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Myxomatosis zombie rabbits outbreak

September 28, 2016 at 8:36 pm

With two of my shooting permissions cursed by the return of myxomatosis, I was pleased to be offered the shooting rights on a large public park, where a growing population of rabbits, were beginning dig up the carefully manicured cricket pitches. Due to public access, the permission was granted between the ours of dusk and dawn, with the stipulation that air rifles only were to be used.

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Already fitted with a push button torch that can throw a tight beam a hundred yards, I took my two shot, Webley Viper Venom PCP .22 along for the first walk round, arriving well after sunset to find that the park was popular with evening dog walkers. Keeping the rifle in it’s slip, I toured the likely looking holding areas, which included a wooded railway embankment and a stand of horse chestnut trees, where one of the wooden cricket pavillions was situated. In the gloom beneath the trees a few rabbits were chasing about, but were gone under the pavillion, before I could unzip the Webley. There was a strong odour of rabbit from the building, which was mounted off the ground on slabs, where several rabbit runs were visible.

I decided to stake this area out, sitting on a fallen tree in cover, with a view of the back of the pavillion, any rabbits emerging from the runs would give good warning, due to the dry leaf litter. After 10 minutes, the faltering rustle of leaves warned of an approach behind me. I spun round to face the the animal, which stopped in it’s tracks. Straining my eyes and ears, I made out a lighter shape moving slowly left to right about twenty five yards away in the direction of the pitch. Once on the pitch it would be an easier target, but plumbed for “a bird in the hand is worth two in a bush” theory and flicked on the lamp to reveal the trotting rabbit. A stationary shot would have been aimed at the head, but now I fired at the chest. It jumped and turned back to the wood, stopping near a tree. With one shot left, the crosshairs settled just behind it’s eye. Phut! It toppled over. With the extra silencer attached to the shrouded barrel, the report from the rifle sounds weak, but at 30 yards the .22 pellet has all the hitting power to stop the largest of rabbits.

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Although in apparent perfect condition, the white area around it’s closed up eyes were early signs of myxomatosis. I put on my rubber gloves, before picking it up by the hind legs and throwing it deep into a bush, where it would be out of reach of nosy dogs. Some people say that rabbits in this condition are safe to eat, but I prefer not to tempt fate. I went back to the stake out and waited for the tell tale rustle. This time it came from the pavillion and I flicked on the light to see the white tail and heels of a rabbit, bobbing round to the front of the building. Nipping round from my end, the rabbit was sitting bolt upright in the glare, I raised the rifle and fired. In that instant it was gone. Had I hit it, or missed? I swept the area with the beam and walked around the building. Nothing. I’d now made too much disturbance and headed down to walk the embankment.

Rabbits could be heard in the deep undergrowth, but I needed one to come out of cover, shining the torch among the nettles, seeing only the ghostly movements of unhittable targets as they made for safety. Along the path, a shape appeared, a rabbit with it’s back to me, taking my time to aim into the neck between it’s ears. The thwack from the hit drowned out the rifle, the rabbit falling forward without a twitch. Going over to the kill, my elation fell away with the sad sight of a rabbit in the final stages of myxomatosis. This had been a mercy killing. The disease is caused by infected fleas, which create sores, that the rabbit will scratch until it draws blood, while the eyes swell up oozing puss.

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Myxomatosis was invented by man and introduced into Australia, where it devastated the rabbit population, it’s intended aim. After World War II, commercial warrens were no longer viable in England, as cheap meat from the Commonwealth became available and this painful disease was introduced here with similar effects. Today such a method would be banned, but strains of the disease continue to flourish in the wild rabbit population. Some are immune, others recover, but it is something once seen, never forgotten.

Crucians find corn sweet spot

September 20, 2016 at 5:07 pm

Sidelined from any form of physical effort, due to a damaged tendon in my fishing arm, I was finally free of it’s protective sling and under advice from the doctor to begin some moderate exercise this week. With this in mind, I emptied my tackle box of all but my pole fishing essentials, loaded up the trolley and set off on foot toward the local pond. The weather forecaster on TV, had just assured me that it would be mainly dry with the odd spit and spot of rain, so in the interests of a light load, the waterproofs had been evicted from my bag to be replaced by a once shower proof jacket.

