With rivers running low and clear you may be finding it as difficult to attract bites on conventional methods and baits as you did in the middle of last winter but the smart angler has a get out of jail free card up his sleeve. There’s one bait combination that will produce sensational results and used correctly, hemp and tares will have fish queuing up like school kids being offered free ice creams in a heatwave.
Why fish, and we’re talking roach in particular, go crazy for hemp is a mystery. Some have suggested that hemp seed, from which cannabis plants are grown, is some kind of drug that fish are addicted to but there’s no evidence to support this. Indeed when I was growing up it was banned on many of my local waters with claims made that it caused addiction and led to excessive weed growth, neither of which is true by the way.
Hemp was first popularised in the UK during the First World War when a number of Belgian refugees arrived in the UK. After settling in they started fishing the River Thames just above Richmond Half Lock using techniques that had proved successful for roach back in their home country.
They used long bamboo poles to present hempseed on the hook, a seed previously used only to feed cage birds in the UK, and boy were they successful. Large catches of roach and dace were taken and local anglers were not slow to copy the refugees.
As we all know, angling bureaucracy can be a nightmare. It’s almost as if club officials and fishery owners don’t want us to catch fish sometimes. Or perhaps it was just plain jealousy that led to many clubs up and down the country banning the use of hemp. Nonsensical as it might have been the ban lasted for decades on many waters and in some cases still exists today.
Hemp is cheap to buy and pretty easy to prepare. Seek out the best quality hemp you can find. I buy mine in bulk from pet food supermarkets but most tackle shops also sell it. Forty years ago (I’m sounding ancient now!) we used to buy the finest Chilean hempseed which was much larger than the stuff we get today. Alas it is no longer imported, but we can dream.
Hemp should be soaked overnight in water. I like to add a spoonful of sugar because it darkens the grains when cooked. Others add salt and even raw chillies to give the seeds a spicy kick. You can even add food dyes to change the colour of the kernel but I have never found this to be necessary.
In the mosring place the soaked hemp in a pan of water and bring to the boil. Simmer the hemp for as long as it takes for the seeds to split open. You will see the tip of a white kernel sprouting from the split shell when it is ready for use but take care not to overcook it or you will not be able to keep it on the hook.
Hemp should be kept in the water it is cooked in as it will contain lots of oils and flavour. You can use this water to mix groundbait with good effect but always keep the seeds wet or they will dry out and be useless.
Hemp is best fed lightly, just 6 to 12 grains each cast and your rig, ideally a pole float, needs to be a light one. Bites can be fast and furious and you’ll miss more than you hit until you get the hang of it. Timing is everything. Because hemp can be mistaken for split shot it is best to use Styls, Stotz or tiny dust shots to avoid false bites.
Never try and hook hemp through the shell, it will soon blunt your hook. Select a grain that has not completely split open and squeeze the split between finger and thumb tips so it presses open enough for you to slip the bend of your hook inside leaving the point proud. Some angler dab a spot of Tippex on their hooks to replicate the white kernel. Other use soft plastic imitation hemp made by companies like Enterprise Tackle (www.enterprisetackle.co.uk/et25-artificial-hemp). I’ve even seen anglers hair rig a small black rubber bead to their hook when speed is of the essence.
The perfect combination bait to fish with hemp is tares. Tares are sold as pigeon feed and you need to select the smallest you can find. Preparation can be fiddly. Again it’s an overnight soak before cooking, this time replacing the sugar with bicarbonate of soda which makes them go jet black.
The problem is tares need simmering for anything up to half an hour to go soft and unfortunately they go from rock hard to a mush in a very short time so you have to keep testing them for the moment when they are just right. An old mate showed me the best way and that was to casserole them in the oven. It takes longer but the period when they are just perfect lasts longer.
Tares are fed with the hemp, say ten grains of hemp with just a couple of tares. As fish gain in confidence you slowly increase the ratio of tares until the fish are eating tares instead of hemp. This gives you four great advantages.
Tares are easier to hook.
You can use a larger hook.
Bites are slower and easier to hit.
Tares sort out the bigger fish.
And there you have it. All you need is patience because it can take a little while for the fish to switch on to hemp and tares but once they do you will have the session of a lifetime. In fact you’ll be catching quality roach you probably never knew existed. And all in the sunshine. How good is that?
Fishery Of The Week – Wold Farm Fisheries, Podington
Wold Farm Fisheries is the perfect spot for the angler who likes seclusion. Three lakes are set in an exclusive70 acre estate featuring beautiful mature woodland dating back hundreds of years. The Moat is a mature 20-peg water with 3 islands. It is heavily stocked with tench , golden tench , crucians, bream, barbel and chub. Catches often exceed 100lb
The Oaks is slightly larger with 25 pegs and one island. It is an extremely productive water where catches regularly exceed 150lbs. Finally there’s Wold Lake which is predominately a carp water holding immaculate specimens to over 30lbs. Twenty catfiish to over 30lb were recently introduced.
There are only 6 swims on this 2-acre lake offering the angler solitude and exclusivity
Night fishing and extended sessions can be arranged on Wold Lake on a strictly limited basis. Please contact Dax Miller for details – 01933 316630 or 07974 000230, email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web site: www.woldfarmfisheries.co.uk