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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.

Winning the match that never was

July 21, 2013 at 9:10 pm

Last year notices appeared, by order of The Council, that fishing on two local ponds would be banned, unless a fishing club was formed, due to a litter problem. Now, I had been fishing one of these ponds for a year and witnessed a whole variety of people leave sandwich wrappers and drinks bottles within feet of the litter bins, while walking by, or picnicing. Placing the blame on only anglers was unjust, many of whom like myself, walk round at the end of a fishing session and pick up all the litter, which is then dropped into the bin.

Under pressure to avoid losing a local amenity, a club was formed by the usual suspects, those interested in their environment and who believe in sticking to the rules, while many others refused to pay for fishing, that had been free since childhood, which is understandable. Forwarding on a year, working parties had been carried out and banks cleared by the Few, but poor bailiffing did not get the message across, that this was now a private fishery, so returning membership fell away at the start of the 2013 season. The Committee of the Club, decided that a fishing match would be a good showcase, so today’s date was decided upon and notices posted.

Having  agreed to run the match, I arrived early to do the draw and take the entry fee, it to be a winner take all pool. The car park was empty, so busied myself unloading my fishing tackle and fitting it onto my fishing trolley. The allotted time, 8 am, came and went. A lone dog walker arrived for a chat, eventually being dragged off on her way by a tree sniffing mongrel. No Chairman, no Secretary, or Treasurer, let alone an ordinary member appeared on a balmy Sunday morning, just right for fishing. 

Shrugging my shoulders, I decided to start anyway, the others would have to slot in, when they turned up, first come first served. The sun was masked by cloud, but the air was warm and the wind light, perfect for fishing a short waggler rig over what was now becoming a jacuzzi of bubbles and swirls, as carp began to home in on my feed of pellets. It wasn’t long before my float began to dip and bob, then move slowly across the surface, as a carp picked up the bait, the line veeing over the surface. I lifted into the fish, bending the rod for a moment, before it sprang back, when the bait pulled out of it’s mouth, leaving a black muddy stain on the surface, as it sped away.

With no dedicated carp gear, I’d pressed a 10 ft heavy feeder rod into service, the reel, an old ABU 501 loaded with 5 lb line completing the set up. New to this form of fishing, the local tackle shop had advised me of the terminal tackle and bait, this being a pellet held onto the line with a small elastic band, the bare hook 6 mm up the line, the carp supposed to suck in the pellet and hook it’self on the bare hook. My carp were obviously, just holding onto the pellet and not getting hooked, so after my third miss, I threaded a small piece of Spam onto the hook, which resulted in a 3 lb carp dashing across the shallow pond, with my rod arced over in response. The initial run countered, it was just a matter of a few minutes, before I was able to slip the net under my first fish. I was winning the match already, even though no other competitors had turned up yet.

As the sun climbed higher in the sky, burning off the cloud, so the bites slowed down and when carp began to hover in the surface, their backs absorbing the heat, it was time to change tactics with a finer line and hook, to try for the plentiful rudd. I’d had four nice common carp to 4 lb and a couple of  stunning mirror carp, their large scales giving a metallic glint to their bodies. I started with thin slithers of luncheon meat for the rudd, but the bites were hard to hit, so white bread slices from the freezer were unwrapped and punched onto the size 14 barbless hook, bringing a 4 oz rudd first cast. The bread transformed the bites, the float no longer bobbing and dipping, but now slowly sinking away, as the soft offering was sucked in. The bread brought a few surprises, the first a hard fighting 8 oz common carp, which was no problem. The next was a gentle disappearing of the float, to be met by an explosion of water, as a larger carp panicked, when it felt the hook, speeding off in a shower of bubbles and black mud, the 2 lb hook link snapping like cotton.

By now I’d given up on the hope of another club member joining me to fish and when another big carp took the bread, I decided to enjoy the power of this fish, keeping only the lightest of pressure on, allowing it to run over to the island in the middle, before reining it in. This of course was a mistake, as once it had it’s head, there was no stopping it, my restraint being met by more acceleration and another “ping” moment from another hook link. There were no more surprises after this, the only one would have been the sight of the Club Chairman, or one of his henchmen, but no, it became a rudd a chuck, many slipping the hook, as I bullied them back to my net.