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Two other anglers sat side by side in my intended spot and I moved twenty yards round the bend, where there were gaps in a weed bed, although in front of me was a solid wall of greenery and brambles. Also turfed out of the tackle box had been a sturdy pair of secateurs, leaving me with only a 2 inch bladed penknife to cut an opening through the tangled jungle. Fortunately, during my enforced recuperation, a review of my tackle had relieved a couple of hours of boredom, during which this usually blunt knife, won many years ago at a Christmas Match, had been honed on a stone to a dangerous level of sharpness. Making short work of the green saplings and more stubborn brambles, 15 minutes with the knife produced a hole large enough for the pole, which coincided with the spits and spots of rain turning into a steady downpour.

Rough bread crumb, hempseed and a bag of sweet corn had been retrieved from the freezer before lunch, the combination now added to ground fish pellets to make a soft ground bait, ideal for this shallow pond, with four good balls lobbed 8 metres out to the edge of the weed bed. With immediate effect, rudd were splashing on the surface mopping up the larger pieces of still floating bread, which allowed time to set up my stall, selecting a small home made waggler rig with the hook line to hand on the top three sections. The hook was a size 14 barbless, just right for sweetcorn.

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By the time I was ready to fish, the surface seemed clear of rudd, but the float sliding across the surface said otherwise and I lifted into a better specimen, that skated into the weeds, throwing the hook. Half a dozen smaller rudd stayed on long enough to be swung to hand, before a cast that saw the float settle and sink to the tip. It bobbed, then lifted a fraction, to moved slowly away and under, a classic carp bite. The strike was met by a rapid, elastic stripping run into weed on my left and keeping an angle on the pole, fed it back behind, where the high bank forced me to unship two sections, then another two, as the common carp was drawn toward the bank. Now with the top three sections in hand, the 12-18 elastic did it’s work and the pound fish was guided to the net.

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Next cast, a similar bite, another carp in the weeds, but this time just a bunch of weed, the hook being dumped. Back in, a dithering bite resulted in the juddering fight of a decent crucian carp, that was soon in the net, the hook only in the skin of the lip.

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Bubbles were now popping up among the raindrops and the fish had their heads down, intercepting the sweetcorn on the drop, as I had slid the shot up around the base of the float. Next out was another small common, still fighting when the hook was removed.

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I now lost three crucians on the trot. They were gliding away with the corn, only lightly hooked and twisting off, even against the elastic, the hook falling out of the next, once the pressure was off in the net.

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I cut off the barbless and tied on a size 14 whisker barb hook, my wet hands coping with the whip knot more by muscle memory ,than anything else. This did the trick and even the lightest penetration held.

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This carp had a massive fan tail, testament to the mix of fish in the pond. I also caught a few small tench, like a bar of wet soap, they slip through the fingers, writhing with the strength of fish much larger, unable to capture a picture for the camera. The rain kept falling, while crucians were first to the bait.

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This was the best crucian carp; of around a pound, it made it to the weed bed, coming in festooned with the stuff, the fish not having a scale out of place. By 5:30 pm, the rain had soaked through to my back and arms, deciding that the next fish would be my last, being rewarded by another clonker.

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The other two anglers had packed up soon after the rain had started, watching me for a while, before heading off to their cars. Fishing maggots, they had been plagued by small rudd, plus the odd good one, but had no carp. I bet they have some corn next time. Pulling in my keepnet, I could hear that I had a decent bag, the net bouncing my 15 lb scales.

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Floating bread carp action at the pond

August 23, 2016 at 6:41 pm

A couple of weeks touring in my campervan, with strict instructions to leave the rods behind, had me weighing up the many options on my return, ending with indecision and no fishing. Living in a town that is blessed with cycle paths, my afternoon health kick saw me detour to the banks of a local pond, which I had discounted due to a large and growing population of Canada geese, which make baiting and fishing impossible. This time, no geese and very few ducks, while carp and rudd were topping all over the surface. On the cycle ride home, the fishing trip took shape, bread from the freezer would be thawed in time for a couple of hours after tea, while hooks had to be tied and floats inspected.

