This is particulary so with
collecting lob worms after dark. Most fishing books concern themselves with
a few paragraphs about picking up worms from grass at night, but few go into
any real detail as to what to expect under different conditions. If I start
with the absolutely best conditions you could possibly hope for, then
everything slowly tapers off for varied reasons thereafter.

Coincidentally, as I write, (7pm, 17 November) I would class tonight as
the ultimate worming night. Although having said that, there's been a few
which have been positively frightening with the amount of worms at large. I
mention the date and time, as it will all make sense as I go along. The one
common factor with good worming conditions, is a wet night. This may take
different forms; a mild dewy night, a night of light drizzle or a night of
medium or torrential rain. If I'm in a really greedy mood, I've found that
the more water the better.

Take for instance this year. It's been the hottest and driest for living
memory or so we've been told, and quite rightly I haven't seen a lob worm
for months. Since this morning we've had almost constant drizzle
interspersed with heavier bouts of warm rain. The ground is now saturated
enough to bring the worms up, and as usual with lobs on a wet night, they
can be found stretched out on the short grass. I previously mentioned the
time and date for a purpose. The clocks have already gone back an hour and
it now gets dark around 5pm or so. The wetter the ground is, the earlier the
worms will start showing. If the ground had been, say, mildy damp, I
wouldn't have expected them to be up much before 7pm or so, and then only in
small numbers. As the evening wears on, depending on other things, more and
more will start to come up. Tonight for instance. As it has been raining now
for a fair while and everywhere is very, very wet, lobs were up in some
numbers at 5.30pm. I went and collected around 50 or so in about 15
minutes, which is pretty good going. I rested the general area and went
back about 6.15pm and many more, and larger ones were up. Again, I
collected the same amount of larger lobs in less time.

Tonight is a calm, muggy mild night. Under these conditions the worms will
be out probably all night until dawn, and at such times it is best to stock
up a wormery if you've got one going. These are the kind of nights to go
out, say, several times with rests in between, and really stock up with
hundreds of big lobs. On these nights, a walk along any street lit tarmac
path will show lobs fully stretched out across the actual path, from holes
in the edges of grass verges, lawns, bases of cracked walls etc.

Living on a housing estate as I do, there are many areas of grass. Play
areas, roundabouts and grass verges being the most prolific. Depending on
many different things, you'll notice easier and harder nights with your worm
collecting. The wetter the ground is, provided the evening is mild and
muggy, the earlier the worms will be up; usually shortly after dark. They
will increase in numbers as the evening progresses. On the best of nights,
after an hour or so they will be fully stretched out, feeding and mating.

Should the temperature drop appreciably or a wind get up(especially a cold
one), or both, it'll mean the worms going back down their holes. Cold
weather and wind does not impress them at all. If you notice the temperature
or wind changing for the worse, you'll have to time your collecting
accordingly before they retreat back down their holes. The following night
could be just as wet, but if the temperatures really dropped, only the odd
worm would be showing.


The actual amount of time a worm is out of its hole is dependant on how wet and
mild it is. Tonight they're out in their thousands, and it'll be the same
more or less everywhere. That said, some areas are continually good worm
areas and some not so good or totally useless. Only by trial and error will
you eventually begin to know which areas are good under what particular
conditions.

The best spots I've found are ones which you would not generally think
would be, but there is a reason. Most books tell you of football fields and
close cut lawns as being the places to look. Close cut lawns and pitches are
good enough, as looking for and pulling lobs from long grass is a nightmare.
In long grass you only get a partial view of the worm, plus it's easy to
scare it back down the hole if you knock a grass blade trying to get it.
Sometimes in very windy weather, long grass is one of the only places you'll
find a few, as obviously there's more shelter under matted grass. Windy
nights are not good worm nights as a rule anyway.

I've found the best areas by far, are the grass verges right alongside
secondary or main roads, especially around street lighting. Some books
advocate roundabouts as good spots for this same reason. At first I used to
shun such areas, thinking no self-respecting worm would put up with the
amount of light, passing cars, noise and disturbance. All my worming was
therefore carried out on our back lawn or play areas away from such
disturbances. Of course I found worms in all these areas, but you only had
to swing a small torch near a worm and the thing would zip back down the
hole like a shot. At best you've got maybe a second or two to sight the
worm, check which end is going down the hole, position yourself, bend down
and make your move. By which time in these darkened areas, the thing is
nowhere to be seen. On good nights in these areas you could end up with
maybe 20 lobs for over an hour's effort. Certainly enough for a good fish,
but too much effort for too little reward. The lobs on the street lit grass
verges are hardened to the amount of light and constant noise and
disturbance, hence you can go right up to these guys and shine a bright
torch right on them and they take no notice whatsoever. On good torrential
type nights, the verges are criss-crossed with hundreds of worms, and you
can carefully pick them out one by one, not even disturbing others mere
inches away. Tonight, I collected 20 or so huge lobs from one spot without
moving more than ten feet.

