by Neil Pegrum
on the Kennet & Avon canal
Hemp seed used on its own is one of the best roach baits available as it has been for many years, although the seed will catch other species it’s the roach including some fine specimens that have fallen under its spell at any time of the year with the autumn being the most productive time.
Hemp seed this can be bought from your tackle shop already cooked and prepared and ready to use but a cheaper option is to buy some uncooked seed from a seed merchant or pet food supplier and cook your own, bearing in mind that the seed expands to approximately twice its size when cooked use two and a half times the amount of water to seed in a saucepan bring to the boil and simmer until the seeds split and small white shoots start to appear on about half the seeds strain under cold water to halt the cooking process and bag up ready to use, adding bicarbonate of soda to the water before cooking turns the seed shell black or adding sugar will make the seed shell shiny, Half a pint usually is enough for most sessions and as cooked hemp freezes well two or three pints can be cooked up at one go with the surplus put in the freezer for future use.
As hemp can be used in any part of the swim rod & reel, pole or whip can all be used to good effect, small floats using very small shot or style leads fished just on or off the bottom, 16-22 fine wire hooks pound and a half main line with pound hook lengths complete the set up but don’t be afraid to increase this if the fish start to get larger. Shot sizes larger than no 8 can often be mistaken for grains of hemp causing false bites, which is why style leads are favored.
Fishing with hemp can be a waiting game but the secret is in the feeding selecting the feeding line with the bottom of the near or far shelves preferred a continuous steady stream of seed is introduced only a few grains at a time but very regular, the response can sometimes be instant or waiting an hour or two is sometimes required but the rewards are normally worth the wait, pushing the back of the hook into the seed making sure that the hook point is visible and starting off fishing just of the bottom and staying alert as bites are more often than not very quick and a large number are normally missed unless your having one of those red letter days where you connect with most of them then you can fill your wellies.
Two good hook baits that work with hemp are tares and barley mainly because they are a lot easier to hook and they stand out over bed of hemp. Tares are prepared by boiling a handful in a saucepan of water for a few minutes adding a teaspoonful of bicarbonate of soda to the water to blacken the tares, barley is prepared in a similar way but without the bicarbonate, after cooking some straight out of the packet which should be white, try adding some black food dye to a second batch as there are days when show a preference for one color or the other, both these hook baits cook a lot quicker than hemp and barley when used on its own has accounted for quite a few summer tench and bream.
Other uses for hemp is as a feed with caster or pinkies as the hemp has the effect of holding fish over the feeding area better than most other attracters and keeping them feeding with roach, tench and carp being the most likely catch.