Small river secrets

November 27, 2018 at 7:20 pm

My local river meanders either side of a narrow lane, often out of sight of the roadway, but with the leaves missing and undergrowth dying down, I was able to push my way through to a swim, that was new to me this afternoon. There was no path and I had to carry my tackle to the swim in stages over dead trees and and through a tangle of branches. Once at the river, I found a mudbank that was solid enough to support the tackle box, with enough head room to clear my twelve foot Hardy float rod.

I could see leaves on the bottom and set up my 3 No 4 stick float to fish two feet deep with a size 16 hook to carry a 6 mm punch of bread. The restricted width increased the pace and I watched a couple of balls of liquidised bread break up into a cloud, drifting down toward a tree that had fallen over the river.

My first cast was not encouraging, the float carrying fifteen yards down to the tree before it disappeared, as a small chub took the bread. The soft action of the Hardy absorbed the initial run and the fish had its mouth out of the water by the time it reached the net.

It was a cold day, with temperatures well in the single figures, but this chub was still cold to the touch. This little river is one of the best kept secrets in my locality, although not easy to fish, due to overhanging branches, it rarely fails to give an enjoyable few hours free fishing.

A couple of smaller chub followed, then another rod bender, as a better chub fought to find a snag beneath the tree, the rod applying just enough pressure to keep it clear, the net ready and waiting by the time it reached the mudbank.

After swinging in another chublet, the next cast saw the float ease toward the fallen tree again, seeing it lift, then sythe across toward my bank, responding with a strike that pulled the rod down, and a rapid backwind of the reel. Beyond the tree, the fish was making a beeline for a large branch sloping from the bank into the water, but pressure turned it away. Soon the open, white mouth of a 2 lb chub, surfaced close to me and I reached down for the landing net, but the chub ran back downstream, before turning again to run back along the opposite bank. Unseen by me was a single frond of bramble hanging down into the water, the chub getting behind it to entangle the float. The chub thrashed on the surface and I pulled to free the line, breaking it. The float disappeared, then popped up close to the opposite bank.

I now had to make up another float rig, changing to a reel with 5 lb line on it, the 2.8 lb breaking strain line OK on a snag free river, but here I had paid a price, the light touch of the thinner line, too vulnerable in these circumstances. While getting set up again, I fed a few more balls in to compensate for the lost chub, this time fitting a 4 No 4 ali stick to match the heavier reel line, the size 16 hook to a 2.8 hook link.
Following down a ball of bread, the float bobbed, then slowly sank. Lifting the rod, I assumed that this float was fishing deeper, dragging on the bottom, but no, the juddering fight of a roach was welcome and I netted the first of several. Small roach had moved over the feed, but the dithering bites were missable and I moved the float up another 6 inches to hold back, swinging the float down over the baited area. Holding back, I waited for the first tap of the float, let it run a foot, then stopped it again. Usually the float sank on the first release, swinging in a roach, or small chub each time, the bread crumbs now coating the bottom ten yards down.

The better chub had also moved up, the closer takes requiring the lifting of my finger on the trigger, letting line free on the initial run, then lifting the rod to play the fish.

A small ball of bread a cast kept the bites coming, mostly small chub, although the occasional better fish made it through to the end of the trot, fighting hard in the shallow river. The sun had gone down and it was now difficult to see the float under the tree, this last chub coming long after the float had disappeared from sight among the shadows, striking blind and making contact.

Over the feed, I struck into a decent roach that ran down stream, then turned into my bank searching out the bottom near the end of the mud. It found a branch on the bottom, transferring the hook. I pulled and it came free, only to fly up, getting entangled in a bramble. As a reaction, I flicked it back in time to see it wrap around the rod top.

This was the end for me, having failed to put on enough layers, I was shaking with cold, my fingers in no shape to tie knots and pinch on shot. I’d had a good afternoon, despite the mini disasters, at least a dozen rod bending chub and enough small fish to keep the float going under.



