Thursday, 27 October 2016

Mixin' it...

Over the past couple of years I have been experimenting with groundbait to use as a feeder mix when using the flat-backed method feeder. By far the most successful of these has been my Two Dog groundbait. Successful as it is, it has a couple of things about it's making and storage that can cause problems.

First the bread crumb. I have been drying my own crumb from cheap supermarket cut loaves. This involves drying and then processing it to a fine crumb. All this is okay when making smaller quantities but when each loaf, after drying will only render about 600g of dry crumb the task becomes impractical when making larger quantities.

The other problem is storage. As the 'second dog' ingredient is liquidised hot dog sausages, and the liquid they are tinned in, the finished mix has to be frozen if it is to be stored for any more than a few days. It is impractical in the domestic environment to store more than a few bags in the freezer. This is not so bad if you have a dedicated fishing bait freezer but even then it seems a bit pointless as the expense of running a bait freezer for groundbait starts to erode any economy of scale that has been achieved by making the stuff in bulk or just adds a running cost to the venture.

After spending many hours drying my own bread, I eventually decided to look around for a supply of ready dried white crumb. I eventually found a supplier on eBay that could supply 20kg bags of either white or brown crumb at a reasonable (£22.49) price including delivery. When it arrived it was perfect; bone dry and very fine with no lumps. But me being a bit thick, It had not dawned on me that a 20kg bag of dry breadcrumb weighs the same as a 20kg bag of sand and is just as awkward to move around!

To prove that I am not really all that thick, I worked out that I could make up all the dry components for my ground baits in bulk and add the 'wet' stuff prior to using it. With this in mind we set about making six times the usual amount and bagging it up in measured quantities ready for the addition of one tin of minced hot dog sausages.

What we ended up with nominally 2kg bags made up of 800g of bread crumb, 800g Rich Tea biscuits, 350g of  ground Wagg chicken and vegetable flavoured dog biscuits and 2½g of finely ground black pepper added to 50g of turmeric powder. These bags, I suppose, could be referred to as one dog...  The bags can now be stored almost indefinitely in a cool dry, rodent free place. All we have to do now is find such a place.

The difference in cost works out to be about 10p per 800g bag of finished groundbait mix. For all the effort and time it saves, it is a price I am prepared to pay for the convenience. It was okay when I was making the stuff in small quantities but now I make it for Tim (the 'other bloke' in this story as well as being my brother) and a few mates it makes sense to go down this route.

With the Two Dog sorted, I turned my attention to my other favoured mix; Surf 'n' Turf. As the Two Dog mix tends to target F1s and other carp, Surf 'n' Turf seems to target the skimmers, bream and tench. This is only really a bias towards those species as both will catch heavily. The bias can be increased by the choice of hook bait, but that is another story.

Surf 'n' Turf contains a few more ingredients than my other recipes but the dry stuff can be mixed and stored in bulk in pre-mixed bags as with the Two Dog. Again we end up with 2kg bags containing 1kg of bread crumb, 250g of fish meal (or ground pellet), ground 250g cat biscuit and 500g Vitalin.

The wet ingredients can be mixed in advance in sufficient quantities to add to the dry mix either in advance, and kept in a fridge, or made up the day before use and added to the dry mix.


The bright yellow of the Two Dog groundbait is fine in the summer but as the water clears, I believe the fish can be put off from feeding over it as they become silhouetted against the light colour which makes them easier to spot by predators. The Surf 'n' turf is not so bright and it's brown colour is less of a problem but it is still a bit on the light side.

I have tried liquid food dye in the past without much success. I did find a red powdered food dye that is extremely good that I used in my Red Dog recipe and found it worked well with corn, turning it bright red. Initially I tried to dye the Surf 'n' Turf green but that did not work out at the time.

Recently I have been experimenting with some Sensas purpose made dye. This is a powder and comes in tubs of 100g. It varies in price but if your local tackle shop stocks it it can be purchased for £4 or £5 a tub, through the post it seems to be around £7.00 or more by the time it has had delivery factored in. As it requires about 20g per kilo to be effective, it can be an expensive option.

As the money was racking up, it seemed like it would be worth experimenting with liquid dye again but this time up the 'dosage' A small bottle of food dye is around 60p. I decided to add a whole bottle to one of my 800g bags of two dog. It tinted it green. I added another bottle. Now I am at a comparable cost to adding the Sensas dye. The result was still disappointing. I then added a level tablespoon of the Sensas dye to 800g of the bright yellow Two Dog groundbait and got a mid green. Better, but still not what I was looking for.

