Types of Bait Used for Catching Roach
Provided the fish are in a feeding mood they will eat or sample practically anything which looks or smells edible, as long as it appears also to be natural. This means that the roach angler has a very wide range of baits, including the tiniest insects at one extreme, and large lobworms at the other.
The maggot or gentle is the larval form of the common blowfly and is in fact a very fair imitation or representation of innumerable grubs and larvae which roach are accustomed to finding in their natural haunts. This is probably the chief reason for its great efficacy as a traditional roach angler’s bait.
The size of the maggot is not itself important, although many anglers prefer to sort out the smaller maggots or ‘squats’ and retain these for, using only the largest and best for hook-bait. What is important is that the maggot should be lightly hooked in such a way that it retains its liveliness and wriggles provocatively on the hook. To ensure this the hook must be sharp, and the point is simply nicked through the tough skin at the head (which is the blunt end of the maggot).
Maggots are used on a No. 16-12 hook, singly or in pairs, when the fish seem to mistake the two maggots for one extra large one. Sometimes they are effective in bunches of three to five on a 10-8 hook, and on odd occasions roach will even feed madly on bunches of eight or more and refuse all else.
Coloured maggots are favoured by many anglers and ‘rainbow’ maggots of every possible colour can be purchased for the purpose, or the angler can stain or dye his own. In cold weather maggots should be kept in a warm place to prevent their becoming comatose, and in hot weather they should be kept cool to prevent them from turning into the chrysalis stage. Maggot dispensers which may be kept in the coat pocket during cold spells can be obtained; in hot weather the fisherman has to improvise, keeping his baits in a shady place during the day.
If maggots are kept for any length of time they produce a small, oval-shaped, brown chrysalis called a ‘caster’ when at the stage of development at which it will float, which is itself an excellent roach bait, especially when the fish are feeding on or near the surface. This is best presented singly on a 14 or 12 hook, and requires to be carefully hooked lest it splits apart. Roach often take the chrysalis bait very daintily and the slightest tremble ofshould be struck. Chrysalids can also be useful as mid-winter or bottom-fishing baits.
There are dozens of different kinds of caddis grub, and all make good roach baits. Some anglers like to hook them within the case, others prefer to remove the case first by pinching one end, at which the grub usually emerges smartly at the other. Caddis grubs look rather like maggots with legs, and are usually daintily taken. Sometimes, however, the roach take very confidently indeed and the float sails away unmistakably. Caddis grubs are difficult to keep for any time, and should be immersed in water and kept in a cool, shady place.
Practically any worm will make a good roach bait, but much depends on the mood of the fish, which often take one kind and reject another without any apparent reason. Lobworms, redworms, and brandlings are the established favourites and can be presented whole, or in pieces. The smaller worms are best whole, unless experience indicates that fastidious roach are taking only small pieces. The tail of a Iobworm is a traditional roach bait and is often highly successful. Worms can be presented on Pennel double-hook tackles, but are usually more effective for roach on single hooks, the size of the hook depending on circumstances. Small hooks are not good bait-holders and a size 8 or 10 is usually suitable for all but the very biggest worms. The angler should not be afraid to employ these occasionally on numbers 6 or even 4 hooks when.
Considering how very versatile wheat baits are it is surprising that they are always considered in second place to worm or maggot baits. When properly presented they take roach just as well, often bringing better-quality fish, and they are far less trouble to hook than worms or maggots, as well as being more wholesome to use. They are slowly receiving the recognition they deserve on waters where maggot and worm baits have recently been subject to a ban.
Wheat grains are used whole, but require stewing first so that the husk splits. Hook sizes 14-10 are suitable, according to conditions. In meadows where the wheat fields run down to the water’s edge wheat is particularly effective, especially when also used sparingly for.
Wholemeal or bleached white flour can be made into a dough which makes an excellent roach bait. Self-raising flours are best avoided, as these spoil during the day, once they are made up. Wholemeal flours produce a brownish dough which is especially attractive during the early season but needs to be presented in small pieces on a 12 or 10 hook because it tends to fall easily from the hook.
