I'll start it off with this and if anyone can add to it we'll make it into an article - so muck in lads and lasses
Pellets. There are many types of pellet available - Trout pellets, Carp pellets, Salmon pellets, micro's, breakdown pellets, response pellets, ball pellets, soft hooker pellets, expander pellets and the latest additions of Halibut and Hi Betaine pellets. The sizes available are also quite considerable, starting at micro (around 2mm) right up to 22mm.
We are spoilt for choice in the flavour stakes too, no more trout or salmon flavour only. Now we can choose from old favourites such as Strawberry, Nutty and Tutti Frutti, and ranging through out and out naturals such as Monster Crab, Bigfish, Squid & Octopus, Corn Steep Liquor and finishing with the new generation of flavours such as Activ-8 and Assasin-8 to name just a few.
To prepare pellets for fishing, first add some pellets to a bait box then add water you can also add a flavour mix (make sure you follow recommended doses of flavour) and stir it round. Soaking them in water for a short while not only ensures that your offerings sink but it can also allow you to use them on the hook. The water breaks down the hard outer shell and absorbs the water, swelling and opening the pellet slightly. The longer you soak them the softer they get. The length of time for soaking depends on the size, too long and they will be too soft for hook-bait.
An alternative method is to use a bait-band for holding the pellet on the hook, this works best when using floating pellets for surface feeding fish.
If you intend to use the larger sizes on a hair-rig then the best way to flavour these is to add your neat flavouring to a plastic bag, rub the bag together well to coat the inside. Put in a few handfuls of pellets, blow up the bag and shake well. Then just let the air out and give the pellets a rub to coat evenly. If using a powdered flavouring, add a small quantity of water at the same time. You can also seal the bag and freeze them.
Pellet Paste can be used to devastating effect on ponds especially during the warmer months. To make the paste you need to soak your selected pellets in an equal amount of boiling water until all the water is absorbed. During this time flavours can be added if wished, try experimenting. Once the water has been absorbed, mash the pellets into a paste and bind them using either ground pellets or an egg white. Icing sugar is also equally effective. Once the right consistency is achieved the paste can be frozen for use later.
Baked Beans make good bait for Tench and Carp.
They can be used straight from the can as they are already cooked but they can be quite a messy bait as they are covered in tomato sauce. Preferably open a tin before fishing and rinse them clean.
Hooked lightly through the end, the fish love them when they get used to them.
A few used as free offerings is a good idea, but not too many. Butter Beans and Broad Beans used in much the same way as Baked Beans again can be a very effective bait, even more so on hard fished waters where the fish can shy away from normal, run of the mill, baits.
Breadflake is a very effective hook-bait especially for Carp, Bream, Chub, Roach and Rudd. Ideally use a loaf of bread that is a day or two old; fresh bakery bread is preferable to the shop bought, sliced bread which tends to be too doughy and can become more paste like once in the water. Depending on the size of the flake which in turn is dependant on the fish sought, the hook-size can vary but always err on the larger side as once the flake swells, a small hook can result in missed bites.
The best method for baiting the hook is to fold a piece of flake across the shank of the hook followed by a quick nip to 'seal' it around the shank. The remainder of the flake will then hide the hook but still be soft once in the water.
Bread Punch is an alternative to flake when the quarry is the smaller fish such as Rudd or shy feeding Roach in a canal. Sliced bread is the better type to use, the fresher the better. Punches come in various sizes and their use depends on the size of hook to be used as the punched bread needs to hide the hook which in turn is threaded through the middle of the bread and out to the side.
When using bread punch, good results can be had by making a milky cloud-bait. Soak and mash half a loaf of bakery bread and feed it around the float, small amounts at a time, in order to offer small samples. This method is especially effective on canals and stillwaters.
