By Mark Anderson
By Mark Anderson
There must be 'miles' of the stuff sold every season, and god knows how many solid bags get used, but what thought goes into most of them before they are cast into the water? For many they are just filled with some pellets, hooked on, and cast out. This for most anglers, including myself, is all that is required for a lot of normal barbeling conditions. Coupled with hand feeding it is often good enough to get a bite especially early on in the season, or when conditions change for the better.
With a little extra effort your bags can be used to perform different tasks, and even used to make your rigs more effective. There are times when you want to present a single hook bait delicately in the swim, where a bag on the end may spook the fish, but I rarely ever put a bait out without one . The reason for this is two fold, firstly a small mesh bag hooked on helps with the hair tangling around the hook etc. Secondly it helps lay the rig out in the current, and if you feel the lead down on the cast the bag settles down with the flow straightening the rig out. This is dependant on the force of the current, but you can use this to your advantage when using longer hook lengths. 99% of the time I use mesh type bags, but the methods, and fillings are still relevant to solid bags.
Summer / Autumn
I will give an example of how a bag of pellets used in the summer, with a little thought, can be changed as the season progresses, and the fish get more tricky. Firstly, the pellets I use are normally a elips type pellet, and are very oily. I take a third of the amount that I would use for a days fishing, and rough grind them in a blender / coffee grinder. Sprinkle a handful of this powder over the pellets, you will find that it sticks and forms a loose coating. A bag made up of 2/3rd pellet 1/3rd powder gives of a nice trail of scent, without much in the way of food, for the barbel to home in on. It is also an idea to colour the powder to suit the bottom you are fishing over. For example, on the Teme, the colour of ground elips is close to the red smoke sent up by feeding barbel.
As we get to late summer, and into autumn, I make another change to the make up of the bag to try and gain another edge. I now add a liquid attractor, and after a couple of months of oily pellets I try something slightly different. I have been using Hinders of Swindon's "liquid fish pro". This can be glugged onto your pellets, injected into the bag, or even just dip your finished bag into the bottle. As it is pva friendly, all three methods work. You can use many different liquids to customise your pellets or bags, from Marmite to liquidised worms, the choice is endless.
Autumn / Winter
When we approach cooler conditions, around 10 degrees, I start to look at hemp, boilies, and meat based products. I do not discount pellets altogether, but it is easy to overfeed with them in the summer, so should be used at higher winter temperatures, and sparingly. With the purpose made hemp stick mixes available, and high quality hemp oil, the use of hemp in bags is much easier. By mixing the hemp powder, oil and hempseed together you can get a good amount of seed in a bag without it starting to melt. When using a boilie for bait I like to liquidise a couple of handfuls, and use the powder in the same ratio as before. I have used a few types of boilies, many will be effective, but monster crab is a good starting point. There is also a dedicated glugging liquid for these baits, and can be used as before in, or on the bag.
Another very good bait for the liquidising treatment is Pepperami. This meat-based sausage is oily, pva friendly, splits up well in the water, and as a hook bait can be trimmed into many different shapes. Again, used in the same 2/3rd hemp 1/3rd pepperami ratio. Chilli oil may be worth a look with this combo. All meats can be 'doctored' to suit bag fishing. A top method over the last couple of winters was to finely mince luncheon meat, best done by pushing it through a ground bait sieve, and fished with a couple of cubes on the hair, or one large piece in flood conditions. Luncheon meat lends itself to being dusted with powder, this sticks to the high content of fat in the meat .There are many types of ground-bait useful for this, some carp specialist additives, in particular the liver / yeast extracts found in many bait companies listings . Along with spicy powders found on supermarket shelves, the permutations are endless.
Using the Bag
Nine times out of ten I just nick my stick shaped bag on the hook. This is because many of the places I fish require just an underarm lob to put the bait in, or more even just lowering in off the tip. I am happy with this, as I have said, this helps "lay" the rig out, pushing the hook length out away from the lead. When it comes to casting longer distances, or a longer underarm lob, a bag hooked on will pull the hook length through a running lead set up, ending up with the hook bait some distance from the lead. In some circumstances this can be of a benefit, and can be planned for. In this situation I like to double bag, using a bag tied to the hole in a korda gripper type of lead. This makes the lead the pivot point again, and stops the separation on the cast.
A small bag is then nicked on the hook to help stopping any tangles. Another option is to make a bag up as normal, but cut it over length, and leave the top open. Then cut down two sides to form tags, and pop the lead into the bag, and tie the tags over the top, trapping the lead inside. I only do this on big bags, to get a fair bit of feed into the swim close to the bait, but only having to cast once. I think that when used like this the lead makes a different sound going into the water; it sort of cushions the noise, and may not spook the fish as much. I make my bags up fresh for each cast, they are as neat as I can get them, and as tight as I can get them, which helps them to dissolve.
What ever bag you tie up it is very important that they are tested in water .I know that sounds obvious, but I have seen many float away with ingredients that are too light., or the pva was of poor quality and just sat there !!!. I get my pva mesh stocking from a company called Carp Crazy, which advertises in most carp 'mags', and it has never let me down, but most of the top tackle company's sell the systems.
Something Different !!!
An ingredient worth looking at, is gravel . Along the lines of the stones weights, it can be used to carry oil / flavour, as some of this media is porous to an extent . Useful in adding weight to the bag if required, I feel there is more to come with this method, although I have not tried it myself . What I have tried along these lines, is the dried earth from the bank of the Teme. I tried to imitate the "smoking" effect of the barbel feeding, pushing up the reddy coloured bottom. Again I feel there is some room for experimenting here.
One thing I do not see mentioned much by barbel anglers is the use of pva type foam. This is something I have only dabbled with, but could be used to good effect. A four foot hook length lowered into a sluggish river could fall in a bit of a heap, but with a piece of foam wrapped around the hook it would straighten it out before the water dissolved it. With uses such as pulling back into clear areas, without the hook being masked by weed, or the point turning over on gravel, there is scope for experimentation. You can find this foam in many types of packing for computer's etc, and sold by most good tackle shops. I have been told that the grey / green foam found in packing contains some sort of rodent repellent / poison, so if in doubt stick to the white type . Or as I do, get the wife ( Sue, mrs hatter ) to suck any dodgy ones, and if she lives its ok for the barbel !!!.
This type of bag fishing suits the way we ( Sue and I ) fish, as we have limited time on the bank . It is an underused tactic, and I think it spooks them less than feeders etc. We do a lot of roving fishing, often fishing two or three stretches in a day, sometimes only having one cast into a swim, so this method works for us. Minimum disturbance, and the trap is set !!!.
Mark (hatterbarbel) Anderson 2006