Saturday 22 September 2018

Warwickshire Avon – Prandicles and Piggishness

The combination of very fine tackle and tiny hooks is now widely used on waters with a healthy fish population, and also where the fishing pressure is not so great. The development of this tackle was simply to induce shy fish to accept a bait. Very sensitive forms of bite indicators were then needed to register these bites. The problem now is that many anglers are unable to recognise the difference between the bite from a shy suspicious fish, and the equally delicate but very deliberate bite from a totally unsuspicious fish. The problem is bite detection, not actually attracting bites.

The reaction of many anglers to very delicate bites is to fine down their tackle even further. On flogged, understocked waters, and in very cold conditions when the metabolic rate of the fish is sluggish, they are probably taking the right course of action. But in very many instances they are going to make the problem worse. I do not like making generalisations but I shall now put one forward which more often than not is true.

Of course there will be exceptions, and I have already mentioned two of them. The argument I put forward is that the finer the tackle, the smaller the hook and bait you use, the more delicate and difficult to detect will be the ensuing bite. Please note I have said delicate bite, not hesitant or shy, because there is a world of difference. A delicate bite can be every bit as deliberate as a bite which drags your rod off the rest. All this stems from a fact about fish behaviour, and I stress it is a fact not a theory.

All wild creatures have inbuilt survival in­stincts, without which they would quickly disappear from the face of the earth, without any help from man. One of the prime factors regarding the survival of a creature, is its ability to take advantage of a food supply. Left to their own devices the population of any species is dependent on the food supply. To ensure that only the strongest and healthiest specimens survive a shortage in the food avail­able, most wild creatures have evolved very strong competitive aggression over food.

This instinct is very strong and is retained even when there is an abundance of food, or in the case of some animals, when they have been domesticated for thousands of years.
To give you some idea of what I mean, I will give examples which you could notice in every day life. Sprinkle some breadcrumbs on the lawn together with a few larger pieces of bread, and watch the reaction of the garden birds. A number of things will happen. Squabbles will break out to establish a pecking order between species and individuals.

The im­portant fact, which I will shortly relate to fish­ing, is that all the tiny pieces of bread will be eaten on the spot, whilst any larger pieces will be dragged whey by an individual bird to be eaten out of reach of his competitors. The distance the larger bits of bread are dragged away from the feeding area is related to the physical strength of the species of bird, and the amount of competition for the food. To give another everyday example of this instinct, watch the reaction of your pet dog or cat at feeding times. Most dogs bolt their plate of meaty chunks so fast that they nearly choke. This is simply to get it down before it gets pinched, even though it is now a totally un­necessary reaction.

A large food item such as a juicy bone, will be taken away or dragged under a table to be eaten without disturbance. Cats, although more dainty eaters, will drag any large food items off their plate to some quiet corner to be eaten without interference. I have quoted these examples as something everyone can observe, even if they are not very interested in wildlife, and are not fortunate enough to fish waters where the reactions of fish can be observed. I must make it clear also that my comments on fish reaction to baits do not apply when the fishes' metabolic rate is reduced in very cold weather.

Tackle and methods devised by match anglers to catch fish in heavily fished, often badly stocked waters are now very often used in all types of waters. Nothing wrong with this, providing you do not continually get broken by fish you can't handle. This aggressive feeding instinct is very noticeable with fish, and can be used to great advantage by anglers. Fish picking up a tiny bait can swallow it on the spot without fear of other members of the shoal taking it away from them.

This is why very sensitive methods of bite detection have to be used when fishing with tiny baits and fine lines. Fish do not deliberately pull your float under or straighten your swing tip out. This is the result of the fish moving off with your bait. If you can encourage fish to react more vigorously when picking up your bait, then you get a much better indication on your tackle.

These delicate bites encountered when using fine tackle and small baits are often referred to as shy bites, when in fact they are nothing of the sort. Chub picking up, a legered single caster will not move far, so the quiver tip will only pull round slightly. The same fish picking up a lobworm will run with it, pulling the rod vigorously over. I have often watched the reaction of chub to various baits in clear water. Handfuls of casters will have the chub queuing up to intercept them as they drift past in the current. A large wad of bread creates a completely different reaction from the chub.

The first chub to reach the bread in the rush, grabs it and bolts away from the rest of the fish….

To see if this reaction resulted from the quantity of bait rather than the size of it I have tried different experiments. Single casters flicked at the chub were intercepted gently with no mass reaction from the shoal. A bucketful! of bread was greeted by a near riot as chub swarmed about with the stuff gushing out of their mouths.

I fish a small reservoir which holds large numbers of good roach, perch and crucians. This lake is relatively unfished for some of the year, yet by using fine sensitive tackle I can create the situation where fish give the very slight bites many people class as shy bites. On windless days I can shot a sensitive antenna. float so that only the slightest bit of the tip protrudes above the surface. By setting the depth so that my float only just trips the bottom or is just clear I have an extremely sensitive set up. A single caster or maggot on a tiny hook produces what I call surface tension bites when the fish pick up the bait. The bites are so delicate that the float hardly moves.

Perch are not noted as delicate feeders, yet perch accepting a bait on this rig hardly register a bite on the float. Drop a big lobworm to these fish on much heavier tackle, and the same fish will grab the bait before rushing across the lake.

Carp anglers have come across this situation when using particle baits. Carp will occasionally pick up a grain of sweetcorn and sever the line with their pharyngeal teeth before a bite can be registered. Carp taking a large paste bait usually bolt off across the lake, producing the well-known carp runs.
Any angler encountering delicate bites should assess whether they are produced by shy fish or are from confident fish picking up a small bait.

More often the cause is the latter, and the best course of action is to just increase the size of bait. This will produce a much more vigorous bite. Reducing the size of your hook or bait will not encourage the better bites and will only reduce your chances of landing a big fish. Give it a bit of thought, and although it will not induce more bites it will make it much easier to detect those you do get. I use large baits for chub and barbel simply to avoid small fish, but the bites I get on big baits are terrific. You don't have to fish outsize baits to induce a better bite however; just try two or three maggots instead of one.

For this short morning session it was out with the smelt and roach deads, and also a lure rod from time time and little roving around. The session was tough really tough and oddly the only fish I picked up on a deadbait was a Chub. Usually the deadbaits at least produce a run up at the deep bit, but zilch today per from possible crayfish nibbles. Even the lure which picks up at least a jack or two, didn't even have a nudge or a nibble today.

Hmmm out with the spam again next I think, some big gobstoppers too, I'm sure there is some method in my madness....


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