In praise of bread.
I thought I’d share a few thoughts on that all time classic bait – bread! Cheap, versatile and adaptable... it’s an amazing bait for pleasure, match or specimen fishing. From Crusty bloomers to the innovative ‘Original Flakey’ fake bread ... With an emphasis on seasonal winter angling, it’s here!
The white crusty bloomerThe baked on the premises Crusty bloomer is the bread of choice for link ledgered crust. In truth, the majority is wasted, or indeed eaten by myself as it is only the outer crust that holds any appeal to me as an angler. Though in its fresh form it is practically useless as the crust is too brittle and difficult to place a hook without it breaking out on the cast, or in-deed, just washing off the hook.
Preparation could not be simpler; it just needs to be left for a few days to go stale. I know of anglers that like to flavour their crust by coating the inside of a bag with a chosen flavour and placing the loaf into the bag. The porous crust does take on flavour very well, but I seldom feel the need to tamper, preferring its natural appeal.
The stale crust is transformed and gains a tough rubbery texture that can be torn easily, but flexible enough to negotiate a hook – it casts really well and isn’t going anywhere. Crust has inherent buoyancy that I feel ads to its versatility, though needs to be considered when tackling up.
Link ledgering CrustA swan shot 2-4 inches from the hook helps to suspend the crust at a fixed height from the river bed and is about ideal. I like to imagine the crust wafting enticingly in the current taunting the Chub to make its move. Bites tend to be a very appositive affair, much because the chub needs to nail the moving target or perhaps just simply out of frustration!
Sliced breadWe probably all have an opinion on this one, but for me it has to be Hovis medium white slice bread in the orange wrapper - the softest, freshest loaf I can find! It has the perfect doughy consistency that lends itself to a multitude of uses. It is one of the more expensive brands, but I will only ever buy one loaf and as it only serves the purpose of staying on the hook, it will last all day. The bread I use for free feeding will be the cheapest brand I can lay my hands on.
Sliced white bread is a deadly bait for ledgering; simply pinch a piece of flake matching it to the size of hook taking care not to obscure the hook point. With care, it is possible for bread to remain anchored to the hook for well over an hour. The fact that the flake fluffs up concealing the business end of our deception can only add to the confidence.
My other favourite brand is medium or thick sliced Kingsmill Wholemeal – yes... that’s right... BROWN BREAD!
Trotting breadChub can be real suckers for trotted bread. It is a method I rarely get to use as my local river loses its flow and colour quickly. But, on those rare occasions where there is a tinge of colour in the water and a reasonable flow, trotted bread-flake takes some beating. A heavy 4 swan loafer float does the trick. Simply bulk the shot about 10 inches from a size 6 or 8 hook, with a single swan dropper shot about 4 inches from the hook. Typically, I will use a 4lb line straight through to the hook. A problem with float fishing large flake chunks is its buoyancy; this can be overcome by wrapping a piece of lead wire around the shank of the hook, thus improving the presentation dramatically!
Bites are usually pretty instant. I tend to fish smaller rivers, so for me it is a mobile approach. I find it is best to start as far upstream as I am prepared to walk and then fish swims as I travel back towards my van. Allowing half an hour per swim, I tend to feed small hand full’s of sloppy bread mash on a little and often basis to build up the swim and then trot the flake down the same line as the free falling particles.
With a constant trail of bread going downstream, it is not uncommon to have fish take the bait anything from 30 yards downstream or indeed just off the rod tip as they follow the source of the bread. Setting the depth does not seem to be an exact science as I am sure that chub will come up in the water to intercept the bread, even in winter. Set the float at approximately half depth and then you can change deeper or shallower to find out what they want on the day. I have always found this method to be most effective when the river is fining down after a flood and still holding a little colour. It is quite a crude method in many ways and usually entails very positive sail away bites – heart stopping stuff!!
One of the elements of roach fishing that I most adore is that it is akin to a piscatorial game of chess. Firstly, you have to anticipate the movement of a shoal of roach and of course the position and movements of the major players – the elusive specimens that dreams are made of. To make matters more complicated, specimen roach tend to move around in their own little pods, no doubt remnants of a once mighty shoal of smaller individuals.