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Walking down to the pond I saw another angler in my chosen swim, a bay flanked by overhanging bushes. He, like me had been tempted to fish, while out cycling, his chosen bait a can of sweet corn from the kitchen. He had not caught anything due to the cursed rudd knocking the bait. I don’t mind catching rudd, in fact any carp would be a by product of catching them on the bread.

I’d obviously been a bit too casual getting ready, as the only angler free swim was on a bare bank with open water, but if needs be I could make the cast toward island. The water here is only about 18 inches deep over thick black mud and I intended to fish a short 2 AA waggler with no weight down the line and 24 inch tail.

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Being used to bread fed to the ducks, the carp often cruise just below the surface sucking in the half sunk morsels missed by our feathered friends and my method is to compress the bread punch into the slice, then drag a ragged piece of flake with it. The hook sits in the compressed pellet, while the flake is buoyant, allowing the bait to float up close to the surface, which can produce some exciting fishing. I made up a tray of sloppy mashed bread and sprayed it out toward the middle, then cast in among it. Dragging the float back a foot brought an immediate response with the float skidding under. A silver flash on the strike saw the first and smallest of many rudd to come across to my net.

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Eager to grab any bait, these rudd are the main target during the school holidays and it’s good to see boy and girls fishing as a diversion from their iPhones, although rod in one hand and phone in the other is a common sight. The rudd got better, a few rod benders among them.

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Several times a carp would nudge the bait, the float not moving, while at others the sunken line would give a line bite with no fish. A broad back rising out of the water was the first sign of a large carp as it sucked in the bread, the strike meeting instant acceleration and a spinning reel handle, black mud rising in the direction of the island. After a 30 yard run, this fish went to sleep, allowing me to reel it slowly over to my bank, but then the switch was pulled and it zoomed by unseen in the mud, to find refuge under a bush out of sight, wallowing in the shallows. Once again I reeled it back, my 12.5 foot Normark float rod bent double, parallel with the surface, until the big common made a break for the open water, running through the baited area, scattering rudd and carp alike. Keeping the rod high, pressure was beginning to tell and the fish started to roll with short runs. The landing net was out. It turned for one more burst of speed and the hook came out. The forged size 16 barbless had opened out, the 90 degree crystal bend, now being 130 degrees. A gasp from behind stifled the curse on my lips. A couple out for an evening walk round the pond, had stopped to watch the battle, unaware of the size of fish beneath the dark waters.

I gathered my thoughts, tying on another hook and link. I usually fish here with a size 14 forged hook, but again opted for the lighter size 16, which would allow the bread to float better. The last remnants of mashed bread were thrown out into the now blackened water and I cast out again, waiting five minutes before the float sank again. Poised for a carp, another nice rudd was skimmed over the surface. They were still there, the stirred up bottom acting like a magnet, as more rudd fell to the method; cast in, allow to sink, wait, then draw the float back a foot, the float going at any time during the process. I missed a few, but not a slow sink that saw more hectic action with a smaller common clattering clear of the surface with a roll that wrapped the line around it. By comparison to the first carp, this settled into a routine, that I would win, drawing the 3 lb fish over the net, before it could run again.

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It was now past 8 pm and the light was fading fast as the sun sank below the houses behind me, the float tip just visible in the gloom. It vanished trailing line. I struck and missed. Carp, or rudd? Casting again, the bread was taken as the float cocked. I was into another carp, this time a runner stopping in his tracks to observe the rod bending fight, that went in ever decreasing circles, sinking the net and lifting as it passed. About the same size as the last, the hook sat just at the edge of it’s mouth, a decent tug would have pulled it free.

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Time to pack up; I’d had two hours of constant bites, 20 odd battling rudd and two respectable carp on light tackle, plus one near double, that was almost mine. A lesson learned? Instead of thinking about it, go fishing more.


Evening trout river small rewards

August 15, 2016 at 10:43 am

Following a busy day finally getting round to completing a variety of small “must fix that someday” tasks around the house and garden, I was still restless and the thought of watching the Olympics all evening did not appeal. My local syndicate trout river has been hard work this season, but scores higher than a gold medal in my books, so with a fishing pass from my wife, I was on my way towards the setting sun.

