Popular Tags:

Bread punch v pinkies on the Basingstoke Canal

February 14, 2013 at 6:53 pm

The weather forecast was  dry and mild, after days of snow and rain, with more to follow tomorrow, only problem, where to fish? Having some serious, sponsored match fishing friends, I remembered them moaning about  struggling at a league match on the Basingstoke Canal, when the winner had bagged up with skimmer bream from a bay below the Barley Mow pub. Looking at the map, it was further than my usual stomping ground around Woking, but only another fifteen minutes in the van, so why not give it a go.

With help from a local, I managed to find the car park, which was already full, but squeezed in on the end of a row next to the tow path and unloaded my gear. The canal was coloured and moving at a fair pace, similar to the Wey Navigation. I found the bay 200 yards downstream, where two other anglers were already fishing the upstream end, both with poles at 11 metres.  They were fishing pinkie and maggot, having their own private 10 til 3 match, putting a steady stream of small roach and perch in their nets. They were OK with me fishing below them and I set up about 30 yards away at the tail end of the bay, my bait being the bread punch, with a few small red worms for backup. The match winner had caught at 11 metres, but I intended to fish closer to start, so plumbed the depth and found the near shelf at 6 metres, the bottom remaining constant out to 9 metres at about a metre deep. Due to the flow, I’d selected a 6 x 10 shouldered float, heavier than my normal 4 x 10, bulked with two 10s down the line.

I introduced a small ball of liquidized bread just above my float on the 6 metre line and trotted through, the float diving away as a tiny roach took the 4 mm pellet of bread. A few more small roach and misses and it died. Another ball and more small roach. This was not a match, although looking upstream, by swinging the fish to hand, my catch rate was already outpacing the two above me. I put on another pole section and ran it through, a few slightly better roach.  Next move was to deepen up by 6 ins and hold over depth, easing it down the swim, then holding. Second trot the float slid away, but I  missed it. In again, following another ball, the float cruised under and 12 oz skimmer was taking out the elastic from the pole tip and running upstream. I put on a couple more lengths and waited until it was ready, before sliding it back across the surface to my net. The guy upstream called down and I held the fish up for him to see. Skimmer! The next few fish were better roach up to 2 oz, the over depth and steady feed of crumb working. I moved up to a 5 mm pellet and lifted into a 6 oz skimmer first cast, followed by a 4 oz roach and more small skimmers. The feed was going in every time the bites slowed, at a much higher rate than on a static canal, but the fish were consistently larger. I’d brought two bags of  liquidized bread from my freezer, about one and a half  loaves worth and it was going fast, but another large skimmer made me keep going. This fish brought the other two anglers down for a chat, as I was now building a decent weight and they were still getting mostly small stuff.

They’d never fished with bread punch and thought it was only good for small roach, when on cue I lifted into a pound plus skimmer. This ran out the elastic towards the middle and I followed it with a couple more lengths of pole, the fish settling down to a deep pulsating fight, before coming to the surface, ready to be pulled back to the net. I ushipped the pole at 7 metres and skimmed the fish to the net, show boating to my audience and paid the price, as the size 20 hook lost it’s hold. The rig pinged back into a knotted ball of slime. Oops. With that they returned to their pegs.

I unclipped the rig and fitted on one similar and chanced a run through at it’s shallower depth without replumbing and the float sank as though it was overshotted, but no, there was a good roach on the line, the net going out again for an eight ounce fish. To rest the 7 metre line, I tried fishing out to 9 metres, but snagged the bottom, due to shortage of bites and lost a hook. This gave me the chance to try a larger hook and went up to an 18, going back to the 7 metre line with a 5 mm punch and lifted immediately into another clonking roach. With three hours of fishing gone, the roach and skimmers were queuing up and my audience were back to watch me successfully net a bream of around a pound, the larger hook hanging on. They had now packed and weighed up, the one above me netting over 6 lb and his mate 8 lb, all on red pinkie and maggot. Their catch was a lot of small roach and perch with the odd bonus fish, plus small skimmers, but none over 4 oz. Although they had watched me catching close in, they didn’t try it. A few snow flakes were beginning to swirl around, so the guys left me to it and I decided on another half hour before packing up, but with ten minutes left, the float buried and stayed down for five minutes, as a large fish made a dash for it. It was too fast and hard a fighter to be a bream, making long runs, which I followed out to ten metres, putting on more lengths, before it began to get worn down, only making the odd roll under the surface, before I slipped the net under it, a monster roach! Thew. My best roach in years. I decided to weigh it there and then, 2 lb 7 oz, so taking off  7 oz for the net, a genuine 2 lb roach. Who said you can only catch small fish on the punch?

