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Wild brown trout fishing among the rocks in Wales

June 21, 2013 at 11:54 pm

In one of my other lives as the owner of a classic MGB sports car, a long weekend had been booked by my club at a remote Bed and Breakfast on a farm in mid Wales, from where motoring tours were arranged. Not wishing to miss out on the chance to fish one of the wild streams in the area, I squeezed my brook  rod and a bag of bits into the small boot, before heading west on the 200 mile journey.

The farm had a small river along it’s border and with a couple of hours to spare on the last day, I went down the valley to investigate, rod in hand, wearing borrowed wellies.

This was a typical mountain stream, a complete contrast to the lazy south of  England chalk streams I usually fish these days, but I cut my fly fishing teeth on the streams of Devon, the Isle of Man, Wales and Scotland and I knew that any deep pocket, or pool would have small brown trout in residence. Walking up the valley bluebells were still in full bloom, testament to the hard Welsh winter this year.

The fun of these rivers is discovering the holding spots and wading up amongst the rocks, the best way to find them. Traditionally two flies are used, a buoyant “bob” fly as an indicator and a small down winged, wet fly on the point, fished downstream, but I opted for a small Hares Ear nymph fished upstream to start. With any new water, there is always that feeling of doubt, “are there fish here, or not?” I had just moved up to a run below a fall of water, when I got my answer. Flicked into the boil, the line drifted back, then shot forward as a bundle of energy made off with the nymph and came off seconds later. My appetite whetted, I tried again and missed another take. Another pool and a deep run with an eddy hard against the rocks.  The nymph bounced off  the bank, the nymph sank in the eddy, with the line going in the opposite direction, then moved upstream, a lift and a 7 inch trout was zooming among the rocks.

I’d picked my way upstream, in and out of the river for maybe a quarter of a mile before I saw THE pool. It was formed above a series of small waterfalls, the river forcing through two large rocks, scouring out a channel four feet deep and opening out to a pool twenty feet long, which was up to three feet deep in places. The surface was covered in clouds of small flies, while large crane flies bobbed up and down in a courtship dance. Small trout were splashing on the top and I changed flies to a tiny buoyant Klinkhammer, but could not get it onto the pool due to overhanging trees and a gusting wind blowing down the valley. After several position changes, I backtracked down the river to a stony beach, then made my way through the virgin undergrowth, up to one of the rocks at the head of the pool and made myself comfortable. From here I had a view down the pool and could see, against another rock, an eddy with a half pound trout sitting above it’s outlet. For this river, he was probably the king of the pool, occasionally rising in a swirl, to suck in flies trapped in the surface of the eddy.

Several attempts to land the Klinhammer within range of this fish failed miserably, the trees and wind adding to the complication, but now another problem raised it’s head. Without warning I was engulfed by a cloud of minute midges, swarming over my hands and face. I could feel them before I could see them, semi transparent dots, like oil clinging to my skin, which I wiped away with my hands. My hood was pulled over my cap and my sleeves over my wrists, but still they swarmed. I changed my fly to a heavy nymph to get down to the fish at the tail of the pool, but my concentration was going fast and my first take raised a trout to the surface to be lost. At this point I was spending more time thinking about the midges, than fishing, when the rod top rattled, bent over and I was playing a better trout, which took refuge beneath the rock I was sitting on. Bringing this beautiful wild trout through the foaming river to the net, made me briefly forget my agony and once unhooked and released, I had one thought, get out of there quick.

Once on the move again, the swarm was gone, but my hands were covered in red dots and once I returned to the farm, could see that my eyes were ringed with red. The farmer, who had lent me the boots, now held up a bottle of midge repellent with a knowing look that said “fancy going out fishing without putting on midge repellent” We do not get midges like it in southern England, my only other experience being when fishing a similar stream in Michigan, but they were full blown mosquitos and looked dangerous, not these micro blood suckers. The post script to this tale, is that five days after being bitten, my hands, arms and face are still covered in raised welts, which itched to the point of burning for days and resisted every remedy known to science.

 

Baked rabbit loins in pesto and bacon parcels.