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The full flush of spring is now long gone and with no rain for a couple of weeks, the river was low and clear, allowing me to wade in safety. Studying the surface, no rises were evident and opted to fish a compromise method, a Black Devil nymph fished under a  heavily greased leader, that suspended it a foot beneath the surface.

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In seasons gone by, I would have expected to have seen fish rising all along this stretch, but today I was happy to go through the motions, as I waded upstream, casting the nymph to all the likely holding areas as I went. Casting to the outside of a bend, the nymph had barely begun to sink, when the line straightened and I was playing a tail-walking juvenile brownie, that dashed across the surface towards me, as I set the hook. Being the first wild brown trout I’ve hooked from this end of the water this year, I was relieved, when it dived to fight at my feet, putting a decent bend in the rod, as I reeled back my surplus line. The net was in the reeds behind me, but soon under the fin perfect, brown.

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Spurred on by my success, I waded up under the trees, where a bed of exposed gravel caused the river to rattle over the stones into a fast run. In ones and twos, fish were rising in the disturbed water and I cast the Black Devil to drift back down among them. After a few short stabbing missed takes, the nymph was ignored. It was obviously dace, but decided anything was better than nothing and tied on a size 16 Deer Hair Sedge. I couldn’t see what they were taking, but the sedge is a good allrounder at this time of year and rubbed in with floatant, it would ride the rough water. Casting almost onto the stones, the fly spun round in an eddy and was gone in a splash; a flick of the wrist and a silver dace was hooked and swung to hand. Another 5 inch dace followed and I dropped the sedge short into the slower water to be met with solid resistance as I lifted off. The surface foamed, then the hook flew free. Another trout, or a large dace? My chance of a better fish from this pool was gone and I moved on.

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Working my way upstream, the sedge was cast blind in the hope of inducing a take, the only rise coming from a chublet that raised my hopes briefly of something better. Where are the small trout that used to plague this stream? With the sedge waterlogged, I tied on a gold head Hares Ear for a last throw of the dice, it being down to chance, as the nymph bumped along the bottom, a once productive pool finally coming up trumps with a positive take and a bend in the rod from a small perch.

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Try as I might, I could not persuade any of this little chap’s brothers to take and with a last minute hatch of flies failing to bring anything to the surface, made my way back to the van. Not a spectacular result, but a pleasure to be out on a warm evening in high summer.

Small river tales of the unexpected

July 27, 2016 at 6:02 pm

With left over red maggots in the fridge beginning to turn to casters, it was a case of “having” to go fishing this week and decided that the river Thames at Windsor would be the ideal venue, but by lunch time, cloud cover had burned away, leaving one of those still, hot, dog day afternoons. I didn’t fancy the long walk from the car park to an exposed bank of the Thames and changed my mind at the last minute, to visit my much closer local river for the first time this season, where I would be sitting under trees in the shade.

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My secluded, shady swim was no more, the old oak had fallen, taking out those alongside, leaving an open space blasted by the sun, the recently revealed bank a now popular fishing spot with easy access. Those overhanging trees had given shelter to some rod bending chub on my last visit and I settled down for a comfortable, if hot, few hour’s fishing. The river was down by six inches and barely moving along the outside of the bend.

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The maggots were well past their sell-by date and the frozen lump picked from the freezer thawed out to be an ancient mix of hemp and casters put back in after a long forgotten session. Liberally feeding under the opposite bank with both offerings, I set up with my Middy 3 No 4 stick float, setting the depth for the bait to just trip bottom, while pushing the No 6 shot up to give a 10 inch tail.

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Cast to the far side, the float had no time to cock before it slid away upstream and a healthy rudd was kiting back over to my outstretched net, a bit too big to swing in.

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More casts, more rudd, many too small for the net, the response instant from the shoal packed under the bush. Dropping the float short met a dip, then a lift, before it sank purposefully away, the strike putting a proper bend in the rod as the fish hugged the bottom, the barred green flanks of a chunky perch showing for a moment as it turned.

