The main reason for using leam or soil is that they are the perfect carrying medium for putting joker into your swim because it keeps it alive! It also provides a stable base for the joker to remain over. Others advantages are that it adds weight, makes a cloud, creates noise, has no food value and can be structured in such a way as to break down at different speeds thereby releasing joker into the swim over a long period. Remember, joker, if fed in neat groundbait dies because of the salts' contained in it, they will even swim away from groundbait when on the bottom.

First of all I must explain that what most people refer to as 'leams' is a general name for all soils and clays, when they are in fact made up of different earth substances. French anglers in particular have special areas they collect them from.

TERRE, or soils, bind slightly depending on how much they are dampened whereas ARGILE, or clays, are sticky and bind when dampened. All of which means that you can adapt any mix to suit virtually any conditions you are likely to encounter on the bank.

Here's a brief explanation of the main products commercially available, starting with soil and then clay:

TERRE DE SURFACE or Liant Jaun Litou/Liant de Alonger
A dry, light/yellowish coloured leam that is extremely fine, it clouds easily when mixed with Sensas Surface or Sensas Lake for example. Mostly used for cloud mixes containing joker, for silver fish and very effective for bleak.

To get this mix right you first mix the groundbait required by adding water very slowly and then mixing vigorously at the same time because it contains very fine particles. After it is mixed you riddle it off and add the leam, then add more water by trickling it into the mix from a height and mixing vigorously again (get some help doing this to make it easier). It is extremely important to get the water content correct and well mixed, it should squeeze together but not be too damp allowing tiny balls to be thrown some distance. This will create an excellent surface cloud feed for silver fish and bleak.
TOP TIP: Sensas Tracix coloured powders (right) can also be added to create an even finer attractive cloud.

Probably the best known and most widely used of all the leams. A soft leam that can be incorporated into almost any groundbait mix or used neat in the 'Tapis de Terre' method, which I will explain later. Mostly used with joker in slow moving waters or lakes, in all but the deepest situations. Terre de Somme and Sensas Lake is probably the most used combination in Belgium or France. Good for storing joker over long periods.
Note: The heavier Terre de Riviere can be combined with Terre de Somme to make a heavier mix for deeper waters.
TOP TIP: Terre de Somme and the powerful binder Betonite for a double leam mix that is very adaptable for feeding joker without any groundbait at all. Use in very hard match conditions or as a top up feed.

A soft damp leam which is darker in colour and slightly heavier than normal Terre de Somme, mostly used on shallower canals or still waters for silver fish in more difficult conditions.

The heaviest of the soils and is basically a fine heavy top soil, similar to mole hill soil, used in deep water or flowing water to add weight to a heavy groundbait mix or can be added/blended to the softer leams to give you something in between.

Right: Note the colour contrasts of the three soils: Top - Etang, Left - Somme and Right - Riviere.

'Fond' means bottom of lakebed. This is a very heavy dry additive and is very suitable for mixes where there is a heavy flow or great depth.

BETONITE or Grey Leam (right)
A fine dry grey clay, used mainly as a binder, that becomes very tacky/sticky when atomised. When used in conjunction with other leams it adds binding power and is often referred to as a 'double leam mix'. It has excellent loose feed carrying capacity which ideal for hard silver fish venues or top up mixes when no groundbait is required.

JOKER FIX (below left)
Very similar to Grey Leam which becomes sticky/tacky when atomised. Used for binding joker together when feeding in depth and concentrating fish. Ideal for hard conditions when bites tail off. Also comes in various colours!

COLLIX (above right)
A very fine dry clay that is used to get your mix just right prior to balling in. Use in those circumstances when you feel your mix may break up too early. This additive is a quick and convenient way to sort it out and to bind it.

DECOLLIX (above right)
More granular than Collix and is simply used to separate joker, I prefer dry leam myself.


Available in various sizes from certain tackle companies and aquarium shops gravel is much under used and valued. When added to mixes it gives even more weight, allowing balls to sink faster in deeper water, alternatively, it can be used in a finer form with sticky mag and loose offerings to give greater distance when catapulting smaller balls out.

Used to break up heavy mixes in deep water once they reach the bottom.