Knowing I might catch bigger fish, I’d left my small canal landing net and brought my larger river fishing net, this lot would not have fitted in it, the total being just over 12 lb in under four hours. This proves to me that the bread punch is the better bait on the Basingstoke Canal and OK you miss out on the perch, but with fish like this it’s not worth switching.

 

 

Improved Magtech 7022 (Mossberg 702) field test.

February 7, 2013 at 5:08 pm

In an attempt to stave off the onset of cabin fever brought on by the snow and heavy rain of late, with just the occasional visit to the supermarket for human company, I decided it was time to fit the rifle sling, that had come courtesy of Father Christmas.

The Jack Pyke sling came complete with quick release clips to fit into the supplied front and rear sling spigots. To fit the spigots, I first removed the two screws fixing the stock to the rifle action, then pushed the two apart at the trigger assy. I have a deep bench vice and first placed the rifle butt in a cloth before just nipping up in the vice. Being a two part plastic moulding there is a convenient mould line to work to. I marked and dotted with a centre punch the rear spigot point position 3 inches (75 mm) from the underside butt end. I then drilled a 3/32 inch (2 mm) pilot hole, before opening up with a 5/32 inch (4 mm) drill to suit the self tapping spigot. I used a drill to form a T to screw the longer rear spigot into it’s hole, stopping when the spigot hole was at 90 degrees to the butt in the final turn of the self tapper. I repeated the exercise for the front spigot, drilling the hole 1 and 1/2 inches (40 mm) from the front of the stock, fitting the shorter spigot. Fitting the sling then took minutes with the quick release clips.

A bright, cold, but windy day gave me the opportunity to get out and try the sling and also test the trigger, which had received further attention from the valve grinding paste, removing more rough edges from the rubbing surfaces. It’s pull is now smoothe and defined, although the trigger spring could do with some easing. The sling carried the 4lb rifle comfortably on my shoulder, while allowing the Magtech to be brought up to the firing position easily. I had intended to just shoot some targets away from the horses at the equestrian centre, but as I left the confines of the stables, the field ahead was covered with feeding wood pigeons. I raised the rifle and selected a pigeon thirty yards away, just as they were about to launch, the sling giving a firm support to the front of the rifle from my left shoulder. The .22 hit with a smack between the shoulders and rolled the bird in a burst of white feathers. The remaining flock headed for the safety of the woods, while I retrieved and debreasted my prize.

I set a target at 50 yards, the Magtech zero and fired a clip rested, grouping most shots around an inch with a couple outside, OK for this rifle in the wind. The trigger felt good. I then tried standing shots with the sling giving support and firing three shot bursts and was pleased to hit the target within a two inch group, just right for a rabbit chest shot.

With less than an hour before I needed to collect my wife from a shopping expedition, I decided to circle back to check out any recent burrowing from the local rabbits in the water logged ground, noting their positions for dryer days. I saw no rabbits, but woodies were beginning to fly in to roost along my hedgerow and I waited beneath an oak for some to settle, before stepping out from the cover of a holly bush and downing one with a perfect shot up through the crop. Breast removed, it was time to go. I kicked myself for spooking two more pigeons, that had settled into the tree. When will I learn to look up before moving off?

Fishing through the ice

January 28, 2013 at 8:37 pm

With the snow washed away overnight, we were dismayed to see snow covered ice still blanketing the Basingstoke canal on Sunday, when we arrived for another round of our club’s canal championship. With a clear area located, pegs were positioned and the draw taken, while the heavens opened, lashing us with ice cold rain and sleet. I’d left a warm bed with the promise of a dry day from the BBC forecaster and the thought of watching a float go under, so far I was not the most optimistic angler present.