Bread paste is similar to dough but can be made up rather stiffer to suit individual preferences. It should be made from the white inside of a day-old loaf, new bread being unsuitable for paste making. The bread is well broken up in a piece of strong, clean cloth and the corners of the cloth are drawn together to make a sort of bag. The bread is kneaded well, then the cloth is dipped in the water for a few moments, and the bundle is again thoroughly kneaded to make it homogeneously wet. When removed, the cloth is screwed up and excess water is wrung out, the resulting paste being kneaded again to give it an even consistency. Opinions differ about the consistency required. Some anglers prefer a paste which falls from the hook as it is withdrawn at the end of the cast. Others like to stiffen it with flour, custard powder, or even cotton wool. Others flavour or colour the paste with honey, sugar, aniseed, or pilchard oil, using blancmange powders or custard for colouring. For general roach fishing the paste is used in pea-sized pieces moulded on a hook of about size 10, but specimen seekers like to use a walnut-sized piece on a No. 6 hook. On the frequent occasions when fish are very fussy, a tiny piece the size of a dust shot will work wonders, on the very point of a very small hook.
For bread flakes only new bread is suitable, the flaky white inner bread being used. A small piece is pressed on the bend of the hook and remains in place by its own plasticity. The outer irregular flaky edges should be left as they are, as these swell up in the water and pieces break off and drift down ahead of the bait to present an appetizer which brings the fish in search of the hook bait. Care must be taken that the harder nucleus of pressed bread is not masking the hook point, as this would seriously impair quick penetration.
The outer crust from old or new bread is a tempting bait for roach, especially during winter, and when presented as a slowly sinking bait. Irregular pieces about a quarter of an inch long can be used, or the crust may be cut off in little squares. The hook should pass right through the crust to the other side. Then the point is brought back through so that the crust sits on the bend of the hook but leaves the point clear.
`Bread crumb’ is the inner layer of bread immediately under the crust. The bait is used as flake or crust and often makes a very tempting bait.
Stale bread cut in quarter-inch cubes is a very effective bait during the winter and also during the early season. The hook is worked into the cube so that the point is not showing, but is nevertheless close to the surface. The cube falls from the hook easily, but is worth trying just the same.
Cheese makes an excellent legering bait. Fresh slab cheese, softened between the fingers andmoulded on the hooklike paste, will frequently tempt the fish when no other bait succeeds. The cheese may alternatively be used in cubes or mixed with bread paste to give a cheese flavour which is very useful when cheese is in short supply and bread paste plentiful. Many anglers use softer cheeses such as Danish Blue or Gorgonzola with great success.
Silkweed is the green thread-like weed found on masonry, piles, and lock gates and it is an excellent roach bait during the early season, before the fish work into deeper water. The hook is simply drawn through the weed so that strands cling to it. These are wrapped about the shank or bend several times to prevent the weed coming too easily off the hook. Silkweed can be collected and used with considerable success in streams which are not in the immediate vicinity of weirs or locks. It must, however, be kept in water in a shady place or it will deteriorate very quickly.
Hempseed and bird seed is boiled gently until the husk splits and the white plumule appears through the split. Soft-cased seeds can be hooked through the case, but hemp is placed on the bend of the hook, which is inserted into the split in the case. The case is springy enough to clip on the hook bend and hold the seed in position. Use a small hook; sizes 14-10 are best. The angler requires very good reflexes to strike hemp bites successfully.
Other baits include elderberry, which is fished like hemp, and often used in conjunction with it; freshwater shrimps, which, hooked in the bend of the back, are effective in many waters; and freshwater molluscs such as mussels and snails. Woodlice, beetles, moths, caterpillars, slugs, and pond skaters all have their uses when the angler’s supply of baits is low, and cereals such as pearl barley can also be valuable. Wasp grubs, baked to improve their toughness, are also excellent baits, and bloodworms and boiled potato and macaroni are all useful at times. Presentation is half the battle when seeking roach. Most edible substances will take fish under the right conditions when properly fished.
Ground-bait may be made up from old bread crusts soaked in water and then kneaded to remove surplus water until a pasty consistency is achieved and the mixtures can be thickened with porridge, rusk and bran. It may be obtained in prepared packets from the tackle dealer. The secret of successful ground-baiting is ‘little and often’, with a small piece of the ground-bait wrapped about the hook-bait at every other cast.
The substance used as a hook-bait can itself be used as ground-bait, simply by feeding a little into the swim at intervals. Maggot anglers often use swim-feeders to do this. Those using paste or cheese like to throw in a small pellet near the hook at intervals. Care must be taken not to provide so much ground-bait that the fish have no desire to search for the hook-bait. With experience you will learn how to cast an eye over the swim first so as to discover where the ground-bait should be thrown in order to reach the bottom in the vicinity of the hook-bait. In still waters, ground-baiting should be very sparing indeed as there is no current to disperse the ground-bait once it reaches bottom, and it may go sour in a day or so if too much is used, temporarily spoiling an otherwise fruitful swim.