Maggots and worms are not the only creepy creatures to attract fish. A number of other insects make successful baits. Grasshoppers, caddis fly larvae, beetles, docken grubs and caterpillars are all effective – for the non-squeamish who don’t mind handling them.
The only drawback is that catching them is almost as difficult as catching the fish themselves – especially grasshoppers!
It’s only natural
Insects that are likely to be present in the water – and therefore a normal part of a fish’s diet – are called ‘naturals’. Some, such ras caddis, abound in the water, while insects such as grasshoppers regularly take one jump too many and fall in. Fish them on fine wire hooks as this causes less damage and keeps them alive longer. Beetles can catch roach, dace and rudd, but they are best for chub. Ordinary beetles and cockroaches are not a spectacular bait, but they are good for dapping, fishing under the surface and for sinking and drawing. Attach them by nicking the hook through the hard section where the wings join the body, threading the hook through them, or simply glueing them to the hook. Caddis larvae are the larvae of caddis flies – better known to fly-fishermen as sedges. They are an effective bait, but seldom used today, probably because they’re not very easy to obtain.
Caddis fly larvae live in the water. Some simply spin webs and wait for food, but the majority build a home around themselves from twigs, weed or sand, and go roving in search of food. It is these that are the easiest to find.
Caddis larvae are sometimes found in colonies. Look under stones or in weedy swims. Scoop them up with a net and keep them in a maggot tin.
The big problem is how to get them out of their case. Squeeze the end of the case -caddis don’t like this, to say the least – and they pop their head out to find out what on earth is going on.
Hold the caddis case gently and slowly pull the occupant out. Alternatively, push them out of their case using a soft paint brush. Hook them through the tail on a size 12-14 hook. Roach, dace and chub take them readily. Caterpillars should be fished fresh. Choose the non-hairy type and use a fine wire hook that doesn’t do too much damage. Hook them close to the head as you would a bloodworm. Docken grubs are the caterpillars of the ghost moth. Some anglers feel they are worth using only if you come across them by chance, but many others think they are an excellent autumn bait for chub and big roach when fished on the surface — and go out of their way to find them.
They live on the roots of stinging nettles and dock plants – which, in country lore, are the common cure for nettle stings. Needless to say it’s a lot less painful to get them from dock! The docken is large and brownish, with a red head that tapers to a black point. Look for a dock plant with withered yellow leaves — a good clue that it’s a reluctant host to the docken grubs – pull the plant up by the roots, and there they should be. Docken grubs are a good dapping bait when nicked just under the skin.
Grasshoppers are excellent for dapping. Hook them through the back and let them fall on to the water as if they had jumped and misjudged their distance. Many anglers find brown grasshoppers easier to keep on the hook than the softer green ones. You can catch them from fields or grassy roadside verges with a butterfly net.