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Meon Springs Fishery rainbows on the bloodworm

December 11, 2013 at 5:48 pm

A planned visit to Meon Springs in very rural Hampshire coincided with the windiest day for decades, forecast and when my driver and companion for the day, Peter collected me from home, Scotland was already being ravaged by 100 mph winds. Dead leaves were dancing in the lane, before being whipped into the air by sudden gusts, as we drove down the valley towards the clubhouse, which nestles in the hillside above the fishery.

This commercial fishery consists of a series of small dams holding back the natural flow of an infant river Meon, as it meanders down the valley protected in the main by woods. Leaving the comfort of the clubhouse, where a log burner was blazing, the wind was already rippling up the surface of the main lake and with sight of the number of blanks in the returns book fresh in our minds, a hard day was in prospect. A chat with an angler, who had “tried everything without a touch” for three hours, made up our minds that the bloodworm nymph under an indicator, was the only chance to avoid a blank entry in the book.

Without too much hope, I made a cast downwind and across, watching the indicator yarn bouncing across the ripples, giving the nymph life 18″ below. After a minute it slid sideways and under. A lift of the rod and I was playing my first fish. I looked to my right to see Peter’s rod was also at full bend. We were on the method again! The angler between us visibly sagged in disbelief. He’d been there for three hours working hard without a take and these two guys arrive and catch straight away.

This was not a small fish and it patrolled the opposite bank at speed, making regular direction changes, before diving to the middle of the lake for a head shaking session, a sign of a lightly hooked fish. This might be my only catch of the day and if it wanted line I gave it, while in contrast Peter was bullying his across the surface, leaning hard onto his rod. Both techniques were successful.

As I removed the bloodworm from this near 4lb rainbow, Peter came down for a look. “Nearly as big as mine” he said and went back to his rod. Another cast, a two minute wait and the indicator disappeared again, as if by magic. A lift and a miss. Another cast down and across and it went again with a swirl. Missed again! An instinctive return cast saw the nymph land in the swirl and it continued down, taken on the drop. A lift and all hell let loose, as another big rainbow made like an outboard motor across the surface. Convinced that this would soon be a lost fish, I hung on as it screamed line from the reel, fighting the now blowing gale, as much as the rainbow. These Meon trout were in peak condition and commanded respect, this one leaping clear a few times before coming to the net.

Not much more than half an hour had passed since making my first cast and I’d banked my two fish limit. Peter was still on one, having dropped a rainbow that was boiling on the surface, but was still getting takes. The stunned angler between us was busily tying on a blood worm nymph and I offered him some indicator yarn and my fish filled spot; carrying my trout back to the clubhouse to be bagged and weighed, 3lb 12oz and 3lb 14oz respectively. With my return filled and warmed by strong sweet tea, I ventured out again, this being my first visit, I’d decided to check out the catch and release section below the main lake. I stood and watched our new friend miss several takes, then continued up to Peter, who now had an even bigger rainbow on the bank estimating it’s weight at 5lb, all the others fishless. Peter smokes most of his trout and decided to fish on for four fish, but with wind now lashing the surface in all directions, it seemed unlikely he could get the presentation needed. 

The first section of catch and release water opens out to a pool and at the dam end I saw a nose appear among a raft of leaves blown into a small bay. A fish was working this area and I cast hard to the leaves, waiting for movement from the indicator. Five minutes later the indicator was snatched under and I missed it, lifting into thin air. Another fifteen minutes of waiting and watching, huddled beneath my fur lined cap against the wind blasts and it went again, this time skating a foot towards the leaf strewn bay. Unmissable, but I did.

Giving up on the pool, I continued downstream, to sample the more natural river-like section , which I was informed had been stocked with 1500 brown trout, but the bloodworm failed to get a response and by now I was past caring about more fish, just getting the nymph to land anywhere I intended was becoming the overiding concern. On a spring afternoon this strip of water would be a delight, but early December in the midst of a howling gale, it was an endurance test. I made my way back up to the main lake and was relieved to see Peter playing his fourth fish. After a blank spell, he had raised the indicator to fish the bloodworm 3 ft below the surface and caught two in quick sucession, a trick not missed by the others, who were soon taking fish.

Peter’s fish varied between 3lb 8oz and 5lb 4oz and with my two added to the mixed, the following day was destined to be a filleting and smoking production line.

 

 

Latimer Park rainbows come in from the cold.

November 29, 2013 at 12:32 pm

My previous visit to Latimer Park Fishery had been on a balmy June day, when as a guest of friend Peter, we had enjoyed a day catching big rainbow trout on surface Mayflies. I was back again as his guest, but now it was the last week of November and a chill wind was blowing down the valley as we tackled up at the club house. Several members were already fishing, but none had caught so far, as we walked down to the dam end, where deeper water offered the prospect of feeding trout.

