Monday, 27 March 2017

What do you expect for twenty quid?

I can't help it, I love messing about in the workshop. Over the past few months I have been exploring the noble art of fly fishing. No, I am not going to join the country set and trade the Transit in for a Range Rover! I am not contemplating game fishing, I am interested in the idea of catching coarse fish on the fly.

Fly fishing is about as far away from the 'standard' coarse fishing, I am used to, as chalk is to cheese. What's more it has a language of its own too. What with tippets and leaders on the line and don't ask about the fly tying, it is all a  foreign tongue to me! I can't see me doing any fly fishing for a while. Apart from the fact that I don't even have a rod yet, we are in the process of packing up our house ready for a move out of London, after living here all my life and the best part of forty years in this house.

That said, it will give me some time to study the art and to have a go at a spot of fly tying. It is the entomology that interests me, matching fly to the time of year and to the species is fascinating to me. Once I have worked out what insects are about and what the fish will eat, the job of making a fly replica and then convincing the fish to feed on it is what it is all about to me.

Renzetti Master Vice, several hundred pounds of pure class
First of all I will need some tools and top of that list has to be a fly tying vice. Have you seen the price of these things? What! six, seven, eight hundred pounds or more for a top end vice AND if you want something like a Law vice, now no longer made, two grand (£2,000) is not unheard of. Now, I am not adverse to spending money on a well made piece of kit but there is a limit. A fly tying vice is not a complicated thing it is just a clamp to hold the hook a fly is tied on. There are several types but in the main there are two basic types; fixed and swivel head. There is also the choice of clamp on and free standing on a sold base. Over and above these, there are specialist tube tying vices, but that is all a bit above my knowledge pay grade at the moment. It is all about the functionality and quality of manufacture, combined with superb finishing, like the Renzzeti vice pictured above.

Looking to the other end of the scale, there are the cheap so called 'beginner's' vices. These can be as low as a few pounds for a fixed vice and not much more for a rotary model.Most of these appear to be cheap copies of the classic style. Mostly of eastern origins, poorly made and really not fit for purpose. I am sure they will have put more people off than they have inspired. With my eyes wide open, it occurred to me that with a bit of thought and application, I might be able to modify and improve one of these cheap vices into something that is at least serviceable. I will invest in a decent vice in the future but for now I plan to make do with something a bit cheaper. A hunt through the on-line auction listings found a likely candidate, a "Fully Rotatable fly tying vice with bobbin cradle" priced at £19.99 including postage. This I had to see. A few mouse clicks and the deed was done, one vice bought, paid for on its way to be inspected.

It all looks a bit cheap and nasty in its tatty box
That was last Friday, it arrived today, Monday. Well, for twenty quid you don't expect much, or at least I was not expecting much. My thought was I could always put it back on eBay and get some if not all of my money back. As it turned out yes, straight out of the box my suspicions were confirmed it is useless, or at the very least second to useless. However, locked up solid, I suspect you could tie a fly with it at a push.

The finish is crude and the plating on the rotary knob is has blackened. The jaws are rough and set far too hight to rotate the shank of the hook in line and coaxially with the head, making it pointless even if the rotating mechanism was journalled well enough to perform so.
Even after assembly it looks cheap and nasty. The best bit is the bobbin cradle that does not look too bad. As you can see the jaws are mounted far to high to allow the shaft of the hook to rotate in line and coaxlually with the head 
Nothing is smooth or firm the whole thing is flimsy and very badly made, but it has potential. With a little bit of time spent on it, I am sure it can be improved. It will never be anywhere near as good as a high end vice, but I reckon I can make it serviceable as a rotary vice.

The jaws have a very thin coating of black paint that is already scratched and worn
The first thing to look at is the way the jaws are mounted. They are far too high. This can be rectified by boring a few more holes and tapping them to accept the fixing screw. It may also be possible to adjust the angle of the mounting bar but that will need looking at on the bench. The jaws themselves are thinly painted and very poorly finished off both cosmetically and functionally. A lot can be done by stripping the original paint and refinishing them by either polishing them or repainting and varnishing. The mating faces of the jaws can be honed and finished to a much higher standard without much effort. The two thumb screws are a bit coarse, as is the thread, but I will live with that on this vice. The rubber ring that keeps the jaws in line (sort of!) will stay too.