Bread Punch Carp Surprise

November 18, 2018 at 5:56 pm

Continued unseasonal mild weather had put the local carp lake on my target list, then days of rain flowed down the feeder stream and caused it to overflow the banks, being four feet up a week ago. While waiting for the level to drop, the Weatherman was predicting frosts and wintery showers after this weekend, so with Saturday afternoon free, I arrived to find that the level had dropped to just below the bank.

The sun was already beginning to drop below the houses, as I damped down some coarse bread crumb, ready to fish my modified pole float, waggler rig.

Squeezing out four balls of wet bread, I fed an area 20 yards out, where I had seen some carp movements, followed by the float with a 12 mm punch of bread wrapped round the hook. I did not have to wait long for a response, the float dipped a few times, then slowly sank away. The line at the rod tip moved forward and swept back the 12.5 ft Normark float rod ready for the explosive run of a carp. Missed it! I could not understand how?

I cast out again and missed another perfect bite. Maybe the bread was too big? The carp often take their time here, pushing the bait around without taking it in. I tried a double punched 6 mm pellet of bread. Same again. Next I tried a single 6 mm pellet, squeezed to a lozenge shape. The float dithered, then shot under. Another big strike and hooked a leaf. Not a leaf, a tiny carp!

So that was it. The long hot summer had obviously been good for spawning and this was the result. A couple more misses, then another perfect example.

These bites were just like the real thing and each time I braced myself for a strong run, only to have an anticlimax each time. I even had a couple of baby mirror carp.

Then, bang, I hit into a proper carp. The float had slowly sunk and the strike had seen the line V out then go solid, moments before a muddy swirl beneath the float. The carp kept going out toward the centre of the lake, then turned in an arc toward overhanging bushes on my right. I brought the rod round over my left shoulder and reeled back line, the carp turning to rush by ten yards out, stirring up a mud trail as it passed. It was now under the trees to my left and turned the rod to counter the escape attempt, a small branch surfacing between me and the carp. A couple more short runs on a tight line had the carp rolling in front of me. The net was out and I pulled back the rod to guide in a nice common.

Just like the mini version, but 6 lb heavier. Phew! That was a fight. As fat as a barrel, but packing a punch. Photo session over, it was back in the lake.

I cast back out. There was still a muddy stain in the water, but I had an instant bite. Strike! Resistance, but only another small carp.

Spot the difference.

I carried on, each time striking in anticipation of a big carp, but not so, although everyone was different.

By 4 pm the clear sky was heralding a frosty night, the temperature falling away and I packed up. At least twenty mini carp had translated into one decent common on my light tackle, a match rod to 6 lb line. Without the bait stealers, it could have been more.


Bread Punch Autumn Roach on the Stickfloat

November 15, 2018 at 9:51 pm

A few days of heavy rain had increased the flow and added some welcome colour to my local river this week. With a mild, dry day forecast, I made my way to the weir, hoping for some decent sized roach on the bread punch, fished on the stickfloat. The river was up about a foot on its summer level, the increased pace creating waves, where it met the outfall.

Set up with a 6 No 4 ali stemmed stick float to size 16 hook, I started off by putting in two egg sized balls of liquidised bread slightly upstream of my box, one down the middle, the other two feet from the bank, watching them sink and break up as they washed down stream. Guessing the depth at three feet, I ran through off the top of my 14 foot rod, seeing the float dive under half way down the swim, the rod bending into a 6 ounce chub, that ran back to the fast water, a rapid backwind of the reel cushioning the pull. This swim has a high bank and I swung the 3 metre landing net out out to collect the chub.

Another 6 mm bread pellet on the hook and I was ready again, this time a roach burying the hook.

I had come for the roach and this was a good start, my next trot being down the inside line, where the occasional pound-plus chub, can be found under the bush. The float dived long before reaching the bush and on contact I was convinced it was a chub, the rod bending down as the fish ran into the foam. Using an open face ABU 501 reel, I lifted my line controlling index finger to release line, when the fish continued downstream into the fast water, a flash of red fins proving that it was sized roach, eventually bringing the zigzagging fish back to the net.

Next cast was a repeat performance, the float diving beneath my feet on the inside and I was battling another beauty.