Tying on a black buzzer with my line greased to within two feet of the fly, I cast to the where the shallows drop away into the original Chess river valley and watched as the wind drifted the line round. A steady movement of the leader was met by a raised rod and a fish on. First cast! This was not lost on the other anglers, who had not seen a take all morning and I took care not to force the fish in and chance losing it. I’ve not caught a Latimer trout that didn’t put up a good show and this was no exception, the rainbow diving away every time it came close, but a final heave on the rod, brought the beaten fish over the net and onto the bank.

Not the prettiest rainbow in the lake, but the club rules state that the first fish of the day must be killed, so this two pounder paid the ultimate price. On any day, seven fish can be caught between a member and his guest, three fish taken, the first and last, plus another. With many rainbows and all browns returned, members tend to get their fish in as quickly as possible, to allow returned fish to recover. Peter came up to see my prize and what I’d used to catch it. For me this was beginner’s luck and my buzzer failed to attract another take.

The wind soon picked up, the temperature dropped with it and the rain began to fall. Not much fun for me, but the sight of an angler huddled over his rod in one of the few prized boats, made me glad to be on dry land. A call got my attention; Peter was playing a good fish. Now with an excuse to warm up with a walk, I pulled my rod in and went to pick his brains, arriving just as he netted it. A truly beautiful rainbow of  over two pounds was on the bank, a bloodworm fly in it’s jaw.

Peter’s method was to fish this under a tuft of sight indicator yarn, striking when it disappeared.  With foam indicators from one of my American visits, I scrounged a bloodworm fly and went back to try my luck, Peter playing another trout before I’d tied on the magic fly. This time a small brown, one of the indigenous Chess trout. It certainly worked, keeping the bloodworm in view above the fish as it drifted round in the wind. In the ripple I lost sight of my purple indicator, only to feel the line speeding through my fingers. Missed it. A couple more bobs, or drags, followed by swirls as I failed to make contact. Time to go back and scrounge some of his indicator yarn, which floated high on the surface aided by Water Shed floatant. As I arrived, the indicator shot under and he was in again. No one else was catching and I was surprised that they were doggedly sticking to their own methods.

I’m not proud and was soon casting the more visible yarn out towards the middle of the lake, where the occasional trout was rising, to what I have no idea, but it gave a focus and hope on a freezing day. Kept warm by supplies of sweet, hot tea from the clubhouse, I persisted in my efforts to hook another trout. The yarn disappeared, or skated across the surface many more times, but despite delaying the strike, instant response, or just plain leaving it, I couldn’t connect. Peter was having the same trouble, but managed to hook and land another two, stopping to let me catch the last fish. Soon we were the only anglers still fishing, one by one the members had left the lakeside, some with fish, most without. Despite still getting takes, with the cold finally getting right down into the core of my body and Peter even having trouble gripping his landing net, we gave up on that last fish and retreated to the clubhouse, where a woodburner was raging away. After more tea and with blood back in our veins, we left this little haven long before closing time, heading back to the motorway traffic, enjoying the luxury of the heated seats in Peter’s car.

 

 

 

 

Shin Sung Career 707 .22 Carbine rabbit clearance.

November 17, 2013 at 12:54 pm

A request to shoot some rabbits, that were making a mess of flower beds and ruining a garden lawn, gave me a flutter of excitement this week, as with houses either side, for safety, I would have to use one of my air rifles instead of a rimfire. On an earlier visit, the lady owner had shown me an area to the side of the cottage, where the furry visitors were making a mockery of her horticultural efforts, digging up plants and bulbs, while turning the lawn into a mud patch.

This position looked the ideal spot for a rabbit ambush, but they scattered the moment I appeared, making their escape through bolt holes under the fence. I’d opted to use my Webley Venom Viper .22 carbine PCP for this, as with it’s added external moderator, it is virtually silent and 20 to 30 yard head shots are a guaranteed kill with .22 Bisley Magnum pellets from this legal limit rifle.

Apart from one large buck that came through the fence for a recce without settling, I saw no other rabbits and with the light going, had to admit defeat to the lady of the house, who consoled me with a strong cup of tea and a slice of apple cake. There are compensations to this pest control game.

The house sits in the garden and I decided that on my next visit I would enter from the other side, using the house and an island flower bed for cover. This would mean a much longer shot from the bottom of the garden, ideal for my .22 semi-auto rimfire Magtech, but with houses either side and a with a chance of a ricochet, it was a no no. Time for the Career 707 .22 PCP to come out of the gun cabinet. This FAC rifle is at 28 ftlb on full charge, giving about 10 shots before the 21 grain Bisley Magnums begin to drop, holdover needed by twenty. This is not usually a problem for an airgunner and I rarely fire more than ten shots on an outing shooting rabbits, squirrels, or pigeons, while the Webley Viper copes well with rats, giving at least 30 full power shots.