June 20, 2013 at 10:50 am

The best parts of a rabbit are the loins running either side of the spine. A quick, easy and very tasty way to cook these is to bake them in foil, wrapped in bacon with red pesto. As in the illustration, they compliment a stir fry perfectly.

Ingredients

1 pair of rabbit loins, filleted. (per person)

2 rashers of smokey bacon cut in strips (two per rasher, or single streaky)

1 heaped table spoon of red pesto (Sainsbury or Waitrose)

As an alternative to pesto, try mixing soft cheese with mixed Italian herbs to add to the chopped chorizo.

I always have some chorizo sausage in the fridge and a 4mm slice finely chopped, added to the “sandwich” can give an extra boost to the flavour.

Kitchen foil to suit

Method

Liberally coat the loins with the pesto, then lengthwise put them together side by side, making sure there is plenty of pesto between them like a sandwich. Take the strips of bacon and wrap them at an angle round the loins to make a parcel. Using a square of foil, loosely wrap the completed parcel leaving an air gap and seal the top. Repeat for each parcel.

Bake in a hot oven at 200C for twenty minutes, then open the foil to allow the bacon to brown and bake for a further five minutes. Pour the juices from the foil over the parcel and enjoy. As a winter dish, serve on a bed of mashed swede and potato, with a side of chopped bacon, onion, red pepper, tomato and mushroom, softened in a frying pan. Delicious.

 

 

 

 

Mayfly still on chalkstream trout menu

June 18, 2013 at 3:34 pm

Rain streaked windows, spelled out no fishing for me on my only available day this week, but the good old English weather relented once again and I found myself on the banks of my syndicate river by late afternoon, hoping for a last chance at Mayfly gorged trout.

Always an optimist, I tied on a Shadow Mayfly and went in search of rises, but the surface was undisturbed by any sign of fly, or fish, as I made my way downstream and paused at the tail of a deep pool. I thought it was worth a chuck and pushed down through the now tall undergrowth to the edge of the bank, from where I was able to parachute down the big fly. It had barely settled on the surface, when from below, a shape appeared and the Mayfly was gone in the boil of a take, as a fat wild brown dived back to the riverbed. Now the fun started, the trout running in all directions, only for me to realize, that I’d not extended my net, with the fish crashing around unseen,  somewhere below the bank. On the third attempt, I steered the beaten fish to where I thought my net should be and lifted to feel the weight of a successful netting.

This 13 inch brownie was quickly returned and I moved down to the the next pool, where I’d seen the first rise of the afternoon, a crease between flows holding a fish. The downstream wind blew the fly back a couple of times, but third time lucky again, there was enough slack for a decent drift and it was taken, just as it began to drag, by another battling wildie.

Slightly smaller at over 12 inches, this well marked brown swam off on release and with two fish in ten minutes, I tied on a fresh Mayfly and in the absence of more rises, began searching out along the edges, while I waded up to another pool.

The fly swept by a bush and sank beneath a ripple. On automatic, I made a sideward strike and felt the solid resistance of a good fish, seeing it’s full tail, as it bored deep into the pocket beneath the bush, refusing to budge, then bursting out and speeding off down the shallows, with me in hot pursuit, landing net in hand. An overwintered stockie, it took refuge in a hollow, where I netted it from behind.

At 17 inches with a massive tail, this fish had worked hard for his freedom and it settled back to the slower pace of the hollow to recover, while I decided to take the short drive down river to fish the big S bend, where I’d had  success earlier on this season. Wading back upstream to get out of the river, I couldn’t resist casting to another rise with the sodden Shadow Mayfly. Rubbing in Muccilin , the fly sat in the surface, rather than on it, but it was afloat long enough to take this 11 inch wild trout. Four individual trout, from four locations in under an hour, not bad for an old ‘un.

Resisting further temptation from more rising trout, I drove in my waders down to park at the road bridge. From here it is a 500 yard obstacle course through tussock grass to the S bend, where the stinging nettles were now at chest height along the bank.

