Paste fishing is not a new innovation, it's been around since the early days, having been one of the easiest and cheapest forms of bait known to man. I can remember fishing my local Brandesburton Ponds just north of Hull when I was a teenager and seeing a man sat in his deckchair (or similar designed seating) on one of the ponds, using a bread dough bobbin. What I didn't know, until he brought out a pristine gravel pit roach of about 8oz, was that he also had some on the hook. I was fascinated as I could see these sleek shapes in his keepnet, which confirmed he'd been having a good day, unlike myself and that was more years ago than I cared to remember!

As recently as the early 70's, I was using a paste mixed out of brown crumb for tench on one of the Royal Parks ponds at Hampton Court. This involved using a cut down porcupine quill float (so that it had a flat top), of about 3 inches long. The depth was set accordingly by the single float rubber at the base (waggler style) and a small amount of my plain brown crumb groundbait was moulded around the hook and then cast out (no poles available at the time!) to the end of the reed bank. It was summer and the tench (albeit small ones) were lapping up the paste blob eagerly. Unfortunately I didn't realise the potential that was staring me in the face, unlike one particular angler many years later.

Since the early 90's, one particular angler has arguably become the acknowledged 'Chief Architect' of the paste culture. ROB HITCHENS has been brought up fishing around Yorkshire, perhaps one of the toughest match circuits in England, if not the world. Based in Rotherham, he's fished alongside angling legends such as Dennis White, Tom Pickering and of course 5x World Champion Alan Scotthorne. Rob is a bit of a legend himself, having qualified for Fish'O'Mania in 1999, 2003 and 2004, which he won. He was also the inventor of the incredible 'Hitchens Wonder Paste', which I suppose is what really propelled him into more global angling limelight.

To rise to the top you need to become a pretty special angler, with perhaps a tinge of good fortune. Rob has had both that, making a name for himself as a commercial specialist at top northern waters like Hayfield and Lindholme with pellet and paste. More than anything else, Rob Hitchens is known and feared across the country for his mastery of paste fishing. Rob's first brush with the method came from an inocuos trip to Doncaster's Hayfield fishery in the early 90's.

It was this trip that Rob first encountered two visitors, fishing with waggler rods and what looked like trout pellet paste wrapped around the hook. On closer inspection, he found that the mixture was quite solid, more akin to a boilie than what we know paste as today. The anglers missed more fish than they hooked, as the hook was somewhat hampered in its travel to the fishes 'gob' because of the stiffness of the paste! Rob also noted that they were feeding some of the pellets from the pet shop, in a home-made pot contraption. It was a plastic cup which had a lid (presumably hinged), this was attached to their rod line and then cast out. Arriving at the required line-clipped distance, the strange looking device (at the time) would come to an abrupt stop, causing the lid to fly open, thereby allowing its contents to spew out all over the place. They would then attached some of their rock-hard mix to the hook and cast out to the eagerly waiting carp.

By the end of the day, one of the anglers next to Rob, had amassed over 40lb of fish (a fraction of what Rob believed he could of had!), while Rob's pole caught effort could only muster a paltry 8lb. Although this new and weird method seemed totally alien to current trends, Rob obviously saw some merit in it and started to use and develop the technique more, but initially, only on the pole... to devastating effect! It has to be noted that these two anglers could be placed in the same category (a bit like me I suppose) as someone landing in America (pre-Columbus of course), only to return home empty handed, save for a few dried leaves, a sack of roots and some coloured rocks. For those of you not on my wavelength, that's tobacco, potatos and gold!!!

Rob's early association with Hayfield, gradually developed into a highly successful venture, having been credited with over 40 consecutive match wins (opens and league) before owner Robin Goforth put a halt to it by banning the method, the reason... attendances dramatically dropped when Rob fished! There can be few instances were extreme action like this is applied, but there was a silver lining on the horizon. Robin eventually approached Rob with a view to creating and marketing his paste, later to become the fabled 'Wonder Paste'. Although it had limited distribution, it was a good seller and firmly placed Rob in the public eye. Features followed with national angling publications and the method became well-aired and much copied by many of Rob's contempories.

Right & below: Some of the media attention that Rob inspired in the late 1990's.

