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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.

Snake River trout fishing, Wyoming

September 12, 2013 at 12:21 pm

A lunch stop on the Snake River, downstream from Jackson, Wyoming, gave me the opportunity to fish the upper, freestone reaches of this  river, before it slows to begin it’s 1,000 mile journey across Idaho to join the Columbia River.

I’d already fished the head waters of this mighty river within the bounds of Yellowstone Park, managing to lose, or be broken, while fishing a deep pool with hoppers, by brown and cutthroat trout, frustrating my attempts to get them in my net, before a thunderstorm stopped play and soaked my wife and I to the skin.

Access is difficult on the Snake, as it has carved it’self through a deep valley, but a boat launching site provided shady parking and shallow water to wade. At this point the river speeds over stones in a series of riffles and rapids and looks unfishable, but trout were rising in front of me within easy casting distance and I waded in to offer my hopper and gold head size  16 pheasant tail nymph. I began casting upstream to the rising fish and watched a cutthroat take a sideswipe at the big hopper, hooking, but losing the trout, when it dropped below me. In hindsight I should have tried an ant, or a klinkhammer, but the foam hopper stayed afloat in the roughest water and I could see it easily. A few casts later, another rise resulted in a fish on and a rod bending fight, as the fish took full advantage of the flow, belying it’s size when finally in the net.

Despite it’s size, the foam hopper could not be resisted by this small cutthroat and many of it’s friends, although setting the hook proved a random event. Having succeeded in putting all the trout down in front of me, I changed tactics and began drifting the hopper downstream, rising a few fish, then hitting into a hard fighting brown trout.

With a series of boats being launched, where I was fishing, it was time to enjoy lunch in the shade of a tree and ponder my next line of attack. The hopper had proved it’s worth against several smaller trout, but I wanted a bigger fish to round off my visit and dug out a Blue Flash Damsel from my box. This is a deadly lure on English lakes and with it’s bead head, it stood a chance of getting down to the larger fish further out.

On my second cast out and across, mending the line to keep the lure out in the stream, I drifted the Blue Flash Damsel downstream, while paying out line, the rod bending over, when a big fish hit the lure. All the slack line was taken in it’s first run and following a few head shaking sessions, the process of bringing it back began, countering each run with steady pressure, until the fish was only a few feet away, rolling in the current, a cutthroat of around 16 inches. My wife was poised with the camera and my net outstretched, as I reeled in the last few yards on this beaten trout, when pop, the hook lost it’s hold. We looked at each other stunned. If there was a fish more ready for the net, then I’ve not seen it.

With many more miles to travel that day returning to friends in Salt Lake City, this was my last chance to fish these big trout filled rivers, and I reluctantly put away my rod, hoping that a lottery win was waiting on my return to the UK.

Madison River trout fishing, Yellowstone Park

September 11, 2013 at 4:20 pm

At the confluence of the Gibbon and Firehole Rivers in Madison, the Madison River is formed and meanders parallel to the road all the way to West Yellowstone on it’s way to Hebgen Lake.  I fished the upper few miles of this already powerful river, where it reminded me of the Hampshire Test, a steady flow and luxurious weed growth, allowing a more relaxed style of fly fishing among spectacular scenery.

I’d intended fishing the Gibbon, as advised by the flyshop owner in West Yellowstone, but a bison on the road had caused a traffic jam, so I turned back to the nearest parking spot and got my rod out. I still had the hopper, nymph combo from the Gallatin attached and walked down to a likely looking run, where a large rock was forcing the river out from the bank. First cast, as I watched the hopper drift along the glide, it slid sideways and disappeared. I lifted and was into my first Madison fish, which promptly zoomed off downstream. The angler downstream complained that he’d spent twenty minutes there before me without a touch. This put more pressure on not to lose this fish, which was making the most of the strong current.

This was a decent sized rainbow, that fought all the way to the net and was  aware that the size 16 gold head pheasant tail could slip out at the slightest turn, giving a sigh of relief, when it was finally in the net.

This rainbow was beautifully marked, with a massive tail, it’s solid round body testament to the healthy diet available to these trout. The nymph was safely in the scissors of it’s jaw, a speedy unhook and it was back in the river, darting away. At this moment calls from the roadside made me look up to see the errant bison strolling into our parking area, quiet oblivious of the curiosity and panic that it had invoked among it’s onlookers.