 Back at the cottage, from a window overlooking the garden, several rabbits could be seen munching the shrubbery, so  exiting the back door, I made my way unobserved along the opposite side to the small orchard at the rear. A ten yard belly crawl to the flower bed and the rabbits were in view spread over an area 35 to 45 yards away. Also in view was the kitchen window facing back at me, with the lady of the house grinning like a Cheshire Cat at this cammo clad figure stalking about in her garden. This had better work. Before coming to the cottage, I’d set a target in my own garden at 40 yards, firing until I’d taken out the 20 mm centre. Another charge of air and I was ready to go.

Pushing my bag round the corner to rest the rifle, only my cap covered head was on view, when the first rabbit toppled over. A perfect side on shot from 35 yards. To reload the Career, the under lever trigger mechanism is swung out and back, much like the old Winchester rifle. This only takes a second, but you have to take your eye off the target and looking back some rabbits were sitting up, while others were already making for the escape route. Smack. The next pellet resounded on impact with one of the sitters. They were now at full exit speed, one making the fatal mistake of stopping at the fence. Three rabbits in what seemed like the same number of seconds. One was still kicking, but had stopped by the time I’d reached it.

Another 30 minute wait and nothing else came out apart from a lone pigeon, which clattered into the air the moment I swung round to get a bead on it. Time to knock on the kitchen door to claim my cup of tea and cake, amid much congratulation and relief on my part. The next day a phone call informed me that they were back again. Time for a repeat performance and more cake. I’ll be sorry when there are none left.

.17 HMR bullets jammed in the barrel on CZ452 rifle with Remington ammo.

November 14, 2013 at 4:20 pm

Working my way through a batch of 250 Remington gold tip .17 V-Max 17 grain bullets, I’d experienced the occasional squib, when the bullet fired with a flat note and a certain kill resulted in a clear miss, or a rabbit tap dancing away from a bullet skimming along at it’s feet. Being used to the variation experienced with some .22 lr brands, I put this down to inaccurate factory loads and continued to shoot rabbits.

With most of my landowners complaining of growing numbers of rabbits this year, I’d embarked on a systematic culling operation, visiting two, or three farms close to each other in an afternoon, maybe three times in a week, then move on to another group the following week. At the heart of this was my CZ452 .17 HMR Varmint with it’s heavyweight 16 inch barrel. Shooting off a bi pod at ranges out to 140 yards, an average of ten rabbits a day were supplying the butcher’s shops of the area, while making a visible dent in the furry rodent population.

All was going well on one such visit. I’d shot two rabbits in a group from a raised area 120 yards away, placed my sights on another target, squeezed the trigger and there was a click, a delay, then Phatt, followed by smoke puffing out of the rifle breech. Another dud round. Not thinking, I chambered another round and fired again at the same rabbit. This time smoke and sparks flew out of the Swift moderator. The dud bullet had not left the barrel and my hasty next shot had slammed into it, causing fragments to exit through the moderator. I unscrewed the mod and there was a clear line of sight through it. Likewise the rifle bolt was removed and the barrel was clear from the breech end to the crown. I always try to pick up my spent cartridge cases, so I now checked these two and found that one was split from the opening to the neck. The culprit. My spent cartridge cases end up in my jacket pocket, until I have a pocket full, then dispose of them. I had 25 in there and 6 were split, which was a surprise, as I was unaware of 6 dud shots, each of these had accounted for a rabbit over the past week. I shot another rabbit, then missed an absolute sitter. Unscrewing the moderator, it rattled. Time to leave.

On stripping the moderator, the damage was clear. The first baffle on the right was badly deformed, while it’s supporting spacer had collapsed with the impact, testimony to the power of the HMR. Bullet damage reduced progressively to the final exit baffle at bottom centre. With a small home workshop, this was not a problem for me. A few new baffles were punched out and a new spacer turned up out of a piece of ali tube. A bit of deburring and a reassembly had the moderator sorted, while the rifle barrel had no evident damage, the boresnake passing through with no stoppages. Back in business.

My main worry was that the barrel had damage, where the bullets had collided, but thankfully accuracy was still spot on and a target placed at 120 yards had three of the five fired inside the 20 mm bull, while the other two were touching, just outside to the left, probably due to the shooter, not the rifle. A short session in the field supported this with more downed rabbits

My next outing involved a twenty mile drive and a half mile uphill hike to reach a warren lining the far hedge line. With little cover, I crawled to within  100 yards, a spot which allows a view each side to the field edges. Not having shot this field for six months, several big rabbits and a few juveniles were busily going about their eating routines. Well worth the trek. Selecting the nearest, I lined up on the brain, just behind the eye. Clack. The firing pin had struck the edge of the rimfire case, but apart from a light whisp of black smoke, nothing else. I waited a minute for safety, before opening the bolt, just in case there was a slow burn. The case ejected, leaving most of the grains intact, while the bullet was jammed two inches up the bore. The case was split. Nothing more to be done, but pack up and drive back home.