Recovering my breath, I could see mayflies popping up to the surface everywhere, drifting down in the flow and lifting off, but no surface activity, bulges and bow waves indicating that the trout preferred taking the mayfly nymphs just below the surface. The wind was swirling about the pool, but now and then it would drop enough for a cast and I got in position at the tail to wait my turn. From that angle, the glare from the surface, even with polaroids, didn’t allow for a visual warning of trout and I kicked myself a couple of times for missing the unmissable. Having put these fish down, I waded deeper into the pool and could see large trout casually nosing into mayflies and managed to briefly hook and lose one, then miss another, before my timing was perfect and I set the hook into a water foaming stockie. Long runs gave way to short bursts of power and I eventually slipped the net under another 17 inch beast.

My need to catch fish was satisfied for another day and this one was returned, while others continued to rise despite my efforts to put them down. By the time I reached the van, I’d been on the water for under two hours, time enough to get my weekly fix, while the unfortunates toiled.

Urban river trout rise to the mayfly at last.

June 11, 2013 at 6:05 pm

Less than two weeks had passed since my last visit to the urban chalk stream, where unknown to many, wild trout flourish as the river winds through housing and industrial estates, offering free fishing to those willing to search out access to the water. My target this day was a short fifty yard stretch, surrounded by impenetrable trees on either side and accessed down the side of a bridge. Upstream the trees meet in the middle forming an arch, but once through the arch, like a secret garden, a long pool is revealed, before being shrouded by more trees. This has been my special place for years and has provided hours of sport from some of the most colourful trout in the river. Instead of gravel, the bottom is covered with broken bricks from a building that once stood on it’s banks and the trout have taken on a dark colouring to match the bricks. This is now history. I arrived to find a building site where the trees had been, only stumps remained among the rocks, a fence now preventing entry to the leveled ground and the river running along a naked bulldozed bank.

I was saving my visit, until the mayfly were hatching and had been cherishing the thought of catching naive trout on the dry fly. The next option was plan B, a return to the roadside along the bus route, where I knew others fished and the trout are not so forgiving. Intending to fish the overgrown secret pool, I’d only brought my seven foot brook rod, but this would now allow me to fish a few tree covered pools, unfishable with my 9 footer.

Mayfly were beginning to lift off as I waded up the clear shallows and I could see trout were already rising to them further up, where trees hide the river from the busy road just yards away. A deep pool runs alongside a lone far bank bush and I could see a good brown just below the surface, moving from side to side intercepting mayflies as they drifted down. My first cast went wide of the bush and I waited for the fly to get downstream of the trout before lifting, when splosh, a smaller fish took, taking me by surprise and hooking it’self. Although only a few ounces, it scrapped all over the river before coming to hand. The big one was still there and I could clearly see the spots standing out on it’s back, when I made a better cast, the wind helping my Shadow Mayfly to drop gently onto the surface. A movement of  it’s fins and the trout swung across and engulfed the fly. I struck and the trout launched vertically out of the river, falling back in a cartwheel motion, then zig zagging upstream  across the shallows, my reel screaming on the rachet, before diving for cover beneath a willow. My line was near the backing and I followed upstream trying to recover line, allowing the trout to wear it’self down, pulling against me and the current. The line went slack and I thought I’d lost it, but the line was doing a U-turn, following the speeding brown. I stripped line as it turned again and made firm contact, bringing the fish downstream under my terms, back to where my landing net was propped against the bank. A five, or six minute fight, who knows, it seemed to go on forever. Scooped up in the net, I made for the bank to remove the fly and take a picture, this being a silver bronze fish with huge spots of at least a pound, grown fat on mayfly.

Unfortunately this picture does not do the brownie justice, it’s red spots almost invisible from this angle, the light bouncing back off it’s silvery flanks. I could have stared at this wild fish all afternoon, but soon returned it and worked my way upstream hooking, or missing several other fast risers in the shallow pockets, before reaching  the willow pool, where I saw a the broad back of a trout of major proportions. No wonder my fish had come back out so quickly, he’d probably got a nip from this one. I tried several times to side cast beneath the willow fronds, to where this possible three pounder was lying slurping in mayflies, only succeeding in catching my fly. Being a cheapskate, I waded forward to get my fly, trying to keep low, but a bow wave heading upstream meant the fish was long gone. So was my fly. Beyond this point the trees make casting very difficult and I decided to get out of the river to fish above a concrete bridge.

