The lure of high water
Tom Sykes sets an ambush for ducks on an inland flooded field and explains some of the tactics he has employed to shoot it successfully
My duck shooting usually consists of foreshore expeditions. However, I sometimes have an opportunity to head inland and change tactics in the pursuit of ducks. Where I live, the majority of ground that can be shot is taken by someone and it is rare to find an opportunity that can be exploited. The estate where I control vermin has some great flightponds that are shot by the boss and his guests.
Though I’m very fortunate to receive the odd invitation to shoot, I have firmly fixed my sights on a flooded field for the past few years.
I first noticed the flood on a shoot day after Storm Desmond hit Cumbria a few years back. The large body of water erupted with ducks when the first shot was fired on the drive a few fields away. Ducks always catch my eye, and I soon approached the boss of the estate to see if he would be kind enough to let me have a go.
I have since shot the flood religiously when the conditions are right and have had the joy of taking plenty of guests on there, including my girlfriend who managed to bag her first duck on it.
This particular flood has been created in the past few years since a drain has collapsed somewhere underground where the water flow leaves the field and enters the next hillside. This means that the water levels change rapidly, depending on the amount of rainfall we have in the area. The flood can appear overnight and resemble a small lake in a short space of time.
However, it is also susceptible to draining off quickly if we encounter a few dry days. This makes it incredibly challenging to shoot as I have to wait for the right opportunity. The water levels also make it impossible to feed. I once attempted to feed it, dumping a bag of wheat 1ft into the water as we had rain forecast for the next day. That rain didn’t materialise, so the food was stranded on the banking where the crows soon devoured it.
at its highest, the flood can stretch about 400 yards long and 200 yards wide. I have never been able to test the depth in the middle as it becomes too deep to get across in chest waders.
“The birds would be silhouetted as they decoyed against the last sliver of light”
I would estimate it to be about 6ft at its deepest point. This can make it difficult to get a decoy layout in place and I have even resorted to using my motherline system to float the decoys in the areas too deep for waders. Decoys are a must when the flood is large, as the birds have lots of space where they can land out of the effective range of a shotgun.
as the new season started, I waited eagerly for any early signs of the right
Shooting TIMES & Country magazine • 21
Tom organises his kit on the flooded field for an evening flight