Back in the workshop, I found a length of 4mm brass rod, rounded off the end and wrapped tape at intervals along it’s length to protect the bore. Even with plenty of oil, the bullet was too tight to push out, electing to push from the rear the whole length of the barrel, rather than trying to push from the crown end the few inches that the bullet had travelled. A shorter length of rod was cut  and a nylon mallet used to start tapping the rod through. I was surprised how tight the bullet was in the bore, the boat tail of the bullet fortunately retaining it’s shape.

This did not seem to be a safe batch of Remingtons and as a precaution I viewed the remaining thirty bullets in the box under a magnifying glass, finding a further four with splits in the case neck, one just visible to the naked eye. On firing this would no doubt open up, while being carried in the field, moisture could also enter to dampen the charge.

Playing safe, the Remingtons have been marked as doubtful and a new box of blue tipped Hornady .17 V-max opened and checked for cracks. All looked good and thirty were fired without a hitch. A box of Hornady red tips has also proved faultless. One could say don’t use Remington HMR bullets, but as Hornady and Remington use the same CCI production plant to manufacture all their HMR rounds, it has to be down to a batch of hard brass used for the cases, while the factory inspection techniques may need tightening up, before someone suffers a nasty accident.

 

Bread Punch Roach on the Basingstoke Canal. Mostly small stuff.

November 5, 2013 at 3:56 pm

The Basingstoke Canal near Woking proved a worthwhile alternative to a flooded Thames this week, when a change of plan gave me a few hours in the afternoon to go fishing. The bread punch is the ideal bait and method for spontaneous outings, as I store liquidized bread and a few pieces of medium sliced in the freezer. A slice of frozen bread is cut in four, then placed in the microwave for 15 seconds, causing a rapid thaw, before being rolled out to a millimetre thick and wrapped in cling film. That’s it, bait prep over. 

The canal was a picture of peacefulness, a light wind ruffling the surface as set up my pole, while the autumn sun warmed the air, the only downside being the crystal clear water, testimony to the lack of boat traffic. I set up a small wire stemmed pole float with just four No. 10 shot down the line, to a fine wire long shank size 20 hook and plumbed the depth to find the near and far shelves of the canal. The boat road is under three feet at it’s deepest. I measured out a quarter of a pint of the now thawed liquidized bread, compressed a small ball and lobbed it onto the nearside drop-off, watching it slowly break up, forming a cloud on it’s way to the shelf. The water was very clear. I was hoping for some skimmer bream from this swim, but they usually show when there is a tinge of colour in the canal and this was not their day, as the first of many four inch roach made off with the pellet of bread.

The near shelf was still going strong, but not producing any bonus fish, when I switched lines to just past middle with two more joints on the pole, fishing over another small ball of fine crumb. More small roach. I went up on punch size to a 5mm and fished 6 inches over depth. This often sorts out a better roach, or a skimmer, but no, more tiny roach, some just hanging onto the pellet jammed in their mouths. The same on the far shelf.

With the sun getting low over the trees, another ball was dropped in over the near shelf for a session of tiddler bashing, the float bobbing and sliding away seconds after cocking. I was now swinging the fish to hand, lifting into the first movement of the float, any longer and the disgorger was needed to reach the barbless hook. I lost count of the number of fish, all roach, bar one three ounce skimmer, which had me reaching for the landing net at first, but swung it in anyway. It just seemed big compared to the rest.

Once the sun had gone, the temperature dropped like a stone and following my third “just one more” roach, I pulled my net in for a tally up. Despite throwing the the tiniest back, there were still at least fifty sprat sized silvers balled in my landing net ready to be released. Less than a quarter of a pint of white crumb had been used, while onto my second square of bread, over seventy punches had been made. A busy two hours.

Thames roach fishing at Home Park, Windsor

October 31, 2013 at 12:37 pm

In the shadow of Windsor Castle, Home Park, dedicated to the people of Windsor by Queen Victoria, offers some of the best roach fishing on the non-tidal Thames. With good car parking within a few hundred yards of the river and safe swims cut into the bank by Old Windsor Angling Club, who manage the half mile stretch on behalf of Windsor Council, this day ticket water has to be high on the list of any angler.

The upper section is a relatively narrow, but deep canalized stretch giving boats access to Romney Lock, opening out to a natural bank on the inside of a big bend, which allows safe wading on gravel to trot the stick float for dace, roach and chub. Armed with red maggots, it was my intention for an afternoon’s fishing on this lower section, but one look at the river changed my mind. Heavy rain over the weekend had raised the level a few inches, increased the pace and put more than a tinge of colour into the water. I needed a swim with a slack out of the mainstream, finding what I was looking for towards the end of the canal section.