At 2 pm, the official end of the match, I pulled in my line and took stock. No-one had visited from the Club, my wife had walked down to see me, sitting on a nearby bench, but had grown tired of making conversation with someone preoccupied with catching fish “Oooh, did you see that bite!” I had around 16 lb of carp and 3 lb of silvers, not bad for 5 1/2 hours fishing and probably would have won the match anyway, although they would no doubt had more than me IF they had attended. Needless to say this will be the last match I will arrange for them and next season will join the ranks of the great unwashed and become a poacher on these waters.

 

River Meon trout rise in the sun at Titchfield.

July 15, 2013 at 7:35 pm

Long time fishing buddie John, made contact earlier this year, saying he’d been accepted as a member of Park Gate Fly Fishing Club, which had trout fishing on the River Meon near Falmouth. John relocated to the area a few years ago, and   following a few successful outings of his own, he secured a guest ticket for me, which saw us parking up at the Fisherman’s Rest pub on one of the hottest days of the year. 

In the lee of Titchfield Abbey, the Segensworth Beat sees the Meon meander through meadows, on it’s steady flow towards the English Channel a few miles downstream. At 10 am, a blustery wind was the only relief from an already baking sun and I was not too optimistic, that we would see any action from the native brown trout, as we made our way upstream.

This mindset was soon dismissed, when I saw the spotted back of a trout rise a few yards ahead, the fish tight to the bank on the outside of a bend, protected by cow parsley overhead and a weed bed ahead.  An accurate cast was called for and against the downstream wind, I succeeded in putting the fish down, when I piled my line onto the surface with a splash above it’s head. Getting to grips with a new, shorter rod, John fared no better, when he gave the fish a try. Putting this one down to experience, or the lack of it, we moved upstream to a clump of trees, where we could see another trout rising. John moved up to cover this, while I tried a small gold head pheasant tail nymph along a weedy channel, without success. I watched a small fly hatch from the surface and drift down back to the bend, where our trout rose and sucked it down. A year as a nymph on the riverbed , then a brief few minutes in the July sun, before it’s end in the stomach of a trout. I retraced my steps, back below the bend and sat with my boots dangling in the river, while I tied on a size 16 brown, ribbed Klinkhammer to match the doomed fly. The wind had dropped slightly and with a better angle of attack, my fly was dropping softly to the surface, just inviting a take, which never came. Between casts, it had risen again and I could see it come up from the bottom three feet below. The size 18 pheasant tail went back on and made a cast well upstream to allow the nymph to sink, then as it drifted past the trout I lifted the rod to induce a take. Second cast it worked, the leader straightening after the lift and I was playing my first Meon trout, although this was not that rising fish, but a well marked little wildie.

I didn’t try for the larger fish, feeling that it deserved to be left alone and moved up to join John, who was still trying to attract the attention of another educated trout. Typically, while I was throwing out a line onto the water, prior to casting proper, a small brownie grabbed the nymph, then came off, proof that the scorching weather had not put the trout off feeding. There was another rise up and across, so having greased the line to within 6 inches of the nymph, I made a cast just above and struck, when the surface bulged with a taking trout. This was a better fish than my first and bored deep, shaking it’s head, then came off. I cursed myself for trying to play this one on the reel, having given it too much slack, while I recovered line. The surface upstream was becoming dimpled by rises and a good hatch of olive duns was under way and moved up to join John again.

A trout was rising steadily beneath an oak to my right and a change back to the Klinkhammer, got a response first chuck, which I missed with a snatched strike, not delaying long enough for the fish to turn over the fly. A few yards up, two fish were rising together between weeds and the opposite bank. I tried for the nearest, but was ignored several times, then pulling out more line, dropped the fly on the nose of the second and saw the satisfying sight of a good fish roll, when the hook struck home. This was a very hard fighting trout and this time I stripped the line back, when it made a break for the roots downstream of me, hanging on, until the runs reduced and John slipped the net under it.

