There are days on every water when none of your usual baits catch any fish. That’s the time to step outside the ordinary and try something special—peas, beans or pasta.
The well-equipped angler going for a day’s fishing will prepare and take with him a range of traditional hook baits—those which fish normally find in a water, or those clearly representing their natural food.
However, there is often a day when traditional baits will not in-terest a fish, or a water where the fish have become bait-shy and wary of anything offered, no matter how well the angler may have prepared or presented it.
When the traditional fails to attract the fish, it is time to try to tempt them with something new and interesting. Three baits that fall into this category are peas, beans and various types of macaroni and pasta. Each has its own particular method of preparation and style of fishing, and used on the right type of water they can achieve success where other baits have failed.
Essentially a summer bait, green peas are excellent when fished for roach and chub in running water. They are a delicate bait and a little time must be spent over their selection. Two types will be needed; a heavy well-soaked variety that will sink rapidly and remain in the swim, and a lighter, larger type for the hook that can work with the current as it travels downstream.
Dried peas, carefully soaked for 24 hours and then lightly boiled until soft, but not split, makes an ideal groundbait. A little sugar added to the water during the boiling makes them sweeter, but take care not to add too much so that they become sticky—a teaspoonful to 1lb of peas is ample. After cooking they should be strained and cooled under cold, running water to stop the boiling process, and then stored in an air-tight box and kept cool until re-quired. Left exposed to the air they will dry out and float away on the surface when thrown into the swim.
Several brands of tinned peas —not the tinned processed or mar-rowfat variety—make excellent hookbait, and provide a startling contrast in colour and weight to the dried sort. The tin should not be opened until the fishing begins, and the liquid should not be emptied out.
Presentation is all-important, and a long rod—lift or more—capable of controlling a long-trotted rig with matching line of no stronger than 5lb breaking strain are ideal. Hook sizes up to 10 are best, and the single pea should be mounted by lightly nicking the outer skin.
Choose a swim where the water is really fast—at the tail of a weir, where the banks narrow and compress the current or where a side stream joins the main flow—and groundbait with a small handful of dried peas thrown well upstream. These can be followed by smaller, irregular offerings to attract, but not overfeed, the fish.
To ensure that the hookbait moves enticingly through the swim, it is advisable to fasten the last split shot at least 8in above the hook, and to add a little extra depth by raising the float so that the bait will not rise too far above the bottom. An alternative method, useful where the swim is shallow, is to use a self-cocking float with one very light shot pinched on to the trace so that the hookbait will roll and lift through the swim, particularly when the float is occasionally checked in its downstream path.
There are several other uses for peas as an angling bait. They can be combined with hempseed and used as a groundbait in a ratio of two thirds hemp, one third peas. Once fish are on the feed—and especially when they reach the ‘snatching’ stage of feeding—a green pea mounted on the hook will often produce a fish with every cast.
Beans, either the haricot or butter variety, used as a still water bait are appreciated by bream, carp and tench during the early season. Often fish need to get used to them, but once they have been accepted, the angler will welcome beans as a clean, easy-to-use bait that produces firm and steady bites.
Haricot beans—small and hard skinned—make an excellent bait after being soaked for at least 24 hours, then boiled gently. They can be improved by being stewed in a pan of milk for a further half hour after they have been boiled.
Most anglers who have tried haricot beans as a bait and met failure either have not paid suffi-cient attention to the soaking and cooking process, or have failed to persevere with the bait and ‘educate’ the fish into accepting it. If cooking is hurried the skin of the bean will day before they are required and the liquid content thrown away. The beans should then be soaked in a mixture of sugar and water or honey and water, at a ratio of one teas-poonful to the pint, before being drained and packed.
Ledgering and laying-on are the accepted methods for presenting beans. The swim should be ground-baited for several evenings before the day of use. Bait a swim as near to the bank as possible, for with such a fragile bait, even when mounted on a large (6 or 8) hook, there is every possibility of it flying off during a long cast. Fished close to the bank there is an opportunity for the bait to be freelined. The sen- – 5 feeding on elvers into accepting it. However, properly prepared and used with a little imagination and the correct tackle, it can prove a success with many fish, including roach, dace, chub and bream.
Of the many types and sizes of macaroni on the market, the quick-cook variety is best for both size and ease of preparation. A pound is more than sufficient for a day, and this should be boiled slowly until it has swollen to the point of becoming floppy but not sloppy. Some firmness is essential, otherwise ground-bait cannot be prepared.
Because of its bulk, traditional baiting would quickly overfeed fish, so groundbait is prepared by the painstaking and time-consuming method of cutting a large quantity of pieces into smaller lengths, a job better accomplished at home before the outing. When cut, the macaroni should be washed in water and then, while still wet, sealed until required.
An alternative to the cutting of macaroni strips for groundbait is to use noodles in their stead. Packs of noodles from the grocer are moulded into hard balls, and must be carefully boiled to re-constitute them after which they can be unravelled to split. It requires constant watching to remove them from the boil at just the right moment. After they are prepared, they should be cooled and packed ready for use in exactly the same way as peas.
Tinned buttered beans can be expensive if used in bulk. It is far better to use the haricot beans as groundbait, reserving the butter beans for the hook. The tin should be opened the sitivity of this rig is especially ap-preciated by the carp angler.
Macaroni is probably one of the most versatile and yet underestimated baits in the angling repertory. Early angling literature mentions its use, explaining that it achieved success only in the early season during the run upstream of young elvers, and suggesting that long strips of it would deceive fish some extent. Once cooked they usually possess too much starch causing the strands to bind together. This must be removed by draining the noodles in a colander, then pouring boiling water from a kettle over them. The process should be repeated several times before a final rinse of cold water is given to stop the cooking process. After chopping in the pan with a knife, the prepared groundbait must be stored in an airtight box to keep it damp.
Laying-on with macaroni in a pre-baited spot is especially productive with bream. Care should be taken to select as clear a swim as possible, allowing small pieces of white groundbait to show as a carpet over the bottom. Several large pieces should be mounted on the hook to make a ball that can be picked up in one mouthful, rather than a single piece mounted by one end that can be picked up and dropped with little or no chance of hooking the fish.
Float fishing the bait, using whole pieces on the hook, in fast or medium flowing river swims shows macaroni to its best advantage. The pieces can either be hooked singly on the rig described for use with peas and allowed to search through the swim on a flowing trace, or fished in the traditional style but on a very small treble hook instead of a single.
If a small treble is used, a tiny link swivel should take the place of the last split shot, and the hook length is attached to it by a fixed loop. This will enable the link to be removed and threaded lengthwise through a piece of macaroni strip, which is then slid down to rest against the bend of a size 12, or smaller, treble hook. It is worthwhile using silvercoloured trebles instead of the traditional bronze, for they are less conspicuous against the bait.
There is no doubt that movement contributes greatly to macaroni’s success as a summer bait, and anything that can be done to improve its action in the water will in-crease the number of fish in the net. One method is to attach a strand to each hook of a treble; another is to use an extra long hook and mount several pieces one behind the other to form a large wobbling ball.