With the bison continuing on it’s way, to browse the meadow downstream, I got back to fishing, having been joined by another local flyfisherman, who like me, enjoyed fishing talk. Like his friend, he had not caught all morning and had come up to see what the Englishman was doing and to advise me of the many waters I could fish, if I had time. I was casting across and drifting the hopper downstream, while paying out line, covering more water each cast. He’d just complimented me on my line mending, when the hopper was engulfed in a swirl, the line tightened and I was into my second fish, only minutes after the first. This trout exploded on the surface, before boring deep, stripping line from my reel down to the backing, as it fought across the river. These trout are all muscle, due to the conditions that they survive in and it was a while before I saw the bronze sides of a good brown, when it topped mid stream. My new friend volunteered to net my fish and as I watched him struggle down the bank on his reconditioned knees, I realized that at age 77, he might not be the ideal candidate to do so. Once in the river, however, after a few heart stopping misses, it was mission accomplished and he got his net under the trout.

Another good fish, this one measuring in at 14 inches, had taken the hopper, turned and hooked it’self, then given a fight harder than any brown trout twice it’s weight, that I’d had on my home chalkstream, making several last minute dives for freedom, once it neared the net.

With the road now clear and the natives impressed, it was time to get back on the tourist trail again and head in the direction of Mammoth Springs and Tower Falls, followed by Yellowstone Canyon, a true sightseeing fest, before finding myself with fishing time to spare on the return journey, when my wife requested a stop to view an osprey nest on the other side of the Madison. We watched as an osprey dived into the river and arose with a large trout in it’s claws. The large flapping fish proved too strong and it fell back with a splash. The search continued, another victim was selected and a one pound fish was being lifted from the river, the osprey turning the trout head first to streamline it’s flight back to the nest, while it’s partner flew cartwheels of appreciation around it shrieking.

The Madison was dotted with rising fish and I watched a large grass hopper jump as I walked, the strong wind carrying the flying insect far out into the river, it’s struggles to escape the surface ending with a plop, when the jaws of a brown clamped shut, baring it down to the depths. Coping with the swirling upstream wind was a problem, an approaching thunderstorm creating it’s own weather system in the mountains and staying in contact with the fly was difficult. The hopper was drifting down, I was retrieving slack line from my cast, when the hopper dragged under as the nymph was seized. I lifted the rod more in hope than expectation. At the extreme of my lift, I felt the weight of a fish, a pull of line through the rings and the rod doubled over with the power of a running trout. My goodness, how these trout fight, another breathtaking battle and I slipped the net under a quality brown. Holding the fish for a photo was a  fight in itself and the brown trout was soon swimming free.

Two smaller brown trout followed among missed takes and lost fish, before the hopper was hit with a crash and a rainbow was cartwheeling across the surface, diving deep and running upstream, singing the reel in surges of acceleration. Giving line when needed and stripping back, when the rainbow began to lose ground, I was in control and waiting to bring it over to the edge of the shallows, when it gave one last lightning surge, pulling the rod down flat with a ping as the hopper’s 8lb link snapped like cotton, a twist of line, where the knot had been, being all that remained. The thunder had been getting closer with blobs of rain splatting down into the grass it was time to get back in the car and head back to West Yellowstone.

Gallatin River trout fishing, Yellowstone National Park

September 9, 2013 at 1:28 pm

25 miles north of West Yellowstone, the Gallatin River turns to accompany Highway 191, growing in width and strength as it rushes north. It’s character changes in places, where beaver dams divert the river into slow meanders, but in the main it speeds on it’s way over stones and riffles and is easily waded from bank to bank.

I kept within the boundaries of the Park, plenty of pull offs allowing easy access to the river, where wading was an easy option and I worked my way up river casting to likely fish holding areas. Fish were rising to small black flies in the tail of a pool on the first section I tried and set up with a floating ant and size 16 pheasant tail nymph as a dropper. About three feet deep with a strong flow, short casts were needed to stay in contact with the fly, the first fish taking the nymph aggressively, the rod bending into the fish on the take. The trout was invisible despite the gin clear water, staying deep, then running downstream, where a flash of pink told me it was a rainbow. Not a large trout, about 12 inches, I was soon guiding it tumbling on the shallows to my net, only for it to bounce against the rim and come off. Not a good start, but splashes indicated trout were still rising and after a few misses was into my next fish, this time on the ant, the smaller brown putting up a brief fight before I lifted it into the net.