I often hear quite a few anglers asking 'can I use leam straight from the bag?", the simple answer is yes, but only if the conditions happen to be right. Most often you have to adapt what you buy to suit different situations you may face. In situations like these the usual response is 'but how do I dampen it?'. This is were many anglers fall down but with a little guidance I hope to shed light on what first seems a complicated process!

Dampening Damp leam
Tools required: A variety of large riddles along with a large bucket, a large plastic sheet, a small plastic garden rake (the ones used for clearing leaves are ideal) and a large pump-up pressure atomiser (right).

Some leams, in certain circumstances, can be used direct from the bag after riddling out any lumps because you never know how long they have been stored or where they have been stored. Inevitably to have your leam spot on, for your given circumstances, some moisture may need to be added so here is an 'easy way' to add moisture to your shop bought leam.
Note: There are two other ways to dampen leam, the first is called the 'slow soak' method and involves pouring water over a bucket of leam which has been covered with a towel, or newspaper, and left to soak through overnight, however method can prove difficult and risky to get right especially if your inexperienced. The second method is more simpler and requires you to over wet your groundbait and then add the leam, but make sure you riddle before and after. DO NOT add leam to dry groundbait before the mixing in the water!

  1. Take the sheet of thick plastic and lay it out on a solid floor, a tiled garage floor is ideal.
  2. Cut the bag of leam neatly (you will need this later) and riddle through the leam.
  3. Spread the leam on the sheet, fine and evenly with the rake.
  4. Atomise the leam a little at a time while at the same time raking it about, it's easier if you have some help at this stage, if not, atomise a little and then rake and repeat until the leam squeezes together to form a firm ball that meets your requirements.
  5. After your satisfied that it's taken enough moisture, re-bag it for use later.
Flavouring Leam (left)
Many of the Sensas leams available now come in different flavours, even different colours, these are superb for attracting and holding fish into an area while not feeding them. If you have a basic leam you can flavour it by simply adding the liquid flavour of your choice to the atomiser's water before dampening it down, alternatively powdered additives can be added to the leam prior to atomising.
For example: Vanilla, almond and strawberry are all good flavours for attracting roach and bream

TAPIS DE TERRE or carpet of leam
This is a purely 'French thing' and a superb idea, especially if your faced with an uneven or stony bottom. It involves balling in pure damp leam, before any feed is introduced, it could be as much as 20 balls, normally Terre de Somme because it's soft and breaks up quite quickly and forms a nice layer over the bottom, filling in any gaps so no joker is lost, most important when fishing to bait limits. It too can be flavoured and is proves most effective at holding fish without filling them up. Your main groundbait feed is then balled in on top once leam has settled.

Groundbait and Leam mixing
It is always very important to think about the mechanics of how the 'action' of the groundbait will work in your peg in attracting the species you are targeting. Roach and smaller fish for example are attracted to a cloud or an active mix whereas bream and skimmers are traditionally caught over an inactive inert mix. For most mixes it is best to mix your groundbait first then add any leam afterwards.

For the inert mix make sure the groundbait is well wetted the night before giving it plenty of time to absorb moisture, also at the same time prepare any leam to be used, as described above, this will ensure that when you blend the two together they do not dry out and the balls can be formed to suit the depth and flow or any slopes that may be present.

For an active mix I would prepare my groundbait mix on the day if I were sure it was going to be an out and out small fish match.

Incorporating joker in leam
First of all you should separate your joker in a fine dry leam or DECOLLIX, this ensures they are all separated individually (that's extremely important as it's no good leaving matted clumps of joker as this will just fill the fish up quicker, no good when things are hard going. With individual and active joker, fish retain more interest in the swim... using dry leam to separate joker also ensure in sinks better!

Damp leam can now be added to the separated joker before incorporating into your groundbait mix (the mix could also have some leam in already) the percentage of which you estimate or decide beforehand.

Some separated joker can be held back for topping up balls, you could even add some grey leam (Bentonite) and gently atomise so that it forms little sticky nuggets of neat joker, which will carry straight down to the bottom, ideal for kick starting a swim again (See also double leam mix).

Unfortunately, Mark no longer resides in Belgium, but has emigrated 'Down Under' where his soil skills will probably be of little or no use! However, his legacy of features, while not written recently, are nevertheless relevant today as they were when first published. We trust they will give you further food for thought on the use of leams and soils, which will inspire you to experiment further with their application.