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Bait Collection and Tips – Lugworms Sandeels and Mussels

Bait Collection

Bait Collection

Digging and collecting your own bait offers distinct advantages to the sea angler. Not only will the freshest bait be available, often of types that cannot be purchased from the tackle dealer, but it also gives you an insight into the marine environment as well as keeping you relatively fit. Grab a fork, bucket and Wellington boots and dig below the low-tide mark and you may well come to respect those people who dig bait for a living. It can be fun, but it can be very hard work at certain times of the year and in bad weather. (Or really, you can just buy directly from the store to add to your bait collection).

Bait Collection

Digging Lugworms

Flat-tined forks are best for digging lugworm from soft sand and mud while thin ones are more suitable for stony ground when collecting ragworm. Black lugworm are usually dug with a small spade or sucked out of their burrows using a bait pump which makes for an awesome bait collection.


A short wire hook is the ideal tool for turning over weed when collecting peeler crabs. Shellfish, such as razorfish, can be hunted with a barbed spear or a pot of salt which, when sprinkled over their burrow, brings them quickly to the surface.

Baits  for Sea fishing

There are many sea-angling baits lying around at low water that require little effort to collect. Mussels, for instance, can be collected from groynes and breakwaters. Butterfish, clams, cockles and similar shellfish can be picked up from the beach after a storm, and lifting a few boulders and searching the mud and weeds around groynes can provide a supply of peeler crabs.

Digging for Lugworms

To dig common lugworm from wet sand you will need to create a small moat around the area you intend to dig to drain off excess water. Choose a spot with the largest concentration of worm casts, and dig a U-shaped moat around the area with the open ends facing towards the retreating sea. This will drain the chosen area within a short time. The sand taken from the moat should be piled on the outside of the trench to keep water from draining back in.

The larger black or yellowtail lugworm need to be dug individually with a small lug spade, although they can also be sucked out of the sand using Alvey-type bait pumps.

Ragworm are usually found in shingle and mud. You can dig trenches in rows to find these worms. In heavily dug areas, try draining pools and digging there, or under large boulders, for best results.


Collecting Sandeels

Sandeels can be netted from the sea, or dug from the sand with a fork. Night-time is best. They can also be dug from the sand and shingle bars using a hooked scraper.

Sandeels 2


What you need to know about Spate Rivers

spate rivers

Spate Rivers

Spate rivers are far more variable in character than chalk streams, the quality of their water being a direct product of the ground on which they rise and over which they run, but they all have one thing in common. Although some are augmented by springs or lakes, they are all either largely or exclusively fed by rainwater running off the land. As a consequence, they tend to rise and fall very quickly in response to rainfall or the lack of it, and they tend to be innately infertile because the bedrock is hard, containing few soluble mineral salts, and because they are in direct contact with it only relatively briefly.

Rise and Fall

The rapid rise and fall of a spate river is significant. When the water is low, its banks and the beds of the streams and rivulets feeding it dry out and accumulate an assortment of wind-borne bits and pieces — leaves, twigs, dust and loose soil. When the rain comes, it washes all this material down the watercourse, and the river becomes coloured and, usually, unfishable.

spate river 2

Spates can also be hazardous to anglers, rivers rising very rapidly with little or no warning. The fisherman wading on midstream shallows which may have been readily accessible when the water was low can find himself cut off from the bank surprisingly easily, and a few flyftshers are actually swept away by flash floods each year.

There has been alarming occasions. Others, while fishing the Eden below Appleby one fine June evening a few years ago. The sky was lightly overcast, but there was no sign of rain. Just before dusk, with no warning at all, the river rose more than two feet in less than twenty minutes, presumably in response to a storm high in the Pennines an hour or so earlier. Fishermen made it to the bank but acquired a pair of very soggy socks in the process.

A Wet Fly Quick Introduction

Wet Fly A Quick Guide

What is a wet fly?

A wet fly is a style made to duplicate insects hatching and rising to the surface. They are also sometimes termed “emergent flies” since many patterns replicate insects emerging from the larval stage. Wet flies can also mimic downed insects following a major hatch, that is sinking after landing on the surface. They can also be tied to look like mature aquatic insects or even small forage bait fish.

Wet flies are fished under the surface of the water often on the bottom of a stream. Since the fly is under water it is termed a “wet” fly. Wet flies are almost always weighted so they will sink under the surface of the water. In contrast, dry flies are never weighted.

A Wet Fly Quick Guide

Wet flies for Western waters are generally sold in sizes #10 to #12. The larger hook allows them to sink more easily. Many pros prefer to use a larger #10 pattern early in the season when waters are high and often muddy. Later in the year they will shift to a smaller #12 wet fly when water levels are low and clear.

Popular patterns

Popular patterns for California trouting include the Black Gnat, Brindle Bag, Coachman, Ginger Quill, Gray Muskrat, Hare’s Ear, Peacock, and Wooly Worm. You may recognize some of these names as common dry fly varieties. The wet fly versions are simply made on larger, usually heavier hooks with seven-fine lead wire around the hook shank and sometimes with less hackle material.

A Wet Fly Quick Guide 2

Wet flies are typically tied in much drabber colors than dry flies. Tan, brown, black, creme, and green make a good assortment of wet fly colors for your fly box.

