Wednesday 8 June 2022

Silt and its S-tench

 This blog entry will probably be quite short, and has been prompted by a couple of lines in a blog by SideStreamBob  down at  So I will get right down to the nitty gritty.

As does Bob, I have always preferred to use groundbait, and hookbaits that blend into the background. I have always tried to avoid anything brightly coloured, thinking that a highly coloured bait might put the fish off.   Bob uses black groundbait, manufactured by some company or other, I forget the name, but it is highly irrelevant.   I don't use much groundbait myself, but perhaps I should, as, suitably used it promotes an area of scent, without necessarily providing much feed.  I more usually go for particle baits, but I have also had some excellent catches on some of those few occasions when more conventional groundbait was in use.

But why black?  Bob provided an answer that I had not thought of.  It is possible that fish would avoid a light coloured area, strewn with a pale groundbait, on the basis that fish would feel instinctively exposed to predators whilst swimming above it.   I wonder if this is true though?  Evolution probably does not, and has not, exposed them to pale bottom of lake backgrounds very often, so why would they instinctively avoid it? Why would such get built into the DNA along with other more common reactions to danger. I stress here that I don't know either way. 

I read an article ages ago where the writer described attaching a blue plastic toy elephant near his legered bait. It did not stop him catching barbel, his target fish appeared unconcerned by the alien beast that had attached itself to the hooklink. So are fish worried at all by colour of the groundbaited area?   Are they even able to see in colour?   A quick google suggests that they can, and that many fish can also see in UV light as well. So the presence of a blue elephant in the swim was more ignored than un-noticed.

So what about hookbaits?  I admit to having been surprised in recent years ( having come back from many years spent away from angling) by baits of all colours and shades of the rainbow, anglers even catching fish on baits of dayglo colours. I would never have expected this, but it makes one think that the contrasting colours are actually attracting the fish.  In retrospect sweetcorn is also not a colour you would easily miss, but it is well known to be effective. In clear water a bright pink popped up boilie would be visible for a fair distance. And in murky water it might just be that extra bit visible at close quarters.  Anyway, I have just bought some pink pop-up boilies.  I don't really like using any boilies, but will give them a go.   I have never caught much at all with boilies, the odd bream or two.  So I have developed a Catch 22 cyclic bit of nonsense about them.   I have not caught much with them, so don't use them much. This in turn means I don't catch much using them, which diminishes the confidence to put one on a hair.  I know the cyclic argument makes no sense,  but there it is.   Adding a pink colour on top of all that, and my next cast will not have the usual high confidence factor that I generally have.

I mentioned seeing a bait in cloudy water just above in the text.  Many of the stillwaters I fish have a very silty bottom.   Thick black near liquid, almost toxic mud, acquired from years of rotting leaf fall, fish and bird faeces etc. Many anglers see this as a problem, and design rigs etc to try and deal with it, keeping the bait "afloat". SidestreamBob also mentioned that maggots  probably dig themselves into it and disappear rapidly from sight. I have never thought that they did, after all the Cheshire meres are largely bottomed several feet deep with the stuff, yet particle baiting with maggots used to attract the bream, when I fished for them there years ago.  

I put a camera into a tench swim a couple of years ago, and it was quickly obvious that feeding tench (and probably other species too) stir up the debris on the lake bottom quite considerably.  Certainly enough to render their sight pretty much useless. Other senses, touch, smell and taste have to take over as the main food finding tools in such lakes. 

I have a garden pond, which has remained unfiltered for nearly 30 years since I built it.  Its bottom had become a good 6 inches deep in lovely Cheshire ooze, thick, highly smelly, and very black.  I have been netting some of it out this year, a good dozen large bucketfuls to date. I am hoping it will not ruin the compost heap. And here was a chance to experiment.  Rain had added an inch or so of clear water above 10 inches of gooey gunge in the bucket. So I dropped in a dozen or so maggots. That was an hour or so ago.

Excuse me now whilst I go to check on them.......

Maggots on Mud

Aha.....the maggots are all still on top of the silt, moving rather less vigorously of course, but it seems that maggots do NOT bury themselves, even in almost liquid silt.  This is understandable; in water they become almost weightless, and are unable to get enough purchase to bury themselves. The best they can do is to wander under leaves or any other detritus that sits atop the mud.  But they don't have the guile to intentionally do this, and so all of my maggots have remained visible.  I tried the same experiment with a couple of brandlings. Initially both seemed to dig themselves in, but when the hour was up, both were visible on the surface.

Once a few fish get into this sort of situation, a baited area, and are hungry, their pectoral fins are going 10 to the dozen and everything turns muddy.  Maggots and bottom detritus are just swirled around, with little remaining visible.

Conclusions: don't worry about bait burying itself. If it gets buried it will be because of fish activity. Secondly, I must give a proper go to brightly coloured baits, even if the sight of a pink boilie annoys the hell out of me.

Thursday 5 May 2022

Crucians, Again:

 More on the Delightful Crucian Carp.

But first a moan.  I know it has been an age since I last took fingers to keyboard, but I KNOW I had not forgotten my password for this blog.  Google however begged to differ, and seems to have leapt in and made my logging in inordinately difficult.  Took me an age and several cycles of  "forgotten passwords" security info, codes to phone and emails back and forth before I managed to get back in to the blog. I had a serious and worrying concern that I should never get back in and that I might even become banned from the site completely.  However, here I am, and making even more than my usual large quota of typos, and desperately trying to eradicate them before releasing this rubbish on an unsuspecting world. Some errors will still get through...they always do.  Now it might well seem that I am using the above as an excuse, not to write the blog.  Not really,  laziness far outshone all that guff as the real reason.  But also, I like to have something different to say. I have seen some bloggers who seem just to report, fish by fish, every trip, clunk click.  Many of such (not all I would hasten to add) become rather tedious. They do however seem to get a far greater footfall than do I, so maybe 'tis I that is doing it all wrong. 

