It’s a balmy day in mid summer. Only mad dogs and fishermen go out in such midday sun, but these are ideal conditions for surface-feeding fish. Creeping silently along the river bank you come across a swim where you can see a languid carp or a large chub. Farther out a sudden swirl on the surface reveals a feeding shoal of rudd. It’s no use thrashing the water with the usual maggots or boilies. These are just going to sink. The fun is in catching the fish on the surface – but to do this you need to have the right bait.
Bread crust has always been used as a surface bait. Provided it is fresh it should float well. You can use it in cubes of varying size, depending on the type of fish you want to catch. For large carp use a piece the size of a matchbox on a size 4 or 2 hook. Rudd or roach will take smaller pieces on size 12 or 10 hooks. Dace eat smaller pieces still. Boilies have all the natural buoyancy of a brick – they won’t float unless you make them. Two ways of coaxing these prime carp baits into floating are to fill them with polystyrene or to boil them further. To fill with polystyrene, cut off the top with a knife and make a hole in the middle of the boilie with a sharp instrument – a drill bit is ideal. Now put a polystyrene ball – of the sort you find in packaging or bean-bags – into the hole and seal the top back on using a little instant glue. It’s an easy enough job that can be done at the waterside.
An even easier method, provided you have planned beforehand, is to microwave or boil your boilies for a few minutes. The only problem is the smell. If they are pre-flavoured, it is pretty intoxicating – a kitchen full of the aroma of tutti frutti or strawberry yoghurt is very whiffy!
A further choice is given by proprietary floating boilies. These are prepared exactly as normal bottom-fished boilies and simply baked for twice as long in the machines. Casters are pupated maggots. They normally sink, but the ones that are nearly ready to hatch into flies are lighter in weight and known as ‘floaters’. They are good for rudd and chub, will catch carp and can also account for dace – a species that won’t take the larger baits. Cereals such as Sugar Puffs can prove effective surface baits – soak them in water for 15 seconds and strain them off. They lack weight for casting so they might need the addition of a controller. Floating bait mixes can be successful but the mixes are not available at all tackle shops. Add egg to the mixture, following the instructions on the packet, whisk and bake it well to make sure it floats. The arrival of floating boilies has hit this bait’s popularity – though it is easy enough to prepare. Marshmallows sound an unlikely food to be used as bait — but fished whole on a large hook for carp they have proved effective. Pet food biscuit is one of the best of all floating baits. Cat and dog biscuits are as effective as floating bait mixes but at a considerably lower price. Chub and carp in particular enjoy it. Mixer biscuits with cut patterns are handy for attaching to your hook, while the rest can be either drilled or soaked for a while until they are soft enough to put a hook through. An additional alternative is to Superglue them to the hook. You can add flavourings while you soak them.
Trout pellets were originally prepared as food for fish farms, but these high protein pellets were discovered by carp anglers and for several years were the in bait. Normally they are ground into paste but it is possible to drill them and fish them on the surface. Trout pellets can be bought in pet shops.