The bearings need looking at and replacing, a roughly cut off lump of plastic tube wit a bore that is not even central is not helping. The coarse thread used to join the brass bearing housing to the vertical support will not lock tight and will need some 'assistance' to prevent it from coming lose. The pin on the rotating wheel suffers from the same problem.

Other minor irritations include a clamp that will not grip a smooth surface and thumb wheels that are just uncomfortable to use and almost impossible to tighten enough to grip the vertical support.

I am sure I will be able to rectify most of these faults. I will not be able to turn it into a Renzetti, but I should be able to make it usable while I save the pennies for a better made vice. I will let you know how I get on...

Ralph.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Sometimes...

Nothing, not even a line bite
Well, what a let down. First time out since the beginning of November and I was home by three o'clock!

I had been so looking forward to today. I had all my gear ready, bait organised and ready to go in plenty of time. All I had to do, apart from the normal ablutions, was to get up, load the van and go. I needed to get some fuel so I left in plenty of time. It was getting light as I left, which always makes the drive more palatable.

Just around the corner is a petrol station but I never use it because it is much dearer then the others on the A20 way out to the M25. Sue will not go in there either, but that is because a few years ago, someone stole the numberplates from her car and used them on a car they filled with petrol and then drove off. Even though the police and the filling station know what happened, and the latter has changed hands several times since, she is still convinced the numberplate will be recognised and something bad will happen. Anyway, my point in mentioning this is that my usual filling station was selling fuel, both petrol and diesel at the same price as was every other filling station on the way - even the ones out in the countryside that are usually a few coppers dearer. Very strange. The only exception to this was the motorway services who were selling fuel at 14p per litre dearer! How on earth can they justify that? I am sure I don't know.

Still musing on the seemingly suspicious uniform pricing structure of the fuel, I pulled into the drive at Beaver Fishery a good twenty minutes before the gate was due to open. There was a queue! I sat there until the gate swung open, observing the fishery's cat making his way to the gate to inspect the assembled visitors.

The cars in front of me parked up and I pulled up alongside the office. As I made my way to the front door I was suddenly aware that the occupants of the car in front of me at the gate were falling over themselves, and the cat, to get into the office before me! I am amazed how petty people can be. The cat stood there watching the proceedings and when the commotion had settled down came over and said hello, he seems to recognise me now even though I have not been there for a few months.

Over the winter, the two specimen lakes have been refurbished and emptied of 'nuisance' species. Part of this meant that over 600lbs of bream were relocated into Maze Lake. I have a soft spot for this lake as it was the first lake I ever fished at Beaver. I also had a really good day last July on Maze with just a single float rod and not much else. Today was not a patch on that day.

Looked like it might hod the odd fish - but nothing
Maze lake was originally dug as a match lake but other than the odd club match it is only used by the odd pleasure angler. For some reason it has not been fishing well for a while. I think the design of it is too complicated and there are plenty of places for the fish to go to get away from a lone angler. All this I knew before I left, but I still decided to give it a go. I set up on the far side of the lake and put a flat-backed method feeder out just short of the far bank. I had decided to buy a two rod ticket so I could fish the feeder for long periods while I was doing something more energetic with another rod. After about fifteen minutes of inactivity on the feeder rod, I went for a retrieve. As I wound the handle of the reel, I witnessed the feeder rise out of the water. Although I had seen the feeder plop into the water, what I had not realised was the hook had caught an overhanding piece of vegetation. My line was now taught with the feeder appearing to hover above the water as the hook was holding fast...

There I was contemplating walking around and retrieve it 'manually' when the hook let go and the feeder plopped back into the water. Result! Several more casts, and a bit of playing around with my elasticated whip/pole thingie, was absolutely fruitless. What's more I had not seen any signs of fish. After a couple of hours I decided to move.

Now on the other side of the lake, still nothing...
There are times when having the van really pays off. Open the back doors and put the chair, rods and bait waiter (still on its tripod) in the back and drive around to the next destination. It is a bit of a convoluted journey via Moat Pond and the southern side of The Major's lake only to get back to the other side of Maze Lake. I set up on my favoured peg, on this side of the water, and started to fish. another couple of hours went by and I was now starting to think I was wasting my time. Andy the bailiff arrived on his son's old mountain bike. He is on his own on Saturdays an is constantly getting call back to the office by new arrivals to the fishery. Just as I was telling him my stories of woe and bleating about the lack of fish, the rod tip swung around and I had a fish. It turned out to be a nice roach of a few ounces, caught on a cage feeder packed with maggots and groundbait. I did not bother to photograph it as I suspected I would now start to catch. Sure enough, as Andy rode away the rod tip started to flicker and then bent double as I picked up the rod.

