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.

Big trout in a small stream

May 8, 2013 at 10:45 am

The first days of May brought warmth and the anticipation of rising fish, as I pulled on waders at my syndicate water and watched hawthorn flies dancing above the grass verge in the afternoon sunshine. The short walk to the river soon dashed my hopes of fishing the dry fly, when looking downstream, not a single rise was in evidence, despite a variety of fly life, on, or above the surface.

The river was now back to normal level and pace, unlike the opening days of the season, when weeks of rain needed to run off and I was expecting an instant response as I waded up to a pool that has been good to me in the past. The smooth surface was untroubled by feeding trout, so my reliable Gold Head Hares Ear nymph was flicked out along the edges among the roots, but not a twitch of the leader rewarded my efforts. I was considering a change to a darker nymph, when a trout swept round the shallows at my feet and returned to the centre of the stream ahead.  A cast up the pool brought a solid pull halfway through the drift and I was into that trout, a plump wild brown of around a pound, fighting for all it was worth, it’s exit from the pool barred by my feet as it tried to escape downstream. I now had the trout thrashing about in the shallow tail and my landing net was resting against a tree out of reach. Stepping across to my left for the net, gave the slack needed for the hook to lose grip and the trout to dart back to the pool. With a photo opportunity missed, I continued downstream intending to fish along the bank cleared during a new year working party, but paused to look at another previously productive pool.

 It seemed too good to pass and getting down into the water, I waded up, searching out the eddies and runs with my nymph as I went. The river here rushes down through trees and turns, holding fish across the pool, good dace and chub adding to the mix. Again surface fly life was being ignored and so it seemed was my nymph, until a six inch brown raised my hopes and straightened the leader. The tiddler returned, I cast further up between the trees and watched the leader skirt the edge of  a far bank eddy, where it suddenly dived to the left, to be met with solid resistance as I lifted into a very powerful fish. Deep in the pool, the zig-zag rolling fight indicated a big trout rather than a chub and I gave line as it made a series of sprinting runs into the tree lined channel, then back to the pool, before zooming along the far bank to pass below me. Having turned to follow the big brown downstream, I looked up to see a fellow syndicate member watching from the river fifty yards downstream. More pressure, bad enough to lose a fish and talk of the one that got away, but to have it witnessed is worse. The gods of angling were on my side this time and the deep sided brown turned and came back upstream to me, obliging by rolling onto it’s side before sliding into the net.

A full tail was the power house for this seventeen inch brown that took  no prisoners in it’s efforts to escape the barbless hook, which fell out into the net once the pressure was off. In the same respect, that it is misery to lose a good fish in front of a fellow angler, it was also a joy to show just what this little river can hold to new member George, who had a grandstand view of my struggle with this beast of a fish. After a quick photo and a short recovery session in the net, my best fish so far this year, swam off to sulk in the shallows.

Urban trout from the bus stop.

May 1, 2013 at 12:01 am

The last day of April was still trying to be spring with bright sunshine glinting off my urban river, but a gusting wind from the north east was a cool reminder of the long winter, daffodils in bloom an indicator that mother nature is on catch up.

A visit the previous week had seen two good trout lost, due I think to my little seven foot brook rod being unable to pick up line quick enough to set the hook in the fast flowing stream. Today I was armed with my Diawa Whisker nine foot 5/6 rod, which has a soft action and is best suited for wind over the shoulder dry fly fishing, but now the wind was in my face and due to no surface feeding trout, a heavy gold head Hares Ear was on the point. I walked to the bus stop at the bottom of the stretch and got down into the clear water, which was deceptively deep and began my wade up stream, casting as I went, keeping an eye open for rises. Last week I lost a good fish under the bank, beneath a tree and got in position for another go, but the wind kept sweeping the leader away from the bank, until finally the nymph dropped in six feet upstream. Drift, a bulge and the line arced round as I lifted into a fish, which burst into life, foaming the surface with spray, before running across the river and downstream, putting a decent bend in the rod and fighting it’s way upstream, the longer rod having more control, easily bringing the heavily spotted wild brown to the surface and my net.

This was a very silver brown with just a hint of gold and no red spots and at 13 inches fought well, this photo being the only one, when it wasn’t jumping about. I put him back in the net and watched as he disappeared against the gravel and swam off. I continued to wade upstream taking an 8 inch brownie, before reaching overhead trees, that made casting with the long rod difficult. I’d had no problem here with the brook rod last week, but now it was time to get out and make my way along the roadside to the next bus stop, where I could see another small brown close to the edge, a few casts above his station and he rose and took the nymph, only to tumble off again.

Shortly after getting back in the river, there was a rise ten yards upstream, the first I’d seen all afternoon, then others further up, as a hatch of olives began lifting off. I was tempted to tie on a dry fly, but by that time the hatch could be over, so kept going with the nymph and was rewarded with a long slow take that brought another fighting brown to the surface, an 8 oz fish that jumped and came off. I could see ahead, several rises beneath a willow and steadily made my way up against the current.

Trout were rising freely now and the trick was to cast beneath the overhanging willow up to the evergreen tunnel without  snagging the nymph. The short rod is ideal for this, being able to shoot a line straight in, while the longer rod I was using, with it’s lazy action was not so precise, the gusting wind, also not helping. Another unmissable take and I missed it. Another cast, a short twitch of the leader and I hit it, launching a six inch trout skyward, which I swung to hand and released downstream. There were now some determined rises ahead, as waves of olives became airborne and my casting became ragged, catching in the daffodils on the bank behind me. Untangled, a well placed cast dropped the nymph gently on the surface and a bow wave swirled towards it, drawing the leader beneath the surface, as I reacted with a sideways lift of the rod to set the hook. An initial splash and the trout charged upstream under the evergreen, stripping line from my homemade reel, while I kept the rod over to the side to avoid the foliage. He jumped, then turned and ran down and past me at lightning speed, the weight of the line keeping contact, until the bend in the rod told that he was still on. These trout are almost invisible in the water and I had a job seeing where he was, as he sped back upstream, jumped and turned again. This was a much bigger fish and expected to lose him, when he began to tumble in the shallow river, a sign that the hook is loose, but once again he headed off and I was able to bring him up and across to my net.

This was a typical wild brown trout, golden green with a smattering of red spots, the fifteen inch fish going well over the pound and contrasting with the smaller trout pictured earlier, that was almost silver. It’s a shame that the net cast a shadow over the trout’s head and ruined what could have been the perfect picture. I returned the trout immediately after this and he swam off against the strong flow. Two good fish in two hours and plenty of offers, bodes well for my next visit to this free fishery among the houses and factories.