Well, after a little over 30 years of nagging, I finally have a fishing tackle room. Now, those of you that know me well, will know that I am not one to nag...I might moan a little at times, but nagging...never...not me.    Nope, the nagging was all courtesy of the wife Nina, who is something of an expert at the job.   I had weathered it for years, but the scud attack which finally battered me into submission, was when she counted how many rooms in which I had rods.  Now I still don't think six rooms with rods was in any way excessive (I am ignoring the garage in the calculations), but her mates ganged up on me. I didn't mention the rods in both cars. It is not as if I ignore her nagging...after a mere twenty years of such I relented and had the bathroom refurbished, and after just twenty seven of ear bashing, the kitchen was renewed.  So I am now squeaky clean with lots of brownie points: after all, I did both of her projects BEFORE my tackle room.  My room has of course been built in the cellar. With the aid of a lot, no A LOT, of scrap wood I built a Heath Robinson ( but solid) rod rack, and several areas of decking. Seeing all this space Nina decided that all my juggling and unicycling stuff could fit in it too, and on returning
Start of my "walk-in" Channel.

from fishing one day, that had all been moved into the cellar.   I am told that my tools will also be better below ground.  How long before my shirts and socks are buried is pure guesswork.

 The problem is that this room in the cellar has only five feet of headroom, and so in order to walk around safely I decided to dig channels in those areas in which I shall be walking. The areas are all non structural: just an inch of old tarmac covering the soil, so I am not undermining the house.  The hole for the channel is so far eighteen inches wide, 6 feet long, and gradually getting deeper.    Nina has observed the hole very suspiciously, she has some concerns over its dimensions and the nagging seems to have dropped considerably in both frequency and volume.   ;-)

So: crucians: I waste a lot of time trying to catch these utterly delightful creatures. The usual quoted mantra is that they are difficult to catch.  I have never agreed with that, but it is hard for the idea not to penetrate my thick skull. Maybe that is why I fish for them so often, and find them so endearing. I repeat: they are NOT difficult to catch if present in any numbers in a do need to set up your tackle suitable and apply bait and knowledge appropriately.

Fighting through the 2s. 

I fish one water where the crucians average about two pounds,  fish less than 1-8 are more or less none existent.  two factors are responsible in my opinion.  It is uniformly quite deep, averaging over 6 feet:  none too great for spawning areas, but also is infested with pike.  So, crucians, being fairly docile, are easy targets for predators, and with
A Feisty Little Fellow

spawning successes unlikely, the crucians seem to be at risk of being wiped out.   I do fear for the future of the fishery as a crucian venue, as I know the fish are all getting on in years, and may not remain to be caught for much longer.   So I spent a lot of time fighting my way past two pound fish, before finally getting a 3-0  and a 3-8.  Lovely sized fish. It had been many many years since I had any of that size, so they were particularly welcome.   And caught on the float, lift method, with bread for bait.  THE way to catch crucians.   I know that many anglers these days fish for them with in line feeders and bolt rigs, but it just seems morally and traditionally wrong to do so.  I suspect many anglers have little idea what a float is, let alone knowing how to use one effectively.   Such a shame.  They will never experience that wondrous feeling when a long antenna float slowly lifts 5 or 6 inches at the the behest of an unseen crucian or tench.

Just a few ounces.

I also fish a few small ponds for crucians. These are not big fish waters, most of their crucians are just a few ounces, although I hope they may grow. But they are fish from very clear water, and as such are unutterably delightful. The typical crucian fight with the rod tip vibrating is almost emphasized  with these small fish. I invariably know what I have hooked before seeing it.  Just look at the photo. Could any fish in the UK be more gorgeous?

These smaller fish seem to behave rather differently. When seeking larger fish, I almost always see fish splash on the surface in an unmistakeably crucian way.  They seem to rise up vertically from my bait, splash very near my float and the go straight back down.  A bite often follows very quickly.  The smaller fish don't seem to do that in the waters I fish. I have no idea why.   I have small crucians in my garden pond too,  They never seem to break surface either.  They do like to spend much of their time within the lily pads, hiding, maybe from the light, or perhaps from predators.  I hope they may breed next year. When feeding, despite being fairly laid back about the process, they always manage to stir up the silt from the pond bed.  I suspect this must also happen in angling waters. Tench do the same, and I suspect many stillwater fish are practically unable to SEE a bait.  Smell and taste must be far more important than I used to think.

Fairly Deep Body, High Back.
The other interesting fact about crucians is that they have a very variable body shape. In Peter Rolfe's great book about crucian carp  "Crock of Gold", he writes about this. Research has found that in waters exposed to predators, such as pike, crucians develop very high backs. Apparently this has even been backed up by laboratory experimentation. The fish shown here is one example, whereas the fish below has a much slimmer body shape.   I wondered whether this was a genetic variation, accumulated over many generations, in accordance with the evolutionary theories of Charles Darwin. This is, I am told, not the case, rather the fish grow differently according to the presence or absence of pike.
Slimline Crucian,

I am not at all sure that I can agree with that, I remain unconvinced.  The last three fish shown here all came from one water, a water with no pike present, a water that has never had pike present, yet some crucians have nevertheless developed quite high backs, and others have not.  Lots of variation within just one water. So I remain without an explanation that I can readily accept.  Worse that that, I don't have my own theory either.   More research needed.