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Caster, or maggot made no difference to these fish, the float rarely travelling more than a few feet before it sank, regular feed keeping them interested. After an hour the net was filling with small perch and rudd, plus the occasional roach, but the expected chub were still missing, when the float vanished, the rod setting the hook into a fast running fish, that took me down beneath the trees. At last a decent chub, but then a bronze flash well downstream suggested a carp, another flash and a deep thudding fight said bream. The size 16 barbless hook held and the bream turned, heading upstream along the far side, churning up mud in it’s wake, as it wallowed with it’s last ounce of resistance, before laying on it’s side for the landing net.

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Thick set across the shoulder, this bronze bream at around 2 lb, is small for it’s species, but big for this little waterway, more of a brook, than a river. When I first moved to the area and fished six years ago, smaller bream were common among a net of roach, but apart from a three pounder a few years back, they seemed to have disappeared.

Cleaning the slime from the line, I tried again on the same trot, the float easing out of sight, this time the unmistakable bouncing fight of a nice roach met the strike and a good sized, if not battered looking specimen was in the net.

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The roach now seemed over the hemp and I deepened up by six more inches, casting in, then holding back hard, producing bites that almost hooked themselves, one such bringing a small skimmer bream to prove that the big one was not a total fluke.

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At 5 pm my deadline was reached, bringing in another roach. Traffic was building up on the road only yards from the river and I had promised to be home by 6 pm for my favourite meal, smoked haddock with two poached eggs on top.

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A real net full, no chub, or the usual gudgeon, but a good, no pressure catch on a hot, lazy afternoon.

Low water trout search

July 23, 2016 at 4:54 pm

It had been over a month since my last visit to the lower end of  my syndicate trout stream, arriving late in the evening in the hope of seeing a few rising fish, following days of hot sunshine.


The sun was setting behind the trees, while the grass was already full of dew, as I walked down to the bottom of the beat, the  invasive giant hogweed and Himalayan balsam competing for bank space and restricting my view of the river.The river it’self had been transformed, with exposed gravel and attractive runs, where previously I had not dared to wade.

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The lack of working parties in the area was apparent, as I waded up through this run, keeping the casts short to avoid snagging, my Black Devil nymph hooking a few small dace, but no trout in the process. Always carrying a set of secateurs, I trimmed my way upstream, taking out several overhanging branches. Next time I will be able to pass the nymph closer to the left hand bank, where I would hope to find a trout.

Moving on down to a tree lined section, I forced my way through the balsam to find a long pool, where several trout had been rising last month to mayfly, but now the surface was clear, despite the surface being patrolled by clouds of flies of several types, even a few mayfly. Getting down into the water, side casts put the nymph into the faster water beneath overhanging branches, the line straightening as a good dace dived away first cast.

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With so few wild trout showing this year, in the gloom beneath the trees, I thought I had one, until ready to net this silver dart. More followed, most takes missed, some smaller dace merely tumbled. As the light faded fish began to rise all over the pool, ignoring the nymph and I reached into my dry fly box for a Deer Hair Sedge. Rubbing floatant grease into the clipped hair body, I cast amid the rises in the run, contacting another dace instantly.

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Several hits later the fly was waterlogged and I tried to tie on a fresh sedge, not realising in my haste, that the eye was blocked by varnish. Frustrating time was wasted failing the get the line through the eye, until a few seconds using the little spike tool attached to my jacket cleared the obstruction and the knot was completed. The rises had stopped, but I cast the fly around beneath the overhanging branches, barely able to see the fly in the surface film. The water boiled and I was in, the rod bending double with a tail flapping trout, that disappeared into the dark water, followed by the leader cutting a V through the surface upstream. The trout passed by several times, it’s white lips the only visible sign, it’s dark body unseen against the black gravel of the bottom, finally drawing the fish down into my awaiting net.

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In perfect condition, this 18 inch stock fish saved the day. Once a back-up to the many wild brown trout found in the river, they now seem to outnumber the natives. Allowed to recover in the net for a few minutes, the brownie was soon swimming free.




