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Fishing in mid-water

How to Fish for Pike - Trolling - The Tackle, Gorge-hooks, Trace, Baits, &c.
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Under the broad and generic term of " Fishing in Mid Water," I propose to treat of trolling, spinning, sinking and roving with the dead, live, and artificial bait for the pike, and of spinning with the minnow for perch, trout and salmon. I place the pike in the place of honour, be cause those ingenious combinations of hooks and baits were specially invented to tickle his throat, and the thou sand and one contrivances in the shape of artificial baits, with their pleasant but somewhat uncomfortable appendages, are for the delectation of his avaricious maw and voracious appetite.

The most curious part of the affair is, that no one pities Esox Lucius, which by the way is the scientific name -for the fresh-water shark, who is also called " Jack," when under three pounds in weight, and pike, when he assumes more colossal proportions. He is so greedy, so tyrannical, bo savage, that everybody's hand is against him, and he h against everybody in general, and every fish in particular, he flourishes and multiplies, notwithstanding his many enemies, and he furnishes sport for the angler, which is second only to fly-fishing in variety and excitement. Bottom-fishing may be emphatically the "contemplative man's recreation," and fly-fishing the acme of angling enjoyment, but- both can only be practised in certain seasons of the year, while trolling and spinning may be pursued with more or less success in any season, in any water, and in any clime. England is, however, its home, and I recollect the feeling of horror with which an Irish angler spoke of the practice of an English " brother of the angle," who was capturing large trout in the evening on one of the most beautiful lochs in the country by spinning the minnow. This feeling is easily understood by those living in the neighbourhood of good trout streams and salmon rivers who have not been deprived of the sport of fly-fishing during their lives. But the fly-fisher living on the banks of many English streams finds it the only substitute for the higher pursuit, and those who have tried it know that it is not a bad substitute at all, and that to succeed calls forth all the skill of the angler, while at the same time it furnishes healthy exercise for body, legs, and arms.

It is a tempting subject this fishing in mid-water. Every troller can give you some anecdote or other of the omnivorous appetite of the pike, or has some pet bait with which to catch him. I can only say in this place that pike spawn generally early in March; that they deposit, their ova amid aquatic plants and weeds in shallowy streams, and then return to deep water, leaving their young to care for themselves, which they certainly manage to do from a very early age - their principal enemies being their own parents, who, when pressed fur food, do not hesitate to bolt one of its own species, though it perhaps prefers the offspring of the dace, roach, or gudgeon. A hundred anecdotes rise up in the memory of them seizing every living and moving thing from the bowl of a spoon to the hand of a child. 1 can only indicate the interesting nature of this subject, and refer the curious reader to. Mr Cholmondeley Pennell's " Book of the Pike," which is beyond dispute the most complete treatise on the subject in our voluminous angling literature. I leave this subject, and confine m y self to the mode of capture, merely remarking that as an edible the pike, when captured, is by no means a despicable dish.

The necessary outfit of a troller is somewhat different from that of the bottom and fly-fisher: in fact it should be special, if success is to be achieved or desired. The rod, fur instance, should be light, firm, strong, and easily wielded. If it could be so arranged as to be lengthened when fishing with the live bait, a rod of twelve feet long, made either of bamboo or hickory, would answer every purpose. I like a. fourteen-feet rod, but I know my case is an exceptional one. The top joint of a good trolling-rod should be made of greenhart, and hickory is allowed to be best adapted for the other joints by the common consent of the best trollers. Three tops of different lengths and elasticity are necessary, however, to suit the varieties of trolling, and the different width of rivers, and they should vary six inches in length. The end of the rod should be fitted with a knob of some hard wood to rest against the hip-joint. The rings of a trolling-rod are very different from those on a general or fly-rod. They are solid, and jut out firmly from the side of the rod, as they are formed by brazing a slightly elliptical steel hoop into a brass plate. The ring should be nearly half an inch in diameter. Mr Pennell says 7-16ths of an inch fur the middle joints, and 5-8ths of an inch for the bottom ring, which is of the pronged shape, so as to prevent as much as possible the line hitching over it. The top ring is made of various shapes, all being designed to permit the free play of the line with the minimum of any obstruction. From nine to twelve rings are necessary, according to the length of the rod, including the top and bottom rings. A well-seasoned hazel rod, fitted with solid rings, will answer for a trolling-rod. The best cheap rod is one made of along bamboo cane, similar to those hung out at the fishing-tackle shops. The rings should be smooth and finely polished, so as not to chafe the line.