"That's not a roach!" Said Andy and I agreed as the small 8½ft picker rod bent almost double. My reluctance to hold the fish meant that it had now parked itself in the lily pads that were only just showing a few tatty looking leaves. Try as I might, I could not get it out and eventually the hook straightened and the fish was gone.

Oh well, things were looking up, maybe it was not going to be so bad. A few minutes later and my second rod's top was showing some signs of life and sure enough There was one very lively common carp tugging at my line. I landed it but it was still thrashing about too much to get a picture so to be kind to the fish I returned it to the lake, again thinking this was only the start and I would get some fish pictures later. By now it was about 11:30AM.

Two and a half hours later, after trying different baits and methods I gave up. I suspect that because Maze is a strange layout that fish can avoid a lone angler and hid in other parts of the lake. I gave up as it did not look as if I was going to get any other people joining me and scaring the fish over to my side of the lake, so the kit went into the back of the van again and I decided to find another lake. By this time it as approaching 2:00PM and as I cruised the complex looking for somewhere to fish, I realised that all the decent pegs were full and even the not so good pegs were occupied. I hate going to commercials on a Saturday, they are always packed with families enjoying a day out in the sunshine and that is great, but I prefer to go during the week when it is a bit quieter - I must be getting old and grumpy.

Time to call it a day.

Ralph.    
  

Monday, 20 March 2017

Back to the lake - At last!

After more than three months (yes it is that long!) of fishing famine I am actually getting back out there on Saturday, at least that is what I intend to do. I did say I was going last week but it never happened even though the middle of the week was perfect fishing weather for me. Over the past couple of months, the weather has been much colder down here in the south than we have experienced for a few years. Although I am not that keen on the cold, that was not the only reason I have not been wetting the line. We are trying to get our house packed up ready for a move, but after nearly forty years, this is proving a long job!

With the weather just on the turn and the temperature forecast to rise again, Saturday looks like it will suit me. I am not a great lover of setting up in the wet or sitting there on a damp overcast day for hours on end. My problem is I don't have anywhere really local to fish, even my nearest water is a good three-quarters of an hour away in London traffic and when I get there I have to pay for a day ticket (£10). It is just not practical to fish for a few hours, it has to be a day trip. So it is off to a commercial fishery for the day. I have no idea what the fishing will be like so I will talk to the bailiffs when I get there and take their advice.

I have not been idol over the past few months. While I could not get out to the bank, I have been doing my homework, fiddling about with loops, hook lengths and tying my own spade hooks.

Sensas loop 'tyer'
Until now, I have mostly been using eyed hooks as method feeder fishing has featured heavily in my experience to date and a hair rigged punched piece of bacon grill has been my favoured hook-bait. Tying stops and bands into a loop and then forming a hair tied to the hook using a knot-less knot is now a simple hand operation, for me, down to the smallest of hooks, using the lightest of lines. Yes, I do need some visual aid when it gets really small but I am happy with that. Constant practise has paid off and that milestone has been passed successfully. It was always the tying of spade hooks that defeated me. In the end I gave up trying to tie them by hand alone and bought a Matchman Hook Tyer. I could then tie my own spade hooks with moderate success.

A genuine Matchman spade hook tyer
The Matchman does work but I found it a bit awkward when tying small hooks. Although possible, it was not that easy for me. I then bought a couple of the Stonfo Hook Tyers. One small and one large.  These are like 'posh' Matchman Hook Tyers and are very well made with a rotating handle and rubbery grip, making them much nicer to use. The smaller one of the two holds smaller hooks easily with plenty of 'room' around the tip to see what is going on. To be honest, there is no real difference between the Matchman and the Stonfo but the latter is just made with a bit more fineness than the original Matchman. 

Stonfo hook tyers
I have been writing another page about how I tackle all these basic tasks, a beginner's guide written by a beginner. Not intended to be the ultimate guide, the page is simply a copulation of what I have discovered so far. I will publish it soon.

I have also started a collection of independent reviews starting with the ZT-Pro and its hair rig attachment, which has shone a whole new light oh tying hook lengths and some controversy too. It got me thinking, why would I want to tie a hair on a spade hook, just because I can? I an still thinking about that one.

