Maggots might be ideal for getting plenty of bites on the canal, but when you want to single out a bigger stamp of fish, casters are often the answer. These are the chrysalis stage of the maggot, and the bait countless canal experts count on to tempt real net fillers of many species -but especially big roach.
Harvesting your own casters is a time-consuming operation, achieved by continuously separating those maggots which have ‘turned’, using a riddle which the maggots crawl through, leaving just the inert casters. A much easier solution is to buy casters direct from your local tackle shop.
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Casters have an uncanny knack of picking off the quality fish.
However you get hold of them, casters must be stored in airtight condition, to prevent them darkening to the point where they float and become of little use. The easiest way to do this is in a watertight plastic bag. Should you need to keep them for anything over 48 hours, they need to be aired periodically before resealing. On the bank you should cover them in water to keep them fresh and prevent them from turning into dark floaters.
Whether it is their lack of wriggle or dark appearance, casters seem to appeal less to the tiddlers while holding the attention of any bigger fish in the vicinity. They can be fished singly, or in pairs or cocktail baits, usually on hook sizes 14-20. If the fish are really canny, two other dodges are worth a look: darker casters will counterbalance the weight of your hook for a supremely natural presentation, while a size 18 or smaller pattern can be buried inside a caster to fool the canniest of fish.
Another year-round bait, worms will catch just about every type of canal fish. Many who target perch, bream, tench or eels would feel lost without them in. They work in the most unpromising of conditions, whether that means icy temperatures or heavily coloured water. Although commercially available nowadays, they also appeal to thrifty anglers who know where to collect them for free.