The oddities of hemp

Silverfisher

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With the river season finally just around the corner my minds turning back to hemp fishing which I fell in love with again last season after at least a couple seasons of not really doing it. Early season always gets me wondering why it takes hemp a while to start working properly so thought I’d see what others think of it?

I find I can generally catch a few fish on hemp within a week of the season starting but it tends to be pushing a week into July before I can bag up on it or sometimes mid July some seasons. Do people think the fish need a few weeks of seeing it before it becomes part of their diet or is it simply that the fish aren’t really where they should be in the rivers early season so aren’t there to eat it? Or is it something more scientific environmentally speaking? I find it stops working here at some point in October/November whenever the rivers really colour up which makes sense as it’s not very visual but I’ve never really figured out why it takes say anything from a couple weeks to a month into the season before you can really bag up on it.

Another point is how even once at the stage of the year that the fish are properly feeding on hemp it can take a little while into the session before it works. Now locally this can be anything from a quarter hour to an hour and a quarter most of the time so not very long at all. Yet on other rivers I often hear people saying it can take at least a couple hours which is probably the longest I’ve ever had to wait here. Seems strange for it to vary so much river to river.

Bit of a ramble whilst on my lunch break but just be interested to hear people’s thoughts as it does seem to be one of fishing’s mysteries to me 🤔
 

MarkW

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I think that post spawning roach undergo changes in their diet as they regain condition over the following weeks. Exactly what they are eating in early/mid/late June is open to conjecture but may include a lot of silkweed, though the most vigorous eating of silkweed I have witnessed was at the start of August in Throop New Weir (roach to over 3-8!). I have been catching roach on a local stillwater as part of my videoing over the past month and there is no doubt that post-spawning the roach are very hungry (for maggots). There is also the aspect of roach spreading out a lot after spawning, not re-shoaling until later in the summer.
 

Silverfisher

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Interesting stuff 👍🏻

I’m definitely with you on the spreading out point as I don’t catch many river roach on anything let alone hemp in those first couple weeks so guess when they reach their summer stations on mass come July they start competing for hemp more. Interesting on the natural diet as well, guess they could indeed be just not that interested in baits those first couple weeks. And yes the Stillwater roach here have been gorging maggots as well whilst caster has barely worked at all 🤔
 

Dogbert

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Why is hemp an effective bait? Does it mimic a natural food, such as freshwater mussel spats? Or do the fish “learn” that it is a tasty morsel by the normal process of sampling items that get carried along with the current. If it is the latter, that might account for the initial delay in getting the fish going on it.
 

Silverfisher

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Why is hemp an effective bait? Does it mimic a natural food, such as freshwater mussel spats? Or do the fish “learn” that it is a tasty morsel by the normal process of sampling items that get carried along with the current. If it is the latter, that might account for the initial delay in getting the fish going on it.
All good questions! Combination of sound, smell, crunch and when it's clear visual I reckon. And yes I reckon there could be something in them having to learn what it is each time to explain the delay in them switching onto it 🤔
 

Dogbert

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All good questions! Combination of sound, smell, crunch and when it's clear visual I reckon. And yes I reckon there could be something in them having to learn what it is each time to explain the delay in them switching onto it 🤔
If that is the case, then it makes sense to start feeding hemp as soon as you arrive at the swim and continue as you are setting up.
 

Zerkalo

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I’m probably wrong but I don’t think there are enough roach on the middle Severn to make it that worthwhile hemp on the hook. On maggot you get dace, chub and chublets, and perch. Would love to fish your area of the Thames as hemp fishing is something I don’t have a clue about.
 

MarkW

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I’m probably wrong but I don’t think there are enough roach on the middle Severn to make it that worthwhile hemp on the hook. On maggot you get dace, chub and chublets, and perch. Would love to fish your area of the Thames as hemp fishing is something I don’t have a clue about.
There are roach in parts on the middle Severn, or at least there used to be, with some found at Arley, Bewdley and definitely from Stourport down. They are likely to be localised which is exactly what I find on the Stour.
 