Rejoining the river at the bus stop, there was sporadic rising, despite a steady supply of mayfly, just the occasional trout feeding for a few minutes, then stopping, only for other fish to start. My 4 lb tippet and fly renewed, I sat on the bank waiting for rises, sneaking within casting range, sometimes with no response, some with a miss and a couple with six and eight ounce browns that had no problems jamming the Shadow Mayfly in their mouths.

With the afternoon turning to evening, I began walking back down the river, eager to get on my way before the hordes headed home from work, but stopped when a swirl deep behind an overhanging tree indicated a better sized fish. Another swirl and a bow wave made me unclip my fly and have a go, this trout having dropped down from it’s safe position to begin feeding.

Being close to the road, I needed to time my cast to avoid passing cars and cyclists, a gap came and the cast fell short, another few feet and the fly bounced of a leaf , dropping into the sweet spot beneath the bank. A bow wave, a nose and the fly was gone. I knew the fish would be there when I lifted the rod, a splash and foaming water proving the point as I set the hook, followed by an upstream dash at high speed. These wild fish have so much muscle and power in their tails. The fight went from side to side, under banks of weed, along both banks, then finally downstream, where it arced back to my bank, it’s head came out and I netted it. The hook came out in the net and I worked hard to take a photo, when it wasn’t jumping about. Again the camera did not do this fish justice, this brown being almost as wide as it was deep.

As I was releasing this jewel of the river, a cyclist stopped saying that he was amazed to see this fish and asked if there were others like it. I just replied”Lots” and watched the spots blend in with the bottom and vanish.

Dog day afternoon start to Duffer’s Fortnight.

June 7, 2013 at 1:47 pm

A short evening visit to my syndicate river last week, saw more trout rising to the fly and more mayfly present, though ignored by most fish, the browns preferring to mop up waves of the smaller olives. Highlight of that evening was a fish rising hard under the bank foliage, which sipped in my Klinkhammer with barely a ripple, only to erupt into life  on the stike, the low sun on the water blinding me to the whereabouts of this large fish, as it dashed round the deep, root lined pool. I’d already extended my net to cope with the high bank and soon had this 17 inch stockie in my hands.

There were several bursts of activity typical of olive hatches, again mayflies were being ignored and I took wild browns up to 12 inches on the Klinkhammer from between the trees, the water was like glass, as the sun set.

Mayflies were settling on my van, as I pulled on my waders a few days later, the midday sun already 10 degrees centigrade higher than then, typical of English weather, giving the promise of free rising trout to the mayfly. Duffer’s Fortnight being the usual duration of the mayfly hatch, when even the most wary trout throw caution to the wind, to gorge on these large protein rich flies, giving fly fishermen a chance to catch the biggest fish in the water. The duffers are not the anglers, who still have to present their mayfly imitations among a constant supply of the real thing, but the trout slurping down two or three a minute in a feeding frenzy.

Once again my optimism was tested, as I looked upstream from the road bridge at the lower end of the fishery, to see mayfly drifting around in the breeze, but no rises to those lifting off the water. Emerging from the trees and walking along the meandering banks, the full heat of the sun now blasted down on the fields, which a few months ago had been covered by flood water.

Polaroids on, no fish were visible in the first five hundred yards, but a plop and a spreading ring on the water from under a tunnel of trees, was the first sign of a feeding trout. To get a chance at this fish, I continued upstream to a clearing, waded across, then hugging the bank, made my way down to to a bend, where a large tree formed an eddy, the trout stationed against the bank sucking in flies as they drifted in range. A normal cast was impossible, so I made several roll casts, until my upbodied mayfly landed just right and disappeared, leaving a bubble on the surface. I pulled into solid resistance, the river boiled and a very determined trout rushed out of the pool and made off downstream round the bend, where rooting along the bank, it snagged me and the leader snapped. Twenty minutes to present the fly and the fight over in seconds! Another fish had begun rising yards upstream, so a new length of 4 lb line was tied on along with my last remaining upbodied may fly and cast to this trout, which obliged with a slow take. I pulled out of it’s jaws and the fly pinged back and snagged in a tree out of reach. Snap! My two upbodied mayflies, bought in Colorado last year, gone in five minutes.

