Super baits aren’t always rocket science – ask granddad

Great young angler Robbie Northman from North Walsham with a chub caught on surface lure..another su

Great young angler Robbie Northman from North Walsham with a chub caught on surface lure..another super bait! Picture: John Bailey - Credit: Archant

All game anglers will know the story of the expert who fished the whole trout season long with a single nymph pattern and absolutely nothing else, wet or dry.

Unsurprisingly, he had one of his best years ever, proving it is how you fish, how you present what is on your hook that actually counts above all else. Mind you, that knowledge does not stop us all from wishing that we might one day stumble upon the super bait to end all others.

From Isaak Walton's day, and before, anglers have searched and have prayed to find the fishing equivalent of the alchemist's gold. In the distant past, super baits included dock grubs, indescribable animal body parts and a magical offering called bullock's pith. I've searched long and hard through my angling career and come across many bullocks, but never their pith, I'm afraid.

Today, of course, the bait scene is markedly different. As a lad, I'd wander into a 1960s tackle shop and there would be barely any bait for sale at all. Maggots perhaps, some casters if you were lucky and that would be about it. For the rest, we'd make do with bread and worms almost entirely. Now, a trip to the tackle shop is a boily minefield. You will be asked to choose between boilies of every colour of the rainbow, in sizes from a pea to a cannon ball. Pop-ups, slow-sinks, waiverers and another hundred terms that you need a degree to interpret. I have to say I'm hooked. I have to admit, even as a traditionalist, that there is something in boilies that fish love. When the going gets tough, the boilies get fish going and there is no doubt about that. Still a super bait...? I'm still looking.

Of course, naturals work for me. I've long written about my passion for lobworms, or I should say the passion the fish I catch seem to show. This spring, I absolutely reaped a bonanza of tench and bream by using caddis grubs, shucked from their elaborate shells. They caught when nothing else did. For two weeks, they really were, yes, super. I've even caught on slugs this year.

However, I'd like to talk about a roach event, an extravaganza that happened to me just the other weekend. I was fishing in clear, sunlit river water. For four hours, my fishing was exhilarating, exhausting and infuriating. In front of me, glowing in the summer sun, were scores of roach, some big, all gorgeous, all taking me back through decade after decade of roach passion.

They wouldn't have corn. No way. Caddis, too, were rejected. The roach would come, sniff them and turn up their delicate little noses. In fact, it wasn't until I reached for my loaf of sliced white that the afternoon turned round for me.

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Bread. It was like reeling my life back to a 1970s summer. Flake worked for me all those years ago when it was my true love and my only super bait. And it worked for me in 2017.

What is it about bread that makes it so irresistible to roach especially? Well, that afternoon, I could pick a piece of flake of the exact size I needed to cover any hook from an 8 to an 18. I could squeeze the flake as firmly or as loosely as I needed to control its sink rate, vital in the crystal clear water column. What I noticed were legions of small fish attacking the flake as it drifted down with the current, pulling shreds off here and there. It was that activity that suckered the big fish in to investigate. Fired by competitive instinct and passion for flake, again and again good roach sucked my offering in.

I didn't always get it right. The very biggest fish took a tiny piece of flake on a size 18. I should have known better. Such a tiny shard of metal never stood a chance of finding a hook hold and the big fish simply rolled, shook his head and glided off free. No fool like an old fool, eh, but I can't beat my super bait for that.

There is an old Isaak-type tip that I've always found works for me. If you're using any part of your loaf then smear it with a tad of honey. It seems to work with floating crust for carp and it certainly works when fishing flake for roach. Bread and honey? Super baits our great-granddads would have recognised.

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