CZ 452 .17 HMR Varmint targets winter rabbits

February 25, 2014 at 7:57 pm

Constant rain since December, has resulted in sodden fields and flooded ditches, dampening my desire to lie in wait for the odd rabbit to appear from it’s cosy burrow. My experience has been, that rabbits share my dislike of wet weather and with the likelihood of heavy showers most days, my rifles have remained hidden and unloved in the gun cabinet. Two things got me back out in the fields, the first, a call from my local butcher pleading for more rabbits for his customers and a dry afternoon following heavy morning rain. I’d been feeling guilty about the butcher, as I had been keeping his cold store stocked, then deserted him, knowing that his other supplier was probably also leaving him short.

As I drove through the farm gate, I kicked myself for not making more of an effort in the preceding months, as several rabbits sat enjoying the late afternoon sun on a small hill overlooking the yard, scattering back to brambles and safety.

 I parked up behind a shed and sorted out my gear, before sneaking back, loaded rifle in hand, for a quick look at the hill. I was in luck. A big rabbit was just visible among the thorny undergrowth only thirty yards away. A bit close for the HMR, but zeroing the scope down to the minimum magnification, it’s head was clearly visible for a shot. Supporting the weight of the rifle on the corner of the shed, I squeezed the trigger and watched the rabbit disappear, the crack from the silencer echoing back from the fence behind. Had I hit it? At that range the scope gives a view above the point of impact, due to it being mounted above the barrel, so a slight amount of hold over is needed, aiming above the head to hit the brain.

I walked up the hill to where I’d seen the rabbit, but couldn’t see it, then looking down, the white belly fur was visible deep inside the bramble bush, where it had rolled down. On these occasions, a small spaniel is required, to send down to retrieve the fallen animal, or bird, but I don’t own one and not wanting to waste a perfectly good rabbit, I began trying to pick my way through the tangled web of thorns, using my knife to speed the process.

Fifteen minutes later a fat buck was at my feet, well worth the trouble and time extracting it. The sun was now getting low and I needed a few more like this one to please my butcher, so it was time to move on, no time for a stake out, I’d have to see what I could find walking round the fields. Reaching a gate, I scanned the fence line and saw two grazing rabbits sixty and seventy yards away.

Resting on the gate post, the nearest jumped and fell over and I swung round for a second shot at the other, only to see the white tail flashing, as it ran the length of the field into the next. I waited a while to see if any others would appear, then moved down to where I could view along a hedgerow, a good vantage point in the warmer months.

Eighty yards away a dark round shape was confirmed through the scope as another of my target species and reluctant to shoot prone off the bipod on the boggy ground, a convenient gatepost proved a solid support to put number three in the bag. The light was now falling away fast and I walked round and collected my spoils, returning to a central spot from where I could see the hill from earlier. The rabbits were back out, but too far for a decent shot and masked by branches of a tree about 150 yards away. Keeping low, I made my way up the slope towards the hill to get in range, the low light an aid, as I watched the activity ahead, getting within eighty yards before settling down to shoot off the bipod. Several were chasing about, but one was sideways on, a perfect target. Hoping again to get more than one, I held it in the cross hairs for a moment, fired, watched it drop and moved round to the next, which jumped up, then tumbled down the slope, scattering the rest.

 Walking down the hill back to my cache of rabbits, in a gateway, silhouetted against the path,  was a dark shape. The farmer’s cat? A scope check picked out the hunched shoulders and long ears of another rabbit, too far at sixty yards for a reliable shot to hand, but getting down prone, an easy kill off the bipod. Six. All I had to do now was paunch them for the butcher. A walk back to the van for my head torch and I was in business, the rabbits hanging in the shop by 6pm.


Bread Punch finds skimmer bream on the Basingstoke Canal

February 14, 2014 at 5:04 pm

Last week I coped with a flooded Basingstoke Canal at Fleet, for a net of quality roach and skimmer bream, before a rare barge came by and dispersed the fish. I resolved to return for another session soon, not realising that continued flooding of my local rivers, left the canal as my only option this week. With a month’s rain falling in a few days and waiting for another storm to pass that morning, I was prepared for worse conditions, when I arrived on the canal bank this week.

I’d bought a bait dropper to get my liquidised bread down to the bottom, but there was no need, the canal having fallen to near normal level and pace, while the chocolate coloured water had now cleared with a healthy tinge of green. The sun was out with just a waft of downstream wind. Just about perfect conditions. A heavy float was not needed and I pulled out an old favourite, a modified Dubois with a bristle insert, taking  five No 8s shirt buttoned down towards the size 20 hook.

Having caught at seven metres last week, I started with an egg sized ball of liquidised bread on that line and trotted through, the float dipping, then sinking away moments after it cocked. A small roach, followed next trot by a better net roach, both taking a 4 mm pellet of bread. This was looking promising and after about ten, two to three ounce roach, I put in another ball of bread. More roach. I was hoping for skimmer bream on this visit and decided to try along the far shelf, dropping a couple of bait cups over at nine metres, as an investment and came back over to the seven metre line. First trot the float slowly sank and disappeared. A delay, then a firm lift of the pole, saw the No 4 Elastic stretch out, with the slow thud of a skimmer and the flash of silver below the surface. Shipping the pole along the bank, I detached the top three and slid the first of my target fish into the net.

This 8oz skimmer, was followed by an identical fish next cast, a roach, then a 4 oz skimmer. I put in another small ball. A couple more small roach, then nothing. Over fed it? Time to try the nine metre line.