As we have also been making up a good stock of Surf 'n' Turf, I decided to try a batch of that too. By the time the wet ingredients are adsorbed by the dry Surf 'n' Turf mix, we ended up with just over 2700g of mix, giving three bags of just over 900g each. one of the bags was tipped into a bowl and one level tablespoon of dye was added. This time the green was darker as the base colour of the mix is a sort of fawn colour. Still not quit as dark as I had hoped, but dark enough to give it a trial.

I think my next move will be to try the black dye.  As most black pigments are in fact a very dark green, maybe mixed with Two Dog, which is bright yellow, I may end up with the dark green I am trying to replicate. That will be for another time, I will see how this works out and take it from there.


Wednesday, 5 October 2016

152 ounces sounds better than 9½ pounds...

The water was much clearer today than it has been for a while
Having missed the last match through oversleeping (yes me!) I was determined not to miss this one as I thought it would be the last of the season. As it turns out it was not, I'll explain later. For once I was organised well in advance. Bait and rigs all sorted well in advance and a new slimmed down approach to what tackle I really needed to take with me.

As usual the alarm went off just before 05:00 and I was out of bed and running like a sprinter out of the blocks as the gun went off. Well, I managed to stand up without staggering around to get my balance - that's a start. All I had to do was make my coffee and pack the last items from the fridge into my bag. Bottle of drink - check! Sandwiches - check! Maggots- check! The van was loaded in record time and like a robot I got in the van and drove off with no regards of the time. My normal routine will get me on the road just before 06:00. As I was driving down my road the 05:30 news came on the radio. Groan...

After taking it as slowly as I reasonably could, being overtaken by articulated lorries on the motorway, and if we still had them, letting the milk float out-drag me at the lights, I still arrived half an hour before the gate was due to open. Even the fishery cat was curious as to what idiot was here half an hour early and sat on his side of the gate trying to stare the van out. The gate opens at exactly 07:01 (Radio 4 time), I notice these things. As I started the engine and drove through, I was hoping I had drawn a different peg. The last two matches I had drawn the same peg, a peg I would rather not have fished from. To my relief I had drawn the peg I would have picked given the choice.

The new organised set-up meant I was ready to fish in record time having everything ready to go an hour before the all-in. I had time to go for a chat with the other competitors. Estimates for how the day was going to work out ranged from dreadful to excellent. Somewhere in between would make me happy. A day spent on the lake, the week before last, confirmed I was not going to use the pole in a match here until I was feeling a little more confident. Today it was going to be all about feeder fishing, something I am happy with and proven to work for me.

Pawel, to my left, was catching all the fish that were heading for my groundbait
The all-in was called and I cast a loaded feeder out to the first of my target areas, waited for a minute and cast again. Third cast and I was away. A nice sized F1. Great! next cast another and then a couple more casts and another. Twenty minutes gone and three fish in the keep-net. There I was thinking this could be my day. Two and a half hours later I caught another fish, but this one got away by shaking the hook loose. I was fishing a 9ft feeder (picker) rod to the same spot. Time for a change. I had an 8ft rod set up to fish closer in on the same line. This failed to produce a bite. Despondent at my lack of fish, I decided to try and supplement my haul with a few silvers. No luck. This was turning out to be a disaster. Looking around there was not many catching. It was obviously a hard day all around.

Well, at least I wasn't last...
By the time the all-out was called I had caught five fish and a total weight of 9½lb which to my total surprise was not last. I have now worked out that the fish must swim anti-clockwise around Jeff's lake as the winning peg was to my left and he caught all my fish as they were making for my groundbait.

Joking aside, the lake was very much clearer than it was last time I fished it. I could see the end of my keep nets and the bottom of the close margins. What I could not see was any fish. It is said that fish do not like feeding over light-coloured groundbait and my Two Dog groundbait feeder mix is bright yellow. The guy who won the match was using a feeder and a dark coloured groundbait. I feel a new groundbait recipe coming on here...

The best fish of the day came after the match finished
I stayed on fishing for two or three hours after the match but only caught a few more fish. The weather is definitely on the turn and the water is clearing. Time to brush up on the silver fish technique and if time permits I feel a few trips down the Regent's Canal over the next few months with the little plastic fish and very light dropshotting gear chasing the perch, is in order.

Looks like there will be a November match this year as lots of the guys were up for it so I will get one more in this year. The Southern Fur 'n' Feather is held on the one day in December I have to work. Last year it was held on a Sunday but this year it is a Saturday, always a dodgy day for me as work can often get in the way.