Something new to me 

I can't help it, I get fascinated by things and once the idea is set in my head I have to find out what is what. During this fishing famine, I have been investigating fly fishing. My late father-in-law was a keen salmon angler making two trips a year from his farm in the depths of Kent. on in the winter to the Scottish boarders and once in June to a place called Mungasdale in the highlands. We accompanied him on these journeys a couple of times. In those days I had no interest in fishing and especially not fly fishing which was a shame an I missed a real opportunity to learn something, looking back on it now. He and his friends and neighbours who owned the farm next door, so to speak, rented a house, employed a cook and a ghillie for the week and we lived like lords. The deal was we would 'help' with the driving (do!) and supply the drink (as in alcohol). I think it would have been cheaper to rent the house, fly fishing farmers can get through a lot of whiskey while going over the events of the day, well into the early hours.

A couple of interesting books...
Until recently I thought that fly fishing was all about game fish. I had seen the odd video or television programme showing a spot of fly fishing for grayling and other fish I was not used to catching in the stillwaters I tend to frequent. To be honest, at the time, I had not looked any further as I was not that interested in fly fishing.

I have always been interested in wildlife but never really followed it up in any depth. If you look back over the pages of this blog you will find the odd reference to the wildlife that has been around while fishing. I have also been interested in fly tying but again, not really given it much thought. There are some very well produced videos on YouTube and my favourites are by Davie McPhail. You can find his channel HERE.  

I joined a fly fishing forum to get some pointers. I am as interested in the entomology as I am in the fishing. That coupled with the thought of catching coarse fish has got me thinking. There is far too much going on in my life at the moment to get too deeply involved in this too deeply. I have no intention of rushing out and buying rods and tackle just yet. However, a recommendation of a book from one of the guys on the fly fishing forum has got me more enthusiastic. The book, Fly Fishing for Coarse Fish, has been purchased, thanks to an Amazon 'token' given to my by my godson and his wife. I also bought a brilliant little pocket book title "Match The Hatch" that shows not only the insects in their various forms but their imitation selves as tied flies. The little book is stuffed full of all the things I want to know.

Thank you!
Just to get the juices running even quicker, one of the members of the Fly Fishing forum kindly sent me a box of flies to get me going. I am now going through them and attempting to identify them from my burgeoning fly fishing library. I have a way to go yet, and I must get this house-move behind me before I can even think about buying any tackle, but I could be tempted to start tying a few flies of my own...

Back to the hear and now

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I am off to do a spot of fishing at the weekend. This will be my first time out since the beginning of November and I can't wait. Nothing too exciting just a bit of float and feeder fishing, just to 'test the water' and see how the fish are behaving. I have some new floats I want to try on my cheap elasticated pole/whip thing that I now refer to as a Hippo (don't ask, I have explained why several times before) as nobody could tell me if it should be described as a pole or a whip. I think it will be a bit windy for the long pole, and besides I am only travelling light, I will be taking my chair. I know some people will say they are happy fishing a pole from a chair, it is not for me. I much prefer to be on my box while pole fishing.

Ralph.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

The ZT Pro

Well, I have not been fishing for a while, partly due to 'life' getting in the way and also I am not a keen cold weather angler. Instead I have been sorting out my tackle and playing with my new toy.

Gizmo Angling's ZT Pro hook tyer
Eye-wateringly expensive at first glance, but a pleasure to use and I do like nice tools, jigs and machines. I thought I would publish my own experience as an unbiased, independent review. To this end, I have started a series of reviews that I have produced as stand alone features. The first of which is The ZT Pro and can be found HERE. All the items I review will be purchased by me. I will not accept any freebies or commercial sponsorship, that way I can say it as I find it without the risk of any recrimination.

I will be adding more reviews and features as time goes on. You will be able to find them listed in the panel at the top of the left hand column (as seen in web view). If you are reading this on a mobile device, scroll down to the bottom and click on 'View web version' to see all three columns.

MORE!
First impressions review of hair rig attachment now posted HERE.

Ralph. 

Friday, 11 November 2016

I caught a fish!

Yep, I caught a fish, just one, all day!

I had decided to go fishing with a minimum of gear to see how I would get on. I knew it was not going to be easy but I had no idea that fishing one pond, using one rod would result in one fish. The day started well, no hassle, lots of time to load the van with just a few bits. I even had time for breakfast, that's a first.

