Loach: (Nemecheilus barbatula) Fishing Methods
There are two species of loach, the stone loach (Nemecheilus barbatula), which is by far the commoner, and the spined loach (Cobitis taenia), which is not found in Scotland, Ireland, or Wales, and in England seems to be limited to the Midlands and Wiltshire. The spined loach takes its name from the two spines situated one on each side of its head.
Both species of loach are of a brown, mottled colour and average about 7.5 cm (3 ins) in length. Around the mouth they have a cluster of six barbels, or feelers, which vary in size between the species, the stone loach having two long and four short, and the spined loach six of equal length. Loach may be confused by the inexperienced with GUDGEON or with very young BARBEL, but the number of barbels will readily identify them. The loach has six, the barbel four, and the gudgeon only two. An unusual feature of the loach is its scales, which lie flat and do not overlap.
Both species make excellentand live-bait for PERCH, PIKE, TROUT, and SALMON. Loach fished alive on tackle have also accounted for Barbel.
The stone loach may be found in fast-flowing streams and brooks in most parts of the British Isles; it is also found quite frequently in canals and in still waters. Its favourite hiding place is among the stones on the bottom. Being almost entirely carnivorous, it is always ready to make a meal of any aquatic creature small enough for it to tackle that the current brings near. Spined loach have similar habits.
Loach are rarely fished for deliberately except as bait. The best way of catching them is therefore the simplest and quickest, namely, with a net. A triangular landing-net frame which has been fitted with a fine meshed net (minnow mesh) and attached to a 1.2 m (4 ft) handle is ideal. It is best to wade in the stream with the net moving ahead along the bottom. Swift movements of the net around the larger stones should catch plenty of fish.
If you have loach bait left over at the end of the day’s fishing, you can take them home, sort them into size groups, and preserve them in formalin solution for use later as spinning baits. Incidentally, loach caught in sufficient numbers and cooked soon after catching are reckoned to be a delicacy.