I got to my peg to find myself next to my main rival to my left, who now had the championship in the bag, with a string of consistent top placings, often ahead of me by one point each time. I could do with a win just to give my ego a boost. By the time the whistle blew for the start, the clouds had parted, but a gusting wind took it’s place, ruffling the canal with mini whirlwinds. With only punched bread as bait, I had no other options and after five minutes without a bite, my float bobbed and sank away as a 4oz roach took the bread pellet. Doubts now dispelled, I set about the business of catching fish, some very small, but weight to beat my rival. His net came out to land a roach twice the size of my biggest, but now I was playing a 1lb skimmer bream, this would put me well ahead. To my left, drifting towards me, was a raft of weed and twigs that was attracting the fighting fish like a magnet, extending the pole elastic as it made it’s escape bid, the tiny hook pulling free from it’s lip, as I tried to steer it away. Fifteen minutes in and I had just lost a potentially match winning fish. I threw in another ball of crumb and fished over it, lifting into a smaller skimmer, making sure to avoid the weed raft on it’s way to the landing net.

I netted another decent skimmer, only to look up to see an even bigger bream slide into my rival’s net. My next ball of liquidized bread produced a swirl, as a pike flashed through the shoal of feeding roach, small fish leaping clear of the water, desperate to escape. Soon after my line went solid, when the pike grabbed a roach, the 2lb jack allowing me to pull it slowly towards the surface without a fight, before turning and swimming away with it’s prize and my hook. This gave me some respite, but twenty minutes later he was back, snatching at roach as I brought them across the surface. A vicious take ripping away another of my roach. Another hook gone. I introduced another three balls in different parts of my swim, seeing the surface boil as the pike went in for the kill. I got up and walked down to the angler on my right for a chat, finding that he also had pike trouble from a much larger fish, the good news being that no bream had been taken from that end. I returned to my peg to see yet another bream slide across the surface into my rival’s net. From now on it was damage limitation from my point of  view, just fishing the near shelf from now on and introducing enough feed to keep them interested. The bigger fish were down the middle, but I kept busy snatching from the margin, rather than lose more tackle to the pike. I the final whistle took me by surprise and I began packing away my gear, while I waited for the scalesman. I was top weight so far with exactly 4lb of roach and skimmer bream, with just my rival to weigh in, it could be close. When he pulled his fish from the water, I could see that he had two bream bigger than my largest and 5lb 10oz on the scales meant that he had beaten me again.

This 4lb net of silver fish proves that on a very cold day, for the price of a loaf of bread, a good day’s fishing can be enjoyed with the simplest of tackle. I also tried for the pike later with a plug, but no takers. Like Arnie I’ll be back, this time armed with some dead baits.

Rabbit burgers with chorizo

January 24, 2013 at 2:18 pm

With five rabbits for the freezer, I decided to make some more bunny burgers this week. The rabbits were first jointed and all the outer membrane removed. I consider the back loins too good for burgers, filleting these from either side of the upper back and saving these for other dishes like rabbit korma, or mixing with other game for game pie. With the loins removed, five rabbits will produce three Kg of meat. Remove as many tendons, etc as possible, as they may cause clogging round the grinder cutting blade later. The remaining bones and kidneys can be boiled down with vegetables to make rabbit stock and frozen in small containers for another day. Fat has to be added to aid cooking, so I add smoked bacon lardons, or streaky bacon. In this case I also add a chorizo sausage to top up the fat content and increase the flavour.

INGREDIENTS

3 Kg Rabbit Meat

1 Large Onion

1 Clove Garlic

200 Grammes Smoked Bacon Lardons

100 Grammes Chorizo Sausage

3 Thick Slices of Wholemeal Bread reduced to bread crumbs (150 grammes)

2 TBSP Mixed Herbs

1 TBSP Worcester Sauce

1 TBSP Cooking Oil

2 Medium Eggs

1 Sprig Rosemary

Add Salt & Pepper to taste.

urbanfieldsportsman 1071

 

METHOD

Finely chop the onion, garlic and rosemary and sweat off with the oil in a frying pan on a low heat, until the onions are softened and allow to cool. Place a large bowl beneath the meat grinder/mincer outlet. I prefer the coarse cutting plate setting, although the medium works fine. Once the grinding process is under way, I try to add the meat, lardons and pieces of sausage as I go, to mix the contents and flavours. With a modern electric grinder this will not take long. I used a manual grinder for years, which was in keeping with the rustic way of life, but very hard work.

With the meat ground, I sprinkle the tablespoon of Worcester Sauce over the top and stir in the onion mix, before covering with the bread crumbs, sprinkled with the two tablespoons of mixed herbs. I stir this again before adding the beaten eggs and mixing thoroughly, cement mixing principles coming in handy here.

