By Dave Burr
As the summer fades for another year it is time to change our mindset when targeting barbel and chub. Due to the amount of pressure on many of our rivers, the fish can be wary of big baits especially during those hot summer days when the rivers are low and clear. We have been forced to use smaller baits with a particle approach to tempt the fish to feed, well that is about to change.
Come the autumn floods and with the generally higher water levels that we experience over the winter, so the water visibility is effected and the fish are far more likely to make a mistake and suck in our hookbaits. This we can use to our advantage with rigs and baits that would have been ignored just a month or so ago. Many anglers return to that good old standby bait – meat, but for me this is the time of year for paste.
Why paste? That’s simple, paste can be of any flavour, colour, shape or size that you want it to be. You can make it stiff or soft and adjust the rate of flavour leakage, what is more barbel and chub just love eating it. The limitations of paste are restricted only by your imagination but, if you have never gone down the paste route, I’ll give you a few ideas to get you started.
The first paste I ever used was simple bread paste, made by kneading stale bread with a little water until the required consistency was found. It was cheap, easy to make and caught fish everywhere. It still works but bread, for whatever reason, seems to have gone out of fashion and I have to admit that when I discovered cheese paste, I rarely went back to bread.
Cheese paste has a better consistency than bread and is attractive to most of our species of fish, I’ve had trout and eels and a mate had a pike on the stuff! But, in the main, I use it for chub and barbel although it is a top bait for carp and roach. To make it is simplicity itself and, as with all pastes, it can be adapted to your own recipe with consummate ease. Here’s the easiest method.
Take a packet of ready made shortcrust pastry (you can use any pastry, I just prefer shortcrust). Cut the block in half and freeze what you aren’t going to use today. Place the half you are using onto a work surface and, with a rolling pin, roll it out to about 3 or 4 mm thickness.
Take an equal weight of mature cheddar and grate it and spread it over the pastry.
Add to this a couple of ounces of grated blue cheese or add 5 – 8ml of blue cheese flavouring.
Now all that needs to be done is the physical bit. Fold and refold the pastry around the cheese to make a parcel then get to work kneading and mixing the whole lot into a smooth, even paste. This takes a while and there are no shortcuts, do not do it in a food mixer as it adds way too much air to the mix, I once did and, at the river, I stood agog as my cheese paste floated off into the distance. I had to scrounge some bread to mix with it and make it sink.
Once your paste is ready just pop it into a plastic bag and leave it in the fridge. You can use what you need and freeze the remainder after a session. Cheese paste can be refrozen loads of times; topped up with fresh ingredients now and again your batch will go on catching all winter.
That was a basic paste. Using pastry rather than bread as a base mix will stop the paste from hardening in cold water but bread will also work especially in mild conditions.
If you want to experiment then jump in with both feet, there are no boundaries. When you have your pastry rolled out in front of you and the grated cheese waiting to be poured on – stop. Now is the time to get creative, how can I improve this mix? The first option is colour. You may feel that the bright white/pale yellow bait is be too obvious to the fish so how about adding a few drops of liquid or a sprinkle of powdered colouring? You choose – but don’t ignore green.
To enhance the flavour well, you are in the kitchen, just open a cupboard and take your pick. For cheese paste you can add Marmite, fish paste, spices like chilli or garlic. You may want to add some of your favourite boilie base mix or even a few finely crushed (and sieved) pellets, it all works but be aware that some items affect the consistency of the paste which you always want to keep on the soft but sticky side so that it stays on your hook.
You can, of course, dispense with the cheese and just add a selection of ingredients to pastry mix. Making a pastry based paste gives it a relatively low food content, (the cheese actually turns it into a milk protein bait) so it is all about instant attraction and catching the inquisitive fish. This works perfectly well, especially in high water but, if you are thinking of using paste on your chosen venue all winter, you may want to make it a little more complex and effective. For a bait like this look no further than boilie mix. Boilies are, after all, just boiled lumps of paste so you can buy a bag of your chosen mix and instead of making boilies, just add eggs and you have your paste. Or, you can make your own, it is simplicity itself – and cheap.
Semolina is probably the best ingredient to start with, make sure it is fine as it is easier to work with and creates a superior paste. Some anglers look down their noses on semolina as a bait ingredient but they are missing the point, it is a good carbohydrate food stuff in itself, it binds well and fish will happily eat these pastes with no need to spend time pre-baiting. The old 50/50 mix, used to such great effect in carp days of old and now, was merely a half and half mix of semolina and soya flour. Try it, mixed with eggs it forms a fabulous paste but I suggest you add a few more bits and bobs to make the fish pull your string. Again, the flavour or ingredient list is inexhaustible but here’s a few to get you going.
6oz soya flour
4oz finely ground and sieved pellets. Any pellet will work but for winter fishing, keep the protein level low to help the fish digest your bait so avoid salmon pellets.
6oz soya flour
2oz custard powder
2oz ground rice
This creates a sweet paste and the rice adds density and is especially good in fast water.
4oz soya flour
4oz maize meal
This is another good mix to which you can add a multitude of additives such as a ounce of Robin Red, 4oz Nectarblend or 4oz crushed boilies/pellets etc.
Another excellent ingredient for any base mix is roasted peanut meal which can be bought from dealers such as CC Moore, it is cheap, has natural attraction and smells wonderful.
A last quick and easy mix is simply to take a few handfuls of your favourite boilie, grind them up and push the crumbs through a sieve to make a fine powder, now just add eggs to make a paste.
When mixing your paste you can flavour or boost it with any liquid flavours you wish to buy from the tackle shop or, just go to the cupboard again and dig out seasoning such as curry, chilli, or steak seasoning. Marmite, Bovril, Malt, fish paste, meat paste, Angel Delight, garlic, black pepper, sauce (brown/soya), liquified fish (sardines, anchovies etc.), the list goes on and on.
Once you have your paste, how do you fish with it? Remember, rather than a hard boilie or pellet fixed to a hair, this stuff is soft and will fly off the hook if cast clumsily. You can put it straight onto your hook but, there is little for the paste to purchase against and lost baits can be frustrating. Therefore you will need something on the hook to wrap your paste around. You can buy little rubber beads that sit just off the hook which really do work well (check out Enterprise Tackle ‘Pastemates’) or you can simply hair rig a bead to your hook and make your own. As often as not, I’ll simply hair rig a pellet or small boilie and wrap the paste around that, this way you know that whatever happens to the paste, you always have an attractive bait on your hook.
To introduce free baits you can simply loose feed or, to get the free bait tight to your hook, use pva and make a stringer. When doing this I attach the stringer to the lead rather than the hook as it gets the free bait down quickly making it less likely that the string will melt and your bait all float off downstream and, if the bulk of loose feed is above your bait, theoretically the fish will get to your bait first.
Going back I said about mixing boilie crumb with eggs and this, of course, makes a lovely firm paste. However, as an alternative, you can mix boilie crumb or pellet crumb with a little water until it becomes tacky enough to mould around your hookbait of a similar flavoured boilie. Being mixed with water the paste will quickly breakdown and leave your boilie exposed but amongst highly attractive paste crumbs after several minutes. This is a real edge on those hard winter days as you are leaving a lovely attractive scent trail that will lead any interested fish right to your hook.
Like I said, the limits of paste are only restricted by your imagination and I have given here the tiniest hint at a world of experimentation and the satisfaction of catching on your own creation. I hope that you have found this useful and that it has encouraged you to give it a go.