This one had black spot desease, caused by a flat worm lavae, that latch onto the skin of the fish, the fish covering the area with black pigment. The roach in this pool are often covered in the spots, which as far as I can see, do not affect the health the fish, this one being full of fight and rounded in the body.

I fed a couple more balls to keep them coming, the roach taking on the run through in the pacy flow.

Usually an eddy is formed, where the river meets the outfall, this being the hot spot, but today the force of the river was pushing the eddy back upstream into the tumbler and I tried a cast to the edge of the foam, watching the float travel upstream and disappear. Giving line, I paused, then struck, the rod bending round as a fish fought upstream into the weir. Keeping the rod low to avoid the bush, I held the run, reeling steadily back, the fish dropping into the flow, then diving for the base of the roots. I kept winding, seeing a big roach of about a pound pulling against the rod. It dived again and came off, the size 16 hook pulling free. Ouch! That hurt, cursing myself for being impatient.

I dropped in another ball and tried again in the same spot, the float carrying upstream, dipping, then vanishing with another rod bender, this time easing the pressure and backwinding, watching a good roach fighting hard under the bank, taking my time to get the net under it.

Not a pound roach, but a very nice fish all the same, the upstream eddy holding some nice fish. I hooked, then lost another stormer, that ran over to the the far side of the weir stream, before connecting me to a dead branch, shedding the hook. My next roach made it back to the net without too much fuss.

I decided to rest the weir stream to concentrate on the river, going over depth on the float by a foot, to offer a stationary bait close to the confluence. The float had just held back, when it bobbed a couple of times and slid away, lifting into a solid resistance, that slowly woke up into another hard fighting roach.

This roach was about 12 oz, taking me all over the river in an effort to escape. Once again the net was out for a good fish and I leaned back to counterbalance the leverage. Looking inside its mouth as I removed the hook, I could see a grey line of silt, a sure sign that the roach were Hovering up the fine bread crumb, that was coating the bottom.

Once again, the laying on technique worked immediately, the float giving a couple of bobs, before holding under with a good roach, that made straight for the fast water, as I backwound. With this one netted, it was time for a cup of tea and a sandwich, I know I could have had a couple more fish in the net in that time, but the fish were not going anywhere, while I was feeling knackered.

I had fed another ball of bread before my tea, my first cast back in seeing a sail away take and the rod bending over again with yet another quality roach.

I tried laying on at my feet, getting a bobbing bite, that I thought was one of the three inch chub that I had been troubled with along the edge, but no, the line went solid with the roach above.

As the morning slipped into the afternoon, the bites slowed and I tried shallowing up again. I had gone up to a 7 mm punch also and now went down to a 5 mm pellet. Success, the change brought more confident bites and the catching spree continued.

A small ball of feed every other fish had, the roach lined up on the edge of the fast water, easing the float into the foam, resulting in a disappearing float each time.

I had only allowed myself three and a half hours fishing today, due to a family commitment, having to stop when the roach were still going strong, but this was not a match and I made the decision to stop at this last roach. Yet another clonker.

Looking at my punched bread, I could see that I had had a good session, varying the punch size and depth resulting a memorable net of roach.

A quick weigh-in pushed the scales close to 9 lbs, a satisfying end to the session. It was rewarding to see that this part of the river has recovered from a devastating series of pollution events 18 months previously.

Magtech 7002 .22 semi auto Autumn rabbits

November 12, 2018 at 6:49 pm

It is a while since my last visit to the equestrian centre, due to a severe lack of rabbits, good for a walk in the country air, but not good for the pot, this wooded path once yielding several rabbits at a pass. I was back again on a bright windy Autumn afternoon, following a call from the owners, to say that they had begun to see more rabbits in this area.

The Magtech .22 is the ideal rifle for this style of shooting, where a steady, stop and start movement will often flush out a rabbit, or two, its light weight allowing the rifle to be brought rapidly up to the eye.

I heard the first rabbit before I saw it, as it trotted away through the undergrowth to my left, stepping over to the right to get a view of it. It had seen me and stopped as it considered crossing the open path to the ditch on the other side. Illuminated by the low sunshine, it offered a perfect shot, the 42 grain Winchester Subsonic flipping it over at 30 yards.

