Bread punch quality roach from the weir pool

September 25, 2019 at 2:19 pm

With summer officially over, entering the Autumn Equinox, the weather forecast changed to suit this week, from sunny days, to a week of heavy rain and winds. A chink of light in the forecast was for a morning and afternoon of sunshine, followed by heavy rain. If I was going to fish this week, then it had to be now, so gathering up liquidised bread from the freezer, I drove to my local river. Dark clouds ahead looked foreboding and spots of rain on the windscreen were ominous, as I squeezed the van into the narrow lay-by. Faced with a long walk to the weir pool, an unforecast downpour kept me confined to the van until the storm had passed and the sun came out, not wanting to start the afternoon with a soaking.

The town outfall was at full flow, Monday, being wash day, filling the river with foam. It was backing up into the inflowing river from the left, creating a powerful eddy that was pushing into my bank. This required a 6 No 4 ali stemmed avon float, controlled by my 14 foot Browning float rod. While tackling up, I put a couple of balls of bread into the middle of the eddy, watching it break up as it was swept into the outfall. Plumbing the depth, there was an even 30 inches out in front, setting shot bulked 18 inches from the size 16 barbless hook with a No 6 shot, 9 inches above it. With turbulents visible on the surface, fish would be nailed to the bottom and I started off well over depth with a 5 mm pellet of bread. First trot, the float dragged under and expecting a snag, lifted slowly to see the rod top bending into a good fish, which accelerated off in the direction of the out fall. Lifting my finger from the ABU 501 spool, I let the fish run, then clicked down to backwind, spotting a splash of red fins among the white foam. Waiting for the fish to tire, the landing net was lowered ready for the first of many quailty roach.

Another ball of feed was dropped in behind the float and I eased it into the foam, watching it disappear tightening the line. The rod bent over again as an even bigger roach pounded away, before rushing off downstream. The hook held and the roach was soon ready for the net.

Most of the roach here have these spots, caused by a harmless fluke disease, that does not appear to affect their condition. They certainly fight hard and fast.

A small ball of feed every cast was now lining up the roach, although other fish were scooping up the bread from the bottom, the float going under each trot.

Several rudd.

Endless gudgeon.

Several small chub.

I even hooked a bream of over a pound, that kited across the outflow, rolling off the barbless hook in the fast flowing water. The bottom in front of me, must have been carpeted with fish, the float usually under after travelling a few feet. It was like fishing by numbers, lower the float with the bait leading, allow it to run a foot, then hold back the float, let it run again and hold back, the float burying at any time.

These big roach continued to come to the net, the high bank needing the full 3 metre length of my landing net to reach them, giving my back and stomach muscles a work out.

Dark clouds had gathered again, the increased wind blowing leaves onto the surface, which collected round the float, dragging against the surface and hindering bite indication, but not enough to stop the float from sinking out of sight. Light rain had increased and was beginning to penetrate through the leaves soaking my shoulders. Without waterproofs, the cold was getting through to my skin, but the fishing was relentless as the fish moved up the bread trail.

I lost a few good fish right under my rod top, bouncing against the rod top in the shallow water, a short pole with elastic being the answer, but I did not have one. For every one lost, I landed five.

This was my last fish, another clonking roach. The rain was not going to stop and it was time to beat a retreat.

The carpet of bread crumbs had drawn the fish into the swim and held them for over three hours

A full net.

A wet walk back to the van.


River Blackwater roach queue up for bread punch on the stickfloat

September 17, 2019 at 1:07 pm

Two weeks ago a bank of Himalayan balsam hid my preferred River Blackwater swim and I walked past it. This week, after lunch, I made a bee line to the spot, only to find a barbel hunter seated among the balsam. He hadn’t had any bites on his hair rigged luncheon meat and after a brief chat, I backtracked to a likely looking swim nearer the car park.

At the tail of a bend, a fast shallow run dropped into a slower glide, the bottom visible right across. Trotting a Drennan ali stemmed stick float through set at 30 inches dragged it under, but holding the float back to half speed fluttered the 6 mm punched pellet of bread clear of the bottom, the flow carrying the float alongside a weed bed, where the float dived under, the rod bending into a hard fighting chub.

Backwinding into the initial run, I had to keep it clear of the opposite bank, where brambles were trailing in the water, then managing to keep it out of the weed in front of me, sliding it over to the net.

Chub are usually the first to respond to the bread on these small shallow rivers, but it wasn’t long before the thudding fight of a decent roach put a bend in my twelve foot Hardy float rod.

Bites were coming as held I back hard to float the bread over a sand bank, the fish in the hollow behind taking as the bait dropped down to them.

A small ball of liquidised bread, every other cast was leaving a trail that was attracting a roach a chuck and I got down to business, putting on my ancient bait apron to dry my hands after each fish to avoid the feed sticking to the palms of my hands.