The afternoon was not going well and the sun was even hotter, when I climbed out of the river to continue my search for rising trout. Another few hundred yards on, I reached another small pool, where two trout were rising and taking mayflies from behind a bush. I got back in the river and waded up the shallows and managed to raise both fish to my Shadow Mayfly, twice each, without making contact. This pool is very deep, so continued up along the bank again, wondering if I would actually net a fish that afternoon, stopping at footbridge, where tell tale rings showed mayfly were now on the menu of several fish. My fly floated down to the surface, a dark shape slowly rose to take it, turned and I struck, the brief fight telling me that this was not a trout, but a chub and I swung in the red finned coarse fish. This released I cast again, same result, another chub about six ounces.

Above the bridge I could see a large fish was now feeding with abandon on mayflies and I approached low from the bank to see the swirling takes behind a bush on the other side. Getting as close as I could, this was not an easy cast with reeds on my side of the river and the bush to lose my fly in on the other, but the sight of a full, spotted tail each time the fish rose, spurred me on and my fly was snatched down seconds after touching the surface. After the initial battle was over, I had to find a way to net this big stockie, getting into the water off the steep bank was not on, with deep mud from the reed bed at it’s base. The only option was to play the brown to a standstill and steer it through the reeds to my extended net.

This well conditioned, overwintered stock fish measured 18 inches and needed ten minutes held upstream in the well oxygenated shallows to recover and certainly brought a sweat to my brow during the fight. I’d now broken my duck  and continued upstream, but saw no more rises, until I reached a tree shrouded pool, getting down into the cool, shaded river, where a pair of trout were rising line astern between the trees. The first took and fought well, netting a 12 inch silvery wild brown. This released, I tried for the other rising fish and was soon playing a very strong trout that stayed deep in the pool, being much smaller than the first impression given, another silver wild brown at 14 inches.

I now moved up to where I’d finished up a few days before and had caught a small 6 oz wildie, when my mobile rang, my wife curious to know when I would be home for our evening meal, this being a reminder that it was time to make my way back downstream. I passed numerous rising trout on my way back, the hot afternoon bringing clouds of mayfly spiraling into the air, but I managed to walk on by, until another big tail broke the surface below a bush on my side. My mayfly was again on the water and soon deep in the jaw of a spectacular stockie, bending my seven foot rod to the butt, as it made repeated dives, refusing to be beaten, but giving and taking line, I netted him from the high bank.

An inch shorter at 17 inches this heavily marked brown fought harder than the first, a just reward for persevering in the heat of the day and as I climbed back to the road, the river was echoing to the sound of rising trout taking mayfly. It could all be over by tomorrow.

Small river trout rise to the occasion.

June 2, 2013 at 5:36 pm

The storms of last week gave way to two days of heavy rain and I was tempted not to bother taking the ten mile drive to my syndicate water, but the river was only up a few inches, with a tinge of colour back in the water, when I arrived for an afternoon session.

The bank side foliage was still wet from a recent shower and like the trees, was putting on a growing spurt to catch up on what had been declared as the coldest spring for 50 years. Now the norm, there were no apparent fish rising and I decided to begin fishing with my Black Devil nymph in a streamy run, working it along the edges, taking a small wild fish straight away.

Searching out the deeper water under the bank, the Black Devil had accounted for another couple of wild browns, when fish began rising to an olive hatch in the pool above. Off came the nymph and on went a ribbed Klinkhammer, taking more small browns in quick succession, as I waded up between overhanging trees. The Klinkhammer was now waterlogged and I tied on one of my winter creations, a Deer Hair Emerger, which was taken by a much better trout, that ran me round the pool, before coming to the net.

