Early season small river trout.

April 26, 2013 at 11:12 pm

The warmest day of the year brought hopes of rising trout, as I made my first visit of the year to a favourite section of my small river, where it drops rapidly through an S bend, creating two deep pools, that hold large, rarely seen, trout. These fish cruise beneath the surface during the Mayfly hatch, feeding with abandon, only to disappear again once it is over. I’ve hooked, but never landed any of these monsters, their sanctuary being a sunken log at the head of the pool.

Approaching from upstream, a mallard flew up from the shallows, disturbing  fish that bow waved back into the pool above, reminding me to keep well back from the high bank and I entered the water, where it  rushes out to the pool below.

There was a steady hatch of olives lifting off the water, but with no sign of a rising trout, a good spring standby, a gold head, gold ribbed Hares Ear was tied on and I worked my way up the shallows of the pool, covering the area in front of me, recovering line as the nymph drifted down. The leader V’d back upstream, lift, missed. A good take. Might have been one of the lightning quick dace, I consoled myself. A few more casts and the water erupted, when the hook made contact with a silver sided fish. A big dace? No a rainbow, as it made the first of many leaps in the shallow run. This was not a rainbow, but a bright silver, wild trout of around 10 oz, it’s red spots, the only colouration against it’s pale body, even it’s dark spots seemed washed out.

With this fish returned, I crossed to the inside of the bend and worked the nymph through the deeper water, being rewarded immediately with a firm take, that saw my line arcing across the pool, as another trout sought out the more powerful current and rushed downstream. This brown was slightly larger than the first and fought well to the net. Again another pale fish and slightly tatty with damaged fins, possibly from a mink, which inhabit  the river banks in some numbers.

My other trout from this river so far this year have all been pale and I was forming the opinion, that it was due to the river being brown with flood water for months, that had caused them to match their bland surrounding, as with roach in murky ponds. This theory was turned on it’s head, when I hooked a brightly coloured mini trout on my way back upstream.

My nymph was quite a mouthful for this pretty brownie.

With no more takes and the air cooling, I walked back to the road content that I’d caught a few fish, while looking forward to better days later on in the season.

RWS .22 subsonics v Winchester SX subsonics in the Magtech 7022 semi auto

April 24, 2013 at 5:49 pm

Just when I was confident that I’d found a substitute for the super reliable, but unavailable Eley subsonics in my Magtech 7022 semi auto rimfire, Wichester’s SX subs had proved reliable after a shaky start, but my belief in the bullet was shattered again, when, with a rabbit firmly in my sights, there was a pop instead of a bang, as the bullet misfired and the rabbit ran off. This began another target session, where the Winchesters repeatedly failed to cycle, while others went off like a damp squib. Time to try another manufacturer.

With Eleys still unavailable, my gunshop suggested RWS  .22 subsonics, so with a box of 50 I arrived at my improvised woodland shooting range to do a three way test. Ten Winchesters were loaded, but after two miscycles and one jam in five rounds, I stripped out the other five and loaded a few of my last Eley subs. These all fired perfectly. Next was the brand new box of RWS. These had wax lubricant filling the hollow points, which I removed, before loading and firing a perfect ten, all grouping well on the target. Another ten and another good 50 yard group, despite the lack of magnification from the red dot sight fitted to the Magtech. With my confidence back, I continued down through the wood, stopping to observe daffodils still growing in mid April, a sign of the late spring.

A rustle of dead leaves to my left reminded me that I should have been observing the fauna, not the flora, as a rabbit hopped to safety through the undergrowth. Further down I reached a point where a path enters the wood, a rabbit highway,  and turning the corner was confronted by a big buck coming in my direction. Too late, he dived into the hedge as I raised the rifle.  Backtracking, I settled down to wait for more intruders, with a good view of several likely hot spots within 50 yards, but the only visitor to my domain was a beautifully conditioned fox, which slipped out from cover and sat observing me from 70 yards away. On this permission, fox and pheasant are strictly off limits, as are the deer, being an equestrian centre, rabbits and their burrows are enemy number one.