More takes followed as I worked up the pool, some to the nymph and some to the ant, the trout weren’t fussy, they were small, but scrapped hard in the rapid waters, mostly spinning off the hook before I could lift them out. I covered about three hundred yards in an hour, searching out the deeper pools and runs hoping for better fish, but none came and returned to the car to continue the tourist trail down through Gallatin Canyon and a drive up to the Big Sky resort on Lone Mountain, where a beaver was building a dam at 10,000 feet.

 Later in the day, returning along 191, I pulled the car over just inside the park and made my way up river to fish the inside of a big bend, where deep water was pushing hard against the far bank, large rocks creating swirling eddies, that looked like they held fish, while the inside  held slack water. This time there were no rising fish and the ant, nymph combo resulted in one missed pull to the nymph, when worked upstream, the ant soon drowned in the rough water. With grass hoppers scattering at every footfall, it was time to reach into the fly box for one of the monster foam hoppers bought at the fly shop, at least it would act as an indicator to the nymph. I continued to work my way upstream, but had no offers, so turned and drifted the hopper downstream, feeding line as I went. A swirl in the choppy water caught me by surprise, as a trout rose to the hopper and I failed to make contact. The next one shook my rod with a bang. Another miss. I raised the rod and put a bow in the line. This was the answer, as I drifted the part submerged hopper across the slower inside bend, the line sprang taught and I was into a rod bender, that used the full force of the river to attempt an escape. When I finally brought the brown trout to the net, I thought someone had switched fish, as it was much smaller than it had first seemed.

This proved the winning method and I worked my way back downstream, casting across, drifting down and swinging across the flow into slower water, some fish missing the hopper, me missing reel singing takes, the size 14 barbless hook releasing more fish than it held, but I was fishing for sport, enjoying every moment of anticipation. The trout were all browns around 10 to 12 inches, I’d hoped for a few cutthroat and rainbows, but I was happy to be able to adapt to a new way of fishing and get results.

 

Yellowstone National Park trout fishing at Hopper Time.

September 6, 2013 at 12:45 pm

Long on my wish list, fishing for trout in Yellowstone National Park, became a reality, when on a whistle stop tour of the tourist hot spots and springs, through Montana and Wyoming last week. Based in the old pioneer town of West Yellowstone, a place that has more fly shops, than places to eat, I was able to sample a mix of mountain free stone streams like the upper Gallatin River, the Madison, through to the massive Snake River, tumbling between the green hills of Wyoming towards the wide plains of Idaho.

August is Hopper Time on these crystal clear waters and a walk through the riverside vegetation creates showers of escaping grass hoppers, some three inches long, that inevitably are borne by the strong winds onto the river surfaces. To an English fly fisherman like myself, the foam grass hopper imitations, with their striped rubber legs, were a curiosity, bought to be shown with a smile to my fly fishing friends back home, but coupled as a Hopper and Gold Head Pheasant Tail combo, they proved deadly on these powerful river trout.

As on any river, being able to read the water, goes a long way to aiding success on these wild torrents, a good strong flow indicating deeper water below seemingly unfishable rapids. Brown, rainbow and cutthroat trout are invisible, even when hooked, as they battle the current, the bright sunlight reflecting flashes of colour from the stone strewn riverbeds, while cloaking the identities of these battling torpedoes, until they are finally in the landing net.

 Without the restrictions that apply to my local Hampshire chalk stream, which is single fly, or nymph fished upstream only, it was interesting to sit and watch the “locals” fly fishing, many styles and ranges of tackle being used to to one end, catching trout. Wading and drifting a big buoyant fly downstream, with the option of a weighted dropper fly was common, as was the use of streamer flies fished below the surface. Spinning rods with bubble floats were also in use by a family strung out across the upper Snake River, who were having a great time, the kids in competition with mom and dad, catching several small browns and rainbows on grass hoppers and wooly buggers, drifted down among the rocks.

During a three day stay, I caught trout on all of the above, fished singly, or as combos, up and downstream, losing more fish than I netted due to the barbless hook rule, while complying with the Park’s catch and release policy. In the Lamar River range on the north eastern side of Yellowstone, anglers are asked to kill all rainbow and brook trout caught, to encourage the native cutthroat trout to re-establish, while non native lake trout have also become a problem, predating cutthroats over their spawning grounds, so once again must be killed in Yellowstone Lake, whatever their size.

