If someone were to describe a freshwater bait that took hours to discover, entailed wading and sifting through thin, black mud, needed careful preparation and eventually required the finest hooks and line to present it, they would no doubt be referring to the bloodworm. But, despite these many problems, this tiny bait has an enormous success rate. In fact, it is such a killer that it has been banned from use in angling matches in the past and remains banned in many areas.

Collecting bloodworms

The largest bloodworms will be found in stagnant water. Those that inhabit running water are somewhat smaller in size and are referred to by the angler as ‘jokers’. The traditional instrument used for their capture is a long firm pole some 5ft in length. To one end of this is fastened a thin strip of pliable aluminium at least lift long. This strip can be bent into various angles to suit the depth of water that is being searched, and the scraper is sliced through the top surface of mud a short distance out from the bank, with an even motion that traps the worms by folding them over its leading edge. After each sweep the worms can be gently slid off the scraper into a tin or plastic box. The whole action is rather like scything grass and takes practice to perfect. Polarized sunglasses can be a great help in allowing the angler to see and follow the contours of the bottom.

An easier, though more messy, method is to net bloodworms with a shrimping type of frame using a nylon stocking as the net. More worms will be collected by this method, but with considerably more mud and slime attached.

Once enough have been collected, they must be carefully washed to rid them of mud and slime, using nylon for a sieve and sifting out the worms under running water. Washed clean, it is possible to separate them into hook and groundbait sizes.

What you will then be’ left with is a tangled mass of worms, twigs, leaves and weeds. Sorting out this little lot will take hours and so the Northern professional scrapers have perfected a way of ensuring that only live, neat bloodworms are separated. The simple process involves half submerging a good sized maggot riddle in a dustbin lid with about 2in of water in it. The whole gooey mess is then spread on top of the riddle and within five minutes every living bloodworm will have found its way through the mesh into the water below. Pour the water into a fine sieve and you will be left with thousands of clean, bright red beauties; simple once you know how.

Storing lively bloodworms

They should be stored separately in moist, black garden peat which has been crushed and broken until it is a fine dust. Not only will this keep the larvae alive and active, but also provide a binding medium for those that are going to be used as groundbait. The peat forms a black carpet across the bottom of the swim which is, in itself, an attraction. If hookbaits are kept for any length of time, they should be packed into damp moss and stood in a refrigerator where they will normally remain useful for several weeks.

Hooking bloodworms is an art. Naturally, only the smallest hooks, sizes 2022, will be fine enough to match the small bait. Hooks should be mounted on fib or, at the most, 1lb b.s. Hook links. The easiest method of hooking is to lay the bloodworm on to the thumbnail, then pierce one end of the worm with the point of the hook and gently ease it over the barb.

Need for small floats

The float is a very important item in bloodworm fishing. Often the bait will be taken ‘on the drop’ and, if the angler is counting on small fish to make up his weight in a competition, he will be fishing a mere 1218in below the surface. This means that the float must be small, require only few small shot to cock it, and that these shot be mounted into, or immediately below, its body. Above all, that part which shows through the surface must be as thin as possible so that the smallest touch on the bait will produce an immediate response.

Tightline tactics

A tightline tactic pays excellent dividends with bloodworm fishing, and the roach pole is probably the best instrument by which to apply it. Its easy style of casting will also prevent undue strain on the bait, which is so delicate that it will usually be thrown off the hook by a longdistance cast.

When a long pole is being used to present the bait, a barbless hook is by far the best for the job as it causes minimal disturbance to the outer skin of the worm, thus preserving the natural colour and juices that fish find so attractive.