Mayfly bring out the big brown trout.

May 25, 2015 at 11:27 am

Already into a busy week and with only one afternoon available to cash in on the Mayfly hatch, my plans were blown out of the water, with an invite to join two other couples for a genteel Afternoon Tea at a Thames side cafe this week. Pleas of  “But I’m going fishing”, cut no ice with my wife and we duly arrived in our best civvies for an afternoon of idle chatter with normal, non fishing people. The sight of Mayfly flitting across the table made me restless and when a Mayfly settled on the arm of one of the the wives, she screamed that she had been bitten by this beautiful wing creature. Being a non angler, she was not aware that unlike Wives, Mayfly have no mouth and cannot bite, being in this form for mating purposes only, all other parallels being ignored at this point. This allowed my wife to announce my earlier intention of fishing that very afternoon, to looks of  “Poor Thing” in my direction from the other females, as though I had a strange incurable disease.

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My duty completed, much later in the day, I found myself peering over the bridge of my syndicate river, expecting to see clouds of Mayfly being mopped up by leaping trout, but was disappointed to see plenty of Mayfly, while the trout were keeping their heads down. Sometimes, just the sight of a big artificial Mayfly, drifting slowly downstream will provoke a lazy trout into action, but not this evening and after several fly changes, big and small, covering a length of the river, I came to the conclusion, that the fish had become sated with Mayflies in the afternoon, while I was sipping tea and eating fruit cake.

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Giving up on the dry fly, I selected a Mayfly nymph, greasing the leader with floatant to within a foot of the fly and made my way up toward a silent pool, stopping short to cast from the shallows. As before, the surface was undisturbed by rising fish and had by now given up on any hope of a trout, but began going through the motions of searching out the pool anyway. A slight disturbance of the surface beneath the leader, caused me to lift the rod in a reflex action, the leader hadn’t moved, but response was immediate, as a good sized brown trout foamed the shallows in a tumbling fight, before diving deep into the pool ahead. I’d hoped for fish from the surface, but this would do nicely, as battle commenced, moving up to the deeper tail of the pool to allow a better control of the situation, eventually bringing the trout across the mouth of the net.

trout 003This 14 inch fish had been packing on weight, taking advantage of the Mayfly Bonanza to build muscle for leaner times. It had fought well, despite damage to it’s tail.

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Traps on our water, take their toll on the resident mink population, but this is evidence, that the furry carnivores are not just a pretty face.

I felt satisfied, that I’d managed to break my duck and catch a trout, as this would have been my first blank on the river at such a prolific time. Having held this trout’s head upstream for several minutes, before allowing it to swim free, I decided to have a few more casts deeper into the pool.

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In this light, the slightest ripple was visible and as the leader passed the right hand bush, the surface crinkled from a turning trout. I lifted the rod, to be met by the explosive power from a much better fish, that powered away upstream toward the bend, giving line, while applying as much pressure as I dared to slow it’s progress. It turned, staying deep, but searching out the banks on both sides, before erupting in the shallows at my feet, turning it with the rod back to the deeper water, again taking line and testing the bend in the rod. Each time the brownie came close to the net, it boiled on the surface. How many trout have I lost at this very point? Leading it back to the deeps, I bided my time, until it was ready to drift back down on the surface to my net.

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A spectacular brown trout in perfect condition, that fought to the last, which measured 16 inches to the fork of it’s tail. Earlier I had been on the verge of giving up on the river for the evening, due to the dearth of  rises to my offerings, but this one pool had made up for everything. There may have been others lurking in the depths, but I was satisfied with my lot and drove home with a smile on my face.


Urban trout stream springs into life

May 14, 2015 at 4:52 pm

Having returned from a short holiday in the Channel Islands the night before, a day of household chores left only the evening for a return visit to my urban trout stream, before the last of recent spring sunshine gave way to cool, wet weather. Waiting until the worst of the rush hour traffic was over, it was well past 7 pm by the time I parked the van in a side street.

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Bank side growth was already luxuriant compared to three weeks before and looking downstream, when I arrived, clouds of small flies were drifting across the river, while the occasional mayfly was lifting off. Surprisingly, only a few rises were apparent and felt that the main evening rise had been missed.

Hedging my bets, I tied on a Mayfly Nymph, greasing the line to a foot of the fly, before walking 300 yards to the bottom end of this fishable stretch, where the river then disappears from view behind houses. Without waders, I was limited to casting between the gaps in the trees, so kindly planted by the local council twenty years ago, to improve the appearance of what was an open, but very easy to fish bank. In the first gap, the nymph was ignored, but at the second, a cast up to the edge of faster water, resulted in a bulge beneath the surface and an explosion of spray, as the hook set home. These trout are already in top condition, but my 9 ft rod No 7 rod was designed to cope with bigger fish than this and the first of the evening was soon in the net.