What Are Chalk Streams – Ideal Trout Fisheries

What Are Chalk Streams

Chalk Streams

Chalk streams are streams coming from chalk which is highly permeable and rain falling onto it soaks straight into it, as into a sponge, rather than simply running off it. As the water sinks down through the chalk it is filtered and then settles into the water table or aquifer. In this section, the aquifer is domed, rather than having a flat surface like a lake. The dome rises and falls through the year in response to rainfall, being at its highest in early spring, after the winter’s downpours, and at its lowest towards the end of the summer. Throughout its time in the aquifer, the water is absorbing salts from the chalk and becoming increasingly fertile.

As the dome rises, its edge reaches points of weakness in the ground and the water pours out, running away as a stream. Not unnaturally, the springs lowest in the water table are the earliest to break and the last to fail. Some, below the point to which the top of the water table never falls, never fail. Others, high up, break late and always fail by July or August. Streams fed by such predictably fallible springs are termed ‘winterbournes’.

Ideal Trout Fisheries

Rivers fed by chalk springs make ideal trout fisheries. Their water is clear, which enables us to see the fish. They rise and fall very little in response to rain because the water tends to soak into the chalk, rather than run straight off it, which means that the rivers remain fishable almost regardless of the weather. And they are extremely fertile and therefore sustain large quantities of weed, which in turn sustains a vast wealth of insect life, which in turn produces big, healthy fish – and some problems.

Weed Cutting

Weed cutting is hard work for river keepers, and to cut weed properly is a considerable craft. The objects are to provide open lies for the fish and fishable water for the fisherman, and to maintain the flow of the water while at the same time leaving sufficient weed to provide prolific larders for the trout. It is also important that damaging weed like starwort, which encourages silting, should be removed and that good weeds like ranunculus and water celery, which provide excellent shelter for the creatures trout eat and do not accumulate mud, should just be given judicious haircuts.

On major chalk streams like the Test, the Itchen, the Kennet and the Wylye, and the Driffield Beck in Yorkshire, the river keepers agree weedcutting dates before the season opens and all cut their weed at the same time. With great rafts of weed floating down on their currents, the rivers are effectively unfishable on weed-cutting days and for a day or so thereafter, and a well publicized programme enables anglers to avoid the irritation thus caused. On small chalk brooks, like the Ebble and the Piddle, it is usually possible to run a net from bank to bank, cut a stretch immediately upstream of it and then haul the weed out. This obviates the need for a co-ordinated programme on those rivers where the job is usually done by busy riparian owners, rather than by full-time professional keepers.

Garden Hackles and NightCrawlers

Garden Hackles NightCrawlers

Garden Hackles

Basic, run-of-the-mill earthworms (also known as “garden hackle“) continue to catch trout, but more so at higher elevation waters than at lower, municipal reservoirs. The best way to fish these is using just one or two on the hook, making certain to cover the point and the shank. Rig the worms through the sex collar, using a #8 to #12 bait-holder hook. For still-fishing from the bank, a more subtle offering of just one or two instead of an entire “gob” is preferred. This presumably looks more natural to the trout.

Nightcrawlers present another situation all together. Fish the ‘crawler with a #6 to #10 longshank bronze baitholder hook. Run the hook through the sex collar and then back through, re-embedding it into the ‘crawler, creating a weedless effect.

Another option is to do the same thing only this time fill the nightcrawler full of air with a worm blower (basically a crude syringe sold at tackle stores). This will force the bait to float off the bottom depending upon the length of the leader line.

Both red worms and nightcrawlers can be still-fished with the traditional sliding egg sinker rigs. However, with nightcrawlers, you might consider using a 4 pound test leader. Bigger trout chomp on these jumbo worms and are often not that particular about the diameter of the leader material. Hence, the heavy leader will give you a little more leverage against larger fish. But, if the 4 pound test doesn’t get bit, go back to fishing the ‘crawler on 2 to 3 pound test.

Be sure to inspect the bait before you leave the tackle shop. Most stores allow you to empty the contents into a metal or cardboard trough to determine that the bait is alive and represented in the proper amount.

20-Bait Fishing

Finally, keep nightcrawlers chilled for best results. You can store them in an insulated “Bait Canteen” or buy an inexpensive styrofoam ice chest with a lid containing coolant solution that you can freeze. You can keep ‘crawlers alive in this chest all day even through the hottest summer months.

Grasshoppers and Crickets

In some areas grasshoppers and crickets produce fantastic results when more conventional offerings fail. Some bait shops sell crickets in little cages. As for grasshoppers, you can easily catch your own. Take a woman’s nylon stocking and stretch it over a wire coat hanger frame. Attach a broom handle and you have a simple grasshopper net.

Hook live ‘hoppers and crickets right under the collar again, using light leaders and #6 to #10 baitholders. Large browns and ‘bows seldom see these morsels and jump on them like a rare treat. So be prepared for possibly tangling with a larger-class trout when you use either live grasshoppers or crickets!

Other Bait for Trout Streams

There are some subtle tricks that help catch trout with bait when stream fishing. Locally collected baits can be deadly on rivers and creeks.


As with all forms of troutin’, bait fishermen must be willing to “mix it up” as far as presentations are concerned. Sometimes, just when it seems that the fish are annihilating one bait, the bite shuts off and you have to switch to another. In our highly pressured California streams and lakes, light, delicate leaders and small hooks are a must when soaking baits. Western trout can be super finicky, so be certain to take the time to discretely hide the hook in the bait.