The fin perfect brown trout with a massive tail,  measured 15 inches. If a stockie, it was certainly over wintered, although with so many fish introduced to these southern streams over the last hundred years, it could have been a naturally bred fish. These days introduced stock browns tend to be triploids incapable of breeding, so that the pure strain survives; whatever that is. The fight had taken the steam out of this one and it was ten minutes before it swam out of my hands. This was a good time to return to the Fisherman’s Rest and join the packed riverside garden for a liquid lunch, watching more trout rising beneath the trees on the downstream stretch.

Despite these free rising trout, we elected to return upstream, as John wanted to check a gate, where poachers had dug underneath to gain entry to the fishery. The Club’s working party two weeks before had filled the gap with large logs wired together, in an attempt to keep them out, but to no avail, the logs had been dragged clear and the gap was back. These were strong and determined poachers, who will only be stopped by iron bars set in concrete. 

 We continued to fish on the way up to and back from the gate, both rising and losing trout on our way, but landing no others, but were content having had the privilege to enjoy this pretty little river. After a quick cup of tea, with some of Wendy’s lemon drizzle cake, I was soon making my way through the traffic back to the Motorway and home.

Chimenea for hot smoked trout

July 11, 2013 at 5:52 pm

With the BBQ season in full swing, and if you own a patio chimenea, you may wish to try my method to produce some delicious smoked trout.

Many years ago, a friend used to smoke his trout using a length of clay soil pipe, standing upright on bricks. He would light a small wood fire in the gap between the bricks, then put wet oak chippings on the embers, hanging the filleted and prepared trout down the pipe. It worked a treat. This was always in my mind, when I bought the chimenea as a patio heater and have also used it to smoke mackerel.

Ingredients

A 2lb rainbow trout, filleted down to about a pound, removing back and pin bones. Leave the skin on.

Two table spoons of demerara sugar.

One table spoon of sea salt.

One dessert spoon of  ground black pepper.

One cup of hickory, or oak chips (available at garden centres) soaked in water for at least an hour

Preparation

Part of the smoking process is to draw the moisture out of the fish.

Mix the sugar, salt and pepper together in a bowl.

Place the fish skin side down in a dish and spread the sugar mix over the flesh, gently rubbing it in, until evenly coated. Cover the dish and leave in the fridge over night at least. I usually prepare mine the morning of the day before smoking and take it out in the afternoon of smoking. You will be amazed at the amount of liquid extracted by the mix. Wash off the salt/sugar mix under a tap and leave to dry in the covered dish. The texture of the flesh will have firmed up during the drying process.

Smoking

I often smoke the trout during a BBQ and scoop out some greyed off  embers as a heat source. Place these in the chimenea and test the heat coming out of the chimney. You should be able to hold your hand over for ten seconds. Tip some soaked chips over the coals, which will begin to smoke.

The fish should be put in clamps and suspended in the chimney, using a skewer though the clamps, to allow the smoke to rise up. To keep the fire low, cap the chimney and cover the door to the chimenea with foil. Keep the smoke going by adding more soaked chips at ten minute intervals.

Depending on the heat, the fish should be ready after about 25 minutes. It is easy and chef’s perks to test the flesh by lifting and pulling off a flake. The timing usually works out, so that the fish is ready, after the meat is consumed from the BBQ. If just smoking the fish, start a small fire using briquettes, or charcoal on the chimenea and allow to burn down to embers, before putting on the chips and suspending the fish.

Food Heaven on a Plate, helped down by a glass of Pimms

 

 

 

 

 

Dry fly reward at Latimer Park Fishery

July 8, 2013 at 1:05 pm

A short email from my friend Peter simply said “Would you like to be my guest at Latimer next Tuesday?” My reply “Yes please!”, resulted in an early start, being the first anglers to arrive at the exclusive syndicate trout fishery near Chesham. The delightful river Chess, now returned to it’s former glory as one of Buckinghamshire’s best chalkstreams, runs through the heart of the fishery, forming two lakes stocked with rainbow trout, while the indigenous brown trout grow large on a ready supply of natural food.

Peter suggested we begin fishing in the top lake and as we made our way up towards the weir, it was hard to believe that this part of the rural Chilterns, overlooked by it’s stately home, was only a few miles from the M25 motorway. The lake is only a few feet deep at it’s edges, but the depth increases considerably, where the valley follows the original river course and a few fish were already rising in the middle and towards the far bank, when Peter suggested we give this side a try first.