A splash alerted me to some large fish rising in the deep pool upstream and I made my way along the bank for a better look. Two fish were making swirling bulges, as they searched out nymphs, ignoring mayflies that drifted down on the surface. I slid down to the water’s edge, thankful that the greenery had grown a foot since my last visit and keeping low made a cast to the furthest fish, watching it stand on it’s tail, turning over as it took the emerger. A side strike and the placid stream erupted as the hook went home. This was a good fully finned stockie and my 7 ft rod now came into it’s own absorbing the shocks from this hard charging trout as it ran the length of the pool and back again. Giving line when needed, the runs got shorter, until I was able to slide him over the net.

While I waited for this 16 inch fish to recover in the shallows and swim off, rain began falling again, signalling the end of the rise and I walked back down river,  hearing a splash among the trees from a good fish. Now out of the shower, I waded up to the pool, but no more rises gave the fish away and I flicked the emerger under the overhanging branches, searching among the roots, until a take and an airborne trout began the hardest fight of the afternoon, as it frantically searched out every root and hollow, snagging me once, slack line fooling it to come out of hiding and into my net.

Smaller than the stockie at 14 inches, what it lacked in weight, this wild brownie made up for in speed, having plenty of go left to immediately swim off  back to the pool on release. The shower soon passed and the rises switched on again for another twenty minutes bringing more wild browns between 8 and 12 inches, then turned off, as the grey skies began to empty their contents, sending me home to join the rush hour traffic.

All seasons in one day, keep the trout at bay.

May 29, 2013 at 3:40 pm

There is an Olde English saying “Ne’er cast a clout, til May be out” referring to the uncertain English climate and not removing warm clothing, until the May flowers are out on the hawthorn trees. Well, they were out in force, as I approached the river this week, but the single figure temperature from the strong north wind and the rapidly darkening sky, said something different.

Unlike last week’s warm spell, there were no airborne flies and the river was running fast with a tinge more colour, but I decided to give my size 16 Black Klinkhammer a try at a tree shrouded pool, hoping to avoid the gusting wind. Wading up from the shallows,  my first cast latched into a small brown from the tail of the pool, which was released without fuss. A cast further up resulted in a splashy take and a similar sized 4 oz trout. The wind was really difficult, swirling around the pool and I snagged my fly a few times in the branches, before I succeeded in dropping it in behind an overhang, where I didn’t see a take in the ripple, but saw the surface flatten with a boil and my leader disappearing into it. I lifted into a very large fish, which dived to the depths of the pool and came off. Thinking I’d been broken, I checked for the fly and found the the hook had opened out, maybe the fish, but more likely the last tree I’d pulled out of.

The Klinkhammer was now waterlogged and decided to try shock tactics with a size 12 Yellow Humpy further downstream, prospecting the big buoyant fly in all the likely places without an offer. Walking across the meadow, the wind was getting up and black clouds were approaching fast and I decided the next pool would be my last try of the day. Like the others, there were no signs of rising fish and this pool was more exposed to the gusts,with the fly dragging across the surface. When the Mayfly are being taken, this will often bring up a trout, but not today. A quick change of tactics saw my Black Devil nymph tied on and shortly after, I responded to a slow 4 inch draw of the leader, to find a hard fighting wild fish on the end.

Having released this little brown to dart back into the pool, I could see black streaks advancing across the fields from the clouds above and decided to get back to the van before the shower hit. With three hundred yards to go, big hail stones began to fall, getting one straight down the neck for my trouble.

This was enough for me and the hail was turning to heavy rain by the time I reached the van.

Reaching the comfort of the van, I considered sitting it out, but with freezing hands and fresh hail pounding on the roof, I decided home was the best option, only to be greeted by bright sunshine on my arrival.

CZ 452 Varmint .17 HMR meets a rabbit explosion

May 23, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Snow had driven me from my hill top permission on the edge of the Chiltern Hills in March and I hadn’t been back, until  the landowner called me, saying that he hadn’t seen so many rabbits there since before I’d started to shoot over it.

