Bread punch mixed bag from gudgeon alley

September 29, 2017 at 12:16 pm

My tiny local river has suffered with several pollution events this year, causing thousands of fish deaths, but the upper reaches seem to have recovered and I was keen to see how the productive weir swim was getting on. My last visit in February had resulted in a blank, when in previous years quality roach had queued up for the bread punch.

Not trusted to buy my wife’s birthday present on my own, we had driven to a nearby town to look at rings, with the option of going on further to view more jewelers, but had struck lucky at only the second shop, finding the ideal gift, that we were both happy with. Driving back we had listened to a news report of reintroduced otters in Wiltshire, finding urban fish ponds full of expensive Koi carp easy pickings, emptying the ponds and strewing half eaten remains over the gardens. This obviously got me onto the subject of fishing that afternoon, although it would have to be a short session, being reminded that she was baking a favourite dish that afternoon, which would spoil if I was late home.

Bearing in mind, that a month after the pollution, I had failed to get a bite from this popular spot, I was not encouraged to find the swim overgrown, overhanging branches creating a parrot cage, which would make fishing with my 14 ft rod difficult. In the past the regulars have kept the branches trimmed, but was this a sign that it was no longer fishing?

Setting my 6 No. 4 ali stemmed stick float to run through shallow, I hoped to pick up a few early chub, before the roach moved it. That was the theory anyway, as the float followed a couple of balls of liquidised bread down the swim. At the foam, the float sailed away and firm resistance saw a rudd skimming towards the landing net. The rod snagged in an overhanging branch, as I brought the fish to the net, but all was ok and number one was in the keepnet.

A smaller rudd, a tiny chub, then a better chub came in quick succession, swinging the chub in to avoid the tree.

Fears of no fish in the swim were blown away with a fish a chuck, small chub and rudd taking the bread just below the surface.

The chub were getting smaller, throwing most of them straight back and changed tactics, bulking the shot at the hook link, while adding 18 inches to the depth, dragging bottom. Dip, dip, dive. A gudgeon came swinging in.

The gudgeon here fight like mini barbel, hugging the bottom, giving the impression of being bigger fish. These were now coming with every cast, the bread coating the bottom encouraging an impenetrable wall of the greedy fish. I was fishing with a big 7 mm bread pellet on a size 14 hook, but that did not stop them.

What to do? Stop feeding, or feed heavier? I chose the second option and the roach moved in. Once more the rod got snagged, but pulled through.

I tried to bring the next roach round to the side of the branch, but the fish swam off the hook. Then I attempted swinging them in, only to lose another. They were lightly hooked and heavy fish. Adding another 6 inches to the depth worked. Well over depth and held back to half river speed, every time the bait entered the edge of the foam it sank out of sight, followed by the line. These were decent roach, that ran into the fast water, putting a good bend in the rod, but being securely hooked deeper in the lip.

Running the gauntlet with the tree continued, requiring some careful maneuvering with the landing net at full stretch. I continued to bash my way through waves of gudgeon, but the roach, when they came were worth it.

I’d started late at 3:15 and two and a half hours later it was time to stop. This was supposed to be only a taster session and any longer would not go down well, if my wife’s special meal was ruined. As I pulled the  clattering net out of the water, I reflected on the disaster that had befallen this small river only 8 months before, the picture below taken a hundred yards upstream.

What a contrast, my catch below, 8 pounds of prime healthy fish, roach rudd, chub and yes, gudgeon.

I arrived home in time to sit down to a turkey steak, baked in a foil parcel with cheese, mushrooms and onions, served on a bed of carrots and beans fresh from the garden. A perfect day.

CZ 452 .17 HMR long shot after haymaking

September 21, 2017 at 11:41 am

A wet, then hot spring had resulted in rapid grass growth on most of my shooting permissions this year, giving plenty of cover for the rabbits, but not a lot of use for my CZ HMR. A call to one of my farmers confirmed that he had completed haymaking and that there were rabbits “everywhere”. I took his description with a pinch of salt, as any numbers over a couple count as everywhere in his book, but it was worth the trip to find out, the freezer looking a bit bare, due to a burger making session.

