Breadpaste is one of the oldest and probably most successful baits. Correctly mixed – and surprisingly few anglers can do it properly – it is a very effective offering, capable of catching most species at all times of the season. Many of the past Thames anglers used little else, while as a roach and bream bait, even today, it has few equals.
Paste must be made from an old loaf, four days old at least. The loaf is prepared by removing the crusts then cutting it into slices an inch thick. Take one slice and dip it into a bowl of water, removing it almost immediately. Placing it into the palm of one hand, knead it into a paste with the other hand. Keep kneading until all the lumps have disappeared and it is soft. Now repeat the procedure with each slice in turn until you have sufficient for your fishing needs.
Put all the balls of paste together and knead the mixture, making sure that the texture is right by adding water if necessary. The texture is most important. The paste should be soft but not tacky. Should any stick to your fingers, mix another slice to a slightly drier consistency and work in. The final kneading should be made immediately prior to fishing. Place a piece on the hook, cast and retrieve. If it remains on the hook during the retrieve it is too hard; if it flies off during casting it is too soft. Adjust it accordingly.
Mixing the paste
Mixing paste should be done over a clean bowl, for if the bread is right it will crumble. (If it doesn’t it is not old enough.) Pick up the fallen pieces and mix them in with the paste. New – even fairly new bread – will not make good paste; the results are glutinous, slightly grey in colour and contain lumps. Stale bread does not go lumpy, the texture is constant and it retains its whiteness. And whiteness is part of the bait’s attraction because it can be seen clearly by the fish.
When mixed, the paste should be kept in a clean plastic box, wrapped in a clean cloth. At all times it must be shielded from the sun; if not, a thin crust will form, rendering the outside useless for fishing.
At one time it was recommended that oils and aniseed should be add-ed to the paste to make it even more attractive to the fish. In my ex-perience, however, this is not necessary. Nevertheless, there is one additive that has been found to be very successful – custard powder. Sprinkle some custard powder in a bowl, place the paste on to it and mix thoroughly until the paste is bright yellow in colour. Both the smell and colour attract fish, especially roach, bream and dace.
A favourite trick of Northern canal anglers is to add a few crystals of red maggot dye to the bait as they press the mix together. Red vegetable dye works equally well, but remember to aim for a pink shade, not a deep red, so be sparing and add only a little dye at a time. Halve the paste and add a little more dye to one half so that a colour change of bait is available.
The angler is now equipped with paste that is white, custard yellow and two shades of pink. It is quite extraordinary how the fish react to these variations of colour in dif-ferent weather and water conditions.
Some anglers mould their paste on to the hook in a pear shape. While this does not prevent fish eating it, the author prefers to use it rough, simply pinching it on to the hook lightly with the minimum fuss. The less paste is handled, the better.
Hook sizes suitable for breadpaste range from 4 to 20 depending on the fish sought. For roach, bream, dace and grayling, 14 to 20 are right; chub, bream, tench and sometimes large roach need size 10; 8 for chub and barbel; 4 or 6 for carp.
Neither paste nor bread is a natural bait, but it is nevertheless unlikely that big fish will not have come into contact with it in some form, at some time or other. Feeding the ducks, throwing left-over sandwiches out of a boat, abandoning groundbaits after a day’s fishing: all these help educate fish to a diet of bread and groundbait mixture, so groundbaiting in its usual sense is unnecessary. It is better to cast the paste to the likeliest spot and simply scatter around it half a dozen tiny balls of the same bait. Each moulded ball becomes soft in the water and presents an appetizer which is not substantial enough to overfeed.
Match fishermen prefer to use finely sieved cereal groundbait. Mixed lightly, this provides an in-teresting cloud in the water through which a tiny piece of paste on a size 20 hook is presented. Small fish will often feed with abandon on these offerings, and their frenzied activity brings along better sized specimens.
Casting with paste
Because paste is a very soft bait if properly mixed, great care must be taken when casting. While overhead casts can be made without paste and hook parting company, in most situations a sideways cast is preferable. To ensure that the paste remains on the hook, the cast must be a smooth one: the least jerk and the bait will either fly off or partially dislodge itself from the hook. Most trouble arises when casting into wind when a more powerful cast is required. This should not deter the would-be paste fisherman, however. A powerful cast does not necessarily mean a jerky one. Keep it smooth and no trouble will arise. Smooth cast or not, the hook must be the same size as the bait; if it is not this will only encourage the paste to come adrift. It is probably safe to say that it is the problem of keeping paste on the hook which stops so many anglers from using it.
One very effective, yet comparatively little-used bait is balanced crust. This comprises a carefully judged mixture of bread crust and paste. Mainly a Stillwater bait, balanced crust is popular for carp fishing over mud or weed.
It is most important to get the right proportions of the ingredients.
If properly balanced, the bait takes a minute or two to sink and, when it does, sinks slowly, finally coming to rest on the surface of the mud or silkweed without actually sinking e into it. When the bait does settle, ,: the line should emerge from o underneath, thus making it almost impossible for a fish to touch it with its lips as it takes in or investigates the bait by mouthing it.
To make balanced crust, a piece of crust is taken from a new loaf and placed on the bend of the hook. The paste – made up to the consistency described earlier – is then moulded round the hook shank. Too much paste and the bait will sink too quickly and may become partially submerged into the mud or weed; too little paste and it will float.
Balanced crust is a ‘big fish’ bait and calls for big hooks to match, ranging from 2 to 10. For carp 2, 4 and 6 are suitable; tench, bream and chub need size 8, roach size 10. Should fish be biting shyly, 10s will suffice for all species with the excep-tion of carp. The hook size should be such that the point and part of the bend protrude from the crust, with the paste added until it is level with the top of the shank.
Balanced crust is a fairly tough bait and quite powerful casts can be made using the minimum of lead. Providing the paste is mixed cor-rectly, and the hook is large enough, it will withstand an overhead cast.