The land has a dividing fence, being used for fattening cattle and for his very large bull to cover the young heifers, these being in the right hand field on my first visit this week. This is my preferred side, as it slopes down to a valley and is relatively flat, but with the bull, young heifers and a few cows with calves present, there was no way I would be climbing that gate.

The other side slopes to the north and is subject to strong winds, which can blow the lightweight HMR bullets off target, while the land has undulations and pockets, where rabbits can feed unobserved, it being difficult to get into a good stake out position for shooting off the bipod. In other words, it’s hard work, usually covering a lot of ground on foot for just a few rabbits. This proved to be the case and I winged to the landowner back at the yard, about the bull being on my preferred bit of land. This amused him, saying the bull was a” big pussy cat” in his soft Irish brogue, but he would move them, if I wanted to return the following day.

Good to his word, the cattle were munching on fresh grass, when I arrived, leaving me free to take up my stake out position overlooking 300 yards of hedge line to the lane in the valley below. Being dull and overcast, the only wind was from behind, ideal conditions for the HMR, which will shoot with only about an inch drop out to 120 yards and if set half an inch high at 100, extends the killing zone further without hold over.

Young rabbits were everywhere, many ignoring the circular approach to my firing position. A buck sprang from cover and made a bee line to the hedge and stopping at the fence a 100 yards away. I dropped to the ground and zeroed in, as he stepped through the fence and paused again, a second too long, as the .17 bullet struck the back of  his head. Number one in the bag. Reaching my raised firing position, I settled down and made myself comfortable, this long range sniping being about relaxed breathing and a steady pull on the trigger, the twelve times magnification of the scope bringing the operation to clinical proportions. There were plenty of young adults about, but the fully grown does were my target, as they are all in kit this time of year, there production line of young, evident in front of me. The first two appeared from the brambles lining the field after fifteen minutes and I waited for a side on shot before dropping the first without a kick. The other doe barely looked up, the bolt shifted another bullet in place and the second toppled over, both head shots finding the walnut sized brain from 120 yards. A few more minutes and another came out several yards further down and sat up to receive the same fate. No more appeared and I backtracked down to pick them up.

The HMR bullet being supersonic at around 2500 feet per second, is a noisy round even with a silencer fitted to the rifle, making a high pitch crack close to, but virtually silent at 100 yards down range. To counter this disturbance, I prefer to approach the area from the opposite end to pick up and clean my rabbits, which allows those now at the other end to settle down and come out. This proved the case, more coming out to feed, while I attended to my duties, repeating my success at ranges between 60 and a 100 yards.

Looking back up the field, at least a dozen young rabbits were visible, when I took this picture, proof that the old adage “breed like rabbits” is true. I have shot this field for several years and regular visits have kept the numbers down to an acceptable level, but a cold, wet and snow filled winter and spring have kept me away and the result is a rabbit explosion. I will be back.

Fast and furious as the river comes to life.

May 20, 2013 at 12:21 pm

For the first time this year, fish were rising, when I reached the banks of my syndicate river this week. The warm air was full of flylife and the trout had at last begun to rise to them.

Beneath trees, a good fish was raiding a cloud of small black flies scudding across the surface of a pool, following the cloud back and forth, making repeated attacks with splashy swirls.

The heavy Gold Head Hares Ear nymph, a near permanent fixture on the end of my line so far this year, was snipped off and a small Black Klinkhammer was tied on and I waded up from the shallows to get in position for a side cast, due to the overhanging trees. Second pass the fly was engulfed in a swirl. I struck too soon and missed. The Klink was still attached and the trout kept rising. Another take, a slower side strike and he was on, splashing to the surface, before tumbling off. No more rises.

I repeated this exercise further down the river, another good trout in the crease of a bend. This one jumped and came off. A pound plus . Upstream another fish was now rising steadily, coming up from beneath the opposite bank. I waded within range and he took with confidence, the ten inch trout fighting well for it’s size, a silver sided specimen.

It had now started raining heavily and I decided to call it a day, as the cattle upstream had muddied the river and my chances on the dry fly were limited.

