Sense of smell is very important to fish in their underwater environment since visibility through water can be obscured by suspended mud or other particles. Therefore many kinds of fish rely heavily on their senses of taste and smell to help them navigate, avoid predators and find food.
The special cells on feelers and barbels and in nostrils are sensitive to a wide range of tastes and smells. The part of the brain that deals with this information is comparatively large and well-developed.
For years anglers have used the fact that fish find their food by smell. Our ancestors swore by all manner of bait additives such as aniseed, tar and even saliva! Today, many anglers, especially those after big carp, lace their baits with a huge variety of natural and artificial smells and flavours. Groundbaits from the Continent also contain a mix of flavours.
Some flavours commonly used by anglers are made from naturally ‘fishy’ items -earthworm extract and fish oil, for example. Others, such as maple cream, kiwi fruit or garlic, have very little to do with the fishes’ world. It seems that some fish may learn to associate particular baits and flavours with being caught. In these circumstances, a new and attractive flavour can catch fish where a previously successful one fails.
You can also buy a range of appetite stimulators made of a variety of amino acids and other organic chemicals. These are supposed to get the fish in feeding mood without directly mimicking a food flavour. Not all anglers are convinced of the effectiveness of these, or indeed any additives, but if they give you confidence, you might as well use them.
There is a huge range of synthetic liquid flavours available for you to try. Originally they were made to be used with home-made carp baits but their appeal has spread. They are now regularly used to help catch many species.
Some match anglers believe that flavoured baits can give them a vital edge over the competition. Powdered flavourings, for use with loose feed and ground-baits, are particularly useful.
Most of the flavours you can buy are sold with brief instructions about how much to use. Usually you need about a teaspoonful for every pound of dry bait or loose feed, but you may only need a few drops. If you’re going to flavour maggots, riddle p Old soak off any maize or bran and make sure they are clean before you start. Maggots absorb flavour better when their skins are clean and dry. Remember to replace the maize or bran if you’re going to keep the maggots for any length of time.
There is endless scope for trying out additives from the shelves of your local supermarket.
Liquid flavours that have been used successfully include honey, milk shake flavours, cake flavouring and sauces such as tomato ketchup.
Powders and pastes which have helped catch fish are easily available and include ^« stock cubes, powdered soups, curry powder,.’ milk powder and sugar. Ground turmeric is especially popular for flavouring maggots during the winter. In addition to any flavouring effects, this spice degreases the maggots, making them sink faster. It is also supposed to irritate them, making them wriggle more enticingly.