Legering still waters for specimens

The leger is one of the deadliest methods for trapping really big fish. A simple approach on a good water scores for the thoughtful angler, says Nigel Witham of the Perchf ishers.

To many anglers there is nothing that quite beats the sight of a perfectly set float disappearing beneath the ripple. But perhaps these anglers have yet to experience the thrill as a bobbin twitches to life and creeps towards the rod butt.

And maