Bait-are we blinkered?

With the plethora of new “super” baits and groundbaits on offer I am beginning to wonder if groundbait/bait/bait additives are the industry’s answer to the decline in float sales (with the increase in home produced and hand made floats) as the latest affordable “must haves”. It seems every season there is a new super additive/flavour/glug and it must be said that a great deal of them have proven successful but is that because of the scientific research into it’s composition or is it down to we anglers being blinkered by the baits we use and anything different will stand out.
Four years ago I bought a sack of wheat for about £9 delivered, I still have some left, and everywhere I have tried it I have caught, and not just roach which most associate wheat with. I have had bream, gudgeon, tench, carp, perch (yes perch!), dace, chub, rudd and roach in all shapes and sizes! The point is was it the pulling power of wheat or was it a different bait from the usual, soft and presented in an acceptable manner? The same goes with  cheese (see previous blog entry”Cheesy what”) and I have had similar fortune with marzipan. It must be said that in some commercial fisheries there is a very prescriptive list of bait that is allowed and as most people are looking to catch carp in a match  or pleasuring it is understandable that they go down the pellet route as the quarry was raised on pellet before introduction to the pool. In the same way, what goes on the hook can have a vast array of flavours and colour while there is now more of a trend to make the bait look “washed out” ie, looking  safer for the fish to take confidently.
Are we alone in our preoccupation with finding the perfect super bait? Obviously not as the introduction of Marukyu shows that the Asian market is just as fascinated with bait. They tend to be “F1” type carp oriented (not sure of the exact genus as there are several!) and there is a far bigger array of baits available than here!
Most bait is paste oriented and is classified into fibrous v soft and time to break down. Most paste has a target fish and method, my lad, Gareth, has been catching a variety of fish on paste, fishing inches deep in rivers and drains. He often gets paste specially made up in the tackle shop for how long he wants it to stay on the hook. Similarly pellets are pre-banded and are different sizes, colours and make-up- the ones shown here are about 6mm in diameter but 1.8cm long.
I have used smaller varieties in this country with success- not only for carp but for quality roach and bream, the shape of the pellet makes it harder for the smaller fish to take easily.
The bottom line is does a bait work because of a magical attraction or because it is different from the norm?

Cheesey what?

More than 45 years ago I learned the secret art of  cheese fishing – not for chub in a river but for roach and tench in a park lake! Brynmill Park, Swansea was the venue, home of small roach and cheese fish of wondrous proportions in the eyes of a teenager more used to catching 1oz fish!

PCD-04863Alas Brynmill Park no longer allows fishing but the skills learned from the gurus of the day – Alan Godrich and Paul Huxtable- live on. Poles were not available then, you could get fibre glass telescopic whips up to 6m, elastics unheard of, everything was rod and line.

Alan developed a method of catching the better roach using cheese  just over his rod top in about 3 foot of water. A pointed stick float was dotted with strung out shot to an 18 or 20 hook and a piece of cheese was moulded around the hook so that it was soft and just covered the hook. Small pieces were moulded and rolled as loose feed, only half a dozen at a time, one after the other they were tossed around the pimpled stick, the process repeated every five minutes or so. Bites when they came were dictated by the size of fish! The bigger fish rarely submerged the float, usually a minute lift or dip were all you would get, occasionally just a ripple emanating from the tip of the float, the medium to small fish would just submerge the float. Bait was interesting, Cheddar was the favorite closely followed by Red Leicester for the roach, but Caerphilly picked out the odd tench although it was a sod to keep on the hook!

Today’s weaponry makes it far easier to fish cheese at a greater distance and when combined with a micro pellet loose feed can prove deadly- especially for bream! Most commercial waters these days are fed with pellet, either by the anglers or the owners as a supplement to the anglers bait. Fish become accustomed to pellet but can also become wary, particularly the silvers who often have to wait for any left overs from the carp. Cheese can score as so few people think of using cheese it becomes a new flavour/food for the pellet fed fish and will pick out the older and wiser (usually bigger) specimens in the swim.

So how do I fish cheese today? Depending on the venue, the depth of water will dictate how far out you need to fish. You are looking for a flat bottom with at least 3 feet of water, at Blacklands I am fishing at 8m in 6-7 feet (as the depth is constant) but I would not try cheese any deeper than this unless there was a large head of big roach present. The basic rules still apply, float pimpled, strung out shot if in a shallower swim, my rig at Blacklands has a bulk 2 feet away from the hook and 2 no 10 droppers to a 6 inch hook length of 0.10mm Shogun, with a 20 0r 18 barbless B911. Elastics are very much dependent, as always,  upon the size of fish likely to be encountered. At Blacklands I tend to opt for a no 6 latex, but have an 6-8 hollow rig set up as well if the bigger skimmers or roach move in, although generally I tend to stay on the no 6.

I use two types of float for my cheese fishing, both homemade; the first is a 0.5g version of the “Roach” with a 1.5mm tip for those times when you want a delicate approach and may want to string the shot out later in the day,


the second is a long glass stemmed diamond body variant taking 1g with a 2mm tip. I use this second float when I am confident that there are skimmers around and want to get the cheese down fast. Pimpling the 2mm tip gives a good visual marker even in wind affected water while the long stem gets down past any surface tow.


I prime the swim with a handful of micro pellet and half a dozen “pellets” of cheese cupped in, this is left for at least an hour and is topped up with a similar amount every 30 minutes.


When I go over the swim I am expecting a bite within 5 minutes but this time the bites can be sail-aways if coming from bream or skimmers but the big roach give the same type of bite as all those years ago!



Boddington Take Away

With a silvers match at Boddington Reservoir in late April rapidly approaching I decided to have a day out and do a bit of practice for the match while pursuing the Chinese style of fishing at the same time! The previous occasions I have fished Boddington it has been gale force winds and usually rain at some point; what met me was  a still reservoir and hazy conditions. There were only two other cars in the car park when I arrived shortly before 9am and having made several trips up the ramp with my kit I settled on peg 36 – a shortish walk and no trees behind me.

Peg 36 Bd Peg 36 Boddington

The plan was to start off on the Chinese style “banana” and then try the waggler over the same area to compare the difference before finally having a couple of hours on a more traditional whip but with a Chinese float. I had received three sets of floats from China but had brought just one set to try today, I had also bought a Chinese rig system which was very similar to the old Daiwa plastic hook length retaining spools but were slightly wider and made from foam. The line was held in place by trapping it underneath the spool when put into the purpose made spindle in the box.

Spools IMG_0508Float and spools

The float took a SSG, a no4, no 8 and 3 x no 10 stotz and was fastened on the line bottom end only with a long piece of float rubber. Depth plumbed, approximately 10-11 feet at approximately 18m, I began with 4 soft balls of groundbait ( Red Bream, Explosive feeder and River -equal proportions) and a couple of pouch fulls of hemp and wheat. A single ball was put on the 5m line with a good handful of wheat and a few maggots. I was hoping to avoid any of the carp that Boddington is famous for and target the quality roach. The banana went into action and the haze that greeted me began to lift as the sun got hotter, thankfully occasionally a very gentle breeze blew that made it a very pleasant day.

Banana Bod

The float I was using was about 40cm long and had a multi-coloured tip for more than half that length. I had set the rig so the bulk was about 4feet above the hook with the no 8 and smaller stotzs strung out below that. As a consequence any bites on the drop were very easy to spot and by steady feeding I was soon getting bites that once again were all hit, but this time not landed!

Banana Roach 1

The average stamp of fish you can see above. I was finding that barbless hooks of a wider gape did not suit the “banana” approach as I was dropping too many off, a quick change from the Tubertini 808 (size 20) to a Kamazan B611 (size 18) seemed to work. Another piece of the puzzle to lock away in my memory and ponder on.

After about an hour and a half I packed the banana away (to be honest I didn’t want anyone seeing me fish it!) and went over the same line with a waggler. Bites were still forthcoming but it was noticeable that bites on the drop were a lot harder to spot. I made a mental note to make up some wagglers with ultra long tips to see what effect that would have. Fish came steadily on the waggler and after the bailiff had come around and reported that the carp were not showing anywhere I packed the waggler up and decided to give myself the last 3 hours on the 5m whip.

I set the whip up with 0.12mm Shogun to a 0.10mm Shogun hook-length of  about 3feet. The float was going to be the smallest of the Chinese set – still over 36cm in length with an 18cm tip, set in the same manner as previously. I had about 9-10feet in depth so set the bulk of 3x BB and a No 4 at just below mid depth, followed by four droppers of a no 8 and then 3 x No 10 stotz, hook was a size 18 B611 barbless. I had been flicking wheat and maggots out whilst fishing  but still put another soft ball of groundbait in to begin. Bait was double maggot although I tried different combinations, double red was by far the best.

The next couple of hours shot by with a bite a chuck plus some quality fish (at least 4 roach around the pound mark, plus a bonus perch of a pound and a half plus).

Perch1Roach Pound

The average stamp of roach was around the 3-4oz mark and they were in all levels of the water but sitting at mid depth. How do I know- well the float was brilliant in so much as it accentuated any bites on the drop, making them incredibly easy to read, but I had a bit of help as a guy came down two pegs away and proceeded to cast out what looked like a black mini football into the reservoir with an almighty crash approximately every 5-10minutes for a couple of hours, then ignored it and looked at a tablet and his phone. When he packed up I asked him if it was a depth/fish finder he was testing and it indeed was. He was doing a test feature for a magazine and confirmed that the fish were sitting at all levels but mostly about 4 feet of the bottom. He found the test inconclusive as the bluetooth was not very consistent and kept cutting out so he was off to test it on a river and canal.

Roach hand

All in all a really enjoyable day with lots to ponder on. Bet it is blowing a gale on the match!

New Year at Bowood

Due to the festivities and family commitments I did not get the chance to get out at all until Monday 5th. I decided to head for the same swim on the premise that it was the only peg that any bait had been going in (I can’t believe that I get the whole place to myself! ). Following on from the last visit  I decided to cup in 6 balls of Red Supercup and Special mixed 50-50 and topped that up with a pot of micros – planning to return the next day also to see if it had drawn in any bream. The water colour was a bit murky but beginning to clear, although the wind was driving the rain into me. Tackle was exactly the same as previous visit which was a 0.75g Paster and 0.10Shogun hook length to an 18.

Small skimmers (blades really) began to respond to maggot and I was glad when the rain eased off after an hour or so, as I do not take a brolly, trusting my Cabelas Goretex waterproofs to keep me dry! Small fish continued in periods before finally on pellet a length of white hydro exiting the pole tip indicated the bream had arrived. The net was slipped under a welcome bream of 3-7 and 20 minutes later another sample at 3-0 was in the net. Another wait produced a final bream of 4-5 before I decided to throw the remainder of my groudbait in and  high-tail it back home as I could see the weather beginning to deteriorate.

Next day saw me back at the same peg with high hopes. The water had got even murkier but at least the rain was holding off.  Anyway the best laid plans succumbed to Murphy’s Law and after an initial roach and skimmer of around 12oz it went quiet- bream time I thought! The float buried with expander on the hook, yards of white hydro came out of the tip and after 10secs returned as the hook pulled. I was suspicious as it did not feel like a bream. The next hour saw very little action apart from the odd roach when I put a maggot on. At this point it went quiet again and once more the float buried and elastic came out with a solid weight on the end that then decided to move out in the lake, 10 minutes later my suspicions were confirmed as a pike close to 15lb came to the top before making another run out, another 3-4 minutes saw me try and net the fish in my woefully inadequate net- the head would go in  but the rest wouldn’t or vice versa- you get the picture! Anyway. it made one more dash and the hook pulled!