Silverfisher

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If that is the case, then it makes sense to start feeding hemp as soon as you arrive at the swim and continue as you are setting up.
Yes that’s what I tend to do as I’ve found it cuts down waiting like an hour or so for it to work to comfortably less than half an hour on some stretches. Still takes over an hour on other stretches though so is definitely a odd thing 🤔

I’m probably wrong but I don’t think there are enough roach on the middle Severn to make it that worthwhile hemp on the hook. On maggot you get dace, chub and chublets, and perch. Would love to fish your area of the Thames as hemp fishing is something I don’t have a clue about.
I have no idea tbh mate but one way to find out I guess! Have caught a few roach on the middle severn but they’ve certainly been outnumbered by Dace. And yeah you should head over this way and give it a go! It can work well on the warks Avon as well but generally not as consistently as on the Thames where it’s the main method simply because there’s a lot of roach and even more bleak!
 

rudd

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Hemp mimics small snails in size, crunchy shell, soft middle and attractant (signals).
It contains high levels of two amino acids, two other acids plus has an easily digested protein (25% protein).
Rich in healthy fats containing omega 6 and 3.
High levels of vitamin E, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, sulfur, magnesium, calcium, iron and zinc.
 

rd115

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Hemp mimics small snails in size, crunchy shell, soft middle and attractant (signals).
It contains high levels of two amino acids, two other acids plus has an easily digested protein (25% protein).
Rich in healthy fats containing omega 6 and 3.
High levels of vitamin E, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, sulfur, magnesium, calcium, iron and zinc.

Sod the fish, might start eating hemp seed myself :p
 

PJG

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When the water is clear hemp can be the only bait that the roach will take. Roach can definately tell the difference between hemp and other hook baits such as tares, urid beans, artificial hemp, etc, etc. Hemp (like wheat) can be very venue specific in that some places it works well and on others it's poor. For instance, brill on the Thames but usually rubbish on the Kennet.
 

NoCarpPlease

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I’m probably wrong but I don’t think there are enough roach on the middle Severn to make it that worthwhile hemp on the hook. On maggot you get dace, chub and chublets, and perch. Would love to fish your area of the Thames as hemp fishing is something I don’t have a clue about.
SeVern roach tend to be a secondary match target through the summer, when traditionally hemp is more effective. Maggot is the boss bait during the winter.
having said that ... we catch on hemp with frost on the ground in places like the old Nene and town Welland!

The middle Warks Avon (around Stratford) has had a real roach explosion in the last couple of years. Not big fish, but good weight builders. With the water clarity last year it was a real hemp river ... you’d catch three to four times as much on the seed as on maggot or caster. It was also noticeable how few dace were in the river compared to previous years.

Dace and Chub also eat hemp ... in fact Tares can be an excellent bait for picking out chub amongst smaller fish.
 

JayD

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The last few years have seen an massive increase in bleak on the Yorkshire Ouse, so I've been using hemp a lot more, sometimes on it's own, or with tares. I caught more roach of a decent size, along with chub, dace, gudgeon and even the occasional bleak, and minnow when using just hemp. With tares I get fewer bites but no bleak, gudgeon or minnows. I've also been trying beluga lentils on the hook, they look just like hemp, but slightly bigger, and if cooked right, can be hooked just like a tare, the roach, chub etc, don't seem to mind. I've also used sweetcorn, sometimes whole, or even cut in half, with pretty good results.
One consequence of the explosion in the bleak population is that there's also been one in the pike numbers to compensate, and every trip last year had pike taking fish, or attacking my keepnet, mind you I had them out to 12lb.

John.
 

Silverfisher

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When the water is clear hemp can be the only bait that the roach will take. Roach can definately tell the difference between hemp and other hook baits such as tares, urid beans, artificial hemp, etc, etc.
That’s a good point, I almost exclusively use hemp on the hook over the likes of tares now as it works much more consistently for me.