My one and only fish of the day
It was only as I got on to the Sidcup Bypass I had that thought - Wallet - A quick fumble of the pockets, nothing. Okay, calm down... I pulled into a slip road and had a rummage in my bag. Still nothing. Hmmm... This is a little inconvenient, I thought to myself, while filling the cab with a few choice words and attempting to reconfigure the steering wheel. Nothing for it I will have to go back home as I must have left the blooming thing behind. The trouble with that is, I am on a duel carriageway and the bunch of face-less 'can't leave anything alone' mob have long since closed all the gaps in the central reservation so I will have to wait until I can U-turn the van at the next set of lights. It is a good job my rear wheel drive Transit has a spectacular steering lock on it for a big van.

Back at home and guess what? Still no wallet. I went back out to the van and conducted a a finger tip search of the cab and my shoulder bag. The relief of finding the wallet, inside the lining of my bag, was somewhat cancelled out by the complete waste of a good three quarters of an hour of my life, let alone the fuel I had used on an unplanned sightseeing tour of South East London in the dark. Have you seen the price of diesel lately?

I arrived at the fishery about fifteen minutes after the gate opened, that wasn't too bad. A quick discussion on the state of the world, post the US election, with Andy in the office was followed by a far more important matter; what bait to use. I topped up my merger selection of hook-bait with a tub of worms and set off for the far end of the fishery.

Now that's what you call 'still' water
I have spent several short sessions on Eden Pond over the past couple of years, usually just the first few hours of the day. Today I had decided to spend the whole day there. I set up on the north bank of the pond. Eden Pond is small and shallow with lots of features. The pond also boasts a good stock of perch. I figured that if I fished close to the features, with worm on the hook, I might tempt one out, but it was not to be. Personally, I think the owners forgot to let the fish out this morning...

The lake is surrounded by trees and bushes that gives it its secluded appeal. The trouble is it makes it harder to cast if the undergrowth is not going to claim the end tackle. Today I ended up losing a couple of Drennan float bodies, that parted from their weights on the cast, and landed up in the pond. As luck would have it, I managed to recover both of them during the day, as they drifted back into netting range. I also ended up with an extra float that just appeared on the surface as I was taking in the view. That makes a change, in the early days I was constantly making 'offerings' to the tree Gods.

Casting as close as I dare to the dead reeds made it hard to determine what was what
As the day went on and the sun moved around, visibility became a real problem. The glare off the water made it impossible to see the float tip in open water, no matter what colour it was. Close to the features the reflections also made it hard to make out what was what. Is that my float tip or a piece of dead reed in the red circle?

With just one fish on the bank all day, some may think the day was a disaster. I have had better days but I did enjoy myself. Although the sunny day was not good for fishing, I was able to sit there, munch my way through a pork pie and a couple of sandwiches, while drinking my flask of coffee in peace.

The pipe...
As with all the lakes at Beaver, vehicle access is provided by good, well maintained hard surface tracks. As you can see, I can get the van right down to the lake. To get to the lake there is a strange feature that has to be passed under. You can see it passing through the trees and reflected in the pond. I can only assume it is a sewer pipe, crossing the slight depression that the lakes at Beaver are formed in. The land to the north and south of this spot is higher and a look at Google Maps shows the pipe emerging and re-entering farmland either side of the lake. Luckily there is a spot just out of view in this picture, where the track passes under it, that affords enough clearance to drive the van under.

I think my one rod approach limited my options too much and it is a case of hitting a happy medium between taking too much and too little gear. This would have been a perfect pole session as most of the features could be within pole reach from a selection of pegs. I also think a swim-feeder might have paid off. There is always another day.

Ralph.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

November sunshine

Flat-calm and full sun made for a pleasant day and few fish
This year the friendly matches at Beaver Fishery have extended into November and there is talk of a December match too, weather permitting. Today I was at Beaver Fishery competing in the November friendly. I have a theory that my Two Dog groundbait, I use on the feeder, may be too bright for this time of year, fish may be put off feeding over it as they will be silhouetted against it, as the water clears, making them an easy target for attack. I have been experimenting with coloured dyes in various groundbait mixes and come up with something I think might work; green Surf 'n' Turf.

