It's fair to say that much of paste fishing today is done with the pole, although it's not the whole story and we'll cover all the non-pole methods thoroughly in Part 4. For now we shall be focussing on the pole and the basic things that you need to get right in order to make your session more effective. We'll be taking each of the simple components of rigs in sequence and hopefully by the end of the article you'll be more aware and comfortable with fishing paste.

Paste floats
Float selection is a common area of debate amongst paste anglers. The conventional wisdom is that a paste float should have a very long and fairly thick bristle so that once in the water the extra weight of the paste on the hook will sink the bristle down to a desired depth. If the paste falls off the hook, the bristle will then pop up out of the water. Rob use to fish this way years ago, but has since modified his thinking on floats and the way he uses them.

The key to Rob’s choice of floats, is understanding how he fishes his paste rigs. On a completely flat bottom, with absolutely no wind or drift, he will set his paste at dead depth with the float directly above. However, as soon as there is any wind or drift Rob will go between 10 to 15 centimetres overdepth. He will always look for some form of shelf, whether it be a gradually, or a more pronounced one. For instance, if he finds the base of a shelf at 6 foot, he will just fish up from it, however, his main principle is always to fish within a 4-7 foot depth and at a comfortable distance. If a shelf runs out further than expected, he will simply find an area down the shelf at around 6 foot and fish that. The ideal place would be as close to the bank as possible, at around 5-6' deep, but in every situation the preference is always to fish UP... and overdepth. This allows him to adjust and SET the float correctly.

Once the float has been set to the required depth, the distance of line between the connector and the float can be adjusted. This is quite important because Rob's style of fishing is to set everything up for a quick and positive bite. It would be no use whatsoever to have 18" of line running out to the float, this would simply extend the contact time between the strike and hooking, thereby allowing the fish to drop the paste. As Rob often commented during our pre-feature sessions, "you need to concentrate totally and be ready, like a coiled spring, to strike, because bites can be lightening quick."

Setting the rig
To lay the rig out in the swim Rob likes to keep a tight line to his float which, contradictory to the extended bristle approach, he feels he can best achieve with a fairly short bristle and the float body riding high in the water. During the several sessions we did to compile this series, Rob used a number of different float patterns. His general all-round float had been the Tamas Walter Series 5, one of the new range of carp floats from Hungary's double World Champ and marketed by Angling Concepts (SPRO) in the UK. These floats have a rugby ball shaped body, ideal for most situations, but when conditions are windy or there's a lot of tow, then Rob switches to a body-up 'river style' float, like the Drennan Turbo, or the adjustable Cralusso Capri. This is because he feels more in control when holding a float with larger body surface area against water movement, much like holding back against the flow on a river. Bristles for paste fishing need to be relatively thick in order to hold up well in the water and allow you to read the nature of bites.

Place a float band around base of bristle. This will take some pressure off the float ring during playing.

When you watch Rob set his float in the water, it's easy to understand what he's doing. The pole is carefully shipped out and then twisted to release the supported paste rig. The rig is gently laid out in the water so that the float/line is at an angle once the paste has reached the deck. By gently lifting the float up, Rob is able to set it against the weight of the paste and the bulk shot, being careful not to move the paste too much. During windy conditions or strong tow he would compensate by taking a shot off the bulk and allowing the buoyancy of the float to maintain direct contact with the paste. This goes against what many of us do in these circumstances, which is to fish much heavier, but then most of us are not using hookbaits that weigh more than the shotting capacity of our floats!

Shipping out
This can be one of the most difficult actions to overcome for many and, as a consequence, can often result in the angler giving up! This is were we go back to basics and the actual mixing of the paste. As we've already mentioned on numerous occasions, Rob does not see any benefit in mixing a 'sloppy' paste. It's becomes totally self-defeating to struggle with such an unstable bait because it requires great care in shipping out in a 'toss' pot. This risks the pastes hold being weakened and washed away by the time it hits the deck, leaving just the bare hook!

Rob's way of mixing paste means it holds extremely well onto the hook, but it still requires support during the shipping-out process. All that's needed is a simple cable tie, fixed around his top section, which the line and paste ball can be hung over. The pole is then shipped-out with the cropped cable tie tag facing upwards. Once the pole reaches its required spot, it's twisted around so that the line and paste hanging over the tag swings off, allowing the rig to be gently lowered into position in the swim, were the float can then be set.

Shotting a paste rig

Again, there are different theories about shotting on a paste rig. Some anglers fish a rig with no shot at all, relying simply on using the natural weight of the paste to cock a long bristled float. They fish the paste dead depth with the paste sinking the floats long bristle. The advantage of this is that if the paste falls off the hook the float will rise up and sit flat. It's fair to say that this particular approach seems to be more evident amongst those using sloppy paste, as it gives them some visible indication that their baits run away from the hook! Others use self-cocking floats, again with no shot down the line to achieve roughly the same sort of effect. Rob follows neither of these approaches and the reasons quite logical.

Because he fishes paste on all types of waters, from shallow commercials to deep lakes and reservoirs exceeding 4 metres deep, his opinion is that no matter how deep a venue may be, if you don't have any shot down the line to stabilise the float, the weight of the rig against any wind or tow will work to drag or pull the hook out of the paste. Rob always sets his rigs with bulk shot, usually between 10-12" (25-30cm) from the hook, depending on venue and depth but around 10" (25+cm) is a good starting point. He does not use droppers on paste rigs, which he feels are of no value, he just relies on the bulk shot to balance and stabilise the rig, which in turn gives positive bite indications.