Stick float perch boost mixed bag

July 15, 2016 at 11:41 am

With the coarse fishing season already a month old without wetting a line, a day with no heavy showers forecast could not be missed and I called in at the tackle shop on the way to a local river, for a pint of red maggots to accompany the pint of cooked hemp from my freezer. By the time I’d reached the river it was already approaching noon and the sun was high in the sky. Any serious angler would have be packing up by now, but I like my bed too much these days and was already paying the price, finding all the tasty looking swims occupied by barbel anglers, intent on catching these recently stocked battlers.

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Being a long walk from the car park this looked promising, with the flow coming off a bend sweeping across to the bush on my side of the bend. Setting up with a 3 No 4 Middy Ali stemmed stick float on my 14 ft match rod, I pumbed the depth, finding the river went from 2 ft down to 3 ft deep, 5 yards downstream then levelled out. A bit shallower than preferred, but it should hold a few fish.

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A couple of handfuls of hemp were scattered into the deeper water, followed by a pouch of maggots as I made my final preparations, following more maggots with the float. For 15  minutes the float sank on contact with the surface, a layer of small dace and chub snapping up the maggots in seconds, each fish swiftly unhooked and thrown upstream away from the swim.

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Soon I had either caught them all, or fed them off, as the float carried further down the trot before it sank from view. A small perch put a good bend in the rod before it was swung to hand, red maggots spewing from it’s mouth. Time to ease off on the feed.

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It was now a perch a chuck, an underhand cast downstream, the float held back, then allowed to run at the speed of the current, before being held back again. Most takes were on the drop, the float lifting before burying, these perch fighting all the way to the net.

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I kept the hemp going in as I hoped for some roach, but this encouraged the small dace, many just tipping the maggot, dipping the float and often impossible to hit, or lightly hooked, coming off as I swung them in. A few good gudgeon also managed to get to the bait, some real fatties.

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I continued catching at a pace, passing anglers stopping to watch the forgotten art of stick float fishing, before moving on. One visitor sat in behind me, having been told that I was emptying the river. Like all the others fishing, he was after bigger fish on the quiver tip, using hair rigs and meat.

Eventually the bites slowed, not surprising with over twenty perch in the net, the float often carrying to the shallower water and weeds at the far end of the swim, pick up just the odd small chub. At the head of the swim over the hemp, bites were still fussy and I managed to hook a small roach. One of the anglers had given me a couple of slices of fresh white bread, so I got out the bread punches to see if it would make a difference. I’ve sat next to anglers fishing maggots on the canal catching nothing, while I have been taking roach on the punch and it was worth a try. The 5 mm pellet of bread looked too small on the size 14 hook, but the fish didn’t mind, the float sinking out of sight and a better dace swinging in. My visitor was amazed, when the float sank again and a nice roach was pounding around off the end of my rod, needing the landing net.

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The roach were there over the hemp, but not interested in the maggot, only the bread, as the float sank away with another thumping roach, that needed the net again. More bread on and another roach fighting deep. Suddenly there was a green flash and a swirl as a pike took the roach. “Mr Toothy” my visitor said. The line stripped out as I back wound against the strain, the pike running across the river to stop and turn the roach, safe beneath a raft of streamer weed. With 5 lb main line and a 4 lb hook link, I was equipped to cope with big chub, or even a barbel, pressurizing the pike to come out of the weed. Come out it did, cruising upstream, then running down, boiling and turning in the swim. After five minutes it was on it’s side, a pike of  6 to 7 lbs about 30 inches long. The net was out, but one last shake of it’s head saw the line cut on the razor sharp teeth and my float fly back into the tree behind me.

It was over. The float was tangled, the swim ruined by the pike. Resigned to the fact that this could have been a red letter day, I packed up. I would be home early for a change.

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 A satisfying net of fish in a busy two and a half hour’s fishing, despite the abrupt ending.

Brown trout hard won

July 12, 2016 at 2:04 pm

What a difference a day makes. Having enjoyed a couple of hours roaming the banks of an urban river, where the fishing is free for all to fish and losing count of the trout caught, the next day I travelled ten miles west of my home to compare the fishing on my private syndicate trout stream. Like the urban river, the syndicate water has a natural head of wild fish and with good growth rates, plus a policy of catch and release, there has been no need to stock the river, although limited numbers of larger fish are introduced for the members to catch. Last year poor returns and reports of few rising fish were put down to a “bad year”, but this season some members are yet to land a trout.

