1902 Encyclopedia > Angling > Bottom Fishing
The school-boy who comes home for the midsummer holidays usually commences his apprenticeship to the art of angling by fishing for some of the carp tribes in some pond or river near his residence. For this purpose he provides himself with a rod usually of from 12 to 14 feet long, and generally made of bamboo-cane, which is the best for the purpose. A small reel, with 30 or 40 yards of silk line, a light quill float, a yard or two of fine silk-worm gut, and a hook tied on at the end of it, which for general work should be either Nos. 6, 7, 8, or 9 in size, and a few split shots pinched on the line for sinkers. He then plumbs the depth of the water by the aid of a plummet, and fixes his float on the line at such a depth that the hook barely or just touches the bottom.
Figs. 1 - 11. Hooks and Lures
His chief baits are worms and gentles or maggots. The worm (the reddest are the best) is stuck on the hook by being threaded from head nearly to the tail. The gentles, to the number of two or three, being stuck on as may be convenient. For gentles the smaller hooks are used; and the hook being baited, is cast into the water and hangs suspended by the float. When there is a bite the float bobs under, and the angles jerks the road up or strikes, hooks his fish, and, if a big one, plays it, -- that is, allows it to swim violently about until tired, -- when he draws it ashore and lands it. In still-water fishing for carp, tench, roach, &c., the angler uses now and then a handful of what is termed ground-bait to draw the fish round his hook. There are many substances used for this, -- worms, gentles, boiled barley or wheat &c., &c., -- but the best and most general is a mixture of bran, soaked bread, and a little boiled rice worked up together; if with this is mixed a few handfuls of carrion gentles, usually obtained from horse slaughter-yards there is no better bait.
To ensure sport it is often necessary to bait a spot, or pitch, as it is termed, one or two evenings previously. In still-water fishing this is all that has to be done. In bottom fishing in running water the same preliminaries are observed in taking the depth of the water, baiting, &c.; but when the tackle is dropped into the water the stream carries it along, and the angler, keeping the top of his rod over his float, follows it down his swim, as it is called, until he reaches the end, or as far as he desires to fish, when he pulls his tackle out, and returns to the head of the swim, and recommences striking at every bob or dip of his float.
In stream fishing he must either cast his ground-bait in so far up stream that it will find bottom in his swim, or he must knead it into balls with a stone in the middle or mixed with clay, so as to silk it to the bottom at once. In choosing a swim on the banks of a river, if the angler cannot see a good stock of fish anywhere, he should choose some spot which fish may be supposed to haunt, -- spreading root, or bough, or over hanging bank with a hole under it, a deep hole near banks of weeds, or a deep eddy off some sharp stream. Here the bottom should be pretty level and free from obstructions, and the stream not too swift nor too slow, so that the float may travel steadily and evenly without hindrance throughout. If he cannot decide on any spot, let him look along the bank for places worn by the angler's feet, or where debris of bran, &c., points out that some angler has previously fished and baited the stream.
Having baited a pitch one day, it should never be neglected on the next, as the fish will have had time to find out the bait, and will perhaps be collected together there. Of course the choice of a pitch will be guided very much by the species of fish the angler desires to fish for. The places they frequent are noted hereafter. When the angler has hooked a big fish which he cannot lift out without danger to tackle, he uses a landing-net, that is, a bag-net on an iron ring fastened to the end of a pole, which he slips under the tired fish and lifts securely to the bank.
When fishing on a river bank the last words in Walton's Complete Angler are to be strictly observed, viz., "Study to be quiet," for violent disturbance or motion is fatal to sport. Having deliberately chosen a pitch and baited it, the angler should not desert it hastily, or if he leaves it for a time for another, he should return to it and give it another trial.
In angling from a punt or boat a shorter rod is used than from the bank, from 10 to 12 feet being the limit.
In the Thames plan the punt or flat-bottomed boat is fixed directly across the stream by means of two iron-shod poles which are driven into the bottom. The depth being taken, and the ground-bait thrown in, the angler, sitting with his face down stream, drops his tackle in close to the boat, and allows it to float down stream unchecked as far as the line, which is generally a yard or two longer than the rod, will permit, when he strikes, pulls up the tackle, drops it again in close to the punt, and repeats the operation time after time. In the middle of these punts there is generally a well, so that the fish when caught are kept alive in the well until the day's fishing is over.
On the Trent the method adopted is different. The punt or boat, if used at all, is fixed diagonally and not directly across the stream. A very fine and light silk line is employed, which will float easily and does not sink much at any time. A very easy-going reel or winch is used, which turning on an oiled spindle lets off the line very rapidly, and is set running with the lightest touch of the finger. The rod being held at an angle of 90°, the line is allowed to run freely, until the float and bait go sometimes as far as 50 or 60 yards down the stream, -- a plan which has many advantages, as much more ground is covered than in the restricted swim of the Thames method, and the fish are less shy in biting so far from the boat. The ground-bait is usually thrown in loosely above the punt, and generally consists of chopped worms or greaves (tallow-melters' refuse), and as the swim is so long an one the ground-bait is certain to fetch the bottom somewhere within it.
In Norfolk a different plan still is adopted. The punt is anchored lengthwise straight up and down, and the anglers fish on either side of it; but the water being usually very deep the rods are longer and the tackle heavier, and besides the moving float they have another rod, the tackle to which is so heavily weighted that the baited hook rests on the bottom, and is not to be moved by the stream-the fish picking up the bait at leisure, and the float showing the bite. This is termed "tight corking."
These are the chief methods employed in float fishing at the bottom. But other methods of fishing with a stationary bait without a float are often adopted. The ledger is the chief of these (see fig. 1 in the cut). This consists of a gut line a yard or two long, which runs through a bullet or a lump of lead pierced with a round hole. On the hook side of the line an obstruction is fastened so that the lead cannot slip down to the hook, but the line is free on the rod side of the lead. The hook being baited, the lead is dropped into the water and rests on the bottom, a tight line between the rod top and the lead being kept.
The instant a fish bites at the hook, the line being free in that direction, it is felt at the rod top, and the angler, yielding a little line to let the fish get the bait and hook well in his mouth, strikes, lifting the lead, and so hooks the fish.
Another method, called the clay-ball, is to tie a bit of stick across the line a little above the hook, which is baited with gentles and greaves, and then to weld a lump of clay and ground-bait on the line round about the bit of stick. This is dropped to the bottom, and the fish, attracted by the bal of bait, come up to devour, and in time find the baited hook and take it most unsuspectingly. Sometimes the baited hook is buried in the ball of bait, and the fish are allowed to dig it out. Sometimes a float is used in conjunction with a small clay ball to show the bites.
Another plan of bait fishing at the bottom is with a free line, with only a very light sinker of a split shot or two on the line. The hook is baited with a worm, and allowed to travel along the bottom, the bite being felt or seen in the action of the line on the water or the rod top. This is chiefly employed in trout fishing.
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