Dr Paul Garner Our bait expert shows you how to get the best from casters
They are well worth the effort and no fish will refuse a tasty ‘shell’
ONE of the best baits of all time has taken a bit of a dive in popularity over the last few decades.
Whether it’s because they can be stored for only a short while, or need to be ordered in advance from many tackle shops, casters have been relegated to occasional use, if not abandoned altogether.
That’s a real shame, because casters are a bait that I would put on a par with maggots as being a great all-rounder, and one that has an uncanny knack of sorting out the better-quality fish.
FEED AND BELIEVE
I believe that small fish feed mainly by sight. This is why maggots and other ‘live’ baits are so consistent at getting bites. Inanimate baits, such as casters, can take the fish longer to find, but when they work their magic you can bet that the fish will be of a much better stamp. It’s always a nerveracking first hour when caster fishing for roach and chub, as it can take this long for the fish to settle and bites to come regularly. The simple answer is to keep at it – patience will be rewarded with bumper catches.
When fishing for a netful of fish I will feed casters in just the same way as I do maggots – little and often is key. When it comes to shoal fish such as roach and chub, a pinch of bait every minute is much better for building up a swim than filling it in and waiting. I always used to choose the shiny red coloured casters from the tub for the hook, just because these looked the most appealing to me.
Forcing myself to pick different colours, from off-white to almost black, led me to realise that fish can be fickle and will prefer different colours on different days. Trying all colours of caster hookbaits until you find the most consistent is definitely the way to go.
All fish eat casters as part of their natural diet. The chrysalis of the myriad different species of flies blow on to the surface of rivers and lakes and make a tasty addition to the menu.
Yet how often do you see specimen anglers using casters as bait? Barbel absolutely adore them, and faced with a low, clear river a combo of hemp and caster would be my opening gambit. Three parts hemp to one of casters helps to keep the cost down and will see a couple of pints of casters go a long way.
Other species are just as likely
to fall under the spell of the chrysalis. I know of several carp anglers who secretly deploy casters when the going gets tough, especially in winter. In fact, I would be hard-pushed to come up with a specimen fish that won’t eat them.
While casters tend to be more big-fish specific than maggots, they are not immune from attack by tiddlers. For all species, except roach, I will use artificial casters on the hair instead of the real thing to ensure that I always have an intact hookbait.
If I am waiting hours for a bite it is imperative that I know the hookbait is untouched. Roach are the one exception because, try as I might, I just can’t catch them consistently on artificial baits.
So if big roach are my intended target it will be a bunch of casters impaled on the hook, or superglued to a short hair.
I must admit, I am as guilty as the next person in not using casters anywhere near as often as I should. They really are a gem of a bait, particularly at this time of year when the fish can become more clued-up to other baits.
Feed a pinch of casters little and often.