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Arriving in the early afternoon, the weather was perfect for fly fishing, slightly overcast with a light July wind and I entered the river to fish what was always the best pool on this stretch. Running deep under the bridge, the river here held a head of very large trout and even better chub, which could be seen sipping in flies at any time of the day. Protected by surrounding trees and the bridge, a long cast to these fish was always difficult, but not impossible and for those who succeeded in hooking one, the deal often included a broken line.

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This trout had been the result of one of those long casts beneath the bridge, when a Hares Ear nymph was taken with confidence. Today there were no ripples, or top and tails, just a flat surface undisturbed by fish. With the same rig as yesterday, topped by my Black Devil nymph, I approached slowly toward the tail of the pool, casting to the shallower water and watched a V of raised water speed toward the submerged nymph, culminating in a splashy take, as I lifted a small dace clear of the surface in a shimmer of spray, only for it tall fall back, darting into the pool seconds later.

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Wading deeper, I gradually extended my casts, seeing a few short taps on the leader, but failing to make contact, putting this down to more dace. This shallow end used to be home to juvenile trout, but the dace seem to have taken their place. Although small, at least these trout hung on long enough to hook. Several casts had landed in the target area in the shadow of the bridge, the nymph drifting back unmolested under a slow retrieve, when at last the leader sank, moving upstream. Lifting swiftly, the rod bent into a fish, but after a brief surge it eased, as a small chub came to the surface, which I swung to hand and released. A few more casts and I was done with this pool.

Downstream another banker pool failed to excite and I stopped fishing, making my way down peering over the bank searching in vain for a trout of any size in the clear water. The day before, junior trout had been everywhere on my urban river, with the occasional better fish stationed among the weedbeds. Five years ago, when I joined the syndicate, this had been the case here too, each visit an education rewarded with trout on the bank.

Having failed to attract interest at the confluence of another stream, I began a fruitless search upstream of other hotspots, one such a couple of years ago had yielded eight fish from 6 to 16 inches in fifty yards. Today not a twitch of the leader. It was now late afternoon and the air was filled with various flies, even the odd mayfly straggler, but the surface remained unbroken by trout.

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The pool above looked inviting today and I worked the nymph through all the areas, that had produced in the past, moving slowly upstream as I did. As if in a dream, the line dived to the the right and I was playing a trout. Not big, but hard fighting. I took care not to bully the brownie, although aware of the barbless size 14, keeping up pressure, until it was safely in the net. Phew! So few wild fish have been caught this year, that I felt that I would not be believed without photographic proof.

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The river has suffered with an invasion of signal crayfish and mink. Now the mink have run out of trout to catch and are fatally raiding the crayfish nets in search of food. My own theory of  the demise of this once productive stream, is that slurry from the cattle sheds along it’s upper lengths, have leached out into the water course, during it’s many flooding events recently, causing deoxygenation and the migration of the resident trout to lower reaches. Whatever the causes, the parent club need to get advice and act, before the members vote with their feet.


Urban brown trout fly fishing bonus

July 6, 2016 at 11:32 pm

Getting motivated to fish, then being thwarted by stormy weather, had literally dampened my enthusiasm of late, finding myself with the prospect of a dry afternoon free of chores and no idea where I wanted to go. Standing in my fishing shed hoping for inspiration, my various items of fishing tackle were lined up ahead of me, all needing some sort of preparation, apart from my 7 ft 4WT fly rod. Already made up with my own Black Devil nymph tied on, it stood waiting next to the landing net, my waistcoat and bag hanging on the back of the door. In my mood, it was a no brainer, I was going fly fishing.

In minutes they were in the van and I was heading north to my very urban trout stream, the aim to get there and parked before the schools turned out, then to leave before the evening rush hour got under way. Enroute,  a road traffic accident blocked the road and police were instructing all drivers to turn round, a wide detour eating into fishing time and allowing the car parking spot to be full of waiting mums. I drove on upstream towards an industrial estate, squeezing the van into a gap close to the river, where it runs out between the factories.

