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Natural Baits For Fishing

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

Natural Baits-The small natural fishes upon which the ravenous pike, prowling perch, and dashing trout of our fresh waters largely subsist, are, however, the most reliable baits for general spinning, and for their utilisation there is an ample choice of flights and hooks at the service of the angler. The earlier kinds of spinning flights consisted of two or three sets of strong triangles with perhaps a single hook for insertion in the lip. For salmon or trout such hooks are mounted upon treble or single gut to suit the magnitude of the fish to be caught. The formidable teeth of the pike, and the serrated interior, of his gaping mouth, render it necessary, however, to approach him with stronger gear, and the hooks should be fastened to a six-inch length of gimp, or a special adaptation of wire. The two objects which the spinner must primarily keep in view are (1) the employment of swivelled traces and bait fashioned so as to ensure regular spinning, bringing the bait though the water in, as far as possible, a natural course and manner of progression ; and (2) regulation of the advancing object at a speed and depth suitable to the habits of the fish and the force, colour, and depth of the water. Spinning, if properly studied, requires intelligent study of the circumstances of the day. In fairly flowing rivers, the current will, in practised hands, like the action of the rod in fly fishing, do much of the work for the angler, while in a lake or dead pool he must rely entirely upon his own dexterity, unless he indulges in the harling or trailing in which the boatmen play a leading part. It must be repeated that the paramount essential is that the bait spins properly. The salmon- or trout-fisher who uses the phantom, spoon, or minnow may reckon upon the encouraging assistance of a lively current, which, in a measure, if he understands how to humour it, will take charge of the bait, and present it in the most perfect manner to the fish over which it travels ; when the line is trailed from the stern of a boat a like advantage is ensured by the intelligently-calculated rowing of an experienced boatman. Anglers who havecarefully studied the habits of the pike, which is the fish par excellence for the spinning-rod, frequently differ in opinion upon one point, viz., is it best that the bait should spin in a straight line, or in a series of jerks and gyrations ? In this, as in everything else (notably in wet- and dry-fly fishing), it will be found that the best man in the long run is he who can adapt himself to all conditions. There are times when a pike that will run half-heartedly at the bait which represents a smaller fish moving in a decorously straight track, will rush savagely at the imitation which, by a different fixing of the tackle, is induced to progress in a series of awkward and fantastic evolutions. The theory is that the appearance of a roach swimming at ease was apparently noticed without excitement, while the suggestion that here was a wounded or feeble creature, trying to escape, aroused the sharkish propensities of the wolf of the waters.

The duty devolving upon the angler, any where and at all times, is plain : if one method fails, try another. One of the most important considerations, yet one commonly overlooked in spinning, is the weighting of the bait to correspond with the character of the water fished. The latest tackles devised for spinning with natural baits have been brought to a high state of effectiveness ; there are endless contrivances for fastening the hooks to the dead fish, and for concealing the weight necessary for sinking it in its own body. This is without question better than leads, detachable or permanent, affixed a foot or so up the trace ; with certain tackles, these are, however, unavoidable, but a double splash is inevitable when the bait is cast forth by the spinning-rod. The bait leaded within itself, on the contrary, may, skilfully treated, be made to fall lightly, with but one disturbance. The detachable lead carries the distinct advantage of enabling the angler to weight his gear to suit the different conditions of water.

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