The day started with a van covered in dew, thankfully not frozen, and a full tank of diesel meant there was no need to stop. The first half a mile was spent trying not to breath for fear of misting up the screen while the demisting fan was struggling to keep up. It never fails to surprise me just how many vehicles, of all types, are on the south circular at that time of the morning. The traffic is being 'channelled' along the main route by the introduction of so-called traffic calming measures. The traffic congestion on the south circular has undoubtedly become worse, over the past few years, as my local council (Lewisham) has introduced speed bumps on every road they own in the entire borough. Recently all the roads in the borough, including fairly busy main roads, have had a mandatory 20mph speed limit applied. It is ridiculous as there are short sections of road that cross the borough's borders at one end and join a Highways Department owned road at the other, that have very short sections where a 20 mph speed limit has been applied. Now, call me a cynic, but how long is it going to be until they apply speed cameras to those sections?

Local road rant over, the rest of the journey was reasonably clear. A lot of traffic on the southern section of the M25 was relieved by the mile long slip-road to the A22. I arrived at Beaver to be the first in the queue and observe the new winter gate times posted on the gate and sign; 6 PM. No sign of the cat, it must be cold. I bet he is sitting on top of the portable gas fire in the office, sensible cat.

Winter is here
Peg 14. That's good. This is the peg that has produced a few winners this year including the victor last month. Feeder fishing is the name of the game here for me. I do have my small pole/whip with me, that I call 'Hippo' see HERE for an explanation, if you are at all interested! The plan is to build up a couple of spots of my new green coloured groundbait and fish over that. Dead maggot on the hook, a 30g feeder and a short hooklink with No.16 hook.

At the all in, nobody was catching immediately. After five minutes or so, I saw a landing net being deployed on the opposite bank. Just as I was thinking "Here we go again" the rod tip slammed around and I had a fish on. Nice F1 as I had expected. For the first hour or so I caught several fish and I was starting to think that maybe this was going to be my day. That was just wishful thinking. By 11 AM the fishing had dried up completely at our end of the lake. It was not only me, one of the better anglers and lake record holder, who was in the peg I had last time, had nothing.

I was happy to come 7th, only a few ounces behind 6th! Sorry about the poor picture, the lens on my camera misted up in the cold after being in my pocket
As the day went on, it was obvious that the fish were on the other side of the lake as all we could see was landing nets making the occasional visit to the water. It was obvious that the weights were going to be low, and so they were. I ended up with 11lb 4oz that gave me 7th place. It was not a good day for photographs as the sun was right in my face all day. This was not a bad thing as for those of us on this side of the bank it was nice and warm, the guys opposite looked frozen in the shade, but that is where the fish were most of the day and all three winning pegs came from there. Proving beyond doubt that I am not really a serious match fisherman, I was happy to have drawn my peg! As I was a bit short on pictures, here is the weigh-in photograph of me and my fish. I even caught a skimmer and a tiny perch that seems to be camera-shy.

A small bag of very lively fish
With fifteen minutes to go, I caught one last decent sized F1 as I was collecting my gear together. I had cast out a feeder, hooked my rod over the small 'V' roller mounted on the front leg of my box, and was just about to dismantle a rod when the drag started giving line at a rate. I picked up the rod and landed one of the best fish of the day. without it, I could have been several places lower in the table. On a day like today, a few fish can make a huge difference.

I am sure the dark green groundbait mix gave me an edge and the choice of hook-bailt was also a good move. I will try the green Surf 'n' Turf feeder mix, over the cooler months, and see how it performs.

Ralph.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Mixin' it...

Over the past couple of years I have been experimenting with groundbait to use as a feeder mix when using the flat-backed method feeder. By far the most successful of these has been my Two Dog groundbait. Successful as it is, it has a couple of things about it's making and storage that can cause problems.

First the bread crumb. I have been drying my own crumb from cheap supermarket cut loaves. This involves drying and then processing it to a fine crumb. All this is okay when making smaller quantities but when each loaf, after drying will only render about 600g of dry crumb the task becomes impractical when making larger quantities.

The other problem is storage. As the 'second dog' ingredient is liquidised hot dog sausages, and the liquid they are tinned in, the finished mix has to be frozen if it is to be stored for any more than a few days. It is impractical in the domestic environment to store more than a few bags in the freezer. This is not so bad if you have a dedicated fishing bait freezer but even then it seems a bit pointless as the expense of running a bait freezer for groundbait starts to erode any economy of scale that has been achieved by making the stuff in bulk or just adds a running cost to the venture.