 Having intended trotting the open lower end, I’d taken my pole out of my rod bag before I’d left home to save weight. This swim was ideal for the pole, but would have to compromise with my 14 foot float rod. Once tackled up, I plumbed the depth at ten feet, two rods out, just on the edge of the crease between fast and slow water. I then discovered something else was missing from my armory, a bait dropper; needed to place maggots hard on the bottom. Loose fed maggots would end up well past the lower tree before they got to the bottom, where the roach are. Another compromise. I knocked up a stiff groundbait  mix and folded in maggots, making a ball that was lobbed in upstream on the crease at the tree on my left. I’d set up with a 5BB bodied balsa stick float, bulked 30 inches above the size 14 barbless hook, with two No. 6 shot evenly between them. This would allow the maggots to swing up in the flow, while holding back to the bulk shot, irresistible to the  roach, I hoped.

An underarm swing of the rod dropped the float at the head of the swim, it settled then ran halfway down before I checked the float with tension from the rod top, released more line from the reel, then held back again. The float bobbed, then sank from view. A steady lift and the rod was bent into a fish, the regular beat from below indicating my first roach of the afternoon.

Not a big roach, but the first of many to come. The float continued to sink out of sight, sometimes halfway down the swim, but always before reaching the downstream bush. I began to get a rythme going, swinging them in, but then began pulling out of fish halfway to the surface. Any pressure and they were off the hook. This is where the pole comes into it’s own, the elastic keeping a constant pressure to the fish, while my rod was a bit too stiff for these roach, bouncing them off in my eagerness to get them in the net. I was catching so fast, that the maggots were not even damaged, taking three, or four roach before needing to change, a single maggot on a size 14 looking wrong, but doing the trick.

A ball of groundbait was going in every 30 minutes, plus the occasional loose fed reds and a different fight indicated a small skimmer bream, which dropped off as I swung it in. Back in again, the float sank away and this time, I netted it just to be safe. A skimmer of a few ounces. A shoal had moved in over the feed, but I struggled to get them in the net, most coming off in the first few feet. The slow thump of a decent skimmer got my full attention, it stayed down and when it came beneath my rod top, I began a gentle raise of the rod. Again the hook pulled free! Another of around 12 oz was sliding across the surface to the landing net and came off. I’d already changed my hook and was at a loss, being as easy on the pressure as I could. My conclusion was that maybe I’d overfed the swim and they were just playing with the bait. Non anglers ask why I still enjoy fishing after all these years, but it’s trying to solve problems like this one, that keep you going. No day is the same, there are so many variables.

A river cruiser charging upstream against the flow soon solved my problem, the wash causing a mini whirlpool in my swim that sucked away the feed along with the fish. When the river had settled down again, another ball of bait went in, but the feeding frenzy was over, the skimmers were gone, replaced by the occasional roach. The light was going, so I decided to call it a day and get home before rush hour clogged the roads. My three hours of  effort accounting for over forty red finned roach in the net. My next visit will be with with a pole and bait dropper.

Wild brown trout flyfishing season closes with a bang.

October 20, 2013 at 6:34 pm

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, or so they say, but with a lack of rain still affecting my syndicate chalkstream, it was almost a call of duty, that drew me back for the last days of the trout season, deciding to visit the upper weir pool at the head of the fishery for the first time this year.

As I waded upstream from the tail of the weir, Daddy Longlegs were skittering across the surface, but there were no signs of any interest in them, the water and probably oxygen levels remaining low despite heavy showers in the week. A Daddy dry fly was cast up towards the weir, but it’s slow drift back was ignored. Twitching the fly did likewise. A Gold Head Hares Ear was the next choice. With the lack of flow, I worked the pool with various rates of figure of eight retrieve. It all looked right and every cast had that anticipation, which keeps us fishing. Last year one such cast saw a vicious take and an aggressive fight that took me round the pool, until I netted a fin perfect rainbow, an escapee from an upstream fishery.

With no sign of a fish this time, I decided to cut my losses. I made my way back downstream to the van, making a few half hearted casts to places, that had held good fish earlier in the year, to no response, keeping the rod set up and driving downstream to the one fast flowing bit of river, where I was confident of a take, or two.

Just standing in this run filled me with a spurt of enthusiasm, the short stretch offering a range of fish holding pockets. Tying a size 16 Pheasant Tail nymph onto the 4lb tippet and making short upstream casts, I prospected the river in front of me, the line jagging out, when  a small dace took the nymph, the silver coarse fish getting airborne for a moment, before coming off the hook and splashing into the water behind me. A small brown followed in much the same way, then another dace. At least this was fun and moving up to the bend it became dace alley, with fish bumping the nymph at every cast, some better ones fighting hard in the shallow water.