The final operation is to make up the burgers. I have a burger press, which produces a consistent quarter pounder, with a grease proof disc top and bottom. For the rustic look, roll into a ball in your hands and pat down into a pattie.

This is just one recipe, the same basics apply, but you may wish to add a few chopped tomatoes to the grinder, or pickle, chutney, or a mix.  Likewise instead of the Worcester sauce, add BBQ, or sweet chilli, or the lot. Just remember keep it simple, it’s only a burger.

 The proof is in the eating. Very tasty.

Winter sun at Bushey Leaze

January 10, 2013 at 7:00 pm

My phone rang with an offer I could not refuse, a visit to Bushey Leaze trout fishery, picked up and dropped off at my door, a mild, dry day  forecast and the chance of big rainbows from this spring fed lake at Lechlade. The previous week my companion Pete had taken twelve fish between three and five pounds fishing an orange “Blob”, static under an indicator, so a quick look on Google produced an image, which to my eye said pellet fly, no doubt the only food these fish had ever seen. A hunt through my fly tying materials came up with some hot orange marabou for a tail and orange chenille for the body, tied over a built up body to give bulk, on a short size 14 hook, producing three in quick time.

Having cut my teeth on the Concrete Bowls, fresh water reservoirs around London in the 70’s, where all fish were introduce by Thames Water at 12 inches long and left to grow on in their vast acreages, which often reached depths of ninety feet, I have always felt prejudiced against the smaller commercial fisheries, where the paying public have demanded larger fish and comfortable fishing. In the 70’s, the strain of rainbows were fertile fish, which went into spawning condition early in the year and would often be black and kiped up in April, when the trout season began. In those days the reservoir fishing was subsidized by the nationalised water companies, but when they were privatized in the 80’s, support was withdrawn, leaving the door open for commercial operations, who with the need for year round fishing, stocked infertile triploid rainbows with rapid growth rates.

With a freezer full of various game and trout from my last outing, the last thing I needed was more trout, so had decided for a £30 three fish limit, but with Pete’s offer to smoke my fish, I paid the extra £7.50 for six fish. Arriving at the water’s edge, conditions seemed perfect with just a light breeze causing a slight ripple on the crystal clear lake, where fish could be seen moving and a few rods were already bent into fish. Pete walked down to his favourite bay, while I opted for a spot between trees, where I’d seen a fish top. With my indicator two feet above my new “Blob” I cast in, only for my purple indicator to be taken seconds after it hit the water. Rediculace. This did not result in a fish, the following casts producing swirls at the indicator, or it’s brief disappearance as my Blob was mouthed by more than one rainbow. I could have slid the indicator down to the hook and fished with that, but I did want to feel that I was at least using some skill, so took it off and began a very slow retrieve, getting plucks and on, off strikes. After ten minutes a fish held on long enough for me to set the hook and soon felt the juddering fight of a decent fish, which after some tail flapping, gave up and came to the net. About 3lb, it was a typical stew pond fish, front fins missing and a chewed tail, it’s brief chance of freedom ending on a muddy bank. Another cast and another fish on, this one putting on a better show, making several rapid runs followed by body shaking leaps, before the runs got shorter and the head shaking began. Convinced the hook was about to drop out, I entered the shallows and got a boot full of freezing water, as I reach over to net the still struggling rainbow. Slightly larger, this one had a full set of fins, although it’s tail was split in places and it’s nose and chin were flattened off, another scruffy fish. Fifteen minutes in and I already had two fish, do I continue fish mongering this shoal of confused rainbows and pack up in an hour, or shall I try else where? I chose the latter and went off to find Pete, passing another angler scurrying to claim my fish filled spot.

By now the sun had come over the trees and the wind dropped, the only ripples being made by the ducks and swans. I found Pete studying his motionless bite indicator. This was where he had a dozen fish last week, but today he hadn’t had a take and was now on his fall back method, the bloodworm  without a touch. I continued round and could see that few anglers had caught, one complaining that he’d worked hard for one fish today, but had caught eight in an hour the previous week. Finding another tree lined bay, I searched out the water in front of me, increasing the lengths of my casts,  fishing depths and speed of retrieve, observing the lack of action from the boat anglers and feeling that I should have stayed longer in my first spot. Following a long cast and a thirty second count down, my line tightened as I began to retrieve, the line spraying up water, when I raised the rod to set the hook. This was a very good fish, beating the surface with it’s tail, then diving deep taking line in an arcing run. The fight went on for five minutes before the first sighting showed a good conditioned 5lb rainbow, another five minutes seeming to pass before he was ready for the net, only to turn and slip the hook in the final seconds. I slapped the rod against the water in frustration. The size 14 barbless hook had dropped out on the bank of the previous two fish and the fight had loosened it’s hold at the critical moment.