To further complicate matters, the roach can be a finicky feeder at best requiring a range of strategies that keeps the angler on his toes. Match this with the tireless drive and desire to capitalise on the rare windows of opportunity that constitute ideal conditions – you can see why specimen roach captures are rare!
Hook Bait Company ‘Original Flakey’Fake bread is by no means a new concept – but ‘Original Flakey’ stands head and shoulders above the crowd... Each piece is individually crafted and steamed to lock in flavour. It is soft enough to side hook, but works best on a hair rig. Each shape is subtly unique, however, pieces can be broken off to increase leakage and change size. Original flakey video
Hook Bait Company is a bespoke company and can produce ‘Original Flakey’ to specific requirements; any flavour, pop-up, neutral or standard. Combined with the brilliant Gloop, it has quietly been doing the business with the Hook Bait team taking Chub to over 6lb and Barbel over 13lb... Definitely one to watch!
Preparing bread for pre-baitingThis is a critical part of using bread and can be the difference between success and failure. Always conscious of over feeding, a small egg sized piece of mash, or a micro feeder of crumb may be sufficient in the depth of winter to elicit a response... in milder conditions I would suggest it would be difficult to over feed when fish are really having it.
Bread mashIt is always best to use the cheapest possible sliced white for mashing as it should always be allowed to go stale over night in the bucket. For me, bread mash used to be a very standard affair. A bucket of stale bread soaked in river water, drained and then mashed by hand. The only problem with preparing bread in this way is that a bucket of mashed bread is incredibly heavy to lug around from swim to swim. I now prefer to make mashed bread in small batches by soaking a few slices in the landing net in the margins. It is possible to make mash of different consistencies depending on the method. When long trotting bread, I prefer a mash that is quite sloppy so that it sinks quite slowly drawing fish towards the feeding zone. For baiting up swims for ledgering I favour a mash that will sink quickly whilst still breaking down sending particles downstream in the current. This can be achieved by draining the bread in the net and the giving it a hard squeeze to get rid of all the excess water prior to mashing.
Liquidized bread allows a small amount of bait to be deposited when ledgering punched bread or where you want to control the amount of feed going into a swim. Take fresh sliced bread, cut off the crusts and discard. Whizz a few slices at a time in the liquidiser and store in a plastic bag. For slower paced or shallow rivers, it is best to gently squeeze the liquidized crumb into a wire cage feeder so that it can swell and disperse where you want it. On deeper swims or faster flowing rivers I prefer the plastic feeders to ensure it gets down to where I want it.
Adding flavoursTo make the mash or liquidised crumb even more attractive it is possible to add flavours and colours. In particular, aniseed based additives has proved to be one of my favourites and has accounted for stunning roach sport.
|Chunk of Brown bread flake soaking in Blue Cheese SAC juice.|
The glycerite base halts microbial ‘spoilage’ – however the culture of enzymes are free to continue their work... Like a bottle conditioned ale, SAC juices improve with age and continue to break down proteins. From the fish’s point of view, this releases a rich spectrum of precious amino acids to home in on – they are most certainly natures Dinner bells! SAC Juice
|Chunky Suffolk Specimen that took a liking to brown bread flake soaked in Blue Cheese SAC Juice.|
I hope that gives you a little insight into this under rated, under used super bait. I have on occasions given bread much contemplation... What is it that makes bread such a wonder bait? It does not exactly represent anything that a fish would find in its natural diet and yet it has an almost instant appeal. But the answer was to come in a most unexpected manor. I was preparing my mash in the net at the margins, on lifting the net I was met with a beautiful sight. A sparkling mass of tiny silver shards, bright and alive - the greedy masses of this year fry had descended upon my soaking bread. Like sparkling gems, I had to ensure each precious individual was returned to continue on with its uncertain future. ‘Good bye little fellow! Take care, stay in the slacks and shadows, grow strong and perhaps we shall meet again sometime and share a feast of bread’!