The pool above this run had provided some big trout earlier this season and keeping low, I made casts into the tail of the pool. A bulge as the line stopped, indicated a better fish and the frantic run upstream, followed by a leap, confirmed it as a wild brown, not big by this pool’s standards, but a rod bender no less.

As I slipped the trout back, there was a slow rise in the faster water to the outer edge of the pool fifteen yards up, the first I’d seen all afternoon. The late autumn sun had come out, sedges and crane flies were scudding about. Was it time to try the dry fly again?

I scanned the pool for more rises, but apart from dimples of minnows and fry, there were none. I moved a few yards upstream, then measuring my casts away from the edge, not wanting to disturb this precious fish, I cast above where I’d seen the rise and the nymph dropped gently to the surface, sinking slowly. I let the leader drift beyond where I’d seen the rise, lifted to recast and the line tightened as the nymph was seized. An accidental induced take. A flash of gold from the tumbling fish and I was playing a larger brownie, which kited across the shallows and down the run, bending my seven foot rod with the full force of the stream. I let the fish pull line from the reel, then wound it back against the flow and netted the well marked wild brown trout, the nymph dropping out in the net. A quick photo and it was swimming free.

Giving myself another ten minutes fishing time, I decided to try the deeper water at the top of the pool, making longer casts to cover more water and retrieving with a figure of eight to stay in contact. Several drifts later, the leader gave a pull back and I lifted into solid resistance and a large fish accelerating away upstream, round the bend. One of the big stockies at last I thought, as line stripped from the reel and I followed, rod raised, expecting to be broken in that first rush of power. The rod eased, the fish dropped back, plunging round the pool, then surged to the far side through the reeds. Keeping pressure on, it wallowed beneath the surface, another flash of gold and it was away again. A big brown? Then another wallow and I saw the large scales of a monster chub, my biggest ever. Soon it’s massive white mouth was open and being drawn across to my net to be scooped up and carried to safety.

Judging by this chub’s fins and scales, which were perfect, this was possibly the first time that it had been on the bank. At twenty inches from nose to fork of tail and four inches across it’s back, with no weighing scales, I estimated it to weigh 4lb, not my target trout, but a fish well worthy to close the season with.

CZ452 Varmint .17 HMR backs up Magtech 7022 .22 semi auto in 5 minute shoot out.

October 17, 2013 at 8:54 am

Several years ago I was recommended to a local farmer, who was struggling to fatten cattle on land being ruined by a growing tide of rabbits. He’d tried to reduce the numbers with a shot gun, but didn’t have the time , or the weaponry to do a proper job. Within a month I’d decimated the rabbit population and regular visits over the years had kept the numbers under control, allowing the grass to grow back, supporting a larger stock of beasts.

It was while visiting this land and cropping another five rabbits with my CZ 452 HMR, that I was introduced to another owner of a small farm suffering the same problems.

 Behind his house was an acre paddock, that he used for rearing Angus calves, but this year the rabbits had rendered it useless, claiming it as their own, digging up the grass roots and burrowing at will. I agreed to visit him the next evening with two of my rifles, the Magtech semi auto .22 with it’s red dot sight, which is ideal for close range, multiple targets and the CZ .17 HMR for the longer range considered shots. On arrival, I felt the adrenalin rise at the sight of over twenty rabbits, casually going about their destructive business in the paddock the other side of his garden fence, unfazed by the two humans peering over it.

 I decided to get straight to the job in hand, bringing both rifles back to the fence, along with two full ten bullet clips for the the .22 Magtech and two full five bullet clips for the HMR, the spares going in opposite pockets. With the Magtech rested on the fence, I placed the red cross in the sight on the nearest rabbit’s head behind the eye, eased the trigger and pop, it jumped up dead. The Magtech moderator is whisper quiet and the next rabbit toppled over seconds later, it’s near neighbours sitting up in alarm, perfect targets, another two, or three falling, before confusion set in and rabbits were going in all directions. Keeping my own excitement under control was difficult in the heat of the moment and I missed, or winged a few, needing extra shots and the other clip of .22 RWS subsonics. One rabbit, head shot, was running in decreasing circles, until it fell over of it’s own accord, despite my efforts to down it on the run.

The remaining rabbits had now either reached the safety of their burrows, or were scattered around the far edges of the paddock. Time to switch to the HMR. The heavier CZ 452 rested on the fence, gave a much more stable shooting platform, but my heart was beating hard, causing the cross hairs of the scope to move on the next target, looking back at me 60 yards away. A deep breath, followed by a slow exhale, steadied the rifle, and I squeezed the trigger, watching the rabbit leap skyward. Even with it’s moderator, the HMR bullet makes a loud crack when fired and the last rabbits were soon making for the exits, but not before a few more were added to the tally from the five minutes of carnage.

