Wriggling jokers – how to collect them for fishing bait

Jokers are the larvae of gnats. They have a blood-red, segmented body and are similar in appearance to bloodworms but smaller. They can be used as a hookbait but are more commonly used as a feed bait — fished in conjunction with bloodworms on the hook. This killing combination has accounted for many match-winning catches on difficult venues – especially in winter, when the going can be very hard.

Not a natural food so very attractive.

Out of their element they barely move, but in water jokers incessantly lash their tails back and forth in a most characteristic and enticing manner. To fish, this motion can only mean one thing: ‘Here I am, come and eat me!’

Unlike bloodworms, which live in the silt at the bottom of most ponds, canals and rivers, jokers live mostly in the beds of streams polluted by sewage effluent. The oxygen content in these streams is too low to support fish life, so fish don’t naturally come across jokers as often as they do with bloodworms. However, you only have to drop a few jokers into ajar of water to see why fish find them

Where to look

As with bloodworms, the most time-consuming and difficult part about collecting jokers is finding the right water. A sewage farm next to a shallow stream is what you are after. Concentrate your attentions on the stretch about half a mile downstream – where the effluent is less concentrated.

Shallow banks are essential for reasons of safety and hygiene. First, a shallow bank means that you can step straight into the water and out again without having to scramble. More importantly, it allows you to enter and leave without touching the banks. From a hygiene point of view this is essential since these types of streams are usually home to brown rats — carriers of Weil’s Disease. By avoiding touching the banks you reduce the risk of contracting this -potentially fatal — disease. A gravel bed with sandy mud underneath is what you are after. The water needs to be only 15cm or so deep but there may be slightly deeper pools too. It isn’t necessary to look in spots where the water is deeper than 45cm – you can find jokers in much shallower areas. So stick to the parts of the stream where you can see the bottom. The gravel should allow you to wade safely without fear of sinking but be wary of any soft spots and tread cautiously.

How to scrape

Having found a likely looking stream, the next step is to scrape the bed to see what there is down there.

Try the shallow areas, facing the stream. Sweep your scraper about 10cm under the gravel —just into the mud beneath. The flow helps jokers to stay on the blade, so you can afford to swish the blade under the gravel fairly quickly – you’ll soon see whether there are any jokers there.

Work your way upstream, knocking the jokers into a collecting tray as you go. If the stream is a good one, you may be able to collect a pint of neat jokers in about 15 minutes. Once the bed of the stream has settled down, you can go back to where you started and work over it again. When you’ve collected enough, pop the jokers on to a piece of muslin cloth, squeeze out the water and wrap them in sheets of damp newspaper.