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Grandalf

A Flight on Rockland Broad

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    Some of you may remember that way back last summer the Rockland Wildfowlers held an online auction to raise cash for land purchase.

    Well I 'won' the guided boat flight on the broad. Yesterday was the day. Not a very auspicious day as it is nearly full moon and there are water splashes in every marsh field for miles around. The dates were agreed between my guide, Garry Howe, and myself some time ago.

    Garry and I had never met before yesterday. He has been fowling the area all his life and is a past Chairman and Secretary of the club.

    We agreed to meet in the car park between 0530 and 0545. I got there at 0515 and Garry arrived at 0525 - A good start with both of us early.

    Having shook hands Garry he immediately apologised for the lack of birds on the broad and stated that we'd be lucky to see a duck but a couple of greys might put in an appearance. I assured him I understood and that it was all part of fowling.

    One of their small rowing boats had already departed when I arrived - real early birds - This was one of the boats available to all BASC members on a pre-book basis. We got our boat loaded with decoys, hide-nets, flasks, guns and ammo and set off with Garry rowing and yours truly reclining on the stern seat like Cleopatra going down the Nile.

    As we entered the broad proper we exchanged lamp flashes with the guys in the BASC boat and decided where we were going to set up shop in relation to the wind and known flight lines.

    Twenty minutes to set out the decoy patterns of assorted ducks and a couple of greys. Another ten to moor the boat in the reeds and stabilise it with two metal poles and erect the hide nets.

    Time for coffee. Another boat arrived and set up further down our side of the water.

    Shooting is strictly controlled on the broad. Shooting only on Fridays and Saturdays from one hour before sunrise to three hours after - with similar timings for the evening flight.

    Garry explained that the shooting has not been great this year with a total absence of canadas and a shortage of ducks in general.

    At first light several groups of widgeon passed overhead and were un-attracted by the energetic calling from the occupants of all three boats. More came later and a couple were downed - but not by me - I missed the one that came within range. Garry had said that although he had his gun with him he would not shoot until I had as I was the guest!

    So - Shooting on unfamiliar ground (water) in a slightly rocky boat with Garry's dog, also called Ben - who took an instant dislike to me - whilst being watched by a past Chairman of the club. No pressure there then!

    Greys were heard and the whistling from the boats changed to goose callers. A pair came across and I dropped one but it planed to the opposite side of the broad. "Retrievable later", said my host.

    Then canadas appeared behind us. They passed wide. Then more who veered at the last minute to follow the first group. Yet another, larger, group and these held true to their course and I dropped one and winged another. Garry had got into action and also downed one. This one needed a cripple stopper shot but BOTH our guns had jammed! (Only time my Benelli has ever let me down). The last arriving boat were in the process of moving position due to a pike fisherman who had anchored in front of them and they retrieved Garry's goose as they crossed the water. Mine drifted into the edge of the reeds for retrieval later.

    So we now had two canadas and a grey somewhere in the reeds across yonder.

    Both of us got to work on the differing malfunctions of our weaponry. Mine seemed to be OK and was reloaded. Garry's got stripped in the bottom of the boat and he found that the mechanism had jammed. Whilst this was going on another pair of greys appeared going straight past our hidden boat. Garry called and they swung in even closer, I stood, mounted my gun, swung through and pulled - click! The cartridge had not fed into the breech. That was the easiest shot of the day and one very lucky goose.

    I stripped the gun, checked it and reloaded very carefully.

    Coffee was taken to restore the nerves. Garry got his auto un-jammed and we were back in business.

    Another pair of canadas came past and I hit one with the first and dropped it with the second shot.

    A pair of mallard streaked past and I missed both very cleanly.

    We waited 'till the sunrise plus three hours and our time was up.

    We packed up the boat, recovered the decoys, and retried our two slain canadas from the adjacent reeds. We had a chat with the pike fisherman who was still sitting it out in the middle of the lake watching all the proceedings. He hadn't caught anything today but had high hopes as he had netted fish to twenty two pounds during the week.

    We wished the angler good luck and set off in pursuit of the greylag.

    Garry rowed and I reclined as before. I could get used to this means of travel to shooting venues.

    We arrived at the far side of the broad and searched the reeds in the area we'd seen the bird go down. Nothing. Garry urged grumpy old Ben, a yellow labrador, over the side and he vanished into the darker depths of the margins. "He's got it" said my host and there was 'Grumpy' swimming to the boat with my goose. So the other old Ben was happy too.

    We recovered goose and wet dog to the boat and I was conveyed to the boathouse.

    Garry's goose had already arrived and was laying on the dock. The BASC chaps had departed and we never did meet them. (They had a couple of ducks and a goose).

    We had a Norfolk 'mardle' with the farther and son in the other boat, packed up the gear and I got back home for a late lunch with a large smile on my face.

     

    Two canadas and one greylag for the guest and one canada for Garry.

    Not bad for a morning with no prospects for any sport.

     

    I would like to thank Garry Howe and the other members of Rockland Wildfowlers for looking after an old gentleman and being such good company.

    I wish them well in their endeavours to purchase marshes in the future.

     

    I shall return...

     

    Ben.

    Edited by Grandalf

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    I won a day on the broad a few years ago. The broad had frozen and there were plenty of duck. It was when steel cartridges were fairly new. Myself and the other gun shot teal, mallard and a goose. None were retrieved. Either flew on or dived. We vowed never to use steel again. (I feel it has completely changed now and now only shoot steel).

     

    We were really annoyed. In fact my friend was fuming. As we got back to the boat shed, he threw his gloves on the floor and headed back to the car. Another boat arrived. His dog jumped onto dry land and needed to relieve itself. It crapped on top of my mates gloves... I picked the gloves up, shook the poo off and never mentioned it, as I knew it may send him over the edge. (It did tell him on the drive home!)

     

    The thing that made the trip for us was we stayed in a B and B. The owner was a duck lover and everything, and I mean everything, in her house had ducks on it. Even our wallpaper. In fact, even the soap was duck shaped!

     

    Imagine the conversation over breakfast when she asked us why we had traveled to Norfolk!

     

    She also thought we may be a couple, so reserved the double room.... after a quick chat, we were back in single beds!!

     

    If you make it an adventure, shooting can sometimes be secondary on these trips. Shooting new places, meeting new people and experiencing new things is worth the trip.

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    Shot Rockland three season ago, one of my most memorable fowling experiences. It was during a freeze up in the January and I had to sit in the bow and break the cat ice as my guide rowed us both across the broad. We shot a nice mixed bag of Mallard, Gadwall and Teal. I liked it so much I joined the club, but I was never able to make it back onto the broad although I did shoot some of the fresh marsh. Great club with some unique shooting ground.

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    Well done Grandalf , it sounds as though you have had a good flight on Saterday. I have not flighted Rockland Broad since October , but may be out there next weekend if the weather is right.

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