If nothing else, paste fishing either sinks or swims (pardon the pun) by the way it's mixed and in some cases, flavoured. There are several contentious views on mixing, not least of which are those between the 'sloppy' and 'firm' brigades. Rob Hitchens can be rightly credited with kicking the craze off nationally, so it's with some confidence that we begin in earnest this defining series. It's a 'No Holds Barred' exposé of paste fishing techniques, tricks and plain common sense applications, which Rob will cover frankly and honestly. If you've always been a little confused and uncertain about fishing paste, Rob will put your mind at ease and show you just how simple it all really is!

Once our series reaches it's final instalment, we'll produce a complete index for you, linking each and every aspect covered over the previous months. This will allow you quick and easy access to your favourite informative sections. We'll also have a special members 'eHotline' to Rob, so you can ask and clarify any points that you may be uncertain of. This really will be the series-to-end-all-series, and could set a standard which others may copy, but find difficult to achieve... and all FREE and exclusive to MA Plus members!

Mixing a good paste?
Rob explained, "it has to be the right consistency and needs to stay on the hook in the water, but break down from the outside at the same time, giving off tempting particles. If a fish swims past it, the paste should give off a little cloud of particles, but still leave the 'core' on the hook. This way, the fish gets a taster of what’s in the paste before sucking up that tasty core." Rob went on to explain, "if a paste is either too soft, or too stiff, it will not work properly. There seems to be a current trend for fishing very soft paste, almost dripping off the hook, which I'm firmly opposed to. Quite simply it becomes too easy to pull the hook through and out of the paste. It's also very messy and can put some anglers off paste fishing entirely." On the other hand Rob was equally adamant about the harder approach stating, "paste that's too stiff, will simply not break down at all in the water and therefore will not give off any of that enticing particle cloud which tempts fish to succumb to the main paste core. If your paste is not breaking down in the water, then you might as well be fishing a boillie!" A point Rob verbally stressed on more than one occasion during our sessions!

How do you mix the perfect paste?
There is a lot of mystique surrounding mixing paste. Some anglers use eggs to bind the mixture, others make up paste in advance and then freeze it. Then there are those who like to make their paste to the consistency of a stiff soup, that needs to be shipped out in a pot to avoid it 'running' off the hook! Rob applies a much simpler approach. He mixes the paste directly from one of his groundbait bags, on the bank prior to fishing. No eggs, no freezing, no slop in a tip cup... just water and a bag of groundbait.

Rob uses his own Yorkshire Baits groundbait/paste products, which he's developed over the years into a range of flavours including KopyKay, Green Betaine, Garlic, Pink Prawn, Black Octopus and the latest addition, Yellow Toffee, and yes it really does smell like TOFFEE! All of these groundbait/paste's are based on a blend of high quality expander and sinking pellets, crushed into a fine/medium crumb base with some added biscuit and fish meal, plus some extra secret ingredients!

The first thing you notice about Yorkshire's groundbait/paste is that although it seems quite finely crushed, there are still traces of slightly larger ground pellet particles amongst it. Usually when you buy most fishmeal products, you find that the base fishmeal pellets have been ground down into quite a fine crumb. Rob explained that if you grind pellets too fine, once you add water they start to stick together, a bit like creating flour dough, which then don't break-up in water in the way Rob requires.

The steps below detail how Rob mixes his paste, as well as the following video clip.

  1. Once opened, your bag of Yorkshire Bait groundbait/paste will make THREE paste mixes, therefore a single session will only require a third of a bag.
  2. You are looking to add quite a lot of water at this first wetting stage, so that the mix looks very soft and you can squeeze it through your fingers. The consistency should look, for a very short period, quite close to the slop you'd normally make for surface fishing.
  3. Leave the mix to rest for 10 to 15 minutes. This is very important because during this first wetting stage, the mix fully absorbs all of the water and becomes much firmer, allowing you to gather the paste into a single ball.
  4. You can now wet the mix a second time, adding more water than you would as if mixing a groundbait for a second time. This will bring the mix back to a soft dough, which can easily be squeezed between your fingers.
  5. Having worked the mix thoroughly, form it back to a single ball and your paste mix should be ready.

This is how Rob mixes most of his paste for fishing. It should still feel quite soft but when you roll it into a ball around the hook, it maintains it shape firmly. You can also see some of the tiny individual particles still formed in the paste, which will then become activate as it lays on the bottom, hopefully around inquisitive fish! However, there may be days when you need to fish a stiffer paste... Rob explains, "if you have a lot of nuisance fish around your swim, like small skimmers, which just keep pecking at your paste, you'll need to stiffen it up a little more to protect it's approximate 5-10 minute breakdown life. There are also days when you need to wait longer for a bite so you might require the paste to stay on the hook for much longer. It's also possible that you want to fish paste on a waggler, or even on the feeder, commonly known as the 'conker' method. In these cases it's important to know how to make the original paste stiffer without compromising it's action."