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As always, this plump wild brown was held upstream, until ready to swim off, during which time the surface of the river became dotted with rising fish, as mayflies began to lift off in numbers, some trout leaping clear of the water to intercept them. Casting to individual risers, the nymph was now ignored and I tied on a buoyant Hairs Ear nymph, rubbed with floatant, that sat on the surface for only seconds, before it was snatched by an eager junior brown.

urbanfieldsportsman 1285Taking another couple of similar sized wildies, as I walked upstream, I was aware that the sun was now sinking fast and headed up toward the factories hoping for better fish, before the light went.

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Weed growth had increased and trout were stationed between the beds, eyes toward the surface, moving up to inspect the menu offered to them. With the sun gone from the river, I watched my emerger drift down within range of a brown, that moved forward and sipped it in without fuss, turning back down, as I lifted the rod. Perfect. The rod arched over, at the instant of contact and a spirited 9 inch trout was zipping all over the river in response.

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I moved up again to an open bay before the factory, this whole section being full of rising fish, although I couldn’t see what to, but stuck with what worked, the emerger rubbed with floatant.

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Conditions were now just right, no wind, a steady flow and plenty of trout to cast to. I spotted a better fish, only for a seven inch interloper to pounce, causing my intended target to jump clear, as I struck, splashing the small one across the surface. A longer cast to the base of the laurel bush, a ripple of  a rise and I was playing another hard fighting brownie, that bored straight for cover along the opposite bank, playing this fish on the reel, all the way back to my net.

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The mayfly season has only just begun on this river, but the trout are already barrel shaped and fighting at full power. Once this one was returned, I turned back, the light was fading and I wanted another shot at that better trout only yards downstream. Circling round, I could see the fish in a channel between weeds and made a cast a few feet above it. A determined rise and like magic it was on, fighting in mid water, then turning to run beneath the the overhanging tree to my left, dropping my rod tip to the surface to avoid snagging the branches, it emerging along my bank to run upstream again, before coming to the top and my net.

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At twelve inches, this was the largest brown of the evening and certainly the hardest fighting, the shame being that I release all my trout, while many others do not and I wondered , if it would survive to grow much bigger. This should have been my last fish of the evening, but a final cast could not be resisted, as I walked back to the van, a steady riser falling for my fly.

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Due to the low light, this image is not the best, but included it to show the variation of trout colouration, this one a multitude of red and black spots. Considering the evidence of well trodden banks, pointing to other angling activity, ten trout in around 90 minutes from a free fishery cannot be beaten.

Magtech .22 semi auto sweeps the garden

May 6, 2015 at 2:59 pm

A desperate phone call saying “Please come and shoot my rabbits, they are everywhere!”, took me back to visit a house set in a beautiful English cottage garden, that I was first invited to 18 months ago. Then, twice weekly visits for a month, had reduced the garden rabbit problem to a minimum, by dealing with their main port of entry, a bramble lined paddock to the rear of the property, well worn trails leading from the paddock, through the fence to the lawns and young flower shoots. Between two farms, I was in the habit of stopping off for a chat over a cup of tea with the lady of the house, popping off a couple of rabbits in the paddock, or garden and moving on to the farm down the lane. Winter had come and gone, a visit being well overdue, when I got the call.

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I arrived in the early evening, one of the windiest yet this year. Leaves and branches littered the lawn, as gusts of up to 60 mph swept the countryside and could see fresh holes in the manicured sward, where rabbits had been feeding on the nutrient rich roots. Looking out over the empty garden, I was assured that there were always at least half a dozen rabbits on view at any one time, the house spaniel delighting in a game of  head butt the rabbit, which unfortunately was as far as it was prepared to go regarding pest control.

I settled down in the cover of  a flower bed to wait, having brought the Magtech semi auto for it’s rapid fire capability, expecting several targets to deal with and held my fire, when a lone rabbit ran onto the lawn and began feeding to the right of the lodge 40 yards away. Rested on my gun bag, I had a perfect bead, but watched as my target nibbled away, hoping for it to be joined by others, only squeezing the trigger, when a car pulled onto the gravel driveway, causing the rabbit to lift it’s head. A chest shot from the 40 grain bullet knocked it flat. At least I had one to show for my efforts.

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After twenty minutes, nothing else came out and opted for a stalk among the various flower beds, turning a corner to see a preoccupied rabbit dining on roots only twenty feet away, the scope image being out of focus for the unmissable chest shot.

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I returned to my original stakeout position and settled down again, but apart from a tiny baby bunny, that ran out, then back again without stopping, there was nothing happening, so got up for another stalk toward the bottom end of the garden and saw a jet black rabbit sitting out. It was so black, it looked more like a glove puppet, than a living thing, but soon hopped it once I came into view. I have seen black rabbits before, having failed over a season to shoot a very clever individual on one of my other permissions a few years ago. I continued on my circuit, back to overlooking the lodge, where two tiny kits were bobbing in and out of the shrubbery. With a good solid brick wall as a backstop, I was duty bound to take a shot, but they had too much energy to stay put for more than seconds at a time.

