1902 Encyclopedia > Angling > Mid-Water Fishing

(Part 3)

Mid-Water Fishing

Spinning is the first branch of this kind of fishing, and is used chiefly for pike and trout, though salmon and other fish occasionally are fished for and taken thus. It consists in drawing along through mid-water a bait so disposed on a series of hooks as to revolve rapidly, thus showing its silvery sides constantly to the fish of prey, and attracting them to run after it and capture it, when the hooks which are about it in turn capture them. A small fish -- a little trout, dace, gudgeon, or bleak principally, as these are the best fish for the purpose -- is hung on a range of hooks called a flight. This flight generally or mostly consists of three triangles, or three hooks welded back to back, tied upon gut or gimp at intervals of half an inch or so, a reversed hook near the tail to keep it bent, and above them a sliding hook working in an eye, called the lip hook (see fig. 2 in cut). A fish is then chosen suitable to the length of the flight, and lowest triangle is stuck on the middle of the side of the tail, the reversed hook just above it is then stuck into the fish a little below the vent, so as to keep the tail of the fish bent or crooked. The other two triangles are then stuck into the side of the bait in a straight line towards the fish's mouth. The line is then twisted two or three times round the shank of the lip hook, so as to bring it just to the bait's mouth and to keep it firmly there. The hook is then passed through both lips of the bait, and the bait is ready for use (see fig. 3 in cut); then it is hung on to a tackle called the trace. This consists of a yard or two of gut, single or twisted, or gimp, as may be desired; and at intervals of 18 or 20 inches or so, one or more swivels are placed to permit the bait to revolve freely without also turning the line, which would cause the whole running line to snarl and tangle, and a lead or sinker, so disposed as to promote the same object, is put on just above the swivels, and the trace is complete. (The upper part of the tackle in fig. 3 from swivel to swivel shows the trace.) The whole apparatus then being looped on to the main or reel-line, is dropped into the water, and being drawn rapidly through it, if the bait be property arranged on the hooks, spins with wonderful swiftness, often like one long line of flashing silver. If it does not spin well, but "wobbes," as it is termed, the hooks are not properly fastened into the bait, and either do not lie straight and even along the side, or the head or tail of the bait is too slack or too tight. This must be amended as the bait cannot spin too well. The object of its spinning well is not only to attract the fish, but to conceal the hooks. The arrangement of the hooks on the flight given above is the one most commonly adopted by Thames spinners, who are the best hands in this branch of fishing, but there are many other arrangements which are sold by tackle-makers, of which the Francis and Pennell tackles are perhaps the chief. The reel-line used in spinning is usually made of plaited silk, dressed with a composition to stiffen it and to prevent tangling; and the line is heavier or lifghter according as the bait and tackle to be used is heavier or lighter. In working a spinning-bait, the angler first tries all the nearer water to the spot where he stands, and gradually lengthen his line, allowing it to lie loose on the ground, or in the boat or punt's bottom, in coils at his feet. Then with about half as much line as the length of rod hanging down from the rod-point, he gently waves the bait backwards to the left or right, according to the side he wishes to cast to, and then suddenly urging the rod forward with a sweep, releases the running line which he has held fast against the rod, and the impetus the bait has acquired by the swing sends it forward from 20 to 40 yards towards the point the angler desires to cast to; then lowering the point of the rod allow the bait to sink to mid-water, he holds the rod in the right hand, and draws the line home through the rings with the left hand, allowing it to fall at his feet as before, and raising and dipping the rod at every draw, makes the bait spin and shoot, and rise and fall, as it comes towards him, in a most attractive manner. The line being all drawn in, lies at his feet as before, and lifting the bait out of the water again, he repeats his cast in a new direction, and having fished all the water within reach he moves on. Should a fish run be feels a jerk at the rod point, or sees the line stop, and he strikes smartly and plays his fish, drawing in line by hand, and taking care that no tangle ensues. To avoid this at any time, he must see that there are no twigs or other obstructions about his feet where the line rests between each cast, which may catch in the coils and cause a snarl or knot, as this spoils the cast by preventing the line from running. In trout spinning smaller and lighter tackles, rods, and lines are used than are employed for jack. For the big Thames trout, and for trailing for the great lake trout, similar fashioned but lighter flights and traces are employed; but for spinning the minnow for small river or brook trout a different kind of flight is used. This flight is shown unbaited and baited at figs. 4 and 5 in the cut. The big hook is inserted into the mouth of the minnow, and by a little humouring the point is carried down the body along the backbone to the tail, where it is brought out, and the lip hook inserted through both lips of the bait; and, if any attention has been paid to the size of the minnow selected, the tail will be nicely bent round on the curve of the hook so as to make the bait spin rapidly. Many anglers do not use any other hooks than these two; but it is so easy for a trout to run and seize such a bait and to miss being hooked, that to make sure, it is usual to employ in addition t he little triangle of hooks, which is inserted half way down the side of the bait. Even with this safeguard, when fish are running shyly, the angler will find that he misses from one-third to one-half of the runs which he gets. In spinning for small trout various methods are pursued: some fish down stream, some up; and where it is requisite to wade, and a moderate rod is used, it is best to fish up, wading in mid-stream, and casting on either hand towards the opposite banks, the angler brings the bait diagonally down towards him, with a curving sweep in front. When, however, he can fish from the bank, it is best to fish down, and to cast across, drawing with a diagonal sweep up stream. Usually it is just as the bait is making the bend round that the fish seizes it, and therefore it behoves the angler to keep a sharp look out then. Some anglers cast the minnow over hand, and some under; the best plan is to cast it under, and, taking hold of the reel-line between two of the rings on the middle joint of the rod with the left hand, to draw a good portion of line off the reel, holding it tight until the cast is made, when it is released, and doubles the length of cast which the angler could make in the ordinary way, - as in minnow fishing the tackle is too light, as a rule, to cast off loose line from coils on the ground, and so, ordinarily, little more line than a yard or so more than the length of the rod can be used; by this means, however, nearly double that length can be got out. Of course the weight or sinkers on a minnow tackle will be proportionate to the requirements of the stream, and though the trace will be of lighter gut than it is customary to use for large trout, the fashion of the tackle is similar. In this case, also, there are many other arrangement of hooks used, but there are none so good as the one figured in the plate. In the north there is another method of spinning practiced, called par-tail fishing, which is used chiefly when and where minnows are difficult to obtain, though some persons prefer par-tail as a bait to minnow. For this only two hooks are used similar to the two in the figure for minnow fishing minus the triangle. A par is taken and cut diagonally in two from the front part of the dorsal fin to the middle of the space between the ventral and anal fins. That tail part being taken, and the tail snipped off, the lip hook is put through the root of the tail, and the big hook stuck into the bait so as to curve the broad end of the bait on to the hook; the bait, if properly adjusted, spins pretty well. Some anglers, however, cut a slice out of the back from before the dorsal fin down to the ail, leaving a small part of the tail and only part of the belly, and by adjusting this on hooks suited to it, it rather more resembles the natural fish. These baits are used exactly like the minnow.