First put over, the float dived back on it’self and I was into a hard fighting roach, the elastic pinging out as it zoomed about, biding my time netting it, as all the fish so far had been lightly hooked, the hook dropping out in the net with most fish.

 Next trot over, the float tip raised, then dived away. Typical little roach?  Not this time. The elastic came out and the float stayed down, seeing the steady flash of a decent skimmer, as it was drawn over to my side of the bank.

A small roach did follow next trot, then no more touches, so I switched back to the seven metre line and hooked another skimmer first cast. I continued to alternate lines, keeping my feed to a minimum. Each time I changed, I seemed to get a skimmer first, or second trot. The roach were still there, but not crawling up the rod, the whole session having a relaxed feeling, a bit like catching the skimmers, a steady fight, eventually ending in the net. Going up to the 5mm bread pellet made no difference to the size of fish, so the preferred 4 mm stayed on. By 3:30 the bites were getting scarce and if I was to beat the traffic, it was time to pack up. Pulling in the net, I could tell I had a decent haul.

A dozen skimmers and double that in roach, made for a busy two and a half hours on this hard fished venue, some of the catch showing the signs of being in more than one net, while others were pristine. A quick weigh in saw the scale pass 7lbs, before the catch being returned.



Bread punch nets quality fish on the Basingstoke Canal.

February 8, 2014 at 12:58 am

The wettest January for 250 years, gave way to an even wetter start to February and I had been scanning the weather forecasts for days, in an attempt to get a few hours pleasure fishing in, when today came up as dry with possible sunshine. Still not trusting the over night forecast, I waited until this morning, before making my decision to go. Years of Winter League matches, sitting out in all weathers for the good of my team, have given me a deep dislike of fishing in the rain. Cold I can take, but the creeping dampness, that gets into the bait and down your neck, after five, or six hours on the bank, is no longer my cup of tea.

By 10 am the last shower had passed and as blue replaced grey, I was on my way to Tesco to buy their cheapest medium white loaf, returning home to process it through the liquidiser, saving a couple of slices for the hook. Now committed, my tackle was loaded into the van, before a quick sandwich and a peck on the cheek from my wonderful wife, who saw me off, shielding her eyes from that rare sight, the sun.

Arriving at 12:30, the Basingstoke canal at Fleet looked good as I carried my gear from the car park, but on closer inspection, it was very coloured and flowing right to left like a train, more like a river, than a sedate canal. Added to the mix was a gusting down stream wind, which meant rooting through my pole rigs for something that carried plenty of weight for holding back against the flow, that would also be immune to the swirling gusts.

This old Dubois pole float is probably on it’s fourth life, but still worth it’s 5 No 4 weight in gold, although my match fishing chums would cringe at the sight of it. Dotted down to the tip, it is super sensitive, “flashing on and off” at the slightest nibble. I plumbed the nearside shelf and started off just over it at 6 metres, the float set slightly over the one metre depth with the bulk shot a third up and 4 No 8s shirt buttoned down towards the hook. In this flow, I hoped that as the rig was held back, the bread pellet would swing up, then drop as it was eased down the swim.

I fed an egg sized ball of squeezed bread upstream of my peg and watched it break and drift down, before vanishing in the murk, dropping my rig in to follow it down, checking it in the flow at intervals. The float sank away, solid resistance. Skimmer?. No, instead, the first of many pine branches, blown in from the gales a few days ago. Ten minutes of this and not a bite. I would have expected a few roach by now. Another joint on and another ball of feed upstream made the difference, the float was checked, then sank slowly away. This wasn’t a snag and the No 4 elastic responded to the slow pounding fight of an unseen fish, as it took full advantage of the increased flow, taking my time to bring it to the surface for the net, the tiny size 20 just holding the edge of it’s lip.

A fish at last, this 10 oz roach-bream hybrid putting a smile on my face. Next trot through, the float sank away again to be met by solid resistance as the elastic pulled out, a slight bounce from below the surface indicating a much better skimmer bream. It was steady as you go again, allowing this pound plus lump to dictate the running, getting it in the net was the priority.

Once again the hook was barely holding in the soft tissue at the tip of the nose. With big fish in the swim, I tried going up to a 5 mm pellet, but missed the next bite, so returned to the 4 mm, taking a nice roach next cast.

 More roach followed, then the elastic was out again with another decent skimmmer rolling on the surface. This was looking to be a session to remember. The hot spot being ten feet down the peg, reminding me of the Thames. The smaller roach were coming from the head of the swim, taking on the drop.

A few minutes later the float sank away to be met with a juddering response, as a large roach began fighting for all it’s worth, chasing across the canal, while I fed on more joints. Again the elastic saved the day and a near one pound roach was guided into my landing net.

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I’d just slipped skimmer number four into the keep net, when the sound of an engine made me look up. A barge was powering upstream against the current towards me, only shutting off the throttle at the last minute, the three guys on board apparently unaware of my presence.

The barge scattered the shoal, stirring up the mud across the canal, having passed over my swim and effectively killed it. Once the mud had settled, I fed again and rang the changes, trying to find the better fish, but apart from a few more small roach, that was it. I stuck it out until 3:30 with barely another bite and packed up.

This lot were mostly taken in that first hour, before the boat and with thoughts of what might have been, I will return. Arriving home, I laid my nets out to dry in the afternoon sun and went inside for a cup of tea, returning minutes later to find them soaked by yet another rain shower. Another storm was on the way.