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This session was not living up to expectations, maybe due to the violent weather and spots of rain were filling the breeze, as I went in search of the black rabbit again, this time by a route giving me cover of trees along the edge of the garden. It was there again, about forty yards away in the corner, but due to the rising ground, needed to be closer to take a rested shot, using a tree to shield my progress, which brought into view another fat rabbit munching away in a flower bed to my right. Swinging round for the twenty yard shot, the rabbit toppled over without a kick, the black rabbit taking it’s cue to exit stage left, safe until my next visit.

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The intermittent  waves of showers were now becoming more threatening and decided to report back to the house for a well earned cup of tea, the only consolation being that all the rabbits had been pregnant milkey does, effectively reducing the population by a higher factor. Any reduction was welcome, the garden now back on my must visit list.


Spring cleaning with the CZ452 Varmint HMR

May 1, 2015 at 9:54 am

In my part of the UK, namely the soft South of England, this winter we avoided most of the snow and heavy rain, while  a frosty morning was a thing of rarity, resulting in a burst of  the activity, for which rabbits are famous. Many does are now suckling their second brood, and it was time this week to get down to some serious culling.

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Parking is always a problem with this permission, it is landlocked, with access limited to the tenant only, which means being dropped off by my wife, while she shops in the nearby town, or as in this case, doing a drive-by of the NHS hospital car park looking for a space, or as is usual, there are no spaces and I give it a miss to shoot elsewhere. Today there was a space and with a two hour parking limit, unloaded the van, climbed the stile and began the half mile trek across the public footpath to the twenty acre field, looking straight ahead, as I passed shaggy longhorn cattle and frisky young bullocks, the latter seeming to delight in thundering up behind a walker, stopping just in time to avoid trampling them to death.

The tenant breeds horses on the land, the footpath an ancient droveway that is now a road to nowhere, while it is bordered by blackthorn riddled with rabbit warrens, which over the years I have kept in check, but could see before I’d negotiated the gate, rabbits in all directions, already sitting up waiting for the metallic clang of the latch, as I closed it behind me. The sound was the equivalent of  a starting gun, with rabbits running everywhere back to safety. One made a hundred yard sprint from the open field to stop at the hedge and I got down to the ground, then locked out the rifle bipod, before reaching into my bag for a clip of bullets. Sighting through the telescopic scope, the rabbit was hidden behind long grass, but raising my head he was still there, so in sidewinder snake style, I slid over to the left, until I could just see it’s ears. Another shift to the left would put me in full view, too risky with these spooky rabbits, so I waited, cross hairs on the ears, ready for the next move, which proved fatal for my target, it dropping from vision the instant it raised it’s head and the trigger was squeezed.

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At first I couldn’t find this young buck, thinking that I’d missed, although the CZ HMR is deadly accurate, doubts crept in, when drawing a blank a hundred yards out. Shrugging my shoulders, I walked on down the hedge line toward more visible rabbits in the distance, only to discover the buck another forty yards on, the tiny .17 inch diameter bullet entering just under the left ear.

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Before moving on, I skinned and cleaned my kill ready for the game bag, having the hunch that this might be a busy session, my rifle and kit being heavy enough without surplus weight. The blackthorn gives good cover, growing out into the field in places and allowing grassy bays to grow in others.

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Working my way toward a group of rabbits further down the field, one hopped out just fifty yards away. I pressed back into the hedge, adjusted my scope down and took a chest shot to hand, sending it skyward with a reflex jump.

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Picking this one up, I’d disturbed the group further down, watching them white tail it back to rough ground, where a bramble bush grows over the warren and walked to within a bush a hundred yards, from where I could cover all exits. Having carried out my paunching ritual on number two in the cover of the bush, I settled down to wait for number three. Rabbits are like buses, you wait for ages, then several come along at once. One second the area was empty, then four appeared and began feeding. The first was an easy measured shot, the second a snap shot at the first to stop, after the initial crack of the rifle sent them into a dither, the others retreating back to cover.

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Two fat does from two head shots seconds apart, are testimony to the accuracy of this rifle, dropped without a twitch.

Time was now at a premium, if I was avoid a parking fine and I cleaned these out in record time, only to look up to see another rabbit on the grass, where I’d shot these from. Pest control is the name of the game and he sat patiently in the sun, while I took aim.

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A foregone conclusion, I was back over to sort number five, my bag now weighing me down, working up a sweat as I covered the ground back to the gate. Taking one last look round, there was a grey shape in the shade of the trees on the pathway, another big rabbit was feeding unaware of the danger ninety yards away. I got down prone, the bipod allowing another, what you see is what you get shot, that toppled it over with an expanding bullet through the eye, not a pretty sight on the other side.

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I made it back to the car park with ten minutes to spare, feeling like I’d just competed in the London Marathon, downing a warm half bottle of Lemon Barley Water in the time it takes to say it. This session only covered one side of the field and had barely made a dent in the rabbit population I’d viewed from the gate earlier. Pressure, pressure pressure. This was hard work.