Loosefeeding can be a problem on fast flowing rivers. Often your feed is washed downstream, attracting fish away from the swim rather than keeping them there. Bait droppers and swimfeeders may help but where there’s a lot of weed they can increase the chance of your tackle becoming snagged. This is where a frozen hemp block can score.
Provided you aren’t going to fish farther out than you can throw it, a frozen hemp block thawing slowly in your swim delivers a steady trickle of bait right where you want it. Furthermore it sends out an appetizing slick of hemp ‘soup’ that no fish could ignore. It’s similar to the effect on us of the smell of bacon wafting up the stairs on a Sunday morning— could you resist?
Making your block
Put about two-thirds of an ice cream container full of hemp into a saucepan and add plenty of cold water. Leave the hemp to soak overnight. After soaking, check that there is still plenty of water covering the hemp, place the pan on a high heat and bring it to the boil. Once the water is bubbling merrily, cover and allow it to simmer for about 20-25 minutes. When about half of the grains have split to reveal the white kernels inside, turn off the heat but leave the pan where it is. While the brew cools the hemp stews its own juice, causing the remaining grains to split.
Cut a short length of cord and tie a loop at each end. The loops should be about 10cm long and the gap between the knots 5cm less than the length of the ice cream container. Ladle the cool hemp into the container until it’s half full. Now add the cord, keeping the loops up against the sides of the container. Ladle in the rest of the hemp. Gently pour in the remaining hemp soup until it just covers the hemp. Make sure the hemp is quite cold before covering with cling film and freezing or else you’ll make the freezer work overtime and may damage it.
Using the block
When you arrive at your swim, knock the block from its mould and attach a cord to one loop and a weight to the other. Think before you throw. The head of a swim is the best place to introduce the bait, and a gravel run between weed where you can put a float or leger is ideal. Carefully swing the hemp block out into the river and let it settle on the river bed. Allow the cord to sink, then attach the end to a bankstick. The hemp begins to thaw and, depending on the temperature of the water, may take anything from 20 minutes to an hour to melt completely. As the block melts, grains drift off suspended in little pieces of ice, sending a trail downstream and drawing fish right up to the hookbait. Once the block has melted you can retrieve the cord.
This method is ideal for attracting barbel, chub, roach and dace. Try fishing tares, sweetcorn, bread or luncheon meat just below the block.