After spending many hours drying my own bread, I eventually decided to look around for a supply of ready dried white crumb. I eventually found a supplier on eBay that could supply 20kg bags of either white or brown crumb at a reasonable (£22.49) price including delivery. When it arrived it was perfect; bone dry and very fine with no lumps. But me being a bit thick, It had not dawned on me that a 20kg bag of dry breadcrumb weighs the same as a 20kg bag of sand and is just as awkward to move around!

To prove that I am not really all that thick, I worked out that I could make up all the dry components for my ground baits in bulk and add the 'wet' stuff prior to using it. With this in mind we set about making six times the usual amount and bagging it up in measured quantities ready for the addition of one tin of minced hot dog sausages.

What we ended up with nominally 2kg bags made up of 800g of bread crumb, 800g Rich Tea biscuits, 350g of  ground Wagg chicken and vegetable flavoured dog biscuits and 2½g of finely ground black pepper added to 50g of turmeric powder. These bags, I suppose, could be referred to as one dog...  The bags can now be stored almost indefinitely in a cool dry, rodent free place. All we have to do now is find such a place.

The difference in cost works out to be about 10p per 800g bag of finished groundbait mix. For all the effort and time it saves, it is a price I am prepared to pay for the convenience. It was okay when I was making the stuff in small quantities but now I make it for Tim (the 'other bloke' in this story as well as being my brother) and a few mates it makes sense to go down this route.

With the Two Dog sorted, I turned my attention to my other favoured mix; Surf 'n' Turf. As the Two Dog mix tends to target F1s and other carp, Surf 'n' Turf seems to target the skimmers, bream and tench. This is only really a bias towards those species as both will catch heavily. The bias can be increased by the choice of hook bait, but that is another story.

Surf 'n' Turf contains a few more ingredients than my other recipes but the dry stuff can be mixed and stored in bulk in pre-mixed bags as with the Two Dog. Again we end up with 2kg bags containing 1kg of bread crumb, 250g of fish meal (or ground pellet), ground 250g cat biscuit and 500g Vitalin.

The wet ingredients can be mixed in advance in sufficient quantities to add to the dry mix either in advance, and kept in a fridge, or made up the day before use and added to the dry mix.

Colour

The bright yellow of the Two Dog groundbait is fine in the summer but as the water clears, I believe the fish can be put off from feeding over it as they become silhouetted against the light colour which makes them easier to spot by predators. The Surf 'n' turf is not so bright and it's brown colour is less of a problem but it is still a bit on the light side.

I have tried liquid food dye in the past without much success. I did find a red powdered food dye that is extremely good that I used in my Red Dog recipe and found it worked well with corn, turning it bright red. Initially I tried to dye the Surf 'n' Turf green but that did not work out at the time.

Recently I have been experimenting with some Sensas purpose made dye. This is a powder and comes in tubs of 100g. It varies in price but if your local tackle shop stocks it it can be purchased for £4 or £5 a tub, through the post it seems to be around £7.00 or more by the time it has had delivery factored in. As it requires about 20g per kilo to be effective, it can be an expensive option.

As the money was racking up, it seemed like it would be worth experimenting with liquid dye again but this time up the 'dosage' A small bottle of food dye is around 60p. I decided to add a whole bottle to one of my 800g bags of two dog. It tinted it green. I added another bottle. Now I am at a comparable cost to adding the Sensas dye. The result was still disappointing. I then added a level tablespoon of the Sensas dye to 800g of the bright yellow Two Dog groundbait and got a mid green. Better, but still not what I was looking for.

As we have also been making up a good stock of Surf 'n' Turf, I decided to try a batch of that too. By the time the wet ingredients are adsorbed by the dry Surf 'n' Turf mix, we ended up with just over 2700g of mix, giving three bags of just over 900g each. one of the bags was tipped into a bowl and one level tablespoon of dye was added. This time the green was darker as the base colour of the mix is a sort of fawn colour. Still not quit as dark as I had hoped, but dark enough to give it a trial.

I think my next move will be to try the black dye.  As most black pigments are in fact a very dark green, maybe mixed with Two Dog, which is bright yellow, I may end up with the dark green I am trying to replicate. That will be for another time, I will see how this works out and take it from there.

Ralph.