Commercial Clinic: Perfecting the paste

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As the first round of the UK Champs approaches, our commercial expert Clint Elliott needs to get to grips with paste fishing if he wants to avoid ending up as pools fodder.

Clint EliottAs you’ll have read last month, I’m having to get to grips with the tackle and methods I need to use for my challenge in this year’s UK Champs by practising on venues close to home as I have no time to travel to the venues before the event. This month, I’m preparing for my visit to Willinghurst Fishery in Surrey.

To find out a little more about the venue, I first call organiser Tommy Pickering. I want to know which of the venue’s lakes are being used and to ask about the size of fish I’m likely to encounter. However, after my conversation with Tommy, I now wish I hadn’t phoned him as he tells me that we will be fishing one of five lakes, which range from two to six feet deep with fish from 1lb to 10lb!

I’m right in the middle of the festival season at White Acres as I write and,
luckily, some of the anglers fishing are Willinghurst regulars. So, some ear bending is on the cards as I collar them for some information after loosening them up with a few half-pints here and there of course! Luckily, the next morning, I can remember most of the details. It appears that using paste will be one of my main lines of attack but, as I’ve only been fishing with paste over the last year, I need to gather together my travelling companions – Andy Dare and Adam Wakelin – for some practising. Andy and Adam used to fish the tough Midlands circuit before ‘emigrating’ to the southwest, and they used some strange methods that are totally foreign to me.

After a short powwow, we decide to pop down to Bolingey Lake at Perranporth, as it has similar features to those I’m liable to face at Willinghurst. It’s the ideal water for me to set up my rigs and also has the right depth of water to try some different types of paste. I think that I’ve always shied away from paste fishing because to get it the right consistency for it to stay on the hook, yet be soft enough for the fish to take readily is harder than it looks. It’s not just a case of putting a big lump on the hook and shipping it out. You need to create a fine, smooth paste that if you sneeze will drop off the hook. In fact, paste heroes such as Andy Findlay use paste so soft that they need a succession of pots and clips to keep the bait off the water before gently dropping it into the swim. I set myself up on Peg 7, where I’ll be able to fish the nearside margins and the deep water.

Let’s move on to my tackle, starting with floats. Nearly all of today’s dedicated paste floats come with a long, buoyant bristle for improved bite detection. Many anglers remove the carbon stem and replace it with a heavy-guaged, stainless wire to make the float self cocking… but I haven’t got to that stage yet. My deeper line is about five feet, and here I’ll use a 1gr Preston Durafloat 5 with a 1gr olivette about two feet from the hook and no dropper shot. The idea is that when the paste hits the bottom, the float will be cocked perfectly by the olivette. If the float settles any lower than it should, I’ll know that the paste must be rolling down the slope. If this happens, I’ll need to get a balance by holding the float back towards me and letting the bait fish in the right amount of water and with the right depth of bristle showing on the surface. Connecting the float to the line is something I take great care about. I have experienced too many occasions when I’ve been in full swing, catching a fish a chuck, and a float rubber has come off and I’ve had to stop fishing to repair things, losing my feeding-and-catching pattern in the process.

Nowadays, I always use four pole sleeves on floats. Yes, that’s four, so it doesn’t matter if I lose one. In deeper swims, I like to use a hook-length rather than fish straight through and I have always favoured the loop-to-loop connection, using the figure-of-eight loop. This has never failed me and enables me to change hooks without shortening the rig. Line diameter is a personal choice and depends how big the fish go but, brand-wise, I have got used to using Preston’s Reflo Powerline. It’s slightly thicker than stated on the spool but I like the line and, what is more, I trust it. When choosing a hook pattern, I normally go for a wide-gaped type as I’m not keen on using paste connectors, such as springs or leger stops, which are tied off the hook on a hair to give a greater area for the paste to stick to. I feel these reduce the chance of a clean hook-hold.

