OK… thinking of a session at a pool that has previously had a ‘close season’ between mid-March and mid-June in which fishing has not been allowed. However, I’ve just found out that for 2013 at least the close season has been abolished and that re-instatement or not of the close season for 2014 will be under consideration – presumably depending on angling results but reckon more weighted by the effects, if any, on the fish and other wildlife – and the behaviour of the anglers, of course. The pool has a great head of tench and has appeared on TV in one of Matt Hayes ‘Rod Race’ series when they were targetting the crucian carp athat also abound… and it also holds a good head of perch, some of excellent size. And for a £5 day ticket is excellent value.
Anyway, I came into the information on the pool being open from a comment of another local angler, who is also famous for his angling blogs – and who also inspired this one of mine…. Stewart Bloor, The Angling Rev (*) :)
Which brings me neatly to the subject of hemp preparation – and my way of doing it :)
As Stewart says in his blog there’s 2 ways of getting your baits – pre-prepped and bagged from the shops or to buy the bulk materials and prep your own. My preference is for the latter on 2 counts … (1) for the cost of 2-3Kg of pre-prepped stuff you can make 5-6Kg easily of your own and (b) you are not limited to flavours or flavour levels as may be available commercially. And DIY is very easy and consumes very little time….
In fact, I prepare 99% of my own seed/nut baits – tiger nuts being the only one I can think of that I actually have in a commercial package, and that because they were ‘on sale’! :) I prep my own yellow and red maize, hemp, chick pea, etc. otherwise.
OK – the nitty gritty of home prep…. in this case I’m going through prepping hemp – all are very similar but may take longer soaks/boils, etc….
Firstly – get your seed! A quick peruse on the internet I found 15Kg available for £30 inc shipping on eBay. And its almost certainly not impossible that you can better this. Try local pet shops, etc. Also remember that 15Kg of dry seed will actually produce 30/40 or more Kg of prepped seed.
Next step is to soak the seed to be prepped – I generally prep 500g at a time – so weigh/approximate the amount you need into a saucepan or other container that can be heated – add a teaspoon of Sodium Bicarbonate (this will help blacken the seed case and also helps the splitting at the boiling stage) – and then cover with cold water and let stand overnight or longer if possible. At this stage you can also add any flavourings you desire – as the seeds soak then they will also take in the added flavour. My personal preference is for Hot Chili, so at this stage I add 1 heaped table spoon of Extra Hot Chili powder to the soaking liquor. Check every now and then and add extra water as needed to keep the seed covered.
Now on to the (normally) final stage… which is the boil. There are 2 ways of doing this…
(1) Place your saucepan or container, with the seeds and liquor still intact (do NOT drain and replace liquor although extra water may be added to it to bring to a level suitable for boiling) on the cooker ring and turn up and start boiling, stirring occasionally to prevent burning the seeds on the pan bottom. Once boiling, turn down the heat to let the seeds simmer… and leave like this until they are done. The simmering will probably take about an hour by which time a large number of the seeds will have cracked open – evidenced by a white shoot showing from the split seed casing… at this point remove from the heat and allow to cool naturally… and when cool then virtually 90% of the seeds will have visible shoots showing. If not, then just return to the heat, return to the boil, simmer another 15 mins or so, and allow to cool again. Continue boil/cool cycle as long as you need to to get the finished product… but usually one re-boil is sufficient if the original boil came up short. Drain off liquor (HINT: drain the liquor into a plastic milk bottle or similar and fridge for use in groundbait prep at the water’s side).
(2) The way I do it… I have a microwave pressure cooker… so I add my liquor/seed mix to that… and microwave on full power (700W, I think) for 20-30 mins. Remove the vessel from the microwave and allow to cool… check contents… re-microwave again as necessary until perfection is reached. Drain, keeping liquor as per version 1.
OK – that’s it really – but there are a couple of things you can do to the prepped seeds that may help attraction…
(1) Add a tablespoon of sugar and/or salt to the cooked seeds to ‘sweeten’ them. NOTE: do NOT add salt to the steeping liquor before boiling as it can act adversely and prevent the seeds splitting properly I’m told.
(2) If you intend to use the hemp in PVA bags then it needs to be dried out well. I do this by allowing an initial prolonged draining period in a sieve with occasional agitation/stirring to get as much dampness out as possible, then then placing on a tray in the oven at LOW temp (fan assisted best) remembering we don’t want to cook the seed, just dry it. Move the seeds around from time to time until they seem quite dry and remove from the oven. And then finally, place the prepped and dried seeds in a plastic bag, add a tea spoon of olive/vegetable/whatever-you-fancy-but-not-motor oil, inflate the bag and seal the neck and shake to coat the seeds uniformly. Then store as usual.
That’s it for today then…. :)
(*) See Stewart’s blogs at: http://www.sicm.org/anglingdiary/