A three day non resident fishing license cost $18 USD, allowing access to over a thousand miles of the best fishing you will find anywhere, in some of the most stunning landscapes ever. If you can get to a river, you can fish and if prepared to trek a few miles upstream away from other anglers, then it could turn into a red letter day. I was only able to fish within half a mile of the road, due to a wife, who has a good respect for bears, but still caught plenty of trout. The bears are there, a mother black bear and two cubs passed within a 100 yards, crossing the path we were on a few minutes before. Yellowstone Park is managed for the benefit of the animals and birds, a healthy fish population is looked on as a food provider for bears and ospreys, anglers being the people willing to pay for it. Herds of bison block the roads and osprey take trout back to their riverside nests, reminding urban visitors, that life carries on regardless in the Park, when we return to our air conditioned homes.

Hot springs and geysers are everywhere throughout Yellowstone, Old Faithful erupting every 92 minutes, while waterfalls and canyons remind the visitor, that they are in a special place.

Thankful for small mercies

August 16, 2013 at 10:37 am

Recent heavy rain drew me back to my syndicate water this week, after a break of nearly a month. On my last visit, the river was desperately low, but plenty of wild browns were feeding.  One look at the river this time dashed any hopes of a busy session, bare stones visible, where a few months ago a wading stick was needed.

 

The stream was carrying a fair amount of colour, as I walked downstream searching in vain for rises and visible trout. I tied on a size 18 Gold Head Pheasant Tail nymph, dropping it into known banker pools as I went. With no luck and faced with crossing a meadow full off frisky young bullocks, I opted to pass through a copse on the other side of the river. This was new territory to me, but on a recent work party we had cleared the banks of dead trees, stinging nettles and Himalayan balsam, giving access to the river. This area was also devoid of rising trout, but there was good weed growth, creating several encouraging runs through the otherwise slow moving water and all else having failed, decided that wading was now a safe option on this once deep, high banked section.

Going through the motions of short casts to likely spots, then wading up a few paces and trying again, I disturbed a good fish, that made off upstream creating a V shaped wake, but could not see if it was a chub, or trout. More importantly, why had it not taken the nymph presented in front of  it’s nose? I was shaken out of my gloom, when the leader darted forward and the resistance of a small wild brown was felt, fighting for all it’s seven inches could give. Another twenty yards upstream and I was in again, when a similar sized trout popped out from a weed bed and dived away with my nymph. At least these faster runs held some small, but feeding fish. Further upstream I stopped at a deep, tree covered pool, isolated by stoney shallows.

I cast to the head of the pool, where the flow passed close to the tree roots and felt the take from a trout as the line sank into the centre of a bulge beneath the surface, my nymph firmly set in the jaws of a diving wildie, that fought round the pool, before coming to the net.

This plump brown rounded off my visit to the upper reaches of the water and with the afternoon changing to evening, I decided to return to my van and fish the river a mile downstream, where I knew of a fast flowing runoff. Earlier in the year this was too dangerous to wade, but now offered sure footing.

This section looked very fishy and I was soon missing short stabbing takes, as the nymph was swept back toward me. One fish hung on long enough to set the hook and a small dace was tumbling in the stream.

A six inch brownie followed and as I moved up to the bend, some better dace. This was addictive, these silver fish just plucking at the nymph, sometimes chasing it downstream. I lost count of the number hooked and returned at my feet, the larger fish dropping down the run, putting a bend in the rod. I’d worked my way up to the tail of the large pool above and began dropping the nymph into the slower water, another dace, then a swirl indicated the take of  a trout, which exploded out of the shallows, cartwheeling across the pool, before seeking deeper water. This was a pound plus wild brown, but fighting the flow and the rod it was soon drifting back toward my net, only to bounce off the tiny barbless hook as it crossed the stones. How annoying! Casting further up I missed another trout, probably down to the quick reactions needed for dace, it was on long enough to see the spots, then it was gone. My last fish from the pool took in the shallows and was a rare roach.

I was now late for my tea and made my way back to the road, but stopped to fish another pool, where I could now wade due to the low levels. This had been a favourite in past years, but winter floods had deposited deep mud at the edge and I’d been passing it by, now it was possible to wade.

With no sign of rising trout, the nymph was prospected around the pool, bumping a fish on the take under the trees, before another obliged with a long pull of the leader in the run and a scrapping ten inch brown was soon in the net.

This lively trout was enough for me and I headed home, no rising fish to be seen, or larger browns netted, but plenty of small fish action and my dinner waiting on the table.