The middle Warks Avon (around Stratford) has had a real roach explosion in the last couple of years. Not big fish, but good weight builders. With the water clarity last year it was a real hemp river ... you’d catch three to four times as much on the seed as on maggot or caster. It was also noticeable how few dace were in the river compared to previous years.

Dace and Chub also eat hemp ... in fact Tares can be an excellent bait for picking out chub amongst smaller fish.
That sounds promising on the Avon I might take a run up there soon as haven’t fished it in a couple years. Used to find it more of a mixed bag job as opposed to very roachy like the Thames but I like the sound of roach explosion!

And yes after roach dace and chub are the next most common hemp catches for me followed by silver bream and occasionally skimmers and thankfully the very occasional bleak.

The last few years have seen an massive increase in bleak on the Yorkshire Ouse, so I've been using hemp a lot more, sometimes on it's own, or with tares. I caught more roach of a decent size, along with chub, dace, gudgeon and even the occasional bleak, and minnow when using just hemp. With tares I get fewer bites but no bleak, gudgeon or minnows.
One consequence of the explosion in the bleak population is that there's also been one in the pike numbers to compensate, and every trip last year had pike taking fish, or attacking my keepnet, mind you I had them out to 12lb.
Sounds similar to here in that it’s the bleak that force you to use hemp and that hemp alone almost always outscores hemp and tares numbers wise and often does size wise as well. And we’ve had a pike boom as well, on some stretches you get literally loads of attacks every session.
 

Robwooly

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I’m probably wrong but I don’t think there are enough roach on the middle Severn to make it that worthwhile hemp on the hook. On maggot you get dace, chub and chublets, and perch. Would love to fish your area of the Thames as hemp fishing is something I don’t have a clue about.
There's defo enough roach to warrant trotting hemp on the Middle Severn, you'll get lots of chub too and the odd good dace, what you wont get is the masses of tiny dace or too many bleak, often they make it suicidal fishing maggot unless you take gallons or find somewhere perchy.

I can also draw comparisons with pellet and with that I'd say water clarity is paramount. I have two rivers near me, one gin clear the other coloured. I'm 100% confident I'll catch roach and barbel trotting pellet on 16th on the clear one but wouldn't do well on the coloured one fishing the same way. Could be that rivers like the Thames and Severn and many others need to gain that clarity before hemp or pellet become effective as a moving bait there, after all neither of them are the most visible of baits.

It would be interesting to know has anyone had consistent hemp success on a coloured river?
 

Silverfisher

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I can also draw comparisons with pellet and with that I'd say water clarity is paramount. I have two rivers near me, one gin clear the other coloured. I'm 100% confident I'll catch roach and barbel trotting pellet on 16th on the clear one but wouldn't do well on the coloured one fishing the same way. Could be that rivers like the Thames and Severn and many others need to gain that clarity before hemp or pellet become effective as a moving bait there, after all neither of them are the most visible of baits.

It would be interesting to know has anyone had consistent hemp success on a coloured river?
It definitely needs to be fairly clear for it to work here. You don’t need it crystal clear but it certainly requires decent visibility. Not sure that explains it taking a couple weeks to start working though as it’s generally pretty clear from day one here but it colouring up around October/November certainly coincides with it stopping working.
 

MarkW

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I still think it's time of year and changes to the roach's diet that turns them on to hemp by July. In October as the water cools they tend to go off it except for places with huge concentrations of roach. I caught on a coloured Thames on tares in August 2019; I had no choice but to use tares and elderberries as I was returning from a trip to Leicester and hemp and tares was a bait I could keep fresh for a couple of days with icepacks.

The Stour has an early season diatom bloom which it has at the moment and that will clear by early July and it's long been recognised that it doesn't fish that well generally until it clears.
 

Silverfisher

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I still think it's time of year and changes to the roach's diet that turns them on to hemp by July. In October as the water cools they tend to go off it except for places with huge concentrations of roach.
Yes I think that must be the main factor with it being the most scientific one with them having to get used to seeing it and them simply taking a bit of time to get to their summer into autumn residences being contributory factors rather than primary causes 🤔
 
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