The best lines are those known as eight-plait dressed silk, and should be from 50 to 80 yards long. "With respect to the reel: I have before mentioned the essentials of a good reel, and those remarks apply with great force to the reel of a trolling-rod. It should be of sufficient size to hold the line easily. It should wind by a handle fixed in the side-plate, be fitted with a check and the break-spring, so as to prevent the line paying itself out. Mr Ryder, of Ellis Street, Birmingham, has invented such a reel, which is at once light, powerful, and unaffected by either heat or damp. It is sober in colour, and principally formed of a black composition, resembling ebony. It seems almost impossible to derange its simple machinery. So manifest are its advantages that all practical fishers speak highly of it.

The troller also requires a bait-kettle, gaff, and one of the excellent-fishing knives sold by Sir Weiss, 62 Strand, which has been made from Mr Pennell's design, which combines a disgorger, minnow-needle, baiting-needle, and a pricker for fly-dressing, besides a corkserew and a stout useful blade. A series of gorge-hooks, spinning-flights, traces, swivels, as hereafter described, will also be necessary. I will commence with trolling proper, as it is gene rally understood, with the gorge-bait.

Trolling with the Gorge-Bait - The first essential for this practice is the gorge-hook, which is an instrument of somewhat deadly appearance, as will be seen by the annexed engraving, (fig.) A is a double hook, brazed back; B is the lead cast over the shank of the hook, and enclosing a twisted wire shank, which protrudes more or less, and ends in a loop, C, to which three or four feet of gimp is attached. Gimp, I may mention, is highly essential in trolling, as gut is quickly frayed and cut by the weeds and repeated casting. There are two or three cautions necessary to be given to the young troller. It is desirable that sufficient lead should be attached to the hook to sink the bait without the addition of any further sinkers. The lead should not touch the bend of the hook, as is sometimes the case, but should be left as in the engraving, A, so that the lips of the bait may close over it, as at F. To bait the hook, the loop of the gimp, E, is placed in the eye of the baiting-needle, G. The needle is then passed through the mouth of the bait, and brought out as near the centre of the tall as possible. The needle is then passed sideways through the tail at H, about the third of an inch, or less, from the end, and this, when drawn tight, so that the mouth of the fish rests upon the bend of the hook, forms the half knot, shown at C, by passing the needle through the loop. This plan is now generally adopted in preference to the older plan of tying the tail with white silk to the gimp, and stitching up the mouth of the fish. It will be seen that the tail of the fish is cut short, as shown at H.

Another form of gorge-hook, or rather, one amongst a number of other?, has recently been introduced by Mr Bernard, of Church 1'laee, Piccadilly, which, 1 think, is an improvement on any of the old forms. I have not yet had an opportunity of trying it, but, as will be seen froth the accompanying illustration, (fig) it presents some marked advantages, if they work well in practice. The shanks of the triangular hooks, A, instead of being imbedded in the lead, are attached to a piece of wire looped at the end, B, and so arranged as to open widely at the end, in the manner of the old snap-tackle. The lead, C, is cast round a hollow cylinder, to the upper end of which a shank of wire is cast, which passes through the loop of the hook-shank, B, and ends in a loop, D, to which the ordinary gimp-trace is attached. The manifest intention of the contrivance is to cause the hooks, A, on the fish being struck, to fly outwardly, as in fig., and so prevent the possibility of his releasing himself except by the failure of the tackle. I can see that the objection, in practice, to this otherwise excellent contrivance, would arise from the difficulty of releasing the bait from the body of the fish, the possibility of the spring giving way and showing the hooks too prominently after a long cast, and stretching, if not tearing open, the jaws of the bait, and catch every weed and obstruction in its path. On the other hand, there can be no doubt, that if the jack once got the head of the bait inside its mouth, it would not easily escape. There is some difference of opinion and in practice respecting the trace of the gorge-hooks. For many years I used, and many at the present time continue to use, about a foot of gimp, whipped permanently to the gorge-hook; then they attached a swivel, more gimp, sinker, and then the reel-line, if not another swivel. If the troller wishes for the sinker and the swivel, one made in this fashion (fig. 25) will be found better than merely running the wire through the middle of the lead. The swivel of the best form is shown at A. It should be of blue steel, and always kept well oiled. The lead, B, should be cast on brass or iron wire, C, and a loop loft at D, or the gut or gimp may be whipped to it at the same place. This great improvement in leads was suggested by Mr Pennell, and answers admirably. It has the additional great advantage of nearly preventing the annoying and almost inevitable " kinks " which, plagued the troller under the old system. The new school of trollers, if I may so term them, do not use a sinker except in spinning, and attach, as before stated, the reel-line to the three or four feet of gimp, as shown at E, (fig.) If the gimp is coloured with brown or green varnish, before alluded to, or clouded in the manner mentioned in the appendix, the troller may proceed with a tolerable certainty of success.

