Tuesday, 28 June 2016

What do you want in your sandwiches?

....and they said it would not rain!
Like most of us, I started my fishing journey using simple baits. In my case that was maggots. I never did get around to using the other favoured baits of bread and worm until relatively recently, having by-passed that part of the journey by going straight to meat, pellets and sweetcorn. I became so heavily involved with method feeder fishing that the hook-bait choice took a back-seat as I concentrated all my efforts into making my perfect groundbait method mix.

Since I have been using a pole, my attention has been refocused onto the hook bait. Bread has worked for me, as have worms. I am far more knowledgeable about the type of hook-bait to use when targeting a particular species of fish. This is, of course, a relative term and more knowledgeable in my case means a bit above zero knowledge!

Liquidised fresh bread and compressed bread-punch was attracting some nice skimmers and bream. Chopped worm, maggots and casters fed over either maggot or worm was catching perch after perch. Always up for trying something new, at least to me, it suddenly occurred to me, and I assume it has been tried before, that if I made a sandwich of say bread/bacon-grill/bread, I could punch and compress that to make a white disc with added attractants. Why stop at bacon grill? It was mentioned on one of the forums that peanut butter might make a good paste to wrap around hook bait. How about wrapping the hook-bait around the peanut butter? Punched peanut butter sandwiches sound as if that may work.

Yesterday I spent a day at Beaver Fishery experimenting with new and old (for me!) methods.

One thing I have learnt is to go with your gut. Not to be put off going fishing just because the forecast is for inclement weather. Also don't let a spot of unexpected rain put a dampener on proceedings. As you can see from the header picture, It was fine and sunny at 05:30 AM, yesterday - not! Thanks to a nice hold up on the M25, by the time I arrived at the lake it was turning dry and brightening up.

Hello Mr M., How's the missus?
Busy - VERY busy!
I arrived to be greeted by A very attentive looking Mallard. Just as I was thinking that he looked as if he was rather preoccupied, Mrs M. appeared followed by her now nearly fully grown ducklings, eleven of them. Bearing in mind that last time I saw them they were tiny and there were twelve of them. I was sure a few more would go missing considering the number of large pike that live in the lakes looking for a quick meal and the likelihood of predation by foxes and other mammals.

This damselfly stopped by to say hello and rest on my finger long enough to have its photograph taken
There is far more to a day out fishing than just catching fish. There are plenty of other waterfowl around at the moment including a pair of swans that have given me grief in the past. Yesterday was no exception. After arriving to 'approve' the bait they got very hissy as I stood up and approached them, obviously concerned I was about to make one of the signets into Sunday roast! After a few warning hisses they resumed scoffing the groundbait I had dropped while feeding the swim. A hissed retort from me stopped them dead. They looked at me, then each other. At this point I am thinking that this might not have been wise and they were about to defend their ground. Just as I was thinking of retreating to the van, they slowly turned and paddled off, signets in tow. That was the last I saw of them. There were plenty of dragonflies about too, and a small damselfly landed on my finger for a rest!

I was the only one on the lake, first thing. I was only joined by one other all day so I pretty much had the lake to myself. I balled in a good bit of groundbait made from lots of leftovers, laced with hemp, dead maggots, casters and corn as well as the odd lump of punched meat. I left that alone while I got myself set up. There were several things I wanted to try and I had brought several made up rods, my Hippo (What? - See HERE) and my cupping kit to go with it.

First off I wanted to try a larger method feeder. Up until now I have been using the small Preston feeder and release mould with no problem whatsoever. The fact that these moulds don't work very well has been aired on several forums but I thought it must be just down to  the constancy of the mix. I tried a banjo feeder a few weeks ago and could not get that to release nicely. At the time I put it down to the mix.

First cast and it didn't stop
I had pre-rigged an 11ft feeder rod with a large Preston 30g flat-backed feeder so I was ready to fish in no time. The groundbait had been wetted and riddled and looked just perfect. I attached a piece of punched bacon grill, dropped it into the mould and filled it. I pressed the feeder into the mould and hay-presto... It failed to release. After several failed attempts I gave up and hand moulded the Two Dog groundbait method mix in the palm of my hand. I will have to experiment with this further but for now it was hand moulding. The reel was clipped up from its last use here on Jeff's Lake, so throwing caution to the wind I made a first cast. Just as I put the rod in the rest I got a bite. Blimey!  That was quick, even for the faithful old Two Dog. I continued to catch cast after cast. I don't think I cast without catching and landing a fish. One after the other - very boring when not in a match fishing situation.

Time to do a spot of experimenting. As touched on above, I had been thinking about making some punched bread 'sandwiches'. Someone had mentioned peanut butter as a paste to wrap around pellets. Beaver does not allow the use of nuts, so I contacted the bailiff and asked if I could use smooth peanut butter and was told that it would be fine. I think they are all interested in my bait concoctions as they like my Two Dog and have just topped them up with a few kilos for their own use.

"What are you up to now, a new groundbait?"

"No, sandwiches..."