Here's how Rob stiffens paste:

  • First add some extra water to the base mix, making it into a sloppy soup again. This is extra wetting stage is very important as you MUST NOT simply add more dry groundbait to your paste mix. This is because your original mix will simply not absorb the extra dry quantity correctly and you'll be left with a paste that breaks down badly!
  • Now sprinkle some more dry mix over the slop.
  • Work this in like a dough. Because your original paste has been re-wetted, it creates the perfect consistency for adding the extra dry groundbait and will consequently absorb this more consistently, leaving you with a perfectly prepared stiffer ball.

There are no real precise quantities of water, or dry ingredients, for this process, it's not something that can be measured easily. Like Rob, you'll find that by constant practise, the process of mixing it will become almost instinctive. You MUST ALWAYS follow the same principle of adding water to re-wet your paste, before adding anymore dry mix to stiffen it up. Following these steps will ensure your paste is at its utmost potent force.

All pastes need a breakdown action for them to be fully effective. Even if you use a stiffer paste following our guidelines above, you'll get particles breaking off, albeit at a slower rate. As Rob wryly comments, "without the pastes breakdown factor, you might as well fish a hard flavoured boillie!"

Try the breakdown test yourself
How many anglers have actually bothered to see what their paste does in the water and asked the question... "is this what I really want from my paste?"
If you've followed Rob's advice and want to check whether your paste's working correctly, take a piece you've just mixed, about the size of your thumb and mould it onto a prepared hooklength (obviously with a hook on the end!). Now drop it in a clear bowl of water and watch it closely. You should be able to see the odd particle starting to peel off from the outside of the moulded paste ball. Now give the line a little tug so that the paste moves slightly, as if a fish was swimming over it. You should see the ball give off a little cloud of particles, while the paste core remains intact around the hook. If it doesn't then you've mixed it wrong! Rob explained that fish will be attracted to the particle cloud before they actually suck in the core. If the paste is too soft, there will be no core left after a fish has swam (wafted) over it. If the paste is too stiff, it will not give off that attractive particle cloud. Assuming you've managed to achieve a successful breakdown test, you can now safely answer your initial question... "THIS is what I really want from my paste!"

Rob is a great believer in using flavours to increase the attractiveness of his paste and has developed a wealth of experience in this area. But what do flavourings achieve... how much do you use... which flavours work best and when... but equally as important, how do you combine them into a paste, or any other feed correctly!

 The Basic Types
Rob relates to two basic forms of flavour. There is the flavour that is impregnated throughout a groundbait, paste or pellet, during manufacture and works in quite a subtle way. Quite often these products will not smell very strong as they comes straight out of their respective containers because the flavour is locked inside. However, once they have been exposed in water, these flavours start to release. Even so, this flavour will be released slowly as the groundbait, pellets or paste begin to break down. Rob explained it rather like a stock cube... it doesn't smell too strong when you first open it, but once dissolved in water its aroma begins to fill the area.

We then have the flavour to complement and boost-up this process. Rob believes in adding an identical flavoured 'glug' at the last minute. The idea is to apply a powerful complementary coating directly around the outside surface of the bait, whether a pellet or a paste, so that it starts to release immediately on contact with the water, thereby accelerating its attractiveness. Although Rob sees many anglers adding these flavourings on the bank, he's convinced they don't really understand what they're doing. As he strongly remarks, "most flavourings are oil-based, including my own Yorkshire Baits 'Glug' brand, and this fact alone fundamentally dictates how you should apply them. I would bet that many of you are simply tempted to add them to your mixing water when making up a paste or groundbait. More importantly, what you must bear in mind is that being oil-based, the flavoured liquid will separate from this water thereby reducing its effectiveness overall. This becomes more acute when mixing up a paste, because this separated flavoured oil will coat some of the paste and as a consequence make that area waterproof. This in turn diminishes its ultimate holding consistency and breakdown rate, due to the weak and solid spots created throughout the paste."

The principle of waterproofing can also applies to feed pellets. Although we've mentioned that many flavours are oil-based, this doesn't stop elements of the oil from seeping into damp paste, groundbait or pellet. Rob stresses that it's of the utmost importance that if we want to use our flavours in the most effective way, we need to ensure that all our baits have been properly wetted, rested and wetted again, before we finally add any of them.