The land owner was most impressed, having watched from his verandah. I could have shot more, but head shots mean saleable rabbits and humane kills, so it pays to take that extra bit of care, when sighting on a target. I’ve been back a few times since, getting the odd one, or two, but they have made themselves scarce during daylight. I’ve now been recommended to the two other farms along the lane and have already added a couple more butchers shops to my list of customers.

Farmoor 2 Reservoir Fly Fishing. Two old men in a boat.

October 10, 2013 at 7:03 pm

I joined my childhood friend Peter for a day afloat at Thames Water’s Farmoor 2 Reservoir this week, my first visit for twenty years and his second in as many months. Having fished the 17,000 acre Strawberry Reservoir in Utah a month ago, I was keen to see how Farmoor’s 160 acre concrete bowl compared.

A friend of Peter’s, a Farmoor regular, had fished the previous week and put us on the method, HD lines fished deep with long tails and an Orange Blob fly on the point, while stationed off the northern tower. Using this technique Peter’s friend had over twenty rainbows, while recommending that Hoppers and Daddy Longlegs were killing them on the floating line. This pleased me, as I prefer to fish the floating line and was already armed with an assortment of Hoppers from my trip to the US.

Once tackled up and aboard the boat, we headed out towards the tower at the down wind end of the water, where it was already decidedly choppy and the skies leadened with threatening rain. I was reminded of days spent battling the waves at Datchet Reservoir, where three foot breakers were common. In tribute to those times, I decided to have a couple of drifts using my heavy trolling lead core, on my original French multiplier reel, with a Pennel rigged tandem Whiskey lure, the 3 inch long monstrosity accounting for many 3lb +  rainbows back in the days of my youth. Dropping this collection of antiques over the side, I was paying out the thirty yards of backing, when the rod bent double and line flew through my fingers, when the lure was taken on the drop. I lifted against the pull. I’m in! Then, it’s off!

This was always a problem with this ultra heavy line, despite an 8/9 weight rod, setting the hook was never guaranteed.  Encouraged by this on the first drop in, I continued the drift, getting a further two tap,tap bangs and misses. I suggested we put out the drogue to slow the boat, as it was flying along, driven by the wind. Peter was getting no offers with his No.4 HD, as I think it was fishing too far off the bottom. In the old days we would tie thirty yards of rope on to a buoy, drift down, cast the rig as far as we could, then pay out line, before pulling our selves back to the buoy. We would then begin a slow retrieve back to the boat on the reel.  Often a take would occur as soon as the lure began to move, the line going solid, or a series of knocks and taps would develope  into savage take, usually when the lure lifted off the bottom. This was a laborious form of fishing, certainly a long way off from purist fly fishing, but the fish, when they came, were big and angry. 

After a couple of drifts with no offers for Peter and more misses on the lead core for me, we decided to tie off to a buoy close to the shore and fish down wind. I swapped to the floating line with a Hopper on the point and a Daddy Longlegs on the dropper, casting down and across and letting the combo work through the wave, where a wind lane had formed. Peter stayed with the HD and Blob, fishing several depths. With no takes for twenty minutes, the motor was fired up again and we bashed through the waves back to the tower. Several more fruitless drifts and we headed back towards the boat jetty, where the wind was more kind, stopping above one of the empty holding pens and tied up to a buoy. First cast in, Peter’s rod bent double and he was into his first fish. At last something worked and the first bar of silver was in the boat.

Now it was my turn, when the rod pulled down with a fish and kept pulling, as a rainbow hugged the bottom, the Orange Blob holding on during a rod bending run, that took it from bottom to the surface and back again. My luck and the hook held and Peter was on hand to net a perfect 21 inch, 2 lb 12 oz rainbow. Battling the conditions earlier, we had both begun to doubt our ability to catch fish.

Peter now hooked another fish, a fine two pounder, while I bent into a fish on the lift off from the bottom, which came up like a submarine and I lost contact, when it surfaced. Another large rainbow, which zig-zagged around the boat, just under the surface at speed before heading off. Peter was now the one to curse, when he was taken on the drop in a lightning dive, a doubled rod, a ping and a lost Blob. Peter continued with a Yellow Blob, while I decided to give the floating line another go, as a few fish had begun to top close to the boat.

With the Hopper on the point and a Daddy six feet away on a dropper, I watched as a trout showed interest in the big green hopper, then swooped on the Daddy, a nose, then a tail, while the line slipped beneath the surface. I lifted and the line flew back. No contact. Preoccupied I continued like a desperate gambler, convinced that the next cast would result in a fish, trout after trout swirling at the flies, without me making contact. Almost unnoticed by me, Peter netted another good rainbow from the bottom. I should have tried another combination of flies, but five hours on a boat had dulled my brain and strained my body, we two old boys grunting and groaning from aching limbs, due to the cramped conditions.

