The chrysalis, or pupa, of the fly is known to anglers as a caster. At this point in its lifecycle (from egg to grub, or maggot, to pupa, to fly) it is an excellent bait. First made popular by match anglers in roach waters, some experts consider casters to be the most important new bait adopted in recent years. Although the maggot remains the most popular general bait, the time may be near when the caster will have replaced it. As well as roach, chub and dace are partial to it and it has accounted for bream, gudgeon and tench. When first introduced to a stretch of water the fish may be uninterested but, once sampled, every caster is likely to be taken. Casters can be purchased from a tackle shop or bait dealer and kept in a refrigerator for about a week.
By putting the casters in water any floaters can be removed as they appear. You will find that the casters vary in colour. Casters of a uniform dark red colour—the favourite—can be achieved quite simply. On the evening before use, wrap all the casters in a wet towel and leave in a bucket overnight. Next morning all the casters will be the same colour.
The choice of hook size will be governed by the size of the caster. The biggest you can use will probably be a 14, but generally a 16 or 18 will be necessary. The hook must be buried in the caster. Hold the caster between thumb and forefinger and, with the hook in the other hand, pierce the head of the caster with the point. Turn the hook very gently into the caster and, with some of the shank still showing, lightly tap the top of the shank until the hook sinks into the caster.
Casters may be fished singly, or in twos, threes and fours. In deepish, fast flowing water, casters are best introduced as groundbait. Where there are plenty of fish and they start to take, you can put as many as two dozen casters in every cast.
This bait can also be used in combination with other small bait, such as worm tail, hempseed or tares. When groundbaiting the swim with a mixture of hemp, it is essential to make sure the casters are fast sinkers. Floaters drift with the flow and could attract fish out of the swim.
Big fish bait
Casters are not just smallfish bait— fairly good bream, chub and barbel have been caught on casters. But big fish require larger hooks with more than one caster placed on the hook. As a rough guide, a 10 lb barbel might take a bunch of five casters on a size 12 hook. But an 1 1lb 8oz barbel has been known to take a small bunch of maggots with a single caster on the tip of the hook.
When fishing deep water at long range, a quantity of casters can be mixed with a cereal groundbait to resemble a ‘plum duff’ with crunchy casters worked into the groundbait ball. Thrown into the top of a swim by hand, the ball will drop quickly to the bottom before breaking up—an ideal groundbaiting method when ledgering casters. Little and often is always a good maxim when groundbaiting with casters because it is easy to overfeed the swim so the fish lose interest.
When fished singly, casters need fine and delicate tackle. An easycasting rod is advisable when fished far off—too vigorous a cast will flick the bait off the hook. Quality casters are thought to be a good roach bait on any canal or river. With the approach of autumn they can be unbeatable on some waters.
Casters work best on clear waters, so when a river is coloured it may pay to revert to the maggot.