These roach were pristine, not fished for, the main target fish in this river being specimen chub and barbel, legering with heavy hair rigs and luncheon meat using carp rods the usual tactic. I’ve caught enough big chub and barbel in my time and now prefer light tackle techniques to tempt these nuisance silvers.

Gudgeon now moved in over the feed, most being monsters, that fight like mini barbel, hugging the bottom.

These gudgeon were taking on the shallow sandbank ahead of the roach and fished my way through them, a chub breaking up the routine .

Even perch were getting in on the act, the fluttering bread proving an irresistible lure to a few small stripeys.

More feed brought the roach back as heavy drizzle forced me to cover up the bread, this giving way to rain. Without waterproofs I considered packing up, but the roach helped me stick it out.

Upstream, weed was being cut and rafts of it were now adding to my problems, losing two good roach, when the float became entangled, taking the pressure off the fish allowing them to escape.

This clonker roach weeded me close to the edge. Allowing the line to go slack, persuaded it to swim free and the size 16 barbless hook remained in place, part two of the fight continuing to the net.

With the rain increasing again and more weed drifting down, this was my last fish of the day, another fine roach, the bread punch proving its worth again on a fast flowing river.

It had been an interesting few hours in the peaceful Hampshire countryside, with kingfishers, wagtails and even a woodpecker for company. As I was packing up, the barbel fisher of earlier came by, stopping to help put the keepnet contents into my landing net for a photo, impressed that this simple method could account for so many fish on a day that he had failed to even get a bite.



Career 707 .22 PCP air rifle garden visit

September 11, 2019 at 9:10 am

An evening distress call from my brother in law Neale, saw me drive the mile to his house with my Career 707 .22 air rifle, after he had seen a couple of rabbits munching through his recently planted lettuce plants. He had scared them off, but now they were back again.

Whispering, Neale pointed to the area beyond his green house, where a small lawn stretches back to the wood behind, saying that just before I arrived, he had seen three from the bedroom window overlooking the garden. Operating the under lever trigger mechanism to cock and load the Career, I crept forward using the greenhouse as cover. I still had not seen them, but with the rifle raised, moved forward again around the side. There they were 15 yards away, feeding on the lawn. The largest had its back to me and I fired down into the upper chest, watching it jump forward and then roll over.

Before I could take another shot, the others had bolted behind the lower shed into the wood. My Career 707 .22 is powered up to FAC spec at 28 ftlb and firing H&N Barracuda Hunter Extreme 19 grain pellets, is as effective as a rimfire rifle out to 40 yards, while being safe to shoot within the confines of a garden.

Neale took me down to the scene of the crime, a veggie plot boxed in with orange plastic, showing me a hole that had been gnawed through. This had been to keep the local cats out, but these rabbits had no respect for cats, or human fences. After his spring planting, rabbits had got under the side fence and demolished his crop. We saw a pair of rabbits and I shot them, then reinforced the fence, problem solved.

He had only just planted out his winter lettuce plants at the weekend, only to see them gone the next day. “How did they know they were there?” I suggested that they had probably been coming in every day to eat the apples, or the lawn, but the lettuces were too good to miss. Droppings everywhere backed this up.

Refugees from a new housing complex along the street, that had replaced a small holding, the rabbits had now made their home in the wood at the bottom of the garden, and had scraped out a channel under the fence. Blocking this off will only be a temporary measure, I think the rabbits are there to stay and will soon forget the loss of their kin. The answer is a fine wire fence around the veggie plot, or more visits with the Career 707.


CZ 452 Varmint .17 HMR rifle at the old rectory

September 7, 2019 at 2:51 pm

A few miles from home is one of my earliest permissions, an old rectory owned by a Knight of the Realm, who originally was plagued by rabbits laying waste to his sprawling flower garden. A concentrated effort by myself had reduced the rabbit population ten fold, but with the garden backing onto the adjoining parkland, new recruits were never far away. A two inch wire mesh fence, dug in a foot below the surface across the hundred yard gap did the trick, although it didn’t keep the deer out, but that’s another story.

The park is wide open with just a few trees and hedges and was full of rabbits, until I bought the CZ 452 HMR. Again a wire fence was the answer, bordering a half mile stretch of farmland, but time and rust have rendered it ineffective and a phone call confirmed that the rabbit numbers had increased since my last visit a year ago. By the sound of it, my next visit was long overdue, but with only time for a reconnoitre this week, I took along my CZ 452 HMR, just in case of a shot.

Climbing the gate, the field ahead had once provided a dozen targets, before moving out into the main area, but today it was clear and I worked along the right hand side looking for signs of scrapes and droppings, but there was nothing new. Movement a hundred yards ahead made me stop. A large rabbit, the size of a small dog was loping across the open ground. Following it with the scope, I realised that it was a hare, the black tips of its wide ears clearly visible. A hare in this area is a rare sight, more suited to wide open farmland. I don’t shoot hares and wished it on its way.

