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Gozzers and sour bran specials

There is some debate about the fly which produces gozzers. Some say that they are the larva of the common European bluebottle fly, whereas others are convinced the flies that lay the eggs are black in colour.

Match Fishing with Benny Ashurst book cover

It's said that the gozzer fly does not do well in indoor farmed environments and prefers an open-air environment in which to lay their eggs on items such as pigs or sheeps' hearts, chicken or pigeon roadkill.

The key thing is that gozzers are noticeably softer and whiter than maggots that are farmed commercially. Shy-biting fish will hang on to them for an instant longer so the bites are slightly better. Sugar was sometimes added a few hours before they were taken off the feed. Once off the feed, the gozzers are cleaned in bran, which needs to be changed periodically.

Thousands of match anglers, including greats such as Ivan Marks, Freddie Foster, Billy Lane, Benny Ashurst, not forgetting John Essex who won the 1971 Great Ouse Championship, would swear by gozzers as the ultimate bream hook bait.

Sour bran specials

Benny Ashurst holding up catch net

The sour bran special has a reputation for being a maggot of Lancashire and the north west. In his 1968 book of match fishing, Benny Ashurst is a fan of gozzers and sour bran specials.

Many anglers who have tried to breed this bait have not been successful, for it is said that a certain quantity of urine is needed in the sour milk and bran mixture recipe to attract the secretive fly. By all accounts it's impossible to breed them outside of the warmer months so they are very much a summer bait.

History of gozzers

Maggots in various guises have been used for hundreds of years as bait to catch fish. Many different types are mentioned in the first English language fishing book ‘Treatise of fishing with an angle,' believed to have been written by Dame Juliana Berners. Both gozzers and sour bran specials were in common use by 1920 as they are mentioned in RE Fletcher's 'Baits and Ground Baits for Match Fishing'.

How to store gozzers between fishing sessions

Like large maggots and pinkies, gozzers and sour bran specials will quickly pupate, typically in around a week or so. To slow this process down, keep them in the fridge with plenty of air in the tin.

They will lose their softness after a few days at low temperatures as the skins toughen up. Make sure you get the permission of the fridge owner and take care to keep the lid on the receptacle, for stories of escaped bait are the stuff of nightmares.

Motty's tips on how to get the best from gozzers

Advice from canal angling champion Simon 'Motty' Mottram, who trains our Let's Fish! coaches on the best canal fishing methods.

  • If you want your homebred gozzers to be large, thin out the number of eggs or young maggots on the meat.
  • Gozzers can be dyed yellow using a natural substance called annatto which is also used to give red Leicester cheese its colour.
  • Rather than breeding sour bran specials, you can feed up your squatts with bread and milk to get them large and nicely soft.
  • Both gozzers and sour bran specials are delicate maggots so use a fine wire hook and take care to ensure the fluids of the maggot do not seep out after hooking.

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Last Edited: 14 December 2020

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