Autumn is the time when berries ripen and fall. It’s not only the birds that develop a sweet tooth at this time of year; chub, roach and dace do too.
Fish have to make instant judgements about things being swept past them in the water. Is it food or not? If you fish a berry in early summer the chances are it will be ignored – fish won’t see it as food. But try berries in autumn, when they are falling into the water from overhanging bushes, and there is a strong chance that the fish will have latched on to berries as a good source of food – and therefore go for them on the end of your line.
There’s no doubt that elderberries – small black fruits that grow in clusters – are the best fruit bait. They are a natural bait since they’re firm enough to stay on the hook and — because they are often found on river banks – they make a normal part of the diet of such species as roach, dace and chub.
To fish a single elderberry for chub and roach, nick one just under the skin on a size 14 or 16 hook. Sit it neatly on the hookbend so it can’t fly away when cast. Make sure the point isn’t covered by a piece of hard skin or you might not be able to strike properly through it.
More than one berry can be fished on a hook, but not all anglers find this as successful. Elderberries are often fished with hempseed for roach, or as a change from casters. They can also be used as loose feed. Throw in just enough to attract fish to the swim. Don’t loose-feed unripe green ones -they’re inedible.
Never use an elderberry that has burst – it invariably flies off the hook on casting or when it hits the water. Dace enjoy them, and even barbel occasionally take them.
Though the elderberry is probably the most widely used fruit for fishing, it is by no means the only one worth considering. In their seasons a number of others are well worth a try.
Blackberries are quite frequently found by the side of rivers. Brambles are the source of many a bankside tangle, but chub really develop a taste for blackberries in autumn, so don’t curse them too much. Pick only those which are soft and ripe.
It may not sound easy to hook blackberries, but in reality it is not difficult since the woody centre is easy to keep on the hook. They are best used for float fishing. Cherries are another bait used mainly for chub. Squeeze the stone out and fish the flesh on a hook suitable for the size of the cherry. Some anglers use glace cherries effectively.
Rose hips can work where bushes overhang the water. They are the fruits of dog roses and other wild roses. Fish the softest ones, first removing the seeds inside. Alternatively chop them up and use as feed. Redcurrants should be ripe and soft. They are best just as loose feed. Snowberries, originally from North America, are now planted throughout Britain. They have large white berries which last right through the winter. A reasonable bait for chub, they are very buoyant and make a good floating bait. Alternatively, fish them on a size 8 hook with a shot directly above the hook to keep the bait down. They are not suitable for loose feeding.