Back to the hard number 1 pit, in early May, and we both had a culture shock – not a bite in seven hours. Back again three days later, another seven hour session for one bite between us; it came to my rod, a 3lb perch to a single Barbie with a maggot feeder. Not used to such a struggle we had odd trips back to number 2 pit, finding a few roach willing to feed but with a best of only 1lb 4oz. It was clear the bulk of them had gone off to spawn, but the perch were back. We had several fish including a couple of 2lbs plus, to the Barbie’s again, but it was much slower without the roach.
Another trip to the number 1 pit gave Steve a perch of 2lb 14oz on a bait he hoped would attract tench. It consisted of three maggots on a number 12 hook, a live red, a live white, and a Barbie. Next time out it brought him a 3lb perch, and a few days later a tench of 4lbs 14oz. Around the same time he hooked a large eel which he lost after a big battle. He then made a return visit to number 2 pit for one small roach and a 14lb carp: all this to his triple maggot bait. He decided to stick with that bait for the three weeks or so until the end of the close season. At six outings a week he still had about twenty more sessions.
A major difference between the two of us is that Steve doesn’t bother with flavours, while I always do. This I feel is a good difference as it removes any doubt about whether the attraction is mainly from the flavour, rather than the artificial itself. We caught on both. So far I have tried spicy flavours in the coldest weather, and Pineapple, Coconut, Maple, and Peach in the spring; I’ve caught on all of them.
My own fishing during May and up to June the fifteenth was poor, one, or maybe two, bites in a session – sometimes a blank. I had a few perch over 2lbs, to a best of 2lb 14oz, all on Barbie’s but it was really slow going. May is the main breeding period for several species, so unless you have a good tench water (they usually spawn sometime in June) there’s not a lot to go at. Still, this quiet period gave me time to absorb everything I had learned, but there remained the big question: why did the Barbies score so strongly?
I believe there are several reasons. First, longevity. No matter how many pulls or abortive takes you get on the bait, you know it will still be there. No need to wind in to check for a squashed maggot or a crushed caster. Next, visibility. It’s very unlikely to be missed by any cruising fish, and I have proved its garish colour certainly doesn’t put them off. Yet for me the biggest point in its favour is its buoyancy, so I spent some time experimenting with the Barbies in my fish tank: this tank was purchased purely for bait testing purposes and has never had a fish in it.
The first thing I found was that the standard maggot sized artificial will counter-balance the weight of most hooks up to a size 12; that means that it will be just as easy for a cautious fish to pick up as a live maggot. Because of this counter-balancing its unlikely ever to get embedded in weed or bottom debris. In fact, experiment with hook sizes and you’ll find you can present the bait with the hook just touching the bottom and the maggot just clear of it– in effect a wafter. There was more.
If you check the rig photo in the last feature, Barbie 2, you can clearly see the shot I place close to the hook to keep the comparatively heavy line, 0.24 diameter, pinned down. If that shot is slid back closer to the main line it leaves four inches or more of weightless hook link. This allows the Barbie to actually lift the hook a little, and it can hover about half an inch off the bottom. That could well be the ultimate presentation, and I can’t wait to try it out with the feeder on the Trent. There’s also the stick float and the waggler to try: to be able to bump the bottom shot along the river bed without the hook catching up on anything might be a major step forward. To be continued.