Which flavour works best?
This is a $64,000 question and one which each of you is best placed to answer in your own particular area, given a few important criteria. If you are familiar with your local venue, you'll be aware of what the current flavour vogue is, be it for carp or non-carp species. That doesn't mean to say that any other flavour won't attract your quarry. A couple of years ago I did a feature with Perry Stone at Framfield Fishery in Sussex using Rob's revolutionary KopyKay chunks. The fishery had never seen this product before and feeding trends revolved around 6mm pellet. meat and 'green' paste. The reaction was astounding, with Perry landing well over 200lb of carp using just these synthetic catmeat chunks. No doubt many of you will have already seen the article in our BAITS section. I still have enjoyable 'flashbacks' to that day. It's all about experimenting, so don't turn up to a match with a new flavoured bait and expect to clean-up!. The percentage of that happening will always be against you, unless of course you're called Perry Stone!

It's very important to realise that flavours disperse differently in varying temperatures. During winter when water temps drop dramatically, flavours will disperse slower, therefore if you've been over-generous with the flavour, your day's quite likely to become similar to your baited swim... barren. This applies much more acutely to any oil-based flavour, which will not disperse in cold water at all!

At the opposite end we have summer when the water temperature increases just as dramaticlly. Then we have good dispersal rates, but also one other aspect over-looked by many. Rob explains, "Warmer water changes the smell and taste of certain meat flavours. Take our KopyKat Chunks for example. By immersing the Chunks in warm water you generate a meaty smell, however, forgive me if I don't comment on the taste as that's going a bit too far! Another example is sugar... you can't really smell it, but put it in water and taste it and you realise there are two sides to sugar. To understand which flavours work best, you have to understand the basics of what a flavour does... just because it smells nice to you, it doesn't necessarily mean it will get the same response from your quarry. Believe it when we tell you that more anglers get hooked on flavours, than fish!"

Nevertheless, many species have acknowledge favourite flavours, any meaty products will normally pull carp, tench, bream and even perch! Sweet flavours also attract these species, in particular tench and bream. Other flavours at the 'Spicy' extreme end of the spectrum include garlic and curry, which work well, especially during the cold months along with the new bloodworm flavours currently on the market. The biggest mistake many make is applying the wrong type and quantity of flavour, at the wrong time of year.

What quantities do you use?
The amount of flavouring you use could be governed by several factors, not least of which is the time of year. Fish senses go into a sort of 'hibernation' mode during the cold months and it's widely acknowledged that to apply too much of any given flavour will have the opposite effect to what you're trying to achieve. While fish may still feed, their intake of food is greatly reduced, therefore emphasis on minimal quantities inconjunction with minimal flavour boosters, would seem a prudent approach. Once winter disappears and temperatures start to climb, fish start to become more active as they search out food to help them pack on the weight, lost during the winter months. Then, it effectively becomes a free-for-all, with anglers depositing innumerable amounts of bait, laced with all manner of flavours in order to entice and catch their favourite species. Whilst the amount of flavour used will not be so critical at this time, it is nevertheless still important that you don't go overboard when adding flavour. This is a common mistake made by many, which Rob explains very simply, "if you fill two cups with hot water, one containing a single teaspoon of coffee and the other with THREE teaspoons, they will smell very similar... but try tasting them and note the difference!"

Always remember that fish have much more finely-tuned taste receptors than us, being able to smell/taste flavours over large distances of water. As an example, sharks are able to taste one drop of blood within a million drops of water and smell blood as far away as a quarter of a mile (0.4km)! While many of you are unlikely to come into contact with one of these creatures at your local commercial, the basic principle still relates to our own coarse species who's taste receptors are very much intune with their own environment.

The general idea is to stimulate the fishes curiousity and feeding sensations... not overpower it's senses and send it to another competitors swim!

In Conclusion
Watching certain anglers advocate mixing paste to the consistency of diarrhoea, probably left many confused and dispirited. A constant ensuing struggle with this uncomfortable approach generally saw many of them reverting back to the more secure pellet option every time. Once you've mixed the paste correctly, so that it stays on the hook easily yet breaks down slowly in the water, the rest of what Rob tells us seems just plain common sense!

Having successfully achieved this, don't undue all the good work by ruining it at the flavouring stage. Remember, flavours react to different temperatures and varying quantities, get this right and your fishing, both paste and other, will improve.

Working with Rob and understanding just how simple these paste mixes are to make, certainly gave us at MA.com, the inclination to go and retry this method in a new light and feel confident that this time it should work properly... We think you should as well!


(end March):
Pole Rigs: How to make, shot and hook them!!!


To find your way around our Rob Hitchens A-Z of Paste Fishing series, we have created this Index to make finding a specific subject from within the five part series more easy. Simply click the picture opposite to access.