As I paunched this rabbit, I saw another cross from the field into the ditch about 50 yards further up, but could not get a bead on it. They seemed to have repopulated the banks of the ditch this dry summer, it often has water in it for most of the year, the soft sandy soil ideal for burrowing, but now it was full of dead grass, ideal cover.

I walked from tree to tree, scanning the ditch through the scope, seeing a large rabbit sitting at the top of the ditch looking out to the field beyond. At 40 yards, resting on the tree trunk, I aimed between the shoulders and saw it jump before toppling down the bank, disturbing an unseen rabbit in the grass below, which ran a few yards and stopped still. Sighting on the new target, the Magtech barked through the silencer, dropping the second rabbit. Two in under a minute.

I walked to the end of the path, but saw no more and turned at the top, to walk along the ditch from the field side. A shape in the field moved, it was a rabbit about 80 yards away, too far for a safe shot with the .22, but I crouched low and kept it in sight. The light was already going fast, the sun having sunk below the trees and I hoped to get closer before it saw me. It moved out of the field onto the path, then to the top of the ditch, sitting bolt upright. I’d closed down another twenty yards and it was now, or never, getting down prone to shoot off my gun bag, rotating the scope to its 12 x magnification. In this light, the rabbit was almost invisible and I aimed at the top of the chest, then squeezed the trigger, the rifle bouncing with the recoil, as the rabbit jumped into the ditch. Missed it! I walked down to check, using a bush as a guide. It was there, still kicking. Although it was probably only a nerve reflex, I stepped down and fired again in the back of its head. It was still.

These rabbits were in a confined area of the ditch and I saw no more burrows along its length. Having switched to using the new 42 grain Winchester subsonic .22 bullets, they have proved both accurate and deadly in the Magtech 7002. This is the time when rabbits are out feeding, before the cold wet winter gets a grip.





Bread punch chub on the pole

November 5, 2018 at 3:03 pm

A frosty start with ice on my local pond demanded a change of venue and I drove to the local river nearby to check on the condition of the water coming over the weir. The river has suffered many minor pollution events recently, but today the river was crystal clear and I unloaded the van to walk to a nearby swim.

On the inside of a bend, the flow passed beneath an overhanging bush and with only a pole with me, set up to trot along the opposite bank into the bush. Due to the bright sunshine, I could see the bottom beneath the bush, which seemed devoid of fish, but the proof would be in the fishing.

Taking out a pole rig with a 4 No 4 ali stemmed stick, I added another four feet of line to avoid the pole top being visible to the fish, as it trotted the float down to the bush. This gave three metres to hand, needing to break the pole from five metres to three. I tried a small ball of liquidised bread upstream of the  bush, watching it break up and drift down in a cloud, before punching out a 6 mm pellet for the size 16 barbless hook. Casting over to the roots opposite, the float had only drifted a foot before it dipped, then slowly sank, as though on the bottom, but a flash of silver when I lifted, then the elastic stretching out of the pole, said that I had hooked a nice roach.

The fish was very cold to the touch on an already cold day and decided against another ball of bread just yet. A couple of smaller chub followed, so chanced another small ball of feed. Back over, the float lifted and sped downstream. I struck and could now see a chub fighting hard toward the roots, pulling the pole round and extending the elastic to bring the pole back to unship the bottom two metres. The chub’s mouth was soon out of the water and heading for the landing net.

Next put in, the elastic zoomed out downstream again, as a larger chub zig-zagged across the bottom, using the length of the pole to steer it away from a sunken branch, before bringing it across to the net.

Dip, dip, sink, strike. A dace was next, these fish only introduced by the Environment Agency a year ago, after oil pollution virtually wiped out the fish stocks. Although a Thames tributary, the river has several weirs between this point and the main river ten miles away, dace never being caught this far up.

This dace was only a few inches last year and has already put on a couple of ounces, a good sign for the future.

The chub kept coming, interspersed by more dace and small roach, feeding a small ball of bread upstream every few fish.

Trotting past a raft of leaves, I expected another small roach, but the elastic came out again with a hard battling chub, that ran upstream for ten yards, before it turned to swim back toward the landing net.

