Every scrap of a wasp nest can be used as bait: the juicy queen grubs as hookbait, smaller ones as loose feed; the honeycomb structure on your hook and the residue scalded into groundbait.
For float fishing in clear, fairly fast-flowing river water, there are few deadlier hookbaits than wasp grub. From late August onwards sport is often hectic and bites so positive they are hard to miss.
So effective has the bait proved to be that its use is banned in many contests. It is even barred completely on some controlled waters, so always check before using it.
Fishing the bait is simple, finding it a bit more difficult. A lot of anglers are just too lazy to take time to go out and collect this quite remarkable bait, and you will need at least three nests for a good day’s fishing. Even so, wasp nests are more easily come by than many anglers think.
Collecting wasp grub
Wasps are not the most clinically particular creatures. Where there is muck, there you will find wasps. Strange as it may seem, there are more wasp colonies per acre in towns than in the country. I’ve collected, in one evening, as many as ten nests from city parks.
Evening is usually the best time for wasp spotting. To find a nest, pick a likely area of wasteland, banks or hedges, then watch. If you see a wasp idly meandering, stopping here and there, ignore it. If you see one flying straight and with purpose, mark mentally the direction of its flight path; the nest is rarely more than 100 yards away.
Another wasp will soon come along the flight line. Follow it fast, and as far as you can. It may beat you, but the next will probably lead you to the nest entrance. This is usually underground but rarely deep down. Found in soft earth, often under a hedge or bush, nests are round or oval in shape and made up of layers which make it look very much like a papiermache structure.
The next problem is in removing the nest while avoiding painful stings. Reassuringly, a wasp sting is not as dangerous as that of the honey bee which carries a venom akin to that of a cobra. The danger in a wasp sting comes usually from the bacteria injected at the same time—so take care!
Although cyanide-based insecticide compounds are on the market (Cymag is the most efficient), their general use cannot be recommended. Unless stored and used correctly, they can be dangerous (you will have to sign a poison register to obtain them) and safer proprietary insecticides are preferable, although not so effective as Cymag.
Whether you use a cyanide-based mixture or another type, it should be applied using a large tablespoon tied firmly to a 3ft stick. Put one spoonful as far into the nest entrance as possible and make sure that you are upwind of the nest so that the noxious fumes blow away from you. Another spoonful is sprinkled around the entrance. All this is best done in the early evening when all the wasps have returned. Block the entrance with a clod of earth and wait for at least two hours, preferably overnight.
The nest should be removed as carefully as possible, since every bit of it can be used by the angler. Dig round the nest, scraping away all loose earth and lift it out whole.
In comparison with the maggot, wasp grubs are big, creamy and soft. The biggest and plumpest were destined to be queen wasps; they also make the best hookbaits. Remove and lay aside all you want for this purpose from their tube-like homes in the centre of the nest.
The smaller grubs and any damaged ones are then scalded, along with the nest of ‘cake’, for use as the attractor groundbait. This can be used mixed with breadcrumbs or on its own. It is also worth trying as hookbait once in a while.
Presenting wasp grub
Wasp grubs are best used with float tackle of the kind suited to fishing bread flake. Bob Morris became Severn Champion using wasp grub bait to take a record 55lb of chub from the breamy lower end of that river. His secret was to put a piece of bread flake on the hook every half dozen casts or so. This often tempts the bigger chub which tend to lie at the rear of the shoal.
Now and then it is necessary to fish wasp grubs hard on the river bed. Most fish take ‘on the drop’. There is no mistaking the bite, particularly with chub. With a size 10 or 12 barbless hook, all that is needed is to tighten line quickly—and your fish is on.
Apart from the Severn Champion- ship win, wasp grub has accounted for a record-breaking Trent Championship victory. It will tempt most species. Single grubs on the hook will lure roach, and at least one carp of over 20lb has fallen to a ledgered grub in the past.
As soon as a tinge of colour creeps in to cloud the water, sport comes to a halt. The reason for this is not yet fully understood. Possibly the suspended sediment dulls either the fishes’ senses or that peculiar flavour that makes wasp grub so irresistible to them. Be sensitive to the need for a change of bait: something else may work better.