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Abandoning my waders, I gathered up my gear and walked along the road upstream to the next open stretch, where trout were visibly feeding on nymphs in the clean gravel runs. Beneath a tree, two large fish were actively searching out food items, but I failed to get my offering anywhere near them, finally approaching too close, only to see the 2 lb trout melt back into the leaf shrouded gloom.

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Between weed beds a good trout was stationed and I measured out a long cast ahead of it, watching the Black Devil drift by the fish, which turned to chase it, the white lips opening, then closing on the buzzer imitation, setting the hook with a swift lift of the rod. A zig-zagging fight was soon brought under control and the netted fish placed on the bank under the nose of an inquisitive dog, it’s owners unaware that these shallow waters held such trout.

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Measured at 13 inches, this wild brownie was soon swimming free and I continued upstream bumping a few more 6 inch trout, the Black Devil working well, the copper rib sinking the nymph quickly, while it was held above the bottom by the line greased to a foot above it.

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The next fish took unseen, the line jerking forward, the strike revealing a flash of gold, before the trout dived deep into weed. Slack line fooled the hard fighting brown trout back into the open and an upstream run, that ended back at my feet and the net.

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With the Black Devil just holding in the bottom lip, I was lucky to get this fin perfect fish out of the weeds, the fight belying it’s size.

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These images bring a picture of a rural idle, but a busy main road runs feet from the bankside and casts have to be timed between passing cars. In this short stretch alone, I landed at least six more small brown trout, while tumbling others, my decision to come proving correct, but with the amount of traffic on the road increasing, I had to call a halt at 5 pm, my last trout being a plump 8 inch fish.

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Storming brown trout

June 18, 2016 at 7:59 pm

The mixed up weather conditions conspired to keep me away from the river bank this week, heavy showers and thunder storms coming out of nowhere, whenever my fly fishing gear was in the van. The roads were still running with rain water from the latest offering from the gods, when I set out from home at about 7 pm. Beyond the black clouds, a gold line of clear sky was showing through and I drove west toward it, in the direction of my syndicate trout river.

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I had no idea of the state of the river following the downpours and was prepared to turn round, then head back home, if it was flooded, but apart from an increased pace, it was running clear. Welcomed by bleating sheep, I walked the 600 yards to my preferred stop, where the river forms an S bend as it drops over a ford. This has been a happy hunting ground for me in the past, where fish can be seen dashing back from the shallows into the deep pool above. This evening there were no signs of fish, despite hatches of blue winged olives climbing free of the surface and the occasional mayfly.

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The river was as still as a mill pond, undisturbed by rising fish and I cast a small Black Klinkhammer further and further up the pool with no response. I repeated the process, this time with a Flashback GRHE drifted back, with the leader greased to within two feet of the nymph. Not a twitch. There is something wrong with the river this season, dace and small trout are usually the curse of this pool, but 30 minutes of trying produced a blank.

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Gathering up my gear, I continued my way downstream, flicking the nymph up into every likely run. Again not a twitch of the line to show the slightest sign of interest from a trout, or any tell-tale rises on the surface. A drift along the side of a tree on my bank was routine, casting more in habit than expectation, when a buzz of the leader was followed by an underwater bulge. The trap was sprung and my rod lifted to feel the full weight of a very good fish, which powered off upstream, scything through trailing branches in it’s path and I lowered my rod tip to the surface to avoid being snagged. I did what I could to slow this charging fish, a silvery flash making me think it was an escapee rainbow from upstream, the manic tumbling convincing me that the fight would soon be over in favour of the trout. The hook held and the trout turned back, the now revealed brownie running past my outstretched net to the dark water below me. A surface roll demonstrated weakness and I put pressure on to pull the two pound trout over my net, lifting it clear in one swoop.

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This well conditioned 18 inch brownie, with just a hint of gold on it’s flanks, had been hooked in the nose, the barbless nymph falling free in the net. When checking this against my images of others caught this year, I’d landed this one a few weeks ago a hundred yards upstream, no doubt dropping back to what it thought a safe home. I continued downstream to the end of the beat, then turned and made my way back up without another touch, the brief encounter worth the effort as the storm clouds gathered once more.