I set up my 9 ft Diawa Whisper, a soft action rod ideal for surface fishing, when it is sometimes too easy to snatch the fly from a taking trout, or break off on the strike. Coupled with a No. 7 weight forward floating line, I was soon casting towards the trout, lazily sampling the surface soup menu, my Shadow Mayfly sitting proudly, awaiting their attention. There was a rise a few feet away and I twitched the fly on the surface, then a nose appeared to nudge it. I twitched again, a back rose up and the fly was engulfed. My rod bent over as the hook took hold and the fish bore down towards the floor of the lake, before making a dogged run towards the far bank, stripping line in spurts of power, that saw my flyline down to the backing. At this time, my only sight of the fish had been it’s broad back, when it took the fly, but then it broached, shaking it’s head in an attempt to throw the hook and I could see a very large rainbow. The commotion brought Peter to my side and we waited for the runs to shorten, before I brought the rainbow to the surface, for him to assist with the landing net and exclaim “A smoker!”. Peter cold smokes all his big fish and volunteered his services on this one.

This trout measured 24 inches from tip to tail and fought well, pushing the scales round to 5 lb 12 oz, being my best rainbow ever. The club rules for guests allow seven rainbows to be caught between us, the first and last to be killed, plus one other. Peter had had several misses, before once again I was into another fish, a plump full tailed two pounder. We moved back towards the club house, where a ripple had formed and several trout could be seen feeding. Blowing down the lake from right to left, the breeze made it more difficult for us “righthanders” to cast, but twitching the fly worked well and Peter had soon broken his duck, with me following up with a three pounder on the bank, which was returned to “become a smoker”.

The time flew by, with us both hooking and losing fish on the barbless hooks, until our limit was reached late in the morning, four for the guest, with the biggest fish, while Peter was content with his three, knowing that he would be back the following day. Returning to the clubhouse for the weigh in and a welcome cup of tea, one of the other members had banked a 7lb wild brown trout, before returning it. The members returning all browns.

As Peter drove up the lane away from this peaceful haven, back to the M25 and reality, I reflected on a perfect morning’s fishing, while I’m sure my host was pleased, that he had been able to provide it.

Back to basics for carp in the local pond.

June 28, 2013 at 11:36 am

Nestled between the railway line to London and houses bordering the local recreation ground, is a small pond, where mothers take their children to feed the ducks, unaware of the monsters, that swim among the lily pads. Fed by a small stream, flowing from a much larger lake and inaccessible by road, this 100 yard long pool remains untested, apart from those anglers prepared to travel light. I’d discovered this hidden gem, while on a scenic walk to the neighbourhood Tesco, the glint of water through the trees, gaining my attention.

Being a quarter of a mile from my house, it is an easy walk and with a trolley to take my tackle box, I only need to carry a landing net and  a pole. Being a fly angler, this style of fishing suits my mood, being that it can be done on a whim. A can of sweet corn, or luncheon meat is usually on hand at home for an instant bait supply. Bread also works well here, but also attracts the nibbling smaller rudd, while I prefer the larger common and crucian carp, these fish happy to take any bait, unlike the hard pressed commercial fisheries visited by the majority of fishermen these days. On this occasion my bait needs were satisfied from the freezer, boiled hemp seed and cubed luncheon meat from a previous outing, thawed in a saucepan by boiling water, had me ready in minutes.

Being mid afternoon, I set up beside a shade giving tree, the late June sun giving blasts of unaccustomed heat, whenever it appeared from behind the clouds. The swim was edged by lilies, which grow out to the edge of a deeper channel in the shallow pond, about a metre at it’s deepest. My aim was to feed an area with hemp seed, eight metres out towards the drop off and along the lilies, with the occasional free offering of luncheon meat loose fed from time to time. I had two flavours of luncheon meat, termeric and strawberry, the prepared cubes having been placed in bags, a spoon full of each flavouring added and shaken, coating the cubes. These had been done on my previous outing and were well infused. My float rig was a simple affair, a dibber float cocked by two BB shot, with a No 6 down the line, 150 mm from the size 14 barbless hook.