There are many hooks on the market that fit the bill, including the Tubertini Takara and Preston PR28. But the hook I use is the Tubertini AMO175. It’s a great hook with a very wide gape that helps you hit the bites and holds the bait on when shipping or swinging out. Your paste should be mixed to a consistency where it will hold to the hook but come off within minutes of being on the bottom. When it comes to pole elastics, you can only take so many top kits with you on the day and I still favour the solid, original Preston Slip elastic. Just lately I have started using the Preston Hollo, but it’s taking me a while to get used to it. That just about covers my deepwater rig, but I still have to set up my inside line and that’s a totally different matter. The peg is only two feet deep on the inside and I would like to get away without using any bulk shot at all.

Adam tells me he has been using the Preston Chianti pattern of float, fitted with a longer, 1.5mm bristle, for this kind of work. He has been accurately plumbing his peg so he can just use the weight of the paste to shot the float. This is a great method for fishing shallow water because when the paste dissolves or a fish disturbs the bait, washing it away, the float will lay flat and indicate that a recast is needed. But you need to be dead accurate with the plumbing, or the method won’t work. The line and hooks for this rig are the same as before, but I will be more inclined to fish straight through and not use a hook-length when fishing so close because the bites, when they come, will be pretty vicious. If I find that I need to fish even shallower, then I will use a polyball rather than a bodied float. These are ideal as they have a rubber stop knot inside them so no shot is needed on the line. They also have the added benefits, that they rarely tangle and, being buoyant, they help stabilise the bait. Having covered my terminal tackle, I have to consider which types of paste to use and the textures that will put the bigger fish in the net I’m going to start with just two basic types of paste.

Each takes only a few minutes to make, although I always prefer to prepare my bait the day before and ‘fridge it’ overnight. The only way that I’ve learnt to make these baits is by trial and error, but now I can’t believe how easy it can be. The first paste can be made by using some of Dynamite Baits’ range of Swimstim ground-pellet ground-bait. I always run the Swimstim through a flour sieve before I start, to remove any bigger particles, as I want my paste to be fine and smooth. Next, I start to add a little water and, using the wife’s best fork (but not telling her!), I mix it thoroughly, adding more water until I think I have a mix that will just hold on the hook.

My second mix is also very simple to prepare. I take a bag of White Acres’ bagging pellets and empty the contents into a small bucket and cover them with cold water. I keep adding the water intermittently until the pellets go into a mush, then leave them overnight. The following day the pellets will have soaked up all the water and gone a little bit dry. Then I just add a little more water to get the correct consistency. Okay, I’m just about ready to start and I intend to build the peg slowly rather than just dump bait in. One of the biggest problems with fishing commercial fisheries nowadays is that most of the time you can get too many fish feeding in your peg, and then you get trouble with line bites.

When fishing these types of venues, I always like to fish up the slope a little rather than at the bottom of it to avoid this. I find you get far fewer liners this way. I plumb up so that my bait is away from the bottom of the slope, but I ensure my feed is at the bottom to keep the fish slightly away from where I’m placing my bait. If you think about a carp’s shape and bulk, it must be harder for the fish to feed on a flat bottom rather than coming up a slope a little.

There are two ways to get your peg going. The first is to feed some pellets just past your float. The second is to not feed anything at all, apart from the paste you are placing on the hook. As long as you are re-baiting regularly, as you have to do when fishing very soft paste, you will gradually build your swim up because the dissolving hook paste will create an aromatic cloud in the peg. However, it will leave nothing solid for the fish to feed on, except the paste around your hook. As the peg ‘matures’ and more fish start to find your free offerings, even though you may be fishing away from the main feed there is still a chance you will get a problem with line bites. If this happens, it’s sometimes a wise move to have another rig set up so that you can fish maybe half-a- section closer, further away from all the underwater activity.

As I get into the session, it hasn’t taken me long to realise that my paste is a bit on the stiff side. The problem if your paste is too stiff is that carp can’t suck it in easily. I always find it handy to have a small tub of water next to me and I add a little water from that to soften the bait. Having finally got the paste to the right consistency, I use the small pot on my pole to get the bait to the desired spot. This needs to be done in one, slow movement by tipping the pot to let the ball of paste gently swing out and then be lowered into the swim. It doesn’t take long for all three of us to be catching plenty of fish.