The next day it was all change again, there was a chill in the air and not a sign of a rising fish, although the river looked in perfect condition. I decided to give my Black Devil nymph a try, a buzzer pattern with heavy copper ribbing, that fishes high in the water and has given me plenty of fish on a dour day. I had intended to wade up to where I’d lost my first fish the day before, but opted to have a few casts in a swirling pocket of  water on the way up. First cast and the line straightened and a four ounce trout came battling out across the shallows.

Another five trout came from this short stretch of river over the next thirty minutes, some silver sided, some greenish gold, the best a twelve inch fish that ran down to the pool below giving great sport. This makes me wonder, if we have two genus of brown trout in the river, giving this colour range.

Staying in the river I made my way down to another pool, just as, like a switch being pulled, trout began to rise in the most unlikely of places, untroubled by my progress. The small black flies were back in numbers and the Klinkhammer was tied back on, taking ten and six ounce browns among several misses from a deep run along the opposite bank.  As instantly as the rise had started, it stopped again and I made my way back to the van, not wanting to put down all the fish, leaving the river to be enjoyed by other club members. 

Overwintered stockie pays it’s dues.

May 14, 2013 at 10:06 am

Gale force winds and rain washed out the first of my three available syndicate fishing days this week and the second looked to be following suit, when sunshine broke through in time for lunch in the garden. Sitting back drinking tea, I was watching a column of flies dancing above the lawn and realized that they were hawthorn flies, a seasonal favourite on the syndicate river ten miles away. A check of the weather showed another storm front coming through in the next few hours. Time enough for a speedy visit.

Last week I netted a good fish from the upper reaches, but today my target was a mile or so downstream, where the river drops through an S bend, creating a deep pool that can hold some big trout which only seem to show during hawthorn and mayfly hatches. I parked up at the bridge and paused long enough to study the pools above and below for signs of rising fish. The water was a good colour and seemed perfect, but no trout were rising despite obvious fly life. Following the river down through the meadow, clumps of hawthorn flies were lifting out of the grass and being scattered by the gusting wind as I approached the top pool.

Giving the pool a wide berth to avoid spooking the residents, I waded up from the runoff , keeping below the skyline and began casting above the shallows with my trusty Gold Head Hares Ear nymph. The surface of the pool was alive with olives lifting off and struggling wind blown hawthorn flies, but no dimples of rising trout. This pool usually has a shoal of quality dace to pluck at your nymph as it drifts across the shallows, but today not a touch, so moved up to the middle of the run prospecting my nymph to the areas that held a couple of hard fighting sub pound wildies a few weeks ago. Again no signs of a take. I moved up and across to the inside of the bend, where the river deepens off, giving the chance to drift the outer radius of the pool.

The clouds were now gathering and the wind was swirling, one minute upstream, the next full in my face, making casting a lottery. I’d degreased another three feet of leader to allow the nymph to fish deeper and when it stopped, I instinctively struck. Bottom? No! The surface boiled with a brief flash of gold, as a very large trout woke up with avengence and made for the safety of a sunken log at the head of the pool, line streaming from my reel. I have lost big trout here before due to too much pressure and this one was on full thrust, but my 4lb point held and the run slowed to a head shaking tumble, before a change of direction saw the brown rushing downstream along the outside of the pool. If he made it over the tail and down the run it would have been long gone, but again a turn across the shallows and back to the pool, getting my first full view of a beautifully condition trout powering to safety. I hung on, giving and taking line for an unmeasured time, until eventually the spots on his flanks could be seen and I triumphantly slipped the net beneath my prize.

I waded back across to the grassy bank and removed the barbless nymph from the scissors of it’s jaws, took photos and measured the this overwintered, fulled tailed brown at 18.5 inches (47cm), before placing back in the net to be returned. I have been fortunate to land some good river trout this season, this being the best so far and I held him upstream until ready to swim off , a burst of power from that tail, taking him back to the pool, broaching once before disappearing.  After such a battle, to continue fishing seemed wrong, so walked back, getting home in time for a needed cup of tea.