In fishing for larger trout, as the large lake trout or the Salmo ferox, the method generally adopted is that of trailing. Here a small trout or par is used on the three-triangle tackle already mentioned above. The line is weighted according to the depth of the water, and the boat is rowed slowly along, some 30or 40 yards of line being let out, so as to permit the bait to sink and to tow some distance astern. Two rods are chiefly employed for this sport-one being placed at each corner of the stern of the boat, and each having on a different bait, weighted differently, and with a longer or shorter line out, so as to give any fish inclined to feed a double chance. The proper line to take for these large trout when moving along the shores of a lake is just where the water begins to go off between the deep and the shallow; and the bait should travel as near to the bottom as it can, without catching in weeds or stumps; as, though fish will frequently rise some distance to a bait, it is not desirable to compel them to do so. When a big lake trout strikes, he usually runs heavily, and bores down to the very depths of the loch, showing fine sport. They frequently run to a large size, reaching 16 and 18 lb weight, and sometimes heavier. They are, however, better for the table when 4 or 5 lb. The small lake trout are spun for by trailing a minnow in the same way, but in shallower water; and often when the fish are dull at the fly, they take well on the trail. There are various artificial baits used for spinning, some of them imitating fish of different kinds, and made of bone, horn, gutta-percha, mother-or-pearl, glass, and other substances. One of the best and most generally known and used is the "phantom bait," invented and made by Mr Brown of Aberdeen. It is made of oiled silk, and painted to represent a small trout or par; being cylindrical, when drawn against the stream, it fills with water and plumps out to the size of a fish; when seized, however, it compresses to a mere rag of oiled silk, leaving nothing but the hooks in the fish's mouth. There are various other spinning baits which do not exactly imitate any fish, as spoons, otters, kill-devils, &c.

