Most anglers look upon fruiting riverside bushes as a seasonal bonus. Some place such value on fruit that they preserve berry baits in season and experiment with some really exotic fruits.
A fish will examine and investigate anything and everything that enters the water. Throw a piece of paper or cigarette end onto the surface of a river or lake on a warm, sunny day and in nine cases out of ten a fish will appear to look it over—even, in many cases, to mouth it. Nothing is ignored except perhaps the splash of a large stone, and even then, when the disturbance has settled, fish will move back into the area, searching the bottom for food that may have been dislodged.
This natural inquisitiveness can be used to great advantage by the angler, especially during those blazing hot summer days when few fish | seem to be interested in feeding on u natural baits fished in the tradi-ij tional style. Something new and unusual in the way of bait should be brought into play, and various types of fruit—even those totally unrelated to the natural diet of fish —can be especially successful. Cherries, bananas, strawberries and blackberries are the usual summer fruit baits.
Fruit baits should be used where fish are known to be lying, and only when the water is so warm that they are likely to be up to, or just below the surface. Naturally this means that the fish are just as likely to spot the angler as the bait that is offered, and no bright clothing should be worn which could frighten away to the fish before you begin.
It naturally follows that the angler must also consider his position on the bank to safeguard against his shadow falling across the water, and to ensure that he does not stand out against the skyline, especially when trying to establish the location of a fish or shoal. Polarized sunglasses are an essential and money spent on a good pair will be repaid several times in a season, in terms of landed fish.
To fish a fruit bait in the same way as a bunch of maggots is to take away the element of interest that is a major part of its attraction. Fruit bait fishing is freeline fishing, and the rod, reel and line that you use should be balanced to cast a light bait accurately. Long rods designed for float or match fishing are not usually successful. If a float is an ab-solute necessity , then the self-cocking variety with a large top is a sensible choice. This can be seen easily from a distance, as could a split cork, slid onto the line and painted bright red. Don’t worry about fish spotting the colour; it does not seem to be associated for them with baited hooks.
Tender summer fruits should be kept in a light container that can easily be carried by an angler in a pocket or shoulder bag. Flimsy paper bags or heavy boxes can be a nuisance, since fruit baits are associated with a roving style of fishing, and unnecessary disturbance can be caused if frequent trips have to be made backwards and forwards to re-bait from a central point.
Blackberries and strawberries should be used whole, despite their large size. Bananas should be cut and freshly peeled a piece at a time, so that the unused portion is kept away from the air which will soften and discolour it. Thin discs cut right across the fruit can be hooked at one edge and allowed to flutter and roll attractively in the stream.
Cherries need to have the stone removed and this should be done carefully, working with as small an incision into the side of the fruit as possible. Once emptied, a suitably sized hook can be threaded into the opening and out through the sides. An alternative method is to use a small treble that can be pushed into the opening and the flesh of the fruit squeezed over it. Glace and tinned cherries are all convenient substitutes that mount easily without the stoning problem, but these naturally cost much more than the fresh bait. Snowberry, a large, white, soft fruit, is often seen as a decorative hedge in gardens. Picked and used while they are still fresh, snowber nes float on top or sink extremely slowly and enticingly, and although fish may never have seen them before—as with all the fruit baits described here—they are first-rate attractors.
No fish will show a keener interest in a fruit bait than the chub, and the art of chub fishing lies in observing or anticipating where the shoal or individual fish lie, then in casting accurately to the spot. Some ground-baiting is essential, and small, inferior fruits, or pieces of the hook offering chopped into small pieces and thrown upstream, are ideal. A degree of accuracy is needed, otherwise the groundbait will sink out of sight, or worse, alarm the fish. Once interest has been shown, the whole fruit, hook-mounted, can follow with as tight a line as possible kept between it and the rod. When the bait is taken, delay the strike for a few seconds, at least until the fish turns away with it. If the take cannot be seen but has been felt, delay your instinctive reaction to strike with the first bump, and wait until the line starts to move across the surface.
Banana chunks can also be used for laying-on as a carp and bream bait: a large cube mounted onto a hook of the right size shows clearly against the dark bottom. But its very softness can produce casting problems, the slightest jerk being sufficient to flick it off the hook. Fish can also suck at the bait until it works free from the hook. An obvious solution to both these problems is to use a fine treble hook, threading it through the banana cube with a baiting needle and gently pulling it into place. (You may bury the barb.) Two baits that fall into the fruit category, but which are fished differently, are sultanas and raisins.
Although rarely used on their own, they are exceptionally useful as a hook bait used in conjunction with a groundbait of loose hempseed. Their large size tends to produce a slow, steady bite when fish are snatching at the hemp.
Sultanas and raisins should be washed in cold water, then scalded in hot and left to soak for 24 hours before use. If they are then strained and stored in an airtight box to keep them damp, they will sink when mounted onto the hook. The size of sultanas makes them ideal laying-on bait where hemp has been used in a swim. This method frequently picks up the bigger fish which make no attempt to struggle for sinking grains.
Elderberries need to be gathered when they are just ripe and light purple in colour, not left until they become black, soft and squashy. Sufficient should be gathered for a full year and those not used im mediately preserved in a mixture of formalin, stored in airtight jars and kept in reserve. Berries treated in this way take on a hard skin, and last well on the hook.
Although the most common and effective way of presenting a fruit bait is by freelining, there are occasions when tremendous bags of fish can be taken using conventional float tactics. The most favoured bait is the elderberry, mainly because it is ‘natural’ to many waters but also because it is small enough to be used as a groundbait without fear of overfeeding the fish you are after.
Obviously the angler should look for an overhanging elderberry bush and, if the fruits are ripe, fish will be underneath the bush feeding. If there is a little wind, so much the better as that will take care of the groundbaiting while you concentrate on the fishing.
Stick float tackle
For small stream work, a lightly shotted stick float with a single elderberry on a size 12 hook should be allowed to swim down to the overhanging bush. On reaching the shaded area beneath the bush, stop the float’s progress with your index finger on the spool of the reel. This will make the bait rise and when the finger is released the chub will see a succulent elderberry dropping through the water.
Where the roots of the bush extend into the water, few chub are likely to be landed on normal stick float tackle, so you will need thicker line plus bigger hooks. Use 5lb-6lb line and a size 8 hook with up to six elderberries carefully threaded round the bend will attract the bigger specimens and effectively deter small fish.
As it is difficult to present a light float correctly with such robust tackle, the angler should creep quietly to the elderbush and gently lower away into the tangled roots. When you get a bite, it is essential to drag the fish free before it has time to bury itself and, once in open water, the battle can commence.