved it’s worth on roosted pigeons, magpies and crows,  being the safe option in an urban environment, as the air pellet quickly loses velocity and falls to earth.

There is a pellet stop for the magazine, which holds up to ten standard length pellets. If using a longer pellet, such as my preferred 21 grain Bisley Magnum, then the stop will have to be adjusted to suit and can be quite fiddly to get right. If it is too short, the loading pawl will cut the end of the pellet skirt off, jamming the gun, or if too long, the dome of the next pellet will be sheered off, jamming the gun. This has happened to me a few times, when carrying a mix of different pellets in my pocket. Once it happens, the scope rail has to be removed to release the cover and access the loading mechanism, which is a series of levers, operated by the under lever trigger and guard. This means, stop shooting and go home, as it is too complicated to carry out in the field, needing a number of special tools.

My 707 came fitted with a silencer, which screws onto a non standard 10 mm thread. Due to the 28 ft lb blast of air coming from the barrel, there is quite a crack, when the rifle is fired. I have mellowed this a bit by modifying the baffle shapes. With the pellet travelling at around 900 ft/sec, this does not worry the target, as it’s usually dead, but it can cause a bit of panic among the other ranks. A top quality Walther 3-9 x 40 scope came with the Career, the front parallax ring an aid when range finding and setting the scope sights. I focus, say on a barbed wire fence where you expect rabbits to appear, then read off the setting on the scope. If you have you have already done range tests over known distances against the scope parallax, you will have a good idea of how much hold over is required. With the Career 707 I did range test out to 70 yards and have had several kills at that range with the rifle rested.

The Career 707 carbine is a solid chunky rifle, which is easy to point and shoot, although my rifle only delivers about ten full power shots at 28 ft lb, before the  air pressure gauge starts to drop. On most outings this is not a problem, as shooting opportunities are limited on a two hour walk round. Once again, range tests can give a good idea of hold over required equated to air pressure on the gauge.

 

Webley Venom Viper .22 Carbine (PCP)

December 7, 2012 at 8:42 pm

The Webley Viper Venom is a precharged pneumatic legal limit air rifle in .22 calibre. This was one of the last rifles produced by Webley before going into receivership and in my opinion, one of the best made. It is basically a carbine version of the acclaimed Webley Raider, benefiting from a shorter Walther barrel, fitted with a silencing shroud. In use I found the silencing inefficient and modified the screwed in end cap on my lathe, to take a light weight plastic silencer. The report on firing is now inaudible beyond ten yards, which means more chance of a second shot. On one occasion, I had set out pigeon decoys, with sweet corn as bait to keep the birds on the ground and managed to shoot five from a down wind hide before they took flight. This did highlight one deficiency of the Viper, a two shot shuttle magazine, which had me frantically feeding    pellets, having to take my eyes off the pigeons, while I reloaded the shuttle. An upgrade was available later, a ten shot rotary magazine, intended for the Raider, fitting straight in, but the original set up worked OK for me. What ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Fitted with an inexpensive 9-3 x40 scope, the Viper accounted for over two hundred rabbits in my first year on a couple of infested farms. The rifle comes up to the shoulder easily and presents a steady shooting platform, allowing accurate kills out to thirty yards, while from rest, forty yard head shots were successful, although at that range a drop of three inches had to be allowed, when using Bisley Magnums.

This rifle operates on the precharged system. A pump, or on my case, a small diver’s bottle is used to deliver pressurised air through an inlet port to charge the air cylinder. A bolt is pulled back , carrying a spring loaded hammer with it, cocking the trigger and also the pellet probe is withdrawn, allowing the shuttle to align a pellet with the barrel. The bolt is then moved forward, the probe pushing the pellet in position ahead of the transfer port. When the trigger is pulled, the spring loaded hammer is released, which pushes a valve forward, it’s drilling aligning with the transfer port, momentarily allowing air to pass at speed through the port, to enter the barrel behind the pellet. The probe seals the rear end of the barrel, so the pellet accelerates along the rifled barrel to it’s exit. Due to the light spring acting on the hammer, there is little mechanical noise and even less vibration, resulting in very accurate shots every time. The cylinder holds enough pressure for about forty shots.

CZ Relum .177 (springer)

December 2, 2012 at 5:28 pm

My first rifle the .177 Relum was bought brand new in the ’60’s for £7 from a high street store that seemed to sell everything. I wanted a .22, but they were out of stock and being made in Czechoslovakia, I was told by the sales girl, that there could be a long wait. Being no difference in price, just the barrel calibre and not wanting to make a fuss, as I was only fifteen and not the required seventeen, a tin of pellets was added to the sale and I left with the box to catch the bus home.

Although cheap compared to my friend’s .22 BSA Meteor, the Relum proved very accurate and powerful, giving me entry to a band of scruffy lads, who spent many hours sinking cans and bottles along our local canal, or staking out likely rat runs at the dump, an area where unsold vegetables were left to rot in heaps along the towpath. A volley of shots would announce the untimely end of another pink tailed rodent. The older lads taught us the basics, safety, trajectory, cover, stalking and importantly, keeping quiet. This was in the days when owning an air rifle was considered a rite of passage for a teen age boy and to carry one on open land was not a criminal act, the law of armed trespass nowhere near the statute book.

The construction of this rifle was the then standard springer action. The barrel was “broken” and pulled down, compressing the mainspring, until it was cocked and held by the trigger. This exposed the rear end of the barrel, into which the waisted pellet was pushed, being held by the pellet skirt. On snapping back the barrel to the locked position, the pellet sealed against the air cylinder exhaust port. When the trigger was pulled, the spring was released, accelerating an attatched leather washer down the cylinder, until the air in the cylinder compressed enough to overcome the resistance of the pellet skirt and sent it down and out of the rifled barrel.

I recently overhauled the Relum, fitting a new spring, which brought it close to the now legal limit of 12 ft lb muzzle power and it gives good service picking off pigeons in a farmer’s barns at close range up to fifteen yards, the small calibre easily penetrated their feathery armour. I made the mistake of using one of my more powerful .22 rifles previously and noticed too late the holes appearing in the roof. Oops!