You almost certainly use worms from your garden as bait already. But have you taken steps to ensure an accessible, year-round, ready supply of the three useful breeds?
The earthworm’s major asset as a bait is that it is free and can be found in almost every angler’s garden. Yet there are times when worms are hard to find and require a lot of digging. And although a supply can be purchased from a tackle shop, it can prove expensive to buy enough for a full day’s fishing – and for generous groundbaiting. Besides, few tackle shops can supply freshly collected worms, and this is where the angler can score by gathering lively worms just when he wants them.
To be certain of a supply of worms at a moment’s notice, at all times of the year, it is necessary to keep a regular stock. This is easy enough in a properly organized container, or in a small garden patch which has been suitably prepared.
Three kinds of worm for angling There are three kinds of earthworm that are of interest to anglers – the lobworm (the largest), the redworm and the brandling – and they can all be kept in stock.
The stocks you keep depend very much on the fishing you intend to do. Nowadays few anglers keep stocks of the smelly brandling. When it is hooked, the smell it gives off stays on the angler’s hands for hours afterwards. Modern anglers (particularly matchmen) prefer the small, lively redworm which, when hooked, wriggles and writhes most enticingly. The lobworm tends to be favoured by specimen hunters and is relatively easy to gather on a dewy, summer’s night.
There are various ways of cultivating a stock of worms. The easiest is to create a worm-patch, and this can be developed in a shady part of the garden where the worms would tend to gather of their own accord. This method is particularly good for the encouragement, nurture and collection of lobworms.
A worm patch is made by simply forking in garden refuse, stable manure, vegetable scraps, lawn mowings and various plant material from the garden. Earth collected from molehills makes a good soil medium for a wormery as does stable or farmyard manure.
The compost heap will be better contained by building a framework of wood or corrugated sheeting. To stock the heap, a supply of brandlings or redworms can be collected or purchased from a dealer. The shop-bought worms come packed in moss in cartons of 25 or 50. These worms will thrive and breed if released in an established heap, and, from then on, suffice for normal fishing needs.
Water tank wormery
Yet another type of wormery, the best for lobworms and redworms, is some large container like a galvaniz- ed water storage tank (the type used in the loft), an old bath, or a large wooden box.
Any large holes in the sides or bottom of the container should be blocked to prevent worms escaping, and then it should be filled with a mixture of earth, leaves and those materials already described. It can be kept in a garden shed if need be, although it is best to sink the con-tainer to about three-quarters of its depth in the earth, in a cool place.
Bear in mind the fact that red-worms and brandling will never wander far from a food supply. For this reason, elaborate frameworks are not always needed to contain them. One successful wormery consists of no more than a rubbish heap piled against the outside of a garden shed. Each day, vegetable cuttings (especially potato peelings) are dumped on the top of the heap. As it all gradually rots down, redworms appear as if by magic – -a pint is readily available simply by scraping away the top few inches of scraps.
Peat moss, purchased from a garden centre, is good for adding to the soil material in the wormery, but check that it has not been treated with worm-killer! Alternatively, this moss can often be gathered during a fishing trip.
The surface of the wormery should again be kept covered with a piece of sacking or old blanket for protection. If kept well dampened, it will keep the wormery cool in summer. The covering will also help to protect the worms from frost in winter.
A plastic sack also makes a good wormery. The sack needs to be large and of the thicker variety used for garden compost. Some anglers like to place a layer of folded newspaper on the bottom of each sack before they are filled with the usual layer of rotting compost, earth, manure, and so on. Stand the sack wormery in a shady corner of the garden or in a shed, and pierce the bottom to pro-vide drainage holes, as the wormery must be kept moist by regular watering. The top of the bag can be loosely tied. If there is room in a cool part of the garden for an extra couple of these sacks, raiding them separately will ensure minimal disturbance of the stock.
Any one who has little garden space can keep a small supply of worms ready for immediate use in a large square-shaped biscuit tin of the kind often used for maggots. Prepare the tins by boring a few small holes in the bottom of each. Once again, a layer of newspaper is sometimes put in before covering with earth, then a mixture of rotting vegetable compost. Do not overfill the tins, but leave the surface of the soil 3-4in from the top. Wet sacking should cover the tins, which are kept in a cool, shady place. A watering can is used to moisten the sacking during a dry spell, but the tins also need some form of cover to prevent the soil becoming too sodden from heavy rain.
It pays to tip out the contents of these small containers at least once a month to remove any sickly worms before replacing the lively wrigglers in fresh soil and other material on which they feed. After removing the worms for use as bait, the main stock should be replenished soon.
Do not overstock
Earthworms are plentiful in spring, but in short supply during dry summers and cold winters. Further supplies to boost the wormery stock should be gathered from your worm patch whenever time and conditions permit. Do not overstock a wormery, however, for this could kill its whole population.
The small redworm can be gathered from natural haunts similar in com-position to the wormery described here: from rotting compost heaps, from under large stones or logs of wood – in fact any sizeable object lying on the earth is worth investigating and could provide a supply of worms for stock.
The brandling, distinguished by a series of pale yellow rings around its body, can be collected from old manure heaps in sufficient numbers to start a wormery.
Freshly collected worms should be spread on the surface of the wormery and not buried into the soil. Healthy worms will quickly dig themselves in, and those that do not must be discarded along with any sickly and injured worms.
Worms that have been freshly dug, and those taken from the main stock, can be brought into better condition if they are transferred, a couple of days before the proposed trip, to a small container of damp moss – sphagnum moss, as used by a florist, is ideal. Place the worms on top of the moss and close the lid. The creatures will clean themselves as they make their way through the moss to the bottom of the container. If the tin is turned over every few hours, the worms will keep working through the moss and, on the day of your trip, they will be in a fine, clean condition for the hook.
Of course, the worms which find their way naturally into rivers and lakes have not been scrubbed and polished in this way, and yet fish find them very appetising. It is by no means essential to present a clean worm on your hook. But the major advantage of a worm that has been stored in moss is that it becomes much tougher and will remain on the hook whenever long distance casting is necessary.
The ardent dace angler’s year runs from June 16 round to the very end of the season and can provide a wealth of interest. Much of the fascination results from the variety of techniques – from fly fishing to blockend ledgering – used to catch the species.