This page has now been totally re-written using just a little of the original pages information.
An earlier version, the Mark 3.
Reasons behind the idea.
Sitting on the river bank for many hours, as we Anglers do, we are able to ponder all sorts of things. But the main question I wanted to get to grips with was how to pick any stretch on a river thatís deep and unknown, from a fish point of view, and set myself up in such a way as to give myself the best chance of hooking a barbel, that I couldnít locate by sight. There are some cracking looking stretches on the Trent, and just a glance would tell us that there must be fish there, but with no discerning features, shallows or creases on some stretches, how would we know where to cast. I needed to find a way of producing a scent trail that would last for hours, ( because Iím a believer of leaving it in once itís in ), and even if my rig rolled around before finally settling, the trail would always need to lead back to my hook bait and not itís first settling point. A tour round my local tackle shops didnít solve the problem as there were no commercially available feeders designed to do the job that I would need them to do. The idea was going to need some serious thought!
I'd fished with other anglers who had used PVA bags and method feeders, and even used a cage ground bait feeder myself, but none of these ideas were really to my liking. If your lead/PVA rig or feeder were to roll after a couple of minutes, then your freebies/scent-trail would not lead back to your hook bait, and whilst you could add more lead using PVA, there is still the fact that even if you are managing to hold in a good flow, your freebies may well be quickly washed away downstream by the current having absolutely no benefit, and leaving nothing to draw the fish towards where they need to be. I wanted a cage feeder to keep everything together no matter what, so I decided that I should try making my own feeders using a shop bought cage, put a lid and a bottom on it, add some weights to them and give them a go.
The idea certainly worked, but various problems meant that modifications were necessary, and have finally resulted in a truly unique design that I now use through the summer before switching over to my home made ground bait feeders through the winter. They are also a lot easier to make and more reliable, and my Mark 5's are also pretty heavy.
Making a feeder.
I buy a sheet of 6 x 6mm galvanised mesh from Wickes which is 900 x 600mm and costs less than £5. From this I make all of my pellet and ground bait feeders, and the only other bits required are some very small cable ties, an assortment of leads and some power gum or nylon.
To make things a little easier, I cut out most of the feeder in one piece, meaning that I only need to cut out a small separate piece to form the hinged lid. Its a little tricky folding the mesh in to the required shape, but I've found that a piece of planed timber helps to try and get those folds as close to a nice neat right angle as possible. Once folded, I use a couple of cable ties to hold it in shape to allow the fitting of the leads. I have to cut out one or two cross members of the mesh so that the legs of the pigs can pass in to the inside of the feeder, and then be folded down to secure it in place using a large pair of pliers. I always fit the leads to the side that has been joined by the cable ties just to make it look that bit neater, and I prefer to use power gum to create the attaching loop which can either be tied to the mesh or around the folded lip of the lead.
I have quite an assortment of leads from 70g up to 170g that I use for all my feeders these days, and the feeder above on the right was the initial outcome of my first range of modifications. You can see that the lid is held in place by three cable ties which act as a hinge, and the Mark 4's were a big improvement on the earlier models resulting in plenty of fish being caught using them. However even this model wasn't perfect, simply because it was square, and had a tendency to occasionally roll even with a 170g weight attached to it. Obviously balance was important, so it was back to the drawing board with the idea of making my feeders shallower in depth and wider, so that I could fit two leads in a ski arrangement meaning the potential for an extremely weighty feeder.
These are the resulting feeders after a few seasons of trials and tribulations, and are the main set up that I use all summer, every summer. The one on the left hand side above has two 70g leads on it, whilst the one on the right has two 110g leads on it and is only used in extreme summer floods. Again they have caught plenty of fish and I felt very honoured when Bob Roberts and Stuart Walker included them in Volume III of their Barbel Days and Ways DVD's. Several other anglers that I know, have also made their own versions of my feeders, and have been doing pretty well on them too, made even more interesting because we have been able to see what goes on under water thanks to Bob and Stu.
The picture above on the left shows the difference between the Mark 4's and 5's, considering that they have virtually the same amount of weight on them. All I do is fill them about three quarters full with a mixture of pellets, close the lid and lock it in place with another cable tie. The pellets will now do their job in attracting the fish to me, but we have still found that blanks are possible if the fish aren't in a feeding mood.
The ground bait feeders that I make are very quick and simple as you can see below. Generally I make them using the 150g and 170g pigs as they are only used in the winter when there's always more flow than there was in the summer. Even so they are pretty big when compared to standard shop bought ones and can weigh up to 9oz when fully loaded.