Able to see activity behind the hedge leading to the path, but no clear targets, I got up and stalked to the corner, where a good sized rabbit was unaware of my presence, until it was too late. Raising the rifle, I placed the green cross hairs of the sight on the target and watched the rabbit topple over from a head shot.

 More proof that the point and shoot sight is ideal for close range, snap shots, I took  another adult and a juvenile on my way back to the van, also putting a big tick in the positive box for the RWS subsonics. As a follow up, I navigated the perimeter of the 80 acre permission a few days later,  accounting for a few more rabbits and a pigeon out in the afternoon sun. The RWS subs once again performing well and maintaining a dependable accuracy.

Trying to get to the bottom of the bad batch of Winchesters, I’d noticed that the bullets were tight in the magazine, when I removed them. Measuring the large diameter on the cartridges, I found the Eley and RWS to measure 0.270 inches and 0.269 respectively, while the Winchester cases were 0.2735, or 0.1 mm bigger, which may have been enough to slow the passage of the bullet, when recycling. RWS from now on.

Red/Green Dot Holographic Point and Shoot sight on Magtech 7022 (Mossberg 702). Field Test.

April 16, 2013 at 10:24 pm

This sight was originally fitted to my Relum Z II springer air rifle and was impressed by it’s point and shoot quality, when shooting barn rats at close range and the occasional pigeon in the rafters. Unlike a scope, where the target is identified by eye, then located in the lens before firing, the holographic dot is visible at the same instant as the target, with the dot only needing to be placed on the target and the trigger pulled.

The model I purchased has added features over some of the lower priced dot sights. Some are moulded plastic, but this one is made from anodized alluminium, giving a solid two allen screw, 11 mm dovetail mount. A choice of four images are available, a 4″ MOA dot, a 1″ MOA dot with outer ring, a 4″ MOA ring with outer cross hairs and a cross hair. These are selected with a positive toggle switch at the rear of the sight. Another feature is the colour of the reticule, which is also adjustable, one to five in level of brightness. In the barn, I found the red light setting at level one, fine for reduced light,  while on five it worked well with a filtered torch. For shooting in the field, I found green best and level five required in very bright sunlight.

The sight is easy to fit to the 11 mm scope grooves and unlike a scope, eye relief and focusing are not needed, the manufacturer recommending at least 3″ from the mirror to your eye when shooting. In practice this will be about 8″ in the normal shooting position, which allows an instant view of the target, whether moving or static. Zeroing is by way of an allen key, which is fiddly and the clicks are only just  noticeable for elevation and windage. On the average scope, each click is usually 1/4″ at one hundred yards, while this scope has only 1″ per click at one hundred yards, so adjustment to the level of a telescopic scope is not possible. For the air rifle I had set the sight at twenty yards on a target and I did the same with the Magtech .22 semi auto rimfire. At twenty yards, the trajectory of the .22 subsonic, will give point-blank at 50 yards. This shows up a disadvantage of the Dot scope, as with no magnification, even if the bullet holes were touching as mine were at twenty yards, on a target, the bull was obscured by the cross hairs at fifty. At fifty yards I shot a 2″ dia group, within the killing zone for a rabbit chest shot with subsonic ammo. I didn’t try one of the other reticule settings, which may have framed the paper target better. My rifle is used for hunting small game, so I will compare the options with use.

Following my setting up for zero on my woodland target range, I ventured out into the fields to put theory into practice and rounding a corner saw three rabbits feeding about seventy yards away, too far for an untested sight, but clearly visible through the mirrored window. Using cover I was able to get to a slope within forty five yards of the three and with the Magtech rested on my shooting bag, placed the cross hairs on the chest of the biggest and fired. The bullet impacted where I had aimed, sending the rabbit skyward in a reflex kick, while the others briefly looked on, then bolted down the field. I realized that I could have taken another shot in the following second, as the targets were there for the taking, but I was overawed by the simplicity of it all. This sight suits the semi auto, where multiple targets can be taken on in rapid succession.


Saved by a Czech nymph.

April 12, 2013 at 11:50 am

A visit by my wife’s friend for afternoon tea, was the cue to make myself scarce and give the little trout stream another go today, although I wasn’t optimistic due to heavy overnight rain and was expecting coloured water. The morning rain had given way to a weak sun and occasional drizzle, so it was worth the short drive for a look-see. I parked and walked back to the bridge, where peering over, I could still see gravel beneath the boiling river, fishable, but with some difficulty.