Arriving in the late afternoon, I had a good view down the field and could count five rabbits along the edge, but once through the gate, the nearest three were sitting up ready to melt back into the hedge row.

There were two still feeding out in the open about 200 yards away and I made my way across to the far edge, keeping in cover as much as possible, hoping to close the range down before I was spotted. One sat up. I stood still. It went back down to feed. They were about 150 yards away now, in range for the HMR, but with a slight breeze in my face, not a sure shot. I got down and belly crawled another ten yards. Over the curve of the field, one was just visible, the other only a set of ears. Another five yards and the prone shot was on. Lining up on the right shoulder, I eased the trigger and the rabbit toppled over. Working the bolt, the second rabbit was flat to the ground and heading for safety. I have harvested this field too often.

After waiting for 15 minutes, nothing else showed, so got up and began walking to collect the first rabbit, only to see another appear in the field 50 yards beyond it. Back down again, through the scope it was facing me. Shooting for the table, its side on head, or shoulder shots with the HMR. Even at 100 yards the bullet can pass right through from head to tail, the percussion ruining the meat. Another wait and it turned broadside on. Crack! It jumped, running in thin air and dropped. Another unseen rabbit was up and running, slowing down only to negotiate the brambles, before vanishing. On new permissions, I have shot three, or four from one spot, but not here recently.

I waited 20 minutes this time. Further round, well out of range, a small group were now feeding and I made my way to pick up both rabbits, keeping my eye on the group. Maybe another shot would be on, but one by one they slipped away. Another wait would have seen them out again, but behind me toward the gate, the others were feeding again. I had paced the distance to the second rabbit, being pleased with 146. Zeroed at 120 yards on a still day, the Honady .17 Magnum Round gives an almost flat trajectory out to 150 yards, needing only a one inch hold over.

These were big rabbits, making a change from the young ones of late, obviously out making the most of the fresh grass shoots to put on fat before winter. The field curves round and I knew that I would be spotted before making cover and sure enough white tails were bobbing back to safety, before I reached a small bush with long grass at its base. Patience is a virtue required for this daylight shooting and I settled down behind the rifle, scanning through the scope for movement along the far end bramble bushes.

This time like magic, a rabbit popped into view in minutes a hundred yards away, falling to a quick head shot. These three heavy rabbits were just right for my planned bunny pasties and I made my way back to the van just in time to meet the rash hour traffic home.


Braybrooke Jeanes Pond fishing worth a soaking

September 13, 2017 at 4:02 pm

With my wife planning a visit to the recently revamped town centre for the afternoon, I had a few hours available for an impromptu visit to a local pond set in a wooded hollow amid a busy council run park. The forecast was for stormy conditions later in the day, but arriving in the car park at 1 pm, the sun was shining with just the occasional fluffy white cloud drifting by. No need for waterproofs and by the time I’d reached my chosen swim, I was stripping off my hooded jacket.

This peg was new to me, but I have seen others catch nets of quality roach and rudd from here and set up my pole to plumb the depth, a shallow margin dropping away to a hole 4 ft deep close to the edge of the lily bed. My last visit had been in early July for a Grenfell Fire charity match and this had been the winning peg with 10 lb of roach and rudd after 5 hours, taken with hemp and caster.

My only bait came straight from the freezer, a white slice of Warburtons and a third of a loaf of liquidised bread for feed, which were still solid as I tackled up, crumbling the liquidised into my bait tray to mix with some ground trout pellets, before adding enough water for a light ball to be formed. I put in two egg sized balls to start, one at the edge of the shelf 3 metres out toward the lilies, the other at the centre of the hole another metre on.

With only three lengths of pole out, I cast onto the drop off and watched the float dip and sink away. A lift and the elastic bounced out with a hand size rudd, putting the landing net out for the first time.

In the seconds that it took to set the size 18 hook, the fish had swallowed the 5 mm bread pellet, a pattern that repeated itself for most of the afternoon. They love the bread. No fussing, the float goes straight down. Every half dozen fish I flicked in a pinch of feed, 2 to 3 ounce roach and rudd coming like clockwork with the odd bonus roach, or rudd.

Bubbles were now appearing on the surface 4 metres out, where I had been dropping in the occasional ball of feed and I added another length of pole, increasing the depth slightly.  The bait was taken on the drop, the float heading toward the lily bed as the elastic stretched out with a good rudd.