Hoping it would have sulked out of the swim, I topped up and began on the maggot to see if anything was left in the swim, once again it was very slow and after about another hour and 3 small roach , a strange thing happened- another angler arrived! This chap had come down to do a couple of hours spinning for the pike in the next field. More small roach followed , not in any numbers and I was having to work hard for them.

The piker returned after about an hour and a half and reported no takes and began working the swims further down on the way back to the cars. Half an our later and back on the pellet, pike number 3 was hooked, this was a lot livelier and at one point I had all the sections of the pole on, after about 5 minutes I had it close enough in to confirm that it was indeed a pike and it was not going to fit in the net although it was smaller than then last one. A quick shout and waving my net got the desired response and my friendly piker netted the fish after another 5 minutes. Fortunately the hook fell out in the net and on weighing Mr Esox became my first double from Bowood at 10-13.

I fished on for another half hour but then gave up with no bream in sight.

Wednesday and Thursday were ruled out for a variety of reasons, but I was back on Friday with a larger net in tow! I began to get worried as there were quite a few cars there when I arrived but soon realised that they were there for a pheasant shoot.  Finally got to the peg to find the water was chocolate in colour with no visibility down into the water. Same tackle but this time I cupped in 4 balls of my groundbait (same mix) and a quarter of a large pot of micros. One hour later – no bites, nothing on maggot, nothing on pellet. Now I reckoned that there must be larger  fish there if the roach were not showing, the question being were they bream or pike!

On went half a worm to see if that could entice a bite and after 15minutes the float buried and I missed it!!! I then decided to put in some chopped worm, so 20 worms were quickly mushed up and the same mass of micros added and mixed in, this was potted in and I crossed my fingers. Half hour later the float lifted and then slid under, this time the strike was met by a solid resistance and the thump of a bream, soon a bream of 4-6 was in the net, followed fifteen minutes later by a smaller sample of 3-3. The wind was very strong but fortunately was blowing mainly into my face, I began to notice that the shooters were now moving from their initial positions and into the first and second fields. Soon the salvo of shotgun blasts began again, interspersed with dog whistles. At one point the wind must have been strong as I got showered by spent shot!

The bream, however did not seem to mind and were continuing to feed on the worm, as I added ones of 4-1, 3-10, 4-14, 4-4, 3-1 and a roach to my net at regular intervals, much to the interest of a beater who stopped to watch. Then I pulled out of 5 one after the other with no discernible reason- a quick top up and a change to pellet saw 3 further bream of 3-14, 3-5 and 4-7 before the skies darkened and I decided that discretion was the better part of valor and returned home in far better spirits!


So a nice 39-2 net to ponder on (39-1 bream plus that lone 1oz roach!)

Christmas at Bowood 2

9:45 I was back at the peg, minus the pike rod! I decided to set up a heavier float as the water was even murkier and looked as it was towing about. A 0.75g Paster was set up to 0.16 Shogun (so I could vary the hook lengths  more if needed)and 0.10 Shogun hook length with a size 18 Filstar F103N


I decided to be positive (for me!) and cupped in 3 balls of Supercup Red, a half big pot of micros and then a cup of loose. Double bronze on and sat back to wait. 2 minutes later and a blade of about 2 ounces was in the net. Out again and another small skimmer of 3-4 ounces joined the other in the net. Third put in and float buried and 3 foot of white hydro came out, just as I was about to unship to the top kit the hook pulled! Cursing I took the maggots off and replaced them with an expander (4mm treated with pineapple Gel-it). Three minutes later and the float slowly sank and this time there was no mistake and bream 1 was in the net, quickly weighing the fish in the net the scales settled at 3-4.  (I always zero the scales against the net before I start and check after each fish). A good start.