Walking through the gate, the sun came out, warming my face, a contrast to the bitter blast from the North East wind last week, a good sign I hoped and I made my way downstream looking for some slack water, where a few trout may be sheltering. The river was up about six inches on last week and was rushing noisily along, but the pool below the farm looked calm.

I slipped into the river at the shallows below the pool, the force of the water pushing hard and over the knees of  my waders, as I made my way up into the deeper tail. At least my waders hadn’t sprung any leaks over the close season. I searched my flybox for some tungsten bead heads, but settled for a size 12 brass head hares ear, but this was being dragged back too fast by the fly line and without a touch, after fifteen minutes of trying, got out and tried further down.

The lack of success saw me at the pool where I’d caught last week, at least I knew there was a trout in there, but one look at the swirling eddies moving about across the surface, said no chance and ten minutes of trying proved the point. The hares ear was not getting down to the fish, before being swept away, that was my thinking, so opened up the flybox  and took out the heaviest thing I had, a Czech nymph. These were developed by Czech trout fishermen to cope with fast rocky streams, being cast into the stream and followed with the rod tip held high and the leader vertically down to the nymph. For this to work, the nymph is built up with lead before the dressing is put on. Takes are often just a side movement of the line,  a bump, or a straightening of the leader. Basically, lift into anything odd and there is often a fish on the end.

Still no luck, so decided on an orderly retreat back to the van, plopping the nymph in at likely looking spots as I went, a possible missed take and a stick, being my only reward for effort, until getting down into the river for one last try at the farm. Keeping the rod high and the fly line off the water, allowed the Czech nymph to fish deeper and almost at my feet, the arc in the leader straightened as a big fish took with confidence.

This sixteen inch brown was in perfect condition and rushed upstream with a water clearing leap, before storming round the pool trying to shake the size 12 barbless hook from it’s jaw. Unbeaten, it sped off past me downstream, my seven foot rod bent to the butt and the reel screaming and was just waiting for something to give as it boiled twenty yards away with the full force of the current. These little rods are amazing and not for the first time, it’s pressure told on this powerful brown trout, guiding it back upstream, where once again in the pool it made several runs, before making for the downstream exit and my gaping net. Phew! That was exiting . A quick photo and it was released, still full of enough energy to make several leaps, leaving me still shaking with adrenaline.

Small river trout opener.

April 8, 2013 at 11:45 pm

It’s now official, March was the coldest since 1962, a year when the local canal froze solid and became my new cycle route to work. This March had heavy snow and rain, resulting in floods that covered the fields of my little syndicate trout stream, but by the first week of April, the river was back between the banks and running crystal clear. My first session with the fly rod was planned for Thursday, then squalling snow showers put paid to that. Friday already had a visit to Shropshire planned, so an early start, business completed before lunch and home by 2 pm, gave a slot to wet a line before teatime.

A weak sun was forcing it’s way between the clouds, as I made my way to the river through corn stubble, the bitter North East wind cutting through four layers of clothing and curbing my enthusiasm, before I reached the bridge. The retreating floods had left a film of mud over the banks and was ready to turn back, when I spotted the shape of a good fish in the lea of a recently created sand bar. A weighted size 18 Hares Ear was already on my made up rod, a nymph with rubber legs, a relic of my Colorado fishing trip last year, this being flicked up above the waiting fish. The wind took the line and it was several casts later, before I watched the gold head drift down to the left of the dark shape, which moved forward, then disappeared in the ripples of another gust, the leader stopped and I lifted on instinct. Nothing. Missed it. The shape was gone.

I made my way downstream, not attempting to fish the tree lined pools along the way, only stopping where the river takes a turn and the far bank trees gave protection from the swirling wind. This pool has given up a lot of fish to me on warmer outings and I was optimistic as I slid down the bank into the shallows and waded up to take advantage of the bankside cover.