 

 

CZ 452 HMR takes over from the Webley Viper for long range rabbits.

August 2, 2013 at 11:56 am

Driving past one of my shooting permissions, I saw that the hay had been gathered in and with their cover gone, a group of rabbits were feeding unaware of my plans for them over the following evenings. Unable to get on the land earlier in the year, then hampered by long grass, as the summer progressed, I’d been biding my time, until now.

The land is owned by a Knight of the Realm and acts as a buffer around his fine country house and garden. Over the years he has planted trees on the land to create a mini parkland, the only activity being haymaking by a farming neighbour. Around the extensive perimeter, he had erected a rabbit and deer proof fence, not realizing that rabbits love to burrow and that deer can easily jump their own height.

This was one of my first permissions, when I was asked to come and shoot the rabbits, that had invaded the owner’s lawns and surrounding flower beds. In those days my weapon of choice was a Webley Viper .22 precharged air rifle, this being the ideal tool for the work. At the legal limit of 12 ft lb and very accurate, most shots were taken out to 25 yards with decimating results on the furry intruders, each visit on my way home from work, supplying my local butcher with head shot rabbits.

Once the garden was cleared, a warren close to the rear fence became my target, a cammo net pegged permanently at the corner of a hedge, gave me sight over the entrances 30 yards away and having made an adaptor to take a small light weight moderator, which fitted to the end of the Viper’s silencing shroud of the Walther barrel, I was able to pop off rabbits 10 yards away without causing panic among the masses. This was when I first observed that rabbits will go on feeding, while those around are flopping over under the weight of a .22 pellet in the brain. At this time I had to find another butcher, as my first had equaled his demand. I was fortunate to buy this rifle, when Webley went into liquidation and bought it at a price, which effectively gave me a free diver’s bottle for filling the reservoir, a scope and a gun case. A bargain, which I soon paid for from my evening visits.

The land beyond the house stretches to about ten acres and is lined with hedges, but due to the anti rabbit mesh, gives little cover and after the first year of shooting, the remaining rabbits became educated to the fact that this cammo clad figure, belly crawling towards them, spelt danger and the loss of friends. With several permissions by now , I applied for my Firearms Certificate and was granted .22 lr and .17 HMR. Priced at only £100, I purchased a .22 Magtech semi automatic rifle and three ten round magazines. Armed with this, fitted with a moderator and firing 40 grain subsonic .22 hollow point bullets, I was back in business, taking on rabbits at 60 yards with the confidence I once associated with the Webley Viper at 25 yards. The heavy expanding bullet hitting with a boof, with another nine shots to rapidly follow up on any others hanging around.

The Magtech semi auto served me well for another season and firing Eley subsonic ammunition, proved totally reliable. Once the trajectory of it’s bullet was understood, 80 to 90 yard shots were possible, but by now the few remaining rabbits were getting scarce, with returns from visits deminishing, as the residents headed for their burrows, when I tried to get within range. This was the case on some of my other wide open permissions and it was time to take up the option on my FAC and buy an HMR.

Searching the Internet for reviews of HMR rifles, pointed to the CZ 452 Varmint with a 16 inch barrel, as accurate and well built, while for me, good value for money, my hobby needing to be self supporting. Sure there were known problems, a stiff trigger pull and touching woodwork around the barrel, but these were soon fixed, after a few hours in my workshop. The HMR fires it’s .17 inch diameter ballistic bullet twice as fast as the .22 subsonic round, spins faster and weighs only 17 grains, so does not drop so rapidly, carrying it’s energy further. Firing at a target set at 60 yards, the bullet rises less than an inch, before dropping and hitting the bull at 120 yards. Without adjusting the sights, or hold over, any rabbit in the crosshairs out to 130 yards is literally dead meat.

The HMR bullet on the left has a plastic ballistic tip held in a copper jacket, which disintegrates on impact, while the hollow point lead .22 bullet on the right expands on impact.

The HMR rifle promoted the pest control on this land to a higher level again and rabbit numbers dropped to them being almost invisible, once roaming free, they now stay close to their burrows, their white tails flashing back to cover at the sight of a human. Seeing the grass was now cut, I’d phoned the owner, who welcomed me, saying that there were no rabbits left, I’d shot them all. I assured him that I’d seen some and drove the few miles to prove him wrong.