To see bites develop more clearly, Rob colours the tips of his float bristles with a black permanent marker.

ALL Rob's floats are shotted to the base of the bristle. This is because he will always try to set the rig at an angle, quite simple in a wind or tow situation, but not so easy in dead flat conditions. The idea being that he keeps in direct line contact with the paste as much as possible, this means the float bristle should be drawn under the surface slightly so that any indications near the bait will be instant and positive. It will also show up clearly on the bristle, should his paste break away from the hook.

While he tends to use shot for all his carp rigs, Rob will switch to Stotz leads on lighter lines for tench and crucians, because they tend not to damage too much. One important point made regarding the bulk. You must not make it heavier than the weight of paste you're using because if the bulk is too heavy, it will fall faster than the paste, which in turn could put unnecessary pressure on the hook within the paste. Much of Rob's fishing is done with light floats, around 0.5gr, which would not be much of an bulk issue, although he would add a No.8 shot directly underneath the floats' base for extra stability and as a static marker of the depth. When he's forced to fish with a heavier float, like 1 or 1.5 grams, because of adverse wind or tow conditions, Rob will simply add more shot. These floats take between five and six No.4 shot, so he will always place at least two of them under the float. He will never make the bulk heavier than the paste!

What line to use

A simple, yet often overlooked item. Because of its very nature, paste fishing tends to be more effective when large fish are the target, so why use a light line? Rob's attitude is use a strong one if you don't want to snap off when building a big weight, so 'tool-up' with a suitable strength line. Most large fish are unconcerned about diameters so Rob uses 0.17mm when after non-carp and 0.17 to .20mm when bigger carp are around.

There can be a tendency to not fully appreciate just how important the role that elastics play when paste fishing. One thing should always be kept in mind... no matter what grade you use, the tension needs to be set correctly. A sloppy strung elastic will be of no use in setting the hook on strike! The elastic needs to have a firm pull-out so that when striking the hook exits the paste into the fishes mouth quick and cleanly. Hydro is Rob's preference, due to it's strength and reliability. Ideal grades can be anything from white through to red, dependent on the size of fish present. F1's, tench, bream and small 'puppy' carp can all be handled safely on white to grey but when the fish start to average 5lb+ then you need to consider black to red, it's all a matter of degree and balance.

Hooks for paste

Before going through Robs hook choices, we need to just look at how he actually puts the paste on the hook, which is quite relevant to the hook itself. It's also worth mentioning that because the hook is buried within the paste, it has no affect on how the rig/paste behaves in the water, unlike it would when using maggot, caster or bloodworm, etc.
    Roll a small ball of paste about the size of a 2 euro coin (or a 50p piece)
  2. Flatten the ball with your thumb to make a disc shape
  3. Place the hook at the bottom of the disc of paste. This is important as the hook can pull through the paste more easily if you place it nearer the top
  4. Fold the disk over the hook covering it completely
  5. Mould this into a tube shape with the hook completely sealed in
  6. Takes a second or two each time, just to taper the top of the paste where the line comes through. This is to make sure the line is coming straight out the top of the paste and not cutting through at an angle.
Having looked at how you hook a piece of paste, it may now be easier to understand Rob's hook choice. When fishing paste the hook should be completely covered so that when you strike, the hook will travel through the paste and hopefully set directly into the fish’s mouth. In order to do this quick and cleanly, Rob looks for certain qualities in his hooks:
  • A wide gape. This is important, firstly, because it gives more hold for the paste to mould around and secondly, the point will be nearer the edge of the paste, thereby giving a better chance of hooking the fish. If you use too narrower a gape, you offer less support to the paste and less chance of firmly hooking the fish when you strike, because the hook's point is further within the paste and closer to the shank.
  • A fairly straight point. Rob feels that the current trend for swept back carp hooks can sometimes work against you, as the point of the hook is at an angle facing into the shank and therefore not directly parallel to it. The angle of strike should always be upwards, not sideways, so a parallel point will always allow for a cleaner entry!
  • Drennanhooks1724.jpgDrennanhooks1724.jpgWeight. Rob doesn't feel that having a heavy wire hook affects how the paste behaves in the water, therefore his preferred choice for carp dominated venues would be the Drennan Specimen Barbless range. He has used Preston PR27's for targeting smaller species such as F1's, tench and bream, even though the hook is slightly swept back. But in each case, the weight/thickness of the hook is of no major issue to presentation.
  • Hook sizes. Always try to match the hook size to the mouth size of the fish you are targeting. It's no use using a size 10 if what's in front of you has size 14 mouths! Carp have large mouths so Rob would generally use a size 10, or even an 8, because of the larger piece of paste used.
  • An eyed hook. Rob ties all eyed hooks with a knot-less knot, which he feels is stronger than whipping to a spade end. Here the line can become weakened near the spade through constant pressure as you play a good fish. He also leaves a small tag after tying which just helps give a little extra hold within the paste.


While many may regard paste fishing as a somewhat poor relation to the more widely used pellet approach, it nevertheless requires careful thought as to how you set up your rigs, with a clear understanding of swim contours, depth of water and target species. It can sometimes be forgotten that like any other method, there remains a high degree of skill in making it work effectively and extracting the most success from its use. It's not by fortune or favour that Rob Hitchens has possibly become the finest paste technician in the land. It's been achieved by hard work, application and careful analysis of the method.

Next month:
Feeding strategies: What, when and how to feed!

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.