When Sid first started match fishing on the drains and slow rivers of the Fens he was so successful that the late Eddie Townsin, one of Fenland’s legendary match aces, invited him to join his team. ‘I later learned he was keen to find out how I managed to catch so many quality bream,’ recalls Sid. ‘Imagine his surprise when he discovered I was using paste!’
Firm but soft enough
The base of Sid’s paste then was stale bread, left in a cupboard for two or three days to firm up. He would cut off and discard the crusts, then damp down the remaining bread with milk and mould it in his hands until it was just the right texture — firm enough to cast out, yet soft enough to come off the hook on the strike. ‘This way you built up a carpet of paste in your swim, ready for a shoal of bream to home in on,’ he explains. ‘Paste also has to be soft for the hookpoint to penetrate fully when you strike into a fish.’
It wasn’t long before Sid was experimenting with different flavourings, such as vanilla, and colourings like various food dyes. He also found that substituting flour for stale bread works well when you need to fish a small bait on a size 16-18 hook for skimmers or finicky bream. ‘Flour paste is stickier, so it stays on such a small hook better. With bread-based pastes you need at least a size 14 hook for it to stay on when you cast.’ He remembers fishing a match at Reed Fen near March and catching 18 lb of skimmers averaging 8oz on yellow, vanilla flavoured flour paste on a small hook while all around him struggled.
Groundbait paste ‘Anglers nowadays don’t experiment half as much with bait as we used to,’ says Sid. ‘For instance, how many, I wonder, have sat there Ashless and thought about moulding some groundbait into a paste and trying it on the hook? Not many, I bet. Yet on its day it can be devastating for bream, especially on waters where bread is noted as a good bait. Better still, the night before, mix • I’m talking about 100 lb plus winning weights – the owners banned it!’
Fishing with paste ‘It’s essential,’ reminds Sid, ‘that you mix a paste bait soft enough to allow a clean strike. This makes paste prone to fly off the hook if you cast too vigorously. To help you cast more smoothly, use a heavier bomb than usual and feather it down into the water to avoid it snatching. ‘A heavier bomb also makes it easier to tighten up without moving a groundbait paste hookbait. Groundbait paste is certainly not a bait you can twitch – once it’s there, leave it there to dissolve around the hook, then just wait for a big old slab to come along and suck it all in!’ and mould some of the groundbait you plan to use the next day, and pop it into the fridge. You’re more likely to try it if it’s already prepared.’
Try your own recipes ’Really the sky’s the limit when it comes to paste baits,’ says Sid, ‘whether they’re based on bread, flour, groundbait or even trout pellets. Today there are so many different colourings and flavourings sold in tackle shops that you can try – not to mention all the different continental ground-baits. Experiment with proportions of different ingredients, always remembering that a little flavouring goes a long way. ‘You never know, you might come up with your own secret deadly recipe – like the regulars at Biggin Lake, Oundle. They were so successful in matches with a paste based on trout pellets and turmeric powder