 

On entering the field, I could see this rabbit feeding 200 yards away and used the hedge as cover to get closer, before getting down and shooting from the bipod, a single shot to the head toppling it without a kick. I needed 140 paces to reach the spot, a point where the full extent of the land is visible, from where, using the twelve magnification scope, I was able to count over a dozen rabbits dotted around the perimeter. So much for there being none left. They were certainly edgy and several melted away, before I was in position, ending with a tally of five on the first evening, all shot at ranges beyond 120 yards. A couple more trips and the number was up to eleven, a few more, then I’ll move on, until the autumn.

Trout river desperate for a drink

July 23, 2013 at 4:55 pm

Returning to my syndicate trout river, after a few week’s break, I was met by a jungle of bankside growth and the lowest water levels I have seen. The banks were to be addressed by an imminent working party from members, but the river was on it’s stones, when I arrived for a couple of hours in the evening.

A mini heatwave, enjoyed by most humans, has forced the trout in this little river to search out the faster, more oxygenated water at the tails of recently created pools, or where there is direct flow. This allowed me to target these areas, which were holding more trout than usual, although choice of fly was difficult, as despite clouds of olives, sedges and even late mayfly spinners, spiraling into the air, few fish were rising. Much of my trout fishing has been done using nymphs, but the challenge of bringing a trout up to the fly, then timing the strike, as it turns back down, brings it’s own rewards of satisfaction. My easy option choice of fly was a size 16 ribbed Klinkhammer, it casts and lands well on the water, while it’s buoyancy allows it cope with the faster riffles.

I’d decided to walk down the fishery, before fishing back up, but got tempted by rising trout in the shallow water at the tails of the deep pools I passed, the toes of my waders barely covered, as I stalked over the stones to within casting range. This is real in and out casting, the fly dragging, if on the surface for a few seconds, while the fish have to react instantly at the sight of the fly in such fast and shallow water. The action was supplied by two year old wild browns only eight inches long , sometimes a heavy cast was enough to spook them into zig zag panic back to the deeper water, at other times the drop of the fly was met by a swirl, a splash and the satisfying thump of a fighting trout.

I reached the meadow and waded up through a channel of encroaching undergrowth, a spot where a deep pool had formed around a bush, which was now shallow with reeds growing up in the middle of it. I’d had some good fish here earlier in the season, but this time my fly got no response from the hot spot and waded up further towards a trout rising at regular intervals above the reeds.  I made casts to each side of the reeds, getting agitated every time my line caught in the overhanging nettles and grass, but the fish would not move from it’s safe haven. I made a cast over the reeds, the fly drifted six inches and was sucked down by the unaware trout, which, after a short tussle, buried it’self in the reed roots and I had to wade up to get it out. Another perfect plump young brown.

The evening was getting on and I’d taken my fourth small brown, along with several on offs, while wading up the river, mudflats exposed where there had been deep water, when another rise from a small bay, saw the klinkhammer parachute down to the waiting trout. A take and the shock of a larger trout boiling, then speeding up to the pool above, awoke me from my relaxed state, line streaming from the reel, as it plunged round the depths, only for it to surface, then spin around on it’s back like Flipper. At this point the hook lost hold and the one pound brownie drifted back towards me on it’s side, before it awoke again, to charge around the pool in a panic. I can only think that the river had deoxygenated in the heat and the trout had run out of “breath”.

With the Klinkhammer now sodden, and no more rises apparent, I put on a size 18 GH Pheasant Tail nymph to continue my walk back to the van, stopping when I saw a swirl in the shallows of a small weir, where a tree grows out of the pool. I worked the pool with the nymph, taking another small brown, which I shook off the barbless hook in the water. Lifting off a few cast later, the line went solid and a powerful fish dived down into the base of the tree, with my rod at full bend, as I tried to get it out. Next thing, the rod came back and a fat perch of around a pound and a half, zipped across in front of me, dorsal fin raised and made for the faster water, pulling hard upstream. The perch was soon beaten and drifting on it’s side across the stones toward my hand, my net being on the bank. It’s striped flanks and big white mouth, were intimidating, big perch having a fixed look of being very cross about them. My luck ran out, when it jumped from my hand in the shallows, the tiny hook coming out with a pop and I watched it’s broad back disappear, as it made it’s way with a waddling motion across the shallows to the pool.

Another good photo opp0rtunity missed, the light was now fading and I made my way along the bank with purpose, stopping to amuse myself, sneaking a few more small browns out from their various lies, feeling slightly guilty for disturbing them on such a sultry evening.