Live Baiting. -- The plan pursued in this kind of fishing for pike is generally to use either what is termed "live snap or gorge tackle." In the former, the object is to strike as soon as the pike takes the bait into his mouth; in the latter, to allow him to swallow or gorge it. In both cases a float is used. This is usually a lump of cork nearly as large as a hen's egg, to carry a good-sized bait. The bait used generally is either a small roach, dace, or gudgeon; failing these, any other that can be obtained. The best kind of snap tackle may be seen in fig. 6 In the cut it consists of a single hook and a triangle. The single hook is hooked through the root of the dorsal fin of a small roach, dace, or gudgeon, and the triangle hangs down at the side of the bait, as shown in fig. 7. Now, when a pike first seizes a bait he takes it across his mouth, so that while the head and tail appear outside his jaws on either side, the whole of the middle parts of the body are well within them; and, as will be seen from the position o the hooks, they will most probably be within the pike's mouth also; consequently, as soon as the pike has had time to take the bait so arranged into his mouth, the angler strikes smartly, and very often hooks his fish and lands him. It will of course happen sometimes that the triangle is not well in the fish's mouth, in which case either the fish is missed altogether, or, being very slightly hooked, he breaks away. Another method of using the live bait is what is termed the "live gorge." In this case a pair of hooks, tied back to back, are used. The loop of the gimp on which they are tied is hooked into a long needle, called a baiting needle. (See fig. 8 which shows the hooks and the needle). This is inserted under the skin at the shoulder of the bait, and carried down just under the skin, towards the tail, being brought out just behind the dorsal fin. The gimp is drawn through, and the hooks stand as shown in the illustration. (See fig. 9.) In the illustration the loop is hung on to the trace, and the tackle used as in ordinary live bait fishing; only, when a pike takes the bait he is allowed to gorge it before the angler strikes, being permitted to go where he will with the bait, and ten minutes being allowed for him to gorge or pouch, as it is termed. This is a tedious method of fishing, and is only used for pike, - as often the fish runs the line foul of some weed, and leaves the bait; or, after mumbling it and killing it, refuses to gorge, and the constant waiting whenever there is a run is wearisome. But as there is less show of hooks, more runs are obtained in clear water than with the live snap tackle. Another method of using the live bait is with the paternoster, though this is chiefly used with minnow or small fry for perch fishing. It is, however, sometimes used for pike, when a gimp tackle is preferred and only tow hooks used. For perch fishing, the paternoster simply consists of a line of gut about 4 or 5 feet long; at the bottom of this is a leaden bullet or plummet to sink it to the bottom; about 6 or 8 inches above this a hook, on some 6 inches of gut, is fastened; a foot above this another hook is fixed on, and a foot above that again, a third. This third hook is often a gimp hook, when pike and perch are found in common, and a rather larger hook and bait are used, so that if a pike should come to the bait, there may be a fair chance of capturing him. A minnow being hooked through the lips on each of the other hooks, the tackle is dropped into an eddy where perch are supposed to be, and the three baits swim round and round the main line; so that, no matter whether the fish are resting at the bottom or searching for their prey in mid-water, they may be attracted. As soon as there is a bite from a perch the angler feels it at the rod-point, slackens line for two seconds to let the fish get the minnow well into his mouth, and then strikes. Should the immediate neighborhood not afford a bite, the tackle is cast to a distance, and after being allowed to rest for a minute, it is drawn in a few feet, when another cast is made, and then another draw, until the tackle is worked up on the boat or bank, when another cast is made. In the winter, after the floods, very many perch are caught in this way on the Thames, from 100 to 200 in a day being not very uncommonly taken. Trolling with the dead gorge is another way of fishing; and this is employed chiefly when the water is full of thick weeds and rush-beds, which prevent either spinning or live bait fishing, and solely also for pike. An elongated piece of lead is cast on to a bit of twisted brass wire, which has a couple of hooks similar to those on a live bait gorge tackle at the other end (fig. 10); a gudgeon (which is the best bait for the purpose) to suit the length of the lead is chosen; the loop of the gimp, to which the brass wire is fastened, is slipped into the eye of a baiting needle. The needle is passed in at the mouth of the bait and down along the spine, out at the tail. The lead being drawn into the stomach of the bait, the two hooks lie on each side of the mouth. The tail is tied tightly on to the gimp with three or four laps of silk, to prevent it from slipping (see fig. 11), and the tackle and bait fastened on to the trace used, which is usually a yard of gimp, with one hook or spring swivel to loop the tackle and bait on. This bait is then dropped into holes between the weeds or rushes, and is worked up and down by the lifting and falling of the rod-point, the lead within the bait causing it to shoot and dart along as though the fish were alive. When a pike seizes it, ten minutes must be allowed for him to pouch, when the angler must strike firmly, hold on, and get his fish out as well as he can. It is by no means the pleasantest method of fishing, as the waiting is tedious. The fish constantly runs the line foul of the weeds, &c.; and often, after a tedious waiting, it is found that the fish has rejected the bait after all. added to these, there s this objection to all gorge fishing, that the angler must kill every fish he catches, as the hooks are in the fish's throat, and small under-sized fish, which ought to be returned to the water, are sacrificed, as well as fair takeable ones.

Sometimes grubs and worms are used in mid-water fishing, being cast up stream and allowed to float down in mid-water. This is chiefly for trout. The angler uses a long, light bamboo rod, and a single shot for a sinker. Two small worms are generally used; the brandling or gilt-tail is more frequently used (a worm found in rotten manure, &c.) Some use a single hook, some three small hooks tied one above the other. This is called "the Stewart tackle," after the author of the Practical Angler; and the worms are twined round and impaled on them. Wading up stream, the angler casts before him into every likely stream and eddy, allowing the line and bait to come down towards him in mid-water, and striking the moment he perceive a check. This is a very killing plan, and is adopted with a modification of tackle, to fish with beetles, larvae, palmers, and, in fact, almost any kind of insect; for the trout is a very omnivorous fish, and will hardly refuse anything that is small enough. the lure is cast overhand, as in fly-fishing, and practice enables the angler to cast nearly twice the length of the rod.

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