Walking back Pete was still fishless, so we decided it was time for a sandwich in the sun at the fishing hut, giving me the chance to empty the water from my squelching boot, while deciding what to do next. We could see that the aquarium was now vacant and fish were still moving there, so Pete made his way to the spot and had soon broken his duck, following up with another, to equal my catch. With the sun passing behind the trees, we packed away the rods, after a hard day, bright sun and a flat calm giving us a beating.

Small river working party

January 7, 2013 at 5:27 pm

The floods abated this week, which allowed a small band of volunteers to tackle an overgrown section on our little trout stream, where several trees needed pollarding and another had fallen across the river.

Eight from a membership of thirty was a healthy turnout on a January morning, there being plenty of chat about flies and who caught what from where. Interestingly, some favourite sections for some, had proved fishless for others. Six hours hard graft certainly blew away the Christmas cobwebs, but several good gaps had been created in the dense undergrowth to allow in the sunlight and allow casting, while still leaving plenty of cover for feeding trout.

Pigeons come home to roost

January 3, 2013 at 9:29 pm

With no rain for a few days and warm 10C temperature, I was hoping to find a few rabbits out and about on my permission at an 80 acre equestrian centre this afternoon. I’d only walked a few hundred yards to my first rabbit hot spot to realise that a change of plan was needed. A corner, where a bramble covered ditch runs along the side of a copse, was under six inches of water, the ditch resembling a canal. I usually expect to see several rabbits around this area, where had they gone? Not drowned? Continuing through the copse, I saw signs of fresh burrowing, so all was not lost.

As I made my slow progress through the copse, I saw several Canada Geese in the field to my right, but these are off limits, as were the pheasants trotting ahead of me along the path, the leaseholder trying to keep the centre as a nature reserve, it being bordered by housing estates on three sides. The copse was once parkland, part of a stately home, and had been planted up with a wide range of plants, now left untended, but in their season they add to the pleasure of having access to this private area, carpets of snow drops, giving way to daffodils and blue bells, while the scent of honeysuckles fill the summer air.

When I first visited, rabbits were in their hundreds, undermining trees, burrowing through paths and ruining the grassland, making it unsafe to walk, let alone ride a horse. Today there were none to be seen, so I made my way to the base of a tall pine, which gives cover from above, while providing a clear view of an equally tall oak ten yards away, both trees providing ideal roosts for my next quarry the wood pigeon. For pigeons I prefer to use my Career 707 PCP air rifle firing 21 grain Bisley Magnum pellets, as the pellets lose their momentum quickly and shots can be taken at targets low down in the trees, but equipped for rabbits today, I had my Magtech .22 semi auto rimfire. This means overhead shots only, as a 45 degree shot puts the houses half a mile away within range of the 40 grain bullet.

Once in position, it wasn’t long before a dozen pigeons glided over to take up their roosts, an ideal shot for a 12 bore, but for me with a rifle they have to perch first. They landed behind me, causing me to twist my body for a shot, only to hit the branch below my chosen bird. Off they clattered. I moved round the tree to shoot from the other side, before ten minutes later they returned, this time a clear shot supported by the tree trunk, had a fat pigeon spinning out of the branches fifty feet above. With the birds flown, I retrieved the pigeon and cut away the dark breast meat in time for the next flight. Cross hairs on, squeeze the trigger and another hit the ground. Ten minutes later another fat woodie was at my feet, it’s crop full of ivy peas and mistletoe berries. With the light going fast and a good walk ahead, back to the van, I called it a day with six tasty breast fillets in my bag.

Small river reflections

December 30, 2012 at 1:39 pm

Notified that the first working party of 2013 is in doubt on my local syndicate trout stream, due to field to field flooding, I looked back on last season with the aid of our forum to while away a wet afternoon.

With a dozen of the thirty members reporting their exploits through the season on the forum, some with photographs, it was beneficial to reflect on what turned out to be a very good season for most. Our river is less than ten miles from spring to confluence, of which we have rights to the lower few miles, some of which we share with coarse fishing members of the club. In many places it spans fewer than ten feet from bank to bank, zig-zagging through copses and bordering fields, while supporting a good head of wild browns, many of the larger ones only showing up during the annual hawthorn and mayfly hatches, before sinking back to the safety of the many deep pools along the river’s course.