Bread Crust is a versatile bait for use on Rivers and Stillwaters. It is very effective for tempting Chub and Carp especially when free-lined. Use fresh bread crust and place it on the hook by threading the hook from the crust side, into the white flake and back out of the crust. Larger hook sizes are recommended. Dunk the bread into the water to wet it and gently cast it in feeding several smaller pieces around it. In flowing water allow the crust to float up to obstacles such as trailing branches, often where a fish will be lurking underneath. Beware of Ducks and Seagulls though!
There is little to compare the feeling when a fish can be seen swimming up to the bread and watching as it sucks it from the surface.
Bread Crust can also be legered. Hook the crust through the flake initially, through the crust and back out into the flake. Put a stop on the line about 5cm from the hook and use a small Arlesey Bomb. This will allow the crust to 'pop-up' from the bottom. If the bottom is known to be soft increase the hook length to allow for the Bomb sinking slightly.
Bread Paste is made by soaking slices of bread in water and then placing into a cloth. Gather the corners of the cloth and twist to squeeze all excess water out. The resultant paste is then neaded and flavourings added if required. Bury the hook into a ball of paste and fish it legered using samples of the same for loose-feed.
Castors as we commonly know them, are the chrysalis of the fly at the 'pupae' stage between the maggot and the fly. Leftover maggots can be allowed to 'turn' but riddle them to remove any debris or dead maggots. Once collected place in a container of water in a cool place, this will prevent them from turning further.
Castors bought from the tackle shop will normally come in a plastic bag. It is okay to store them this way if you are to be using them shortly but preferably place in an air tight container and keep either in a fridge or a cold place.
Fresh castors come in a light to medium brown colour and are fished either singularly or two at a time. If using two, hook the first through the blunt end and out through the side. The second can then be hooked through the blunt end only. Take care not to burst the castor as often fish will ignore these.
When fishing keep the castors in a container with enough water to cover them. This will keep them fresh longer. If allowed to dry out they will float.
Castors can be extremely effective especially when loose-fed or mixed in groundbait with hempseed.
Maggots are the larvae of flies the most common being the Bluebottle. They are naturally white but often come dyed in a variety of colours. Sometimes the colour of the maggot can mean the difference between getting bites or not.
To determine the freshness of the maggot check that the black food sack is visible. The larger this is, the fresher the maggot.
Maggots can be used in a variety of ways, the normal method is to hook them through the 'blunt' end either singularly or two at a time. If using two maggots place the hook through the 'eye' on the first maggot and out of the mouth and then hook the second maggot through the mouth first and then out of the 'eye'. This will prevent them from spinning in the water as you wind in which can cause tangles especially with fine lines.
Maggots can be made to float by leaving them sit in a small amount of water whereupon they will then take in air. This is especially useful if fishing on the drop and can be used to counteract the weight of the hook.
If you are not having any success on heavily fished waters where you usually use live maggots, try using dead maggots. A couple of days before you go, spray about a pint of bait with a little water, just enough to give them a glaze and then flavour them, curry powder, molasses, fruit surprise (Braddocks baits) and leave them to wriggle for about 10 minutes. Wrap them in a plastic bag and then freeze them. Allow to thaw before using them.
When you have packed up for the day don't throw your spare maggots away, take them home and freeze them, you can then re-use them in groundbait as they don't break the balls down especially useful if you are catapulting them out if you are fishing at a distance.
Brandlings also called the 'Tiger Worm' due to it's striped appearance are similar in size to the redworm and are often found in composts. They make a good all round bait especially for Perch. When hooked they can release a yellow colouring.
Dendrobaenas are a larger worm up 2 grams in weight, make an excellent hook bait for Bream, Tench & Roach, tougher skinned than redworm they stay on the hook better when casting. Large "Dendros" are ideal for chopping and adding to groundbait (if your not squeamish), the resulting "fluids" are an excellent fish attracter. The Dendro is the most commercial of all the worms.
Lobworm fished either whole or in part, usually the tail end, are the largest of the worms used in freshwater fishing. A very good bait for Chub, Carp, Bream and Barbel especially in coloured. They can be collected after dusk from lawns following heavy rain or an old trick is to water the grass with a mild solution of washing-up liquid and water. The worms will then rise to the surface.
