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We travelled up to the lovely Old Hough Fishery, deep in the Cheshire countryside, on what was supposed to be a lovely warm day. The ever-unpredictable British weather had other ideas though, throwing a deluge of rain and gale force winds, making the two acre lake known as ‘Big Max’ resemble the North Sea with white cap waves lapping the bank!

Not to be deterred, we met up with Spotted Fin’s Gareth Gibbons, who has been gaining a bit of a reputation, as a paste expert in recent years, so we thought it was time to catch up with him and find out exactly how he does it.

“We all know how much fish love groundbait” began Gareth, “normally this will be down the edge or around a feeder, paste fishing is just an extension of this meaning you have the same awesome attraction but in a form that you can use on the hook in open water!”

“After saying that, it’s not a method you can use all the time, the venue and time of year has to be right. Ultimately it’s a method for targeting the big fish so carp, large F1’s and even the odd bream should make an appearance today. But anywhere with a decent head of bigger fish, where allowed, paste can be a devastating method. The time of year is also vital, my general rule is once the temperatures start hitting a steady 15oC during the day then I will start giving it a go.”

You don’t need loads of bait for this!

With that Gareth unzips his bait bag and starts rummaging around, it’s time to get messy and mix up some paste…

“Preparing paste couldn’t be anymore simple, the key point is getting the right groundbait to begin with as they are not all suitable. My choice for today is the GO2 100% Milled Betaine, which as the name suggests, is made from just crushed pellets, no nasty fillers! This means it is packed full of attractors and oils, perfect for holding those big old carp. It has been milled into a nice fine mix with no lumps meaning that the finished paste is lovely and smooth, just how it needs to be.

All you need to do it take equal parts water and Milled Betaine, a pint bait box of each, then mix them together and you will end up with what looks like a thick pea soup. At this point you may be thinking that it is ruined, but give it a good mix and set it aside for 20 minutes whilst you set up the rest of your gear. In that time all that crushed pellet will have taken on the water and you are left with the perfect paste ready to be fed to those hungry carp.”

“With the bait ready it’s time to look at rigs, they are a bit different to any other pole rigs you are likely to use, but it although it might seem like a bit of a crude method, each element needs to be thought about to get the most out of it. If you get it wrong then you will have a frustrating day of missed bites and not many fish in the net.”

“As with all my fishing, I like to fish as light as possible and even though we are fishing for some big carp today, well into double figures, I will still keep it all relatively delicate. No spools of 0.25mm line here! There are lots of factors to take into consideration including the depth, tow and visibility when deciding exactly what to use but here is what I’ve settled on for todays session.”

Nice and strong with a long bristle!

“Starting with the float, I’m a fan of a round or pear shaped body as it’s a lot more stable, so I’ve opted for the ‘Peaty Pastes’ which are from the Warren Peaty Range, in my mind these are perfect. They feature a long tip which is essential when fishing paste, we’ll go into that in a bit more detail later but the last thing you want to be doing is striking at tiny little dinks and having to re bait all the time. They are also without doubt the strongest floats I have ever used, which is always a bonus as these rigs will take some stick if you start bagging a 10lber every put in!

As we’ve got quite a bit of a crosswind today I’ve gone for a 4 x 14 just to aid with the presentation, if it was flat calm I’d have no issue in going lighter. This is on a 0.17mm mainline down to an 0.13mm hooklength, nice and balanced and in an open water situation like today, there isn’t a fish swimming which you wouldn’t be able to land with a bit of patience. The rig is finished with a nice big hook, a Preston XSH-B in a size 12. These are nice and strong, specifically designed for big fish, hook size is important as l use a large piece of paste and need the hook to be able to penetrate the paste and hook the fish”

With balanced gear you can land anything!

Looking at these rigs, it’s clear that although they don’t have loads of components and fancy shotting patterns, every piece is there for a reason. One thing, conspicuous in there absence, are shot, not a single one anywhere on the rig. Gareth explains…

“I’ve seen all sorts of paste rigs over the years, some use a couple of shot to half cock the float but personally I don’t see any reason to. You use the weight of the paste to cock the float so a bite will be one of two things, the float flying under or lifting up out the water like a missile if the paste has been dislodged. The shot doesn’t add any benefit so I’ll fish without them.”

With the rigs covered, the Milled Betaine has magically turned from a soup into the perfect paste it’s time to get down to the important task of catching some fish!

“Plumbing up is the single most important factor in my opinion whilst paste fishing, you want to be using a large 30g plummet and plumb your float to how you would like it to look when you have paste on the hook, I tend to have around 3cm of bristle showing.

To kick-start my peg I feed 250ml of 6mm Catalyst pellets, these are an excellent holding bait and complement the Betaine paste perfectly. Wherever possible I like to let my paste line develop by feeding it two or three times to let the fish build their confidence, during this period l would fish either a different line on the pole or chucking a feeder.

Kick off the peg with a pot of 6mm Catalyst Pellets.

Big fish are quite good at giving themselves away when feeding on the bottom so when l see some form of sign be it colouring up of the water or bubbles caused by disturbance on the bottom I would then look to start fishing this line.”

“I’m not shy when using paste l like to use a piece the size of a 50p, the paste should be flattened with your thumb on the palm of your hand and hook placed in the middle then mould the paste round the hook. The paste then is placed in a pole mounted pot, when shipping out make sure the rig is shipped smoothly to avoid any unnecessary tangles, when tipping your paste out you must tip it to the side the rig is hanging or you will end up tangled!

When the rig first enters the water the float will dive under, give it a few seconds and once the slack line has pulled tight the float will sit in the position you’ve plumbed up to. Then it is a case of waiting for those positive indications; ignore any small movements, inevitably if you have a number of fish about you will get liners as they attack the paste, but sit on your hands and wait until it flies under at a rate of knots!”

Before long Gareth is striking into the first proper carp of the day, at around 8lb it is soon tamed on his balanced gear. A couple more follow with no more bait being introduced to the peg, the next fish powers off at high speed before the hook pulls, obviously foul hooked so it was time to look at re-feeding.

The first carp of the day!

“You need to judge this as your session progresses, I will feed straight pellets on the initial feeds to kick start the swim, then in an ideal world the only feed going in after that will be the paste on my hook. Remember that every time you ship out a new piece of paste, you are adding a bit of bait to the peg. So you will always have some attraction in the area.

If you do start getting foul hookers, my first thought it always to check the depth, if you are fishing on a silty bottom then often the carp will have scoured it out, so a quick check of the depth and raising the float an inch or two can often solve it. If not then re-feeding with pellets to pin them back down to the bottom will be the next thing to try”

He follows this routine to the letter, catching two or three fish, a selection of large carp and F1s, off each feed before having to feed a pot of pellets to settle them down. The average stamp of the fish during the session is very impressive and it’s obvious how this method wins so many matches during the summer!

Just a few of the carp Gareth caught!

Gareth Uses…