Having fed the area as I set up my tackle, it was no surprise, when the float zoomed away on my first cast, with a 2 oz rudd hooking itself. I continued to keep a steady supply of feed going in and after about a dozen rudd, the float slid slowly away in the direction of the lilies, followed by the bright orange elastic stretching out, when I lifted into a good sized common carp, which broached on the other side of the bed. This was a an untested top two pole section, with heavy 16-18 elastic and decided to hold the pole at right angles to the carp, pulling hard through the lily bed, letting the elastic do the work. This was a mistake, the fish gave another lunge and the hook pulled out. With the pond so shallow, the carp go away at tremendous speed, unable to use their weight in deep water. I resolved next time to follow the fish through it’s run, with the pole, to reduce the load on the hook.

I didn’t have long to wait to test my theory, a bit more feed and the float sank out of  sight to be met by solid resistance, the elastic tracing the path of the fleeing carp. This time I followed with my pole, reducing the pressure, the fish cutting  through the lily bed in seconds to come out on the other side. As the elastic reduced in length, so I brought back my pole, until the chunky common carp was in the open water in front of me. Feeding the main length of pole behind me, I detached the top 3 metres and played the fish on the elastic to the net.

 More  commons followed, I still lost a couple of nice fish, despite my efforts, two 4lb hook links snapping like cotton, when the elastic shot out to it’s limit on possible double figure fish. An hour in, the bites changed as a shoal of crucian carp moved onto my feed, gone was the steady sinking away of my float, to be replaced by bobs and lifts as they played cat and mouse with the bait. The crucians seemed to prefer the strawberry flavoured meat, lifting the bait off the bottom, along with the No 6 shot and sucking the small cubes, the float rising slightly each time. A strike would often result in a bump and no fish, or a short stabbing fight before the fish came off. This did not put them off, and I landed more than I missed, most hooks dropping out in the landing net, these 6 to 8 oz crucians scrapping hard. I was still being bothered by rudd, but some were a reasonable size, my best being fin perfect at around 8 oz.

A lone tench gave a solid fight, but it was the crucian carp that made the running, with the occasional common rushing off to provide a bit of excitement and a few Oooos and Aaaahs from a varied gallery of onlookers, that had gathered, or were passing along the raised ground behind me. The warm evening had brought everyone out to enjoy their particular pastime, but at eight o’clock, with the bites still coming, I called a halt on mine and pulled in my keepnet, accompanied by a few gasps of my audience. I’d only kept the  carp and the scales swung round to show over 18 lbs in the net, so including those roach and rudd thrown back, over 20 lbs in four hours was good going from such a small pond.

Rhubarb and Ginger Jam

June 26, 2013 at 6:20 pm

With the rhubarb season in full swing, why not try making rhubarb and ginger jam. The unique flavour of the bitter sweet rhubarb combines perfectly with the zing if the ginger. This is a simple recipe for 4lbs of jam.

Ingredients

2 lb fresh rhubarb

2 lb preserving sugar

4 oz of ginger root

Method

Wash and cut the rhubarb into roughly one inch lengths. Place in a large bowl.

Peel and chop the ginger into thin slices 2 mm thick, then cut to smaller pieces 6 to 8 mm long. If you like a ginger surprise, then leave the ginger in larger pieces.

Add the ginger to the bowl of rhubarb and mix in.

Pour in the sugar and stir together. Cover the bowl and leave for 24 hours. After this time the sugar will have drawn the juice and flavour from the fruit, leaving a semi liquid mix. Transfer to a preserving pan, or a large sauce pan. Bring to the boil slowly and continue to boil gently, stirring frequently for approximately 12 minutes.

Test that the jam is ready by placing a small amount on a cold plate for a few seconds. If it wrinkles, when pushed, it’s ready. If not, give the jam another few minutes and try again. When ready, leave to cool for ten minutes, while you thoroughly clean your jam jars, which will still be warm when you pour in the jam. Immediately place a waxed disc on top of the jam, followed by the lid. This will prevent any chance of mould forming, when stored. When cool, label up the jars for future use.

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.