Mimicking Natural Baits.

The power of natural baits such as maggots and worms is well recognised, as to a lesser extent are baits such as caddis grubs, wasp grubs, mealworms etc. However one thing they all have in common, is a tendency to be attractive to all species. This means that often such baits may be taken by species that are not the intended target. When building a swim however, these smaller fish usually attract the larger fish by their activity. Delaying the introduction of the hook bait can reduce the small fish problem as the larger fish usually drive the smaller fish out. When the target fish may be either a loner or a small group though, and possibly picking up food as it cruises through your swim, the smaller fish may to a greater or lesser extent remain active. This is where artificial baits such as "Jelly nymphs & grubs" can be used to represent the maggots and worms, and can make all the difference. Should the hookbait be continually pecked, it will not be damaged, and such activity will attract the larger fish to that area, further increasing chances of success. Even better, the hook can be buried in the soft body just like fishing with a jig style lure to prevent hooking until you strike the hook through the soft body.

The baits themselves obviously will not have a natural scent as does the real thing, but flavouring can be used by either dunking or injecting and then lightly pricking the bait to ensure escape of a scent trail. This latter method is far longer lasting. Flavourings could be anything, but I have utilised worm-based attractants in keeping with the natural food theme, and it certainly works.

The jelly bodies are the same as used for jig type lures and nymphs, and can be obtained from numerous tackle shops (especially those specialising in either lure or fly-fishing). Typical colours I have used have been white, red, black and green, with the latter two being particularly successful. This could be due to fish taking a variety of aquatic food forms, which exhibit such colouration, and hence they are less wary. Other colours can be experimented with; either by buying a variety of colours, or in some cases you can use marker pens to change the colour. This latter point relates to the solvent used in marker pens melting the artificial.

Applications & Advantages.

Some of these have been mentioned above, but uses such as bunches of the artificial maggots to represent maggots or caddis grubs or whatever, when fishing for carp or barbel, avoids the baits being damaged by small fish. A single bait can also be used with the hook threaded through the body (see photograph). This further hides the hook, and as previously stated, the hook could be nicked back into the bait to minimise snagging.

The feel of these baits is not at all hard and they are very lifelike in some cases, so fish should not eject them as rapidly as say, a plug, when pike fishing. Equally, due to the softness I have no worries about the hook not coming through on striking, providing the point is nicked in just under the outer skin. When using these single baits, a weighted bead can be used at the head as per some general fly patterns. This keeps the bait on the bottom when fishing moving water, and in slower currents means smaller bait can be freelined, further improving presentation. Anything here can be used from a size 14 or 16 hook with a small bead and a single nymph body to a size 6 or 8 using larger beads and a worm body.

Interestingly, the recent popularisation of using weighted hooks buried into baits and freelined with a bowed line can also be utilised with these larger artificial baits. In fact there is nothing to stop you from using the bead at the head of the hook and then threading a real worm along the hook for such a searching method. This thus allows a very realistic presentation of natural baits. Similar hooking styles can be used for any other float or legering techniques, though when fishing say a double maggot bait, it helps to hook the baits from opposite ends to reduce line twist.

The use of such natural baits can be applied to any species, and I have had success with dummy hook baits when fishing for carp, barbel, perch, chub, roach, tench, and grayling. In fact on one particular stream, I doubt I would have had any bait on the hook for the grayling to take, had I not been using dummy maggots whilst trotting. With a variety of soft baits now available, further experimentation with using artificials for hookbaits is open to far more than the items discussed here, but I have not pursued this at present. Scents built into artificial fish for predator fishing, have been around for a while, and surely many more opportunities exist.

Why not give it a try!