The next 110 minutes saw 9 proper bream and 2 skimmers of 1-4 and 1-8 come to the net with only one further fish being lost. I  topped up with a ball of groundbait and handful of micros each time I had to wait more than 10minutes for a bite. At 5 past 12 the inevitable happened, – a roach, followed by a couple more blades signifying that the bream had moved on. With the wind and rain making life unpleasant I decided not to be greedy and packed up and trudged the 820 paces back to the car!

Result was  a 33-8 net – a nice early Christmas present from Bowood.


Christmas at Bowood 1

This year I joined Bowood Estate Lake for the first time. For those of you who have not heard of Bowood it is a stately home near Calne, Wiltshire which has a large private lake set in parklands landscaped by Capability Brown. The lake resembles a mis-shapen T with the vertical part short and the two horizonal pieces at a slight angle with the left hand piece being longer and wider than the right. Access is limited to 50 permits a year at £190 but fishing is only allowed on the right hand part of the T (both banks) and the bank of the vertical part that continues onto the right hand piece. (Clear as mud!).

View of the lake/walk from the car parking area.IMG_0404IMG_0352 IMG_0322

Views from the “arm” looking towards the house in warmer times!

As you can tell there is a long walk involved to get to the fishing, 440 paces in first field, through a gate for another 60 paces, another gate then 60 paces to first platform. To get to the final platform you can fish on the car park side is 1120 paces!!

I had always baulked at the cost as with my other commitments I could not see me getting value for money  until now. With retirement it became a very cost effective venue as I live exactly 1 minute from the entrance gate and a further 2 minutes through the estate- so from getting into the car I could be parked and ready for the walk within 4 minutes. This season has seen  some fine days of bream and tench fishing coupled with quality roach. Interestingly I seem to attract pike when not fishing for them and to date have had 10 pike (biggest only 8-9-0) on sweetcorn and pole/waggler!

Anyway I had been unsuccessfully piking with deadbaits and had some on lures during November/December and had not been for a bit due to the run up to Christmas and various family visits so a week before Christmas  Eve I decided to have a couple of hours down there but to fish pole with pellet (something I had resisted in the warmer weather) and put a deadbait out also. The last platform in the middle field (820 paces) was to be my chosen peg with approx 7-8 foot of water at 10metres. The deadbaiting did not look so clever as the water had turned a chocolate colour with all the rain, so I was unsure how successful it would be.


Anyway I put out a joey mackerel into the right hand margins and set about plumbing up. Rig was a home made diamond bodied float taking a no4, 2 x n0 8 and a no 10, 0.14 Shogun to a 0.10mm Shogun hooklength. A size 18 Filstar gilt hook completed the set up. Groundbait was three bags of leftovers taken from the freezer in the garage that were promptly mixed together.

A ball of groundbait the size of a tangerine, a half pot of micros and a handful of loose groundbait was deposited and  as the bells tolled 12 I set off with single bronze on the hook just to see if there was anything about! Bites were slow to come but I began to get a run of fish but then it would go quiet despite topping up and then the bites would return. I suspected that either pike were about (nothing on pike rod!) or there were bigger fish around. I  put a pellet (expander) on to see what would happen. Eventually the float buried and I lifted into a solid weight with a large amount of white hydro coming out of the end of the pole. I suspected pike as it kept deep and plodded whereas the bream tend to come higher in the water, 5 minutes later a pike of 7-10 lay in the net!


After returning Mr Esox I had a cup of coffee and potted in another helping of micros and put a pellet (expander) on to see what else would happen. A couple of small skimmers later I was thinking that I would need to pack up soon as the light was beginning to fade when the float buried and the white hydro this time indicated that a bream had snaffled my expander, a few moments later a bream of 3-12 lay in my net. Next put in saw a missed bite and then on my last put in of the day another bream of 3-4 fancied the expander.

This gave me food for thought so I threw in my remaining expanders and groundbait and resolved to return in the morning.

To be continued…