It was in 2004 that Rob's fame gathered further impetus when he won Fish'O'Mania at its then home, Hayfield. Although his success was not on the paste, it established him as a creditable and noteworthy competitor nationwide. His achievements were ultimately building up into an association with two other partners to form Yorkshire Bait, specialising in high quality groundbait, paste and pellet products. Rob has since taken total control over the company and applied his own Mission Statement that... if it's good enough for 'Yorkshire Bait', it's good enough for him... firmly believing that he will not sell anything to the angling public that he's not prepared to use himself. His successes, as well as those of his southern protége and baggin' ace Perry Stone, are too numerous to mention and their continual pursuit of match successes firmly position angling's dynamic duo somewhere between Batman & Robin and Only Fools and Horses stars, Dellboy & Rodney!

However, if angling history is to remember Rob Hitchens, it will be for his undoubted paste prowess. It's with this in mind that we have joined forces with Rob to produce a definitive guide to paste fishing entitled, Rob Hitchens A-Z of Paste Fishing, or Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Paste Fishing! This doesn't imply that there will be something relating under an A, B or C letter each instalment, it's more of a descriptive indication of everything you need to know about paste fishing... from the beginning... to the end. This will be the essence of the forthcoming series. Over the course of the next few months, we shall delve deep, revealing ALL Rob's inner paste secrets, offering you a unique and never before insight to 'ALL THINGS PASTE'. We'll describe in detail, using stills and videos, how to mix and flavour your paste, cover techniques and 'when and where' to use them effectively, in fact just about every conceivable situation you may encounter on the bank. We'll also have a Helpline for any questions you may want to raise with Rob.

Below are just some of the 'tasty' features we'll be covering in the Rob Hitchens A-Z of Paste Fishing:

How to mix the perfect paste
There is a lot of confusion surrounding mixing pastes. Some anglers use eggs to bind the paste, others make them up in advance and freeze them, some even like to make their paste so sloppy they have to ship it out in a pole cup because it will simply fall of the hook (Cup-A-Slop)!  Rob has a much simpler approach... he uses his own high quality base crumb, direct from the bag and mixes it up on the bank before fishing... NO eggs, NO freezing, NO Cup-A-Slop!

What makes a good paste?
Rob explains in detail what makes a good paste and why... “it has to be the right consistency to stay on the hook, while still giving off particles as it breaks down from the outside, leaving the paste core intact." Rob will demonstrate these actions, on video, as he covers this most basic preparation of paste fishing.

What about flavours/additives?
A good point to cover and one which can catch you fish on days when your standard 'dough' doesn't produce! How do you apply them... how much do you use... which flavours work best and when? Rob has a wealth of knowledge on these subjects which will fascinate and possibly surprise you!

How do you feed a paste swim?
This is an important question and one too which there is no simple remedy. Rob will cover the why's and wherefore's of how to feed different baits... at certain times... in different places.... in what quantities. It's something that if you don't get right at the start, you'll end up not fully optimising your swim!

How do you shot a paste rig?
There are many different theories regarding the shotting of rigs when paste fishing. Some fish with no shot at all and simply use the weight of the paste to cock a long bristled float. Others use a self-cocking float, again with no shot down the line... Rob follows neither of these approaches and sheds light on why they could cost you fish!

Hooks, lines and elastics
Which pattern/types are best... and the reasons why. It's unbelievably very simple!

Paste floats
This is another hotly contested area of debate. The convention is that a paste float should have a very long and fairly thick bristle so that once in the water the pastes' weight will sink the bristle. If the paste then falls off the hook, the bristle will pop out the water. The key to the floats Rob uses, is how he fishes his paste rigs! He'll talk about the various patterns and why they are good, or not so good and explain the effect they have on the paste.

How do you know when to strike?
This can be one of the most difficult and frustrating things for newcomers to master, as well as the more accomplished anglers. How do you tell the difference between a line bite and a genuine one? Is the fish just blowing the bait as it inspects it, or taking it in? Rob will explain the 'ABD' (Art of Bite Detection), and give you further insight into what goes on down below.

What method do you fish paste with?
The most common conception of fishing the paste is with a pole... but it's not always the most deadly! Rob will cover in detail how to fish paste, not only on the pole, but on the rod... both with waggler and leger. Master these techniques and you'll be able to complete the perfect all-round 'assault' on just about any water you visit!

We hope you found this Freeview 'Taster' interesting enough to join MA Plus and see all the other fascinating and informative features available as an MA Plus Member. We'll be starting Part 1 of our 'Exclusive to MA Plus Members Only' series in ernest during February, which will focus on the basics of mixing and flavouring paste. Rob will then further expand and unlock even more secrets of paste fishing, as the months unfold.