Ledgering Technique

Ledgering is basically a method of fishing without a float. Once thought to be a rather crude technique, with modern bite indicators it has been transformed into an art

Once, ledgering was considered a crude and clumsy way of fishing, only resorted to when float fishing had failed to catch fish. Now, ledgering has a separate and valued status as a means of fishing, and the varied styles and techniques have led to the capture of many large fish.

Basically the method presents the bait on the bottom of a lake, reservoir, stream or river where coarse species such as bream, barbel, carp and tench often feed.

Ledgering rods

The short, stiff and insensitive rod once used for ledgering was poor for detecting bites. Now, needlessly heavy tackle has been replaced by more suitable and effective equipment. Today, purpose-built ledgering rods are available which incor-

porate a fine tip to improve bite detection greatly. Heavy leads, often of the ‘coffin’ variety, have given way to lighter weights which are designed to lessen resistance of the tackle felt by biting fish. A nylon monofilament line from 2-6lb b.s. Is suitable for ledgering in most freshwater lakes, streams and rivers.

Anchored bait

Sometimes the bait is anchored, sometimes not, and where the former is required, ledgering is much more effective than float fishing where correct presentation would be extremely difficult – sometimes impossible.

It should be remembered, however, that when the bait is anchored, the weight of the lead should not be excessive: sufficient to hold bottom tightly but no more.

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Rigs for ledgering vary according to river conditions and the bait being used. At all times the weight of the lead should be sufficient to do what is required but no more. When ‘rolling the bottom’ the amount of weight should be such that the bait (and lead) will roll but only just, and much experimenting is often necessary to get this right.

For holding the bottom in very fast water – where say, six SSG (swan) shots will not hold bottom – an Arlesey (a pear-shaped lead designed by Richard Walker) flattened with a hammer is ideal. Leads like the old-fashioned ‘coffin’ and running bullet set up resistance and should be avoided, although the former has much to recommend it if a swivel is pushed into one end and held in place by flattening the lead at that point. The line is then passed through the swivel.


The technique known as link-ledgering has become extremely popular in recent years. For this, a 4in length of nylon, doubled, with shots attached and the line passing through the loop is the simplest method to use.

In link-ledgering as with all styles, a stop must be attached to the line to prevent the lead running down to the hook. The distance between lead and hook depends largely upon the bait but anything from l-6ft may be used, except when using breadcrust when 4-6in is about right. Regarding the stop, commercially-made plastic ledger stops are fine although some anglers prefer a split shot. With these, however, care must be taken that the shot does not slip on the strike and is not pinched on so hard that it weakens the line.

In stillwaters, after the lead has sunk, the line is tightened without moving the lead or bait and the rod placed in two rod rests with about 4in of the rod top submerged (except when a rod-tip bite indicator is being used): this counteracts wind, drift, or both. Bites are indicated by one of the range of indicators available.

In river fishing it is sometimes ad-visable to hold the rod and so be prepared to strike quickly. The rod can be supported on one knee and the line held between thumb and forefinger so that a bite can be felt. The tip of the rod must be sensitive. With practice, a take by a fish will be distinguished from the natural movement of the tackle with the current. The tackle can be cast into one spot and anchored there, but it usually pays to cover a larger area, particularly if the water is unfamiliar, by allowing a light rig such as a link-ledger (also known as a paternoster link) to roll across the bed. Cast down and across stream and cover a stretch with repeated arcs, moving downstream.

Upstream ledgering is practised less often. Striking is more difficult as the fish, having taken the bait, appears to run downstream, towards the angler. This means that a slackening in the line will indicate a take. In order to connect, the strike must be calculated to take up the slack as well as driving the hook home.

The question of bite detection is of prime importance in ledgering. There are various methods of detecting a fish. First, the rod tip acts as an indicator. Alternatively, greater sensitivity can be gained by the use of the swingtip or the quivertip, both of which are available in various patterns.

Bite indicators

In stillwaters, swingtips are very effective and these are fished with the rod at about 30° to the bank. Other kinds of indicators are also good, a bobbin made from cork with a lady’s hair grip through the middle being the simplest. A length of cord is at-tached to the bottom of the hair grip with a peg on the other end.

After the line has been tightened and the rod placed in two rests, the peg is pushed into the ground under the rod and immediately above the handle, the line pushed into the hair grip and the bobbin pulled down so it hangs about 15in below the rod. Bites are detected by the bobbin rising, although sometimes it will drop back if the fish swims towards the angler. Butt indicators are also useful. These consist of a straight length of metal strip attached to 2in of rubber (or sometimes a spring) and clipped to the rod butt. The line runs through some models; others are attached to the line after casting. After tightening the line the indicator is allowed to hang down at a slight angle, as with the swingtip. Bites are determined by the in-dicator rising or dropping back.

Touch ledgering costs nothing and can register some bites that swing or quivertips would fail to show. The technique is simple. A rod rest is placed so that the rod can be steadied with the rod tip facing the bait. Use a lAoz Arlesey bomb, a ledger stop 1ft from a size 8 hook and bread flake the size of a penny. Hold the rod with the right hand with the line held between the thumb and forefinger and then wait to feel the tell-tale plucks or pulls.