Hailed by many as the new ‘wonder’ bait of recent years, casters need to be firm and dark red to ensure success. For this reason many anglers have turned to producing them at home.
The chrysalis, or pupa, of the fly is known to anglers as a caster. At this point in its life-cycle (from egg to grub, or maggot, to pupa, to fly) it is an excellent bait. First made popular by match anglers in roach waters, some experts consider casters to be the most important new bait adopted in recent years. Although the maggot remains the most popular general bait, the time may be near when the caster will have replaced it. As well as roach, chub and dace are partial to it and it has accounted for bream, gudgeon and tench. When first introduced to a stretch of water the fish may be uninterested but, once sampled, every caster is likely to be taken. The fish probably gets its food more easily from the insect at this stage of its lifecycle than it did when it was a mere maggot.
Casters can be purchased from a tackle shop or bait dealer and kept in a refrigerator for about a week. Home production can work out to be more expensive than buying them ready-bred, but the angler needs chrysalids (or casters) as sinkers: too fast a metamorphosis and the caster becomes a floater, of no practical use except as a means to check on the presence of fish in unknown water. The keen angler who needs a constant supply, therefore, will want to produce his own, in order to control the speed of change. After a little trial and error the angler can have casters in perfect condition and colour in the quantities he needs as and when he wants them.
Whether you buy casters from the dealer or raise maggots yourself, you will need about five pints of maggots to produce three pints of good quality casters – enough for a match or a day’s fishing.
For large casters, choose large maggots. To test for freshness if you are buying the maggots, look for the food pouch – the small black speck under the skin. This pouch carries all the food the insect needs to complete the stages of its development to a fly, and should still be visible.
It takes a fresh maggot, one that has just been taken from its feed medium, five to six days to turn into a chrysalis with the temperature at between 65° and 70°F (18° to 21 °C). To slow development, put the maggots, in a plastic box, into the refrigerator for three days – more in very hot weather, less in cold.
Tip the maggots on to a sieve to be riddled and cleaned, then into tins of dry sawdust, so that maggots and sawdust cover the bottoms of the tins to a depth of not more than a couple of inches. The maggots should now be kept in a cool place: a garage or cool outhouse is ideal.
After about 24 hours the first of the casters will be seen. Once this stage is reached put the contents of the tins on to a riddle over a larger container and the maggots will wriggle through, leaving the already-turned casters on the mesh. Any dead maggots that you find amongst them should be thrown away.
Return the live maggots to their tins. Repeat this inspection and selection process every 7 or 8 hours. Each batch of casters can be rinsed in water to remove bits of sawdust, drained on the riddle, sealed in plastic bags and placed in the refrigerator, at not less than 34 °F.
By rinsing the casters, any floaters can be removed at this stage. Damp casters can sour in the refrigerator and some anglers prefer to omit rinsing at this stage as a final check should may be made before setting off, or at the waterside.
If you do not want to use the refrigerator for collecting the bags of casters, you can put them direct from the riddling into a bucket, just covering them with water and adding to their number as they develop. Floaters can thus be eliminated as they appear and the bucket kept in the same cool outhouse as the tins of maggots.
Whichever method you use, you will find that the casters vary in col-310 our. Casters of a uniform dark red colour – the favourite – can be achieved quite simply. On the evening before use, wrap all the casters in a wet towel and leave in a bucket overnight. Next morning all the casters will be the same colour.
The choice of hook size will be governed by the size of the caster. The biggest you can use will probably be a 14, but generally a 16 or 18 will be necessary. The hook must be buried in the caster. Hold the caster between thumb and forefinger and, with the hook in the other hand, pierce the head of the caster with the point. Turn the hook very gently into the caster and, with some of the shank still showing, lightly tap the top of the shank until the hook sinks into the caster. Casters may be fished singly, or in twos, threes and fours. In deepish, fast flowing water, casters are best introduced as groundbait. Where there are plenty of fish and they start to take, you can put as many as two dozen casters in every cast. Casters can also be used in combination with other small bait, such as worm tail, hempseed or tares. When groundbaiting the swim with a mixture of hemp, it is essential to make sure the casters are fast sinkers. Floaters drift with the flow and could attract fish out of the swim.
Big fish bait
Casters are not just small fish bait – fairly good bream, chub and barbel have been caught on casters. But big fish require larger hooks with more than one caster placed on the hook. As a rough guide, a 10 lb barbel might take a bunch of five casters on a size 12 hook. But an 11 lb 8oz barbel has been known to take a small bunch of maggots with a single caster on the tip of the hook.
When fishing deep water at long range, a quantity of casters can be mixed with a cereal groundbait to resemble a ‘plum duff with crunchy casters worked into the groundbait ball. Thrown into the top of a swim by hand, the ball will drop quickly to the bottom before breaking up – an ideal groundbaiting method when ledgering casters. Little and often is always a good maxim when groundbaiting with casters because it is easy to over-feed the swim.
When fished singly, casters need fine and delicate tackle. An easy casting rod is advisable when fished far off – too vigorous a cast will flick the bait off the hook. Quality casters are thought to be a good roach bait on any canal or river. With the approach of autumn they can be unbeatable on some waters.
Casters work best on clear waters, so when a river is coloured it may pay to revert to the maggot.