Redworm are small worm up 1/2 a gram in weight, make a lively hook bait excellent for Roach, Bream, Tench and most freshwater fish, darker in colour than Dendrobaena are more visible in "coloured" waters. Often found in 'mature' dung heaps.
How to Build a Wormery:
Boxes made from wood, styrofoam or other plastic material are ideal. Wood is better as it is more absorbent and provides better insulation for the worms. Metal containers should be avoided as copper and zinc may concentrate in the finished vermicompost .
A 60 x 90 cm box with a depth of 30 cm is sufficient to compost food scraps for a family of four people. Clean the box and punch small 1 cm holes all over the sides and bottom for ventilation and drainage. Line the box with several sheets of newspapers and half fill it with well-rotted moist compost. Alternatively, tear newspapers or cardboard into strips and soak in water and let drain. Fill 1/3 of the box with this shredded paper bedding and mix in soil to provide grit for the worms digestive system. Other materials suitable for bedding are shredded dead leaves, straw, sawdust and peat moss. Bedding made up of various materials provide more nutrients for the worms and result in better productivity.
You will require about 1000 worms to start. Cover the top with a sheet of hessian, or several pieces of newspaper to keep the environment moist and light out. Close with a tight fitting lid to keep pests and rain water away. Water well to keep moist but not soggy. Raise the box on bricks or wooden blocks and place a tray beneath to capture excess liquid which can be used as liquid plant fertilizer.
Start with a small amount of fruit and vegetable scraps in the first week, about 500 grams to begin with. Gradually increase the amount weekly as the worms begin to multiply. Every few days add water if necessary to keep the hessian damp, and the wormery moist. The worms will die if it becomes dry. Highly acidic waste such as citrus and onion peels are not recommended as the acids can kill the worms.
Assuming that you didn't remove any worms, after about six months you will probably have 8000 worms, which can devour up to 4 kilograms of food scraps a week!
I think Dave has just about covered most things, but one difference I have, is that I feed my worms with mashed potato's, no salt or butter and they seem to thrive. I also use a pizza cutter (Wheel) to chop mine up. Just put your worms in a bait box and run the cutter back and forth over them and you end up with chopped worms in no time at all and mixed with caster it is a great loose feed for all types of fishing.
I also use a lot of dead maggots with various flavours on them. All you need to do is put a pint of lives in a zip lock bag and freeze them for 24 hours and you have dead maggots. If you want flavoured ones, just put the flavor on before you freeze them. Another way is to gas them. I use small airtight containers and put liquid flavouring over the maggots and seal the lid on for at least 24 hours in a cool room to make perfect flavoured deads for my hook bait. They are ideal for silty bottomed lakes because they can't bury themselves in the silt like live ones do but just lay on top of the silt.
SOAK THE PELLET IN WATER JUST COVERING THEM, OVER NIGHT
AFTER SOAKING THE PELLET SQUEEZE THE PELLETS TOGETHER TO GET RID OF THE EXCESS WATER THEN MIX WITH THE 3 OZ OF GROUND BAIT THE ADD AN EGG AT A TIME UNTILL YOU GET A DOUGH LIKE MIX(I ONLY USE TWO EGGS )THEN ADD SWEETCORN IF WANTED.NOW TAKE A PAN AND FILL WITH WATER ADDING THE TWO TABLE SPOONS OF VANILLA FLAVOURING THEN BOIL IT WHILE THE PAN OF WATER IS COMMING TO THE BOIL ROLL THE DOUGH INTO BALLS WHEN THE WATER IS BOILING ADD THE BALLS AND BOIL FOR 2 TO 2 AND A HALF MINUTES THEN PLACE ON SOME KITHEN ROLL UNTILL THEY GO COLD THEN PUT IN CONTAINER AND PLACE IN FRIDGE FOR 2 HOURS AND THERE DONE
YOU MAY NEED TO GET THE FISH USED TO THEM PRIOR TO USE.