Turning right down a slope, a few rabbits were out close to a bramble hedge two hundred yards away, but with no cover, they had slowly melted away back into the briars, as I closed the distance down. I have been harvesting these rabbits for years and they have a built in fear of camo clad humans carrying rifles.

All along this edge were droppings and runs, the area around a small pond showing fresh scrapes into burrows. Circuiting the perimeter, evidence of recent rabbit activity was everywhere and I felt guilty that I had been complacent, lean pickings over the years convincing me, that the numbers would not return. A mild winter and wet spring had obviously been good for reproduction, undisturbed by pest controllers.

In an attempt to make amends, I took cover behind a tree overlooking the brambles and waited, the tree giving a view over a hundred yards in either direction, well within range of the HMR firing the 17 grain x .17 inch diameter plastic tipped expanding copper bullet.

Scanning left, then right, there was nothing out, then as if a silent buzzer had sounded, there was one near the pond and two in front of the brambles. Bringing the rifle round on its bipod to bear on the closer single rabbit, at x 12 magnification it was a safe target, the crack from the supersonic bullet, breaking the evening silence. The “boof” of a body shot echoing back, a slight side wind drifting the bullet away from the head.

Swinging round to the right, there were now three at the brambles, the biggest giving a side on view and aiming dead on for the snout, due to the wind, watched the rabbit jump up running on all fours to collapse back down motionless. In a well practiced routine, I chambered another round and found the next target sitting up. Ready to fire, it turned and trotted back to the brambles, I switched my attention to the other rabbit too late, as it also had gone from view.

After an unproductive wait, I got up and walked toward the pond for my first rabbit, only for another to appear in front of me, spin round and disappear again. The body shot rabbit was not a pretty sight, not suitable for meat and I threw it into the long grass. Leaving the muzzle at over 2,500 feet per second, the tiny bullet has an explosive effect on the soft tissue of a rabbit, requiring head shots only, if shooting for the pot.

Walking back to collect the second rabbit, the light was already going and I had to circle round before I found it.

Being close to home, a couple of hours a week, should make a difference on this permission.


Magtech 7002 .22 semi auto rimfire back on the farm

September 6, 2019 at 5:49 pm

With word that the hay had been gathered and bailed at one of my farm permissions, I paid a late afternoon visit, it being months, since the spring grass had rapidly grown and was keen to get down for a look. Being invited in for a cup of tea to discuss a rat problem around the chicken sheds, I had to get a move on, after promising to sort out the rats another day. This farmer shuts his gates for security reasons at 6 pm and I was now left with only an hour to find something for the pot. I took my Magtech 7002 semi auto .22, as it is very light weight, ideal for a brisk walkabout, although it is limited to about 60 yards for an accurate shot.

I saw that a big oak had fallen across one of the more populated warrens, its branches covering the ground and blocking out any chance of a shot, so I moved on to the next field, which backs onto the warren, searching along the hedge line for signs of rabbits. Plenty of sign, but no rabbits.

Further along toward the corner, I spotted a rabbit close to the edge, seconds before it bounded back into the long grass. Circling wide, I settled down with the Magtech rested on my gun bag and waited for something to happen, about 40 yards out from the edge. Behind the right hand corner is a dry ditch, that is pock marked with burrows and lying prone I did not have long to wait for a pair of rabbits to trot out from the undergrowth to feed on the fresh grass. My bullet of choice is the Winchester 42 grain hollow point subsonic, faster than most others, carrying more punch and better knock down power, while being reliably accurate in the Magtech 7002.

The rabbits were both masked by the grass, but one eased into my sights and I took a steady shot, that flipped the rabbit over. The other continued feeding, but was facing away from me and I waited for it to turn for a side on shot. It never happened, another rabbit appearing that ran though the scope window, which my rabbit, frustratingly for me, ran after, chasing back to the corner. I could have sprayed bullets after them, but would have been lucky to have hit a vital area.

After 20 minutes with no more shows, I paunched this rabbit and bagged it up, then began the walk back, spotting another close to the fence near the downed oak about 80 yards away. Although I was in the middle of the field, the rabbit seemed unworried as I closed the gap, sitting up then going back to feed, when I got down to crawl another 10 yards. It was now aware of me and I rested the rifle on my bag for a shot as it moved a yard into longer grass. Now, or never, I aimed above its chest and missed. Too much hold over, or not enough? The Magtech is zeroed for 30 yards and at 50 yards plus had to allow for bullet drop. Next time I’ll take the HMR.

The farmer was waiting by the gate to lock up when I got back, raising his eyebrows with a silent question. “Only one, but I’ll be back.”