Boats were returning to the jetty and we decided to call it a day and compare notes with our fellow anglers. Almost to a man, they had all fished small sedges in the surface film not far from the boat, often drifting slowly with the aid of a drogue. Their fish were not as big as ours, but they had more action, one having taken 16 fish. On a less windy day, our efforts out by the tower may have paid off, but rain and cold had driven us back to the comfort of the leeward shore. Ironically this had caused a premature ending to my day at Stawberry Reservoir. It’s not only in England that the weather can ruin a day’s fishing.

Strawberry Reservoir trout fishing, Wasatch, Utah

September 26, 2013 at 9:57 pm

Storm clouds were gathering as I reversed the boat trailer down the Soldier Creek boat ramp at Utah’s premier trout fishery, Strawberry Reservoir in early September. Friend Ray soon had his boat unhitched and we were heading out to his favourite bay a short distance from the ramp, where he was confident we would catch.

With over twenty days at over 100 degrees this summer, the upper layers of this 17,000 acre water were were still considered too warm to fish, although being at 7,600 feet it stays cold in it’s 150 foot depths, where land locked red kokanee salmon shoal. Depths between 25 and 30 feet had been giving good results and Ray’s bay was showing these figures on the depth finder, as we made our first casts, simple running leger rigs, baited with Powerbait on treble hooks dropping into the clear water yards from the boat. Ray was fishing his standard two foot tail, while I opted for longer at five feet, the buoyant Powerbait floating above the weed, well away from the greedy claws of the local crawdad population.

Minutes after our baits hit the water, my rod rattled from a positive bite, a strike and I was into my first fish. Immediately I was in trouble with the unfamiliar borrowed tackle, as the rod bent into a good fish. With the reel having no back wind and the drag set to maximum, I was unable to counter the runs and dives of this battling cutthroat trout, just managing to release the drag in time, as it approached the boat and made another deep dive. Ray was accurate with the net, scooping the 17 inch trout up, when it made another pass.

Strawberry fishery rules state that all cutthroat of breeding size between 15 and 22 inches, be returned immediately to the water, just one of the trebles holding in it’s jaw, being snipped off with pliers to avoid unnecessary damage. I cast again and before I could put the rod down, the line began moving across the surface. Another fish had taken the bait on the drop and a deep bend in the rod signaled a fast running trout, which turned towards the boat, gaining slack line and coming off the now double hook. Ray had his eye on the gathering clouds and a bolt of lightning, followed by a clap of thunder eased the decision to leave this obvious fish holding spot and head north towards brighter skies ten miles away down the reservoir, through the Narrows and out into the Basin.

As we neared the shore, we had to manoeuvre between a group of float fly fishermen, who had found a shoal of small rainbows feeding near the surface, the fish rising freely around the us. I’d brought my fly rod onto the boat and this was my chance to demonstrate to bait fisherman Ray, the excitement of taking trout on the floating line from a boat. At this point my enthusiasm collapsed, when I realized that the rod had been accidentally trodden on and crushed at the ferrule. With fish near the surface, Ray killed the main engine and ran his small trolling motor at tick-over, while I cast a small Mepps spoon out from the side of the boat, paying out line to allow the spoon to sink and swing back behind the boat in an arc. Several casts later, the rod bucked as a trout hit the lure and I found myself playing another hard fighting cuttroat, once again Ray was spot on with the net, scooping the fish from the surface.

This was another cutthroat that needed to be returned, but not before a quick photo for the album.

The spoon was firmly in the scissors of the jaw, the cutthroat biting down hard on two of the three hooks and the pliers were needed again before release.

Ray decided to head back towards Soldier Creek, but not before a stop at the Meadows and few drifts along the gently sloping shoreline with Powerbaited hooks. We had already passed through a heavy rain shower and a strong wind was beginning to sweep more clouds towards us.

I was still holding the camera for this shot of a dramatic sky, when the rod rattled and I struck into what I thought was the biggest fish of the day, as it ran rings round the boat, diving beneath it at will, until it gave up thrashing on the surface. This was in fact the smallest and last fish of the day, a plump 14 inch rainbow, which resided in the holding tank, until released at the end of our trip.

A few more missed bites later, the clouds closed in, the temperature dropped and torrential rain swept in across the Uinta National Forest lashing the surface. Under the canopy, we huddled round the cockpit in an effort to avoid a soaking, the boat making steady headway against the storm, emerging from the Narrows to Soldier Creek and sunshine.

We barely had time to get the boat back on the trailer, before another storm hit for a wet 80 mile drive back to Ray’s home in Bountiful north of Salt Lake City.