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Bite Alarms

As I've said before, fishing sessions are like buses, and this month I managed three very enjoyable and productive sessions.

For my first session I went to Robin Wood Fishery. I float fished my Redmayne & Todd rod and Mitchell Match reel, with red maggots on a size 14 hook. Temperatures went from the low to mid-fifties with a mixture of sunshine and showers. Carp were topping and rolling as I baited up swims in the margins and a few rod lengths out. Several Roach and Skimmers graced my landing net and I also landed plenty of good sized Gudgeon.

The next session was on a warmer, drier day at Beechwood Park. I fished a quiet peg on the usual lake, with a recently purchased Ernest Stamford rod and my trusty Mitchell 300 reel. Live and dead red maggots on a size 16 hook regularly enticed Roach along with several Common and Mirror Carp, weighing between 3 and 4lbs.

My final session this month was at Mill Dam, one of my favourite places to fish. It was a sunny Saturday morning and three other anglers were ledgering when I arrived at 9am. Float fishing red maggots were my tactics for the day, and it wasn't long before I was into the Perch in the margins. I fished until about 1pm and landed a good number of Perch. A short session with temperatures in the mid-sixties by lunchtime. A pleasant return to Mill Dam.

As an angler who occasionally fishes for Carp, I've not really had much interest in using bite alarms. I prefer bobbins, swing tips and the sound of the reel to signal a bite when ledgering. I've occasionally seen vintage bite alarms for sale and toyed with the idea of buying a pair to add to my collection for, those occasional days ledgering. Recently I saw a pair of Beacon bite alarms for sale online and took a punt and bought them.

Buying the bite alarms made me think about the progress of fishing tackle over the ages and I did some research. From the early days of fishing with a rod and line for sport, anglers used floats made from cork, wood or quill.

As new materials became available in the twentieth century, fishing tackle developed, giving anglers more choice. As with any interest or hobby becoming popular, people get more competitive. Add to that fishing magazines, networking face-to-face - the old fashioned way - and the need for more information. Also, Carp fishing became more competitive and one of the early Carp records was caught near where I live, at Mapperley Reservoir in 1930 weighing 26lb.

Mr Crabtree coiled line under his reel when ledgering for larger fish and Arthur Ransome mentions tin foil over his line to indicate a bite. These methods may not sound very sophisticated by modern standards, but they were fit for purpose at the time, and cheap! Using bite indicators was part of what Arthur Ransome called ‘letting your rod fish on your behalf, rather than holding it in your hand" and watching a float or a fly. Bite alarms enabled anglers to sit away from the water, relax and more importantly, not scare the fish.

As technology moved on, silver foil, washing up liquid tops and aerosol can tops were replaced with bobbins and “monkey climbers”. It looks like Dick Walker developed the first bite alarm in the 1950's, and the Heron was a success. Available in cream or grey plastic, they buzzed and had a light to indicate a bite. A down side to the Heron alarms was that they were wired to a power pack containing the battery. Although contrary to the belief of some anglers at the time, they didn't electrocute the fish!

The Heron was virtually the only bite alarm on the marked until the late 1970's. Then Carp anglers Del Romang and Kim Donaldson created conversions to update the Heron. According to the Delkinm website; Del and Kim put they their names together to create Delkim, originally set up to develop bait flavours.

My Beacon alarms were produced around this time. They have antennas, similar to the Heron alarm, although the Heron, by some accounts, was over-engineered and too fragile for the die-hard Carp angler. Del Romang’s early endeavors using parts from the Heron alarms were getting noticed by some well-known Carp anglers. Utilizing G.P.O. speakers from old telephones, electronic circuitry and L.E.D’s, the Heron was converted. Anglers could send their Heron alarms to be updated, establishing Delkim as a contender in the bite alarm industry.

The innovative Optonic alarms were released commercially in the early 1980’s. They had new features but were more importantly, dependable, which made Delkin the benchmark for bite alarms to come. The conversion for the Optomics ended in the mid-eighties due to legal issues – apparently from Efgeeco – which caused Kim Donaldson to leave Delkin.

Del Romang wanted to develop his own bite alarms instead of converting existing alarms and the Vibration System was literally dreamt up, then running fishing line over a stylus on a record player! After several years of development it was finally ready in 1992.

Other manufactures of bite alarms during the 1980’s included Soundmaster, Rolon and Efgeeco, which developed the Sundridge bite alarm. Later Sundridge models had the batteries in the head unit as batteries got smaller, and a light sensitive sensor which made it reliable a serious competitor for Delkin.

Beyond these years we get into more familiar tackle names such as Fox and Nash who developed their own alarms and will probably be written about as vintage and retro some day.

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