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.

1 comment:

  1. Jay

    I think it is fair to say my theories are just that - my theories. Still even if they are wrong if they make a fellow angler think, well I'll take that!
    The non-burying test is quite interesting though.
    To also disprove my 'fish over clear backgrounds' theory, yesterday jogging beside the Dorset Stour I stopped to watch a few chub happily swimming aimlessly over gravel, which if not as light as liquidised bread, isn't dark.
    I have the same self fulfilling bait aversion as you, although with me it is pellets rather than boilies. Boilies not being a road I want to go down, but pellets are cheap (well cheapish), easily stored and clean so I wish I could learn to like them.