Shortly after this fish, the wind began to pick up and I could smell rain in the air, as black clouds swept in over the sky.

In minutes I was struggling to get my jacket back on, as a sudden rain shower hissed across the surface, the natural bowl around the pond creating a mini whirlwind that whipped up waves and bent the pole round. The float was out of sight for most of the time, often the movement of line from a taking fish the first indication of a bite.

I considered packing up, but then the sun would come out again. The fish were still feeding, aided by the sparing introduction of small tight balls of crumb close to the lily bed. Another squall of wind and rain forced it’s way through my cotton jacket and it was cold too, but the warming sun soon returned. The float had gone again, the line stretching out, followed by the elastic that curved away in an arc. This was a very good roach that fought all the way to the net, the size 18 hook dropping out as I lifted it out.

Minutes later I was playing another big roach that ran off with the bait hooking itself. My first thought was that a pike had taken a small roach and run off, making for open water, the initial pull had been so strong.

The rudd seemed to have gone, but quality roach kept coming to the net, until a bite saw the elastic extending back to the safety of the lilies. This was a much heavier fish, that fought doggedly before running for open water. My guess was confirmed, when a black tail broke the surface to reveal a tench. I had been trying for tench here all year, plenty of roach and rudd, but this was the first. Breaking the pole down to the top two for the net, it went again taking out the elastic, but it came back, wallowing into the landing net.

The rules of this club are separate nets for carp and tench and I frantically got my spare net out with one hand, while the other held onto the landing net, which had been lowered into the water. This little fiasco lasted 15 minutes taking precious fishing time, but I felt that where there is one tench, there will be others on the feed. This proved not to be the case, unless the roach were getting to the bread first, one of my last fish being possibly the best roach of the day.

I had promised to be home by 6 pm and at 5 I netted my final roach. I was down to my last quarter of punch bread and would need to mix some more crumb.

It was time to pull in my nets for a weigh in. The tench was 3 lb 8 oz and the silvers didn’t quite make 10 lb. I had chucked back a couple of dozen smaller roach, so I reckon 14 lb in under 4 hours fishing time is about right. This was a noted tench water once and another one would have topped an enjoyable afternoon. Total cost of fishing about 20 pence.


Baked rabbit with peppers and courgettes Sunday roast

September 10, 2017 at 7:20 pm

With a pair of tender young rabbits fresh from the cricket field, I had considered a family BBQ for these fryers, but heavy showers and thunder put a stop to that idea and my mind turned to a Sunday roast with a difference.

These days I tend to just take the loins and back legs for most dishes, unless making bunny burgers, or pasties. Instead of kebabs from the loins and marinated legs on the barbie, I would oven bake everything in one tray. This proved to be a very successful tasty dish. More tasty than it looks my wife said.



500 grams approx (two young rabbits)

120 grams of smoked pancetta lardons

300 grams new potatoes quartered

one red pepper, sliced

one red onion, rough cut longways

two small courgettes sliced

2 cloves garlic

2 stripped sprigs of rosemary

1 tbs mixed herbs

2 tbs olive oil

250 mil dry cider, or white wine


Place the herbs and garlic in a liquidiser and reduce to a paste.

Pour one tbs of the oil into a bowl, then mix in the herb paste, followed by the rabbit, cutting the loins into 25 mm chunks. Work the marinade into the meat and leave in the fridge for at least an hour.

Spread the loin pieces and lardons in a large baking tray, and then place the prepared vegetables into the marinading bowl and add the other tbs of oil, stirring and shaking to ensure full coverage. Pour over the top of the small meat pieces, then place the legs on the top.

Put the tray in the oven preheated to 220 degrees and leave for 30 minutes. Take out briefly, the potatoes and legs will already be browning. Turn over the veg and meat, mixing in the juices. Turn over the legs to allow even baking.

Pour over the cider, or wine. This will prevent the dish from drying out, with the bonus of providing a rich gravy. I used half a bottle of my own dry cider.

Return to the the oven for a further 45 minutes. Check and baste the dish after 30 minutes adding a dash more liquid if needed.

Serve straight from the dish.