Each member has three days of fishing allocated each week, either start or end, with Wednesday a non fishing day. Even during the Mayfly hatch it is rare to meet more than a couple of other anglers. All fish are returned to the water, some are gluttons for punishment and give sport to many, while others learn to be more choosy. Seven foot rods and light lines are the order of the day, due in the main to overhanging trees and beckoning barbed wire fences. Waders are a must to be able to reach some of the more impenetrable  pools and even then a successful cast can often be more luck than judgement. Sometimes a feeding trout can only be watched, a cast being impossible. To me, I feel privileged just to be in the trout’s presence, the sun dappling the river as it rushes over the stones at the tail of  a pool, only a few miles from the surrounding towns.

My own season was almost charmed, usually fishing only a few hours each week, I was able to tempt a quality fish on each visit, smaller browns, chub and dace adding to the mix. My best wild fish was spotted feeding hard under the far bank foliage on a September afternoon, a slight dimple of the surface giving it away. A small yellow humpy was flicked in under the bank and taken straight away, resulting in a frantic fight that took me all over the river. This was a fat healthy brown trout of over a pound.

 

With a few exclusive,  expensive fisheries upstream, some introduced fish drop down into our water. In the last few days of the season, this beautiful eighteen inch brown was chasing minnows, when he took my hares ear nymph.

The week before, the weir pool at the head of  our water offered up a  fin perfect rainbow, again on a hares ear, this being the second in a week from the pool, photographs showing different spot patterns on the gill covers. The take had been a typical rainbow smash and grab, followed by a run round the pool that tested my little five weight, seven foot rod to the limit.

Writing these few words brings back many memories of spring and summer and the consolation that the twelve weeks to the start of a new trout fishing season will soon pass.

 

 

Cider bottled

December 24, 2012 at 2:56 pm

Being a cider making household, we share our kitchen during the autumn months with the latest batch, as it goes through it’s fermentation processes housed in a variety of demi-johns hidden under the table, unseen by our visitors sipping mugs of tea above.

Due to a cold wet spring and a similar summer, many apple trees did not set fruit and on those that did, the apples were slow to ripen and the cider making season was put back a month. This was the reason why we still had fermenting cider and I had instructions to bottle it before Christmas. The clear juice is syphoned out of the demi-johns, leaving the lees behind, this is called racking and being the second racking of this juice, the lees were minimal. I had to sample each dem-john and can report a very drinkable cider of good strength, has been produced this year, although the final fermentation takes place in the bottle and should be left for at least six months to mature.

In the past, having made beer and wine and even apple wine, when we had a surplus of fruit from our trees in the garden, it was only a matter of time, being a lover of cider, that I would make my own. We were fortunate to live close to an overgrown lane, that used to serve a big country house and also the Victorian village school, but now lay bypassed by modern roads, being encroached by brambles and various varieties of crab apple trees. Some were sweet others dry, an ideal mix for cider making. We no longer live in that area, but have found other trees to forage, although this year wild pickings were sparse, but once the word got out that we needed apples, the invites came to pick all we wanted from other’s gardens. About 20lb of apples are needed for a gallon of juice.

Continuing the theme of free apples, none of my “equipment” has been bought for purpose. The most important item is the cider press, which was made from odd lengths of 4 x 2 inch wood, forming two verticals and two horizontal struts, glued and screwed in place to create a stressed box. This I lock in an old workmate portable bench vice. The horizontals were cut to accommodate a baking tray into which two pieces of a 6 x 1 inch thick shelf were cut to form the crushing plattens for squeezing out the juice. A bottle jack from the garage supplies the crushing force, pushing up to the top horizontal, while pushing down onto the apple mash, held in an old net curtain, the juice flowing out into the baking tray. It would be easy to put a drain into the baking tray to flow down into a bucket, but it is no effort to empty it by hand, when it fills. The one labour saving device is an electric garden shredder, into which the washed, halved, or quartered apples are dropped, having cut out any bruising, but leaving the skin on. The rear end is raised on a brick so that the mash produced flows out of the spout into a bowl. The net is placed over an empty ice cream carton, before the apple mash is loaded into it and a sealed parcel formed. When the parcel is lifted out and placed between the plattens, juice will already have come out into the carton, which can be poured directly into the bucket through a flour sieve. I already had a five gallon bucket, which is the final destination of the juice ready for the introduction of a dried cider, or champagne yeast. On my first ever batch of cider, I covered the juice with a cloth and let it get on with natural fermentation from the wild yeast in the skins and the air, which took a couple of days, but now using a dried yeast sachet  for up to five gallons, sprinkled over and stirred occasionally over a couple of hours, the mix can be ready to transfer to the demi-johns for the first rapid ferment.