The casting of the bait is an operation requiring some attention and skill. On the Trent trollers cast the bait directly from the reel, which necessitates a long rod and great force. The more common and better plan is to uncoil sufficient, line from the reel to reach the distance you intend to cast, and let it lie free at your feet. You hold the rod in your right hand, and rest the butt against your Lip. With your left hand you draw the bait to within a yard or so of the end of the rod, allow it to swing to and fro in the direction you wish to cast, then throw it to the right or left as the case may be, withdrawing your left hand at the same time, and the line will run freely through the rings as far as it has been uncoiled. This method of casting is the same in spinning as in trolling proper. Short casts are preferred to long ones, as a rule, and the troller should bear in mind that the bait should rove about whilst the line is being drawn in by the left hand by short and gentle pulls. He collect you are fishing in mid-water, and your bait should be kept thereabouts in water of medium depth:

if very deep, nearer the surface than the bottom. The casts should be made somewhat up and from you, fishing the portion of the liver nearest you first, and then the more distant spots. If possible, the fish should enter the water head downwards, as if making a plunge, but this is scarcely possible when a long line is cast. The runs between the weeds should be carefully fished. The bait should not be lifted from the water until brought close to the troller's feet. Forty, fifty, and sixty yards is not an uncommon distance to cast a gorge-bait; long distances, however, are likely to injure the bait, and the less experienced angler casting half these distances is likely to meet with better success.

Suddenly the angler finds his bait checked - it may be a weed, possibly it is a fish. A few tugs, gentle, but with somewhat of a wrenching motion, tell that the pike is obtaining a firm hold of the bait; slacken your line in the meanwhile, Fee that there is plenty uncoiled from the reel. A slight check may be given to the bait, cither to make it appear that the bait is resisting somewhat the treatment it is receiving, or to see if it is a weed or a fish. If the latter, do not hurry him; a few minutes, from five to ten, must be allowed him to gorge the bait, as he generally seizes it in the middle first, and when " pouched," he generally moves off to his favourite haunt. If Mr Bernard's hook is used, it may be advisable to strike; but with ordinary tackle, the line may be pulled gently home, so as to allow the points of the hooks to ingratiate themselves quietly into the fish's maw.

When hooked, the fish may make violent efforts to escape, and display no little indignation. A tight line must be kept however. Keep him out of the weeds and bushes at any risk, or you will lose both tackle and fish. It will be better to risk losing the latter than both. When thoroughly exhausted, he may be brought to land; float him on his side, or he may still give you trouble, particularly if ho gets entangled among weeds. A knife gaff, or a double one, is perhaps the best assistant the troller can have to lift Esox out of the water; but beware of his teeth - they are sharp. The best plan of extracting the bait is to make a small slit in the belly where the hook is, disengage the trace from the line, and draw it through the aperture.

With respect to baits, the best of all is a gudgeon. A bleak or dace are also useful, particularly in murky weather, and when the water is cloudy. In clear weather and light water a smaller bait may be used than in high streams and dull weather. Baits should, if possible, be kept alive until about to be used, when they may be killed by a blow or two at the back of the head. When dead, they are best kept in bran. A cloth kept dump also preserves their freshness. I)o not handle the bait too much.

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