There were a few pale olives emerging from along the edges of the trees, but no sign of interest from fish and I prospected around the pool with the nymph, the leader greased to within two feet of the fly, making repeated casts in anticipation of a take. I didn’t have long to wait, before the floating leader skated upstream and the rod tip arched into the first fish of the day, the silver sided trout leaping clear on it’s first run. A small rainbow? Too small to be an escapee from upstream, it leapt again, red spots: it had to be a brown. The wildie fought round the pool, testing my seven foot rod and was soon head up and in the net, the barbless hook dropping audibly from it’s jaw. A big tail had provided the power for it’s fight, but the slim body told of a hard winter endured, although this sleek indigenous brown trout swam away like a dart, when returned at my feet.

No other takes came, not even from the usually resident dace and I climbed out to make my way back upstream, being blasted by the relentless chill wind by the time I reached the small weir, which appeared to have lost some of it’s rocks in the floods, these now filling the once productive pool below, creating a shallow run.

There were still no signs of rising fish, as a hatch of flies took advantage of the bright sunlight to drift lazily across the surface unmolested, while I tried without success to entice a trout from among the rocks and eddies. It was while drifting the nymph Czech style down the run, that the line bumped and straightened with a three ounce juvenile brownie frantically fighting for cover among the rocks. I lifted it out, only for the hook to lose grip and junior make a rapid retreat to the centre of the pool. Cold and hoping for better things next visit, I phoned my wife to arrange an early tea.

Recreation ground trout.

April 3, 2013 at 6:41 pm

A hard frost gave way to bright sunshine today, but a gusting wind from the North East kept temperatures down, while out of that wind, the sun was warm enough to think that spring had finally arrived in early April. With the afternoon free, I had a dilemma, shooting, or fishing? No problem, do both. My 7 ft flyrod was already set up in the van and decided to do a drive by of my urban trout stream, on the way to one of my rabbit infested permissions. If the river was too high and coloured I would continue on my way, if not I’d give it an hour. Along the roadside the river looked perfect, clear and bright, with just enough weed cover.

I prefer to wade this river, but today’s fleeting visit meant wellies, so chose to fish the recreation ground, where I could get down into some shallow water from one of the many gullies worn into the banks by stick retrieving  dogs. Even through my boots, the water was cold and with the biting downstream wind making casting difficult, I felt self conscious, as I searched out the water with my heavy bead head nymph, getting more than a sideways glance from the walkers enjoying the bright sunshine. Under tall trees, an obstruction was forcing the river over to my bank and this could have had a sign over it saying “holding spot” and my second cast along the riffle brought a golden flash against the gravel, the drag of the line hooking and turning a weighty trout.

I had too much slack line out and the brownie rolled slowly in the shallows, with me rod raised, stripping  line until contact was made and battle commenced. It bee-lined like a torpedo into the heart of the snag, taking me by surprise, my rod was pulled down to the water and I should have been broken, but it turned and zig zagged down the far bank searching for cover, before halting it’s run in the deep pool below, where it brooded, hugging the bottom. I had now recovered my composure and met every run with pressure, until it made it’s way back upstream just below the surface, not as big as I first thought, about a pound, but a worthy opponent all the same. Once in the net, the barbless size 14 hares ear nymph dropped from it’s jaw, the heavily spotted brown, grown fat no doubt on a winter diet of bread thrown to the ducks.

Ten minutes recovery time later, he swam off  to fight another day, hopefully to my rod and not to any of the fishmongering worm and maggot fishermen of the summer months. I had been on the water for less than 30 minutes and could have been on my way, but the river upstream looked promising and was worth a few casts while it’s banks were deserted. In summer the shallow water attracts wading dogs and children, while a tree offers a rope swing for the more adventurous pleasure seekers.

Keeping to the shallows, I made short line casts up and across towards the opposite bank, or to any deeper pockets mid stream, missing a short stabbing take, then surfacing and losing a small brown of a few ounces. Keeping a tighter line was the answer and a 4 oz brown was dashing all over the shallows, before dropping back to be dwarfed by my net. Another small one lost and another netted, these trout certainly work for their living, or is it that I’ve got too used to catching roach. My hands now were very cold and I’d proved a point to myself, that there were plenty of wild trout to be had from this gem of a river.