This is my backyard set up for cider making, it looks chaotic, but a production circle has been created, from washing, to chopping, pulping and juicing at the press. The flat apple cake byproduct is good food for chickens, or pigs, while on a compost heap it will soon become a nursery for young worms and speed up the composting process.

Bread punch on the Basingstoke Canal

December 19, 2012 at 1:47 pm

A change of plans meant a free afternoon this week. Hard frosts followed by a few day’s rain had left the fields and ditches waterlogged and my little river was bombing through, so my best option for a few hours fresh air was the twenty minute drive to the Basingstoke Canal.

With liquidized bread and some sliced white back in the freezer from my last outing on the river, bait was no problem and with tackle loaded, I was on my way before noon. Good news, a space in the car park, even with Christmas shopping in full swing; a longer walk, but better than the road side. I’d remembered to fix my trolley wheel puncture too,  which had been a bit of a let down, so a few hundred yards and I was at my swim, a sheltered spot in the town with gardens backing onto the towpath.

Temperatures were still below ten degrees C, but with no wind, or swans in sight, a decent afternoon’s fishing looked on the cards. Many “proper anglers” look down on the pole as a means of catching fish, but very light rigs and delicate baits can be presented by this method, while for the older angler such as myself, no longer possessing decent eyesight, or deft of touch, the rigs can be made up in the comfort of your home, or even bought ready made up at the tackle shop. After plumbing the depth to find the near and far shelf, I started off at the top of the near shelf without a touch, before increasing the depth a few inches and adding another metre to the pole.  This time a small ring radiating out from the float bristle indicated interest in the punch bait, another ring and it sank slowly beneath the surface. A lift and the float stayed down as a good roach pulled the elastic out from the pole tip. The elastic soon coped with the darting runs of the roach and the first of many was in the net.

I started to miss bites, or hook half ounce micro roach, so on went another metre and the float went out to the middle following another small ball of crumb. A three ounce roach, then the elastic stayed out with the steady throb of a six ounce skimmer bream. Good, this is what I came for, the swim has produced near two pound bream for me in the past. Regular feed was being rewarded by more roach, so I shallowed up and dropped the bait into the cloud, a fiddley bite developed into a slide away and the elastic followed into the water. I could see the flashes from a better skimmer and followed it with the pole as it dashed up and down the swim, until it was ready to be drawn away to my net. Another two skimmers followed and a good weight seemed on the cards, when disaster led a three pronged attack. First a hook in the lip of the last skimmer snagged my landing net and pulled through the lip, the line breaking before I could cut the net. Unable to find my spare made up hook links, another rig was attached  to the pole stomfo tip, was set to depth and cast in to sink as the float cocked. Excellent, more elastic out and an eight ounce roach eventually slid into the landing net. Disaster number two now struck. The hook was embedded in the thick part of the roach’s lip and would not come out, so I gave the disgorger a try, only to snap the fine wire hook shank. Two rigs in two casts. I had another rig, but this was not a match, although I was in the moment, catching a steady flow of better fish. As I sorted through my various made up packs of hooks, the third disaster struck, the swans arrived.

Mummy, Daddy and two signets now laid claim to my ground bait, their long necks reaching down to the bottom of the canal, black feet clawing the air to keep balanced. Game over. I found my hooks, looping on the new link and waited, until a mother and young daughter saved the day, when they arrived on the towpath and began feeding the ducks and squawking gulls, the swans making off at full speed in their direction. I decided to give it another half an hour, taking a few more ounce plus roach, but the better fish had moved off, leaving the three inch micro roach to feed at will. By three pm the light was going already, as the shortest day approached, and with a chill already in the air, I lifted out my keepnet to be greeted by that welcome sound of quality fish sploshing at the bottom. Transferred to my landing net and a quick weigh in, before returning, indicated five pounds of silver fish, not bad for two and a half hours fishing, considering the thirty odd micro roach not put in the net.