Also, the worms in these areas tend to be giants. I've a theory that as
these verges are being continually 'used' by dogs, these areas are richer
in nutrients than others further afield. To collect worms, I wear thin
cotton gardening gloves which give some amount of grip. Too thick though and
you can't feel what you're doing and broken worms will result.
Should the wind get up, then the worms in the more exposed areas will start
to retreat. It's then that you have to move to search areas out of the
wind, behind walls and fences etc, where the worms will still be up. After
several trips in different types of weather, you'll soon begin to notice a
pattern developing, and you'll have to go about your collecting with this in
mind.


As for the actual taking of worms, most books just say to go for the end
which is going down the hole (the lighter coloured end, as the head is
always darker), lightly trap the worm and pick it up. True enough. Some
nights, the real deluge wash-out nights, you can just pick them up, even
from the paths where they're off somewhere else. Trouble is, most nights
you'll be faced with only an inch of the head showing. Depending on the
weather, what kind of night it is and what I've said before, it makes a
difference what you do next. If it's a good night and you know that they'll
still be out later, it might be best to go in and come back out in a while
when they'll be further out of their holes. If you're stuck for time or the
temperatures are on the drop, it may mean they WON'T be coming out any
further, and you'll have to try and get what you can when you can.

This means you'll be trying to pull out lobs with only the tips of their heads,
or at best, maybe an inch showing. You'll be faced with this situation on
drier evenings, windy evenings and cooler evenings, all of which will mean
the worms won't be fully out. Wearing gloves, I find it best to gently trap
the worm by pressing your forefinger where it disappears down the hole. It
then can't move. With the other hand, using perhaps forefinger and thumb as
gently as you can, pull up the worm using both sets of fingers etc and
gently ease it out. It will pull back like crazy but within a few seconds it
will give up and you can feel the whole worm slowly lifting out. Be very
gentle on all counts, as what you don't want to do is break the worm in half
- which happens - or get it out but with a severely squeezed head. Bit
difficult to explain, but I try and "grip" the worm along the length of my
fingers rather than pinch it at one point. I try to do this as far back from
the head as I can. As the worm slowly comes out, I work my fingers along the
body away from the head, moving it along. Holding the worm like this, the
pressure of your fingers is along, say, two inches of its body, and is less
damaging than if you pinched it in one spot and pulled like crazy. You'll
damage everyone you pull like that.

Depending on the worm and how wet the ground is, some will respond to a slow and constant pull, but most respond better to several really gentle pulls, slackening off momentarily in
between. For some reason, I find it works quite well. The ones which break
I discard immediately. The ones which appear squeezed I let go. If the
fishing trip is the next day, and you haven't got too many worms, then it's
okay to take everything, as even the damaged or cut ones will do for the
next day. What you absolutely DON'T do is keep cut or damaged ones any
length of time as they'll make the rest of the good ones go off, and ruin
your whole supply within a couple of days. If you're on for a good night,
just go for the ones you need in particular, and discard any which may
appear a dit too distressed at having being caught.

You'll find the wetter the ground, the easier it is to pull the worms from
their holes. If you're lucky enough to find any worms on a dry night on hard
ground, you'll probably break and damage more than you'll get good ones.
Mind you, you'll be out ages looking for a handfull anyway under these
conditions. On these nights, look around the bases of fences or under
fallen leaves where it may be slightly damper. Forget exposed areas on dry
nights; it's really not worth the effort. Sometimes if you deperately need
worms and the conditions are completely hopeless, then letting a hose run on
the area in question, may get you a few which otherwise you wouldn't have
done.

I like to collect mine fresh, the evening before a trip, but in times of
protracted hot weather, I've often resorted to a wormery. I've done nothing
more elaborate than get a big plastic tub (although I've read a wooden one
is best) and fill it with a mixture of loose garden compost or leaf mould
and moss. I've kept this in a cool dark area like the garage, with some
netting over the top. Every now and then I loosen up the soil and discard
any worms which don't look too good. I've read that you can freeze some
plastic bottles full of water and place these inside the container in times
of hot weather. This helps prevent them overheating. It seems to have
worked okay. I've tried the old shredded newspaper ploy, and they seem
happy enough in that, but I've always gone back to some nice loose leafmould
and moss. It's then a simple matter of getting a few out whenever you need
them, however I never put back ones I've taken out just in case they've been
damaged while I've been fishing. I usually just let these go.

Hopefully there may be a few things amongst that lot which help the bidding
worm hunter, especially if he's starting out from scratch. As a general
rule, the wetter, calmer, more muggy drizzly nights, the better it is. Good
luck.

Maurice Pledger.