The plan was to make some sandwiches and punch out a lot of small rounds, compressing them as I went. I used the Warburtons 'Toastie' loaf and punched dozens of hook-baits from a couple of sandwiches. These were compressed as they were formed within the tube of the punch. Once punched they were put in a small plastic box and frozen.

Peanut mush
The trimmings were soaked and more slices of bread added. To this a few tablespoons of peanut butter, that had been thinned down to a thick cream consistency, were mashed in to make a paste. This can be used as a thick paste or thinned down to be used as a soft version. Thinning it still further makes a good cupping feed mush that bursts into a nice white cloud.

Sandwich anyone?
Defrosted, the baits hook very nicely using a 10 or 12 size hook. As they stand they are buoyant and need a small shot, on the end of the line, down by the loop-to-loop connection to the hooklength. A good squeeze between thumb and forefinger will compress them still further and they will then sink - nice and slowly.

Using my 'Hippo' and cupping kit, I cupped in a couple of small amounts of the peanut butter flavoured feed and then dropped in my hook-bait. Within seconds I had a bite. Bang! The elastic dived into the lake and the Hippo was now bending far more than I had ever seen it do before. I played the fish for a while not giving any visual clue as to what it was. It turned out to be a bream. Anyone who said bream don't fight (including me) should try telling this one that.

You know that feeling just before a balloon bursts...
How's that for a first fish off Peanut butter
More cupping in and the fish were biting. I did try just bread on the hook but the response, although good, it was nowhere near as dramatic as when using the peanut butter 'sandwiches'.

Small tench - a peanut butter fan, my PB smallest tench so far!
Fish after fish were being landed and if I had been using my full size pole, in a short configuration (2+2) I would have been able to land them much quicker, but today it was about pleasure fishing and playing a fish on this set up can be rewarding when they do get landed.

Having proved the peanut butter thing worked I got bored with that and went on to my next experiment. Peas. Yes straight forward garden peas. I was watching one of Graeme Pullen's videos I had to give it a try.

If you have not seen these videos before, they are full of off-beat and wacky ideas as well as lots of sound fishing advice. They may get a bit carried away sometimes but their enthusiasm really gets you hooked - at least it does me.

Anyone need a pea?
I had a second feeder rod with me, rigged with a free running twizzled loop and quick change clip to which I attached a 20g, bottom weighted cage feeder. Packed with a similar mix as the balled-in groundbait with a few peas added and a single pea on the hook. Again, the F1s seem to love any of the turmeric based groundbaits and now they love peas too it seems as this was catching well, if not as good as the method. I also tried it with other hook-baits and the take was similar. I have come to the conclusion that the F1s are attracted by the groundbait and free offering and they will try anything - even a bright green pea.

By now it is coming up to lunch time so the pea saga was put to one side and I went over to the pellet waggler, again the rod was all set up in my rod-ready bag so it was just a case of plugging it together and adding a hooklength and pellet. I have been trying this technique for ages with very little success. A quick rummage through my tackle bag (I do enjoy a quick rummage!) revealed that Sue had not reminded me to pack any catapults...

Restricted for range, I opted to fish just a few yards beyond the rod tip. I had been using mixed size pellets and one of the things Graeme Pullen pointed out in a video was that pellets of differing sizes travel differing distances making a much larger spread. Taking this on board, I decided to feed 6mm pellets and use 8mm on the band. I threw a few pellets in, at my desired spot, left it a minute or so and did the same again. this time there was a flurry of surface activity. I made a cast and nothing. I kept feeding only three or four pellets at a time and cast into the same place, fed a few more about a foot short and twitched the float towards me. Still no bites. The float was dipping around so I knew the fish were there. I lengthened the distance between the hook and the float from about 12 inches to 18 inches. I think the fish were missing my hook pellet.  That did it, fish after fish. I was a very happy bunny! Then the band hair broke, while gathering another from the box I noticed I had some tied up with meat stops on them... I wonder...

Hair rigged peanut butter sandwich anyone?
What about hair rigged peanut butter punch? Got to be worth a try. I did and used the same technique as for the pellet waggler, feeding 6mm pellet and this time my new peanut butter punch on the hook. Guess what it worked, but instead of catching F1s I was catching reasonable sized tench, nothing huge but good weight builders for a match.

I still had one more rod unused. My little nine foot Shakespeare Wand was rigged with a small Preston flat-backed feeder. I just had to see if this would work after the trouble I had with the large one earlier in the day. Safe to say it worked fine and I could have pulled out fish after fish with it.

Finally I had been feeding the margin, on and off, all day. I set up a short float to dead depth on the Hippo and plopped it in the right-hand margin. I fed a few walnut sized balls of groundbait and as I did the float disappeared and the elastic was in the water. First out was yet another decent sized tench. Then, with a massive take the elastic was off again and I was hanging on. That is all I could do. I did not want to put too much strain on the rig or the cheap as chips Hippo. I hung on in there and what seemed like an hour but was probably only five minutes of repeating to myself "don't come off, don't come off" like a stuck record, I landed my favourite fish of the day a nice mirror.

What a fight, these things are really powerful for their size. I thought I would lose it but I got it in the end.
With that it was time to go home as I wanted to see the England v Iceland game... I wish I had not bothered!