Then the bites dried up, as the river took on a blue tinge. This has happened so many times now, that I feel that the river must get polluted by someone tipping something down the drains a mile upstream into the system. Last time the river turned white and the fish went off the feed.

As if on cue, my phone rang. It was the local Environment Agency officer, who knows that I live in the area. He was asking if I could drive down to look at the river, as they had just had a report of a strange smell coming from the outlet. I replied that I could go one better than that, saying that I was fishing two hundred yards downstream from the outlet, the river has turned blue and the bites have stopped.

Once this happens, it is pointless to continue, the river is dead for at least an hour and if more is dumped, then the day is wasted. I packed up, looking down at my bait tray to count the punches, each one a fish.

I had thrown the small fish straight back, but 90 minutes of actual fishing had seen the start of what could have been a memorable net of fish, releasing these back to the river in the landing net.

By the time that I had loaded my trolley, a Thames Water engineer had arrived and we walked down to see if any other anglers had been affected by the change in colour. There was only one, two hundred yards down from me, saying that his bites had dried up too. The fish are all fat and healthy, but something is ruining the fishing. Walking back to the van, the river had cleared again.


CZ452 HMR Rabbit late call

November 1, 2018 at 2:08 pm

Following my visit to Saunderton last week for some rabbit pest control, I arrived at the farm this week to shoot at the other end, where I had been informed by farmer Lee, that the rabbits were repopulating the far corner.

Ten years ago my approach would have been greeted by white tails bobbing back into cover, despite crawling the last 50 yards to the crest of a slight rise in the ground. The same approach this week was a waste of effort with no rabbits in sight, although after a steep half mile uphill walk and then the grass high scrabble to my vantage point, it probably did a lot for my personal fitness.

On the way up, a group of grey rounded shapes got me exited, but one look through the scope confirmed them as half a dozen guinea fowl, which set off at a pace down the field, running at top speed, then taking flight a few feet off the ground toward the furthest hedgerow. Somebody owns them, or owned them, they are very independent and unlike chickens do not like to be contained in a coop.

There was a biting crosswind, left to right and with nothing showing for half an hour, I decided to walk down to the tree line to check out signs of rabbit activity, finding several runs beneath the trees, but few droppings. A hundred yards apart were two new badger setts, the freshly cleared earth spilling out into the field, the entrance holes over a foot in diameter, compared to the six inch wide rabbit holes. Rabbits and badgers do not mix, a badger easily capable of digging out and killing young rabbits. This is what happened further down the hill, a prolific warren destroyed by badgers, that took over the area.

I walked along the tree line to the top of another crest, settling down in the long grass at the edge, with a view down into the dip, the corner being 120 yards away, an easy shot with the .17 HMR and a following wind.


Looking at my watch, I had been here for an hour and the shadows were already lengthening, the sun beginning to sink below Bledlow Ridge in the west. I had optimistically packed another game bag, expecting plenty of action, having not visited this corner for at least two years, after the returns had not warranted the 35 mile drive from home. This looked like it could end up as a costly expedition, when taking fuel into account. Hoping to avoid the worst of the evening rush hour, I set my time limit at 4 pm, deciding that I would leave then whatever the outcome.

There are more unpleasant ways to spend an hour, lying there watching kites almost motionless, hanging in the breeze, while knowledgeable pigeons and crows changed their flight patterns to a void my position. Scoping along the tree line, I searched for movement among the nettles and long grass bordering the field, but nothing was moving. Suddenly two large rabbits emerged from beneath the furthest tree, one stopping at the edge, the other ten feet out. Lying, resting on my elbows with the rifle stock crooked in my shoulder, I was ready for them, sighting on the rabbit at the edge, a head shot dropped it, while the other still sat upright. Quickly shifting another bullet into the CZ chamber, the second rabbit toppled at a range of 120 yards. It was ten minutes to four.

Two healthy rabbits, that unfortunately for them appeared at the wrong time. For me it was time to leave, bagging them up as they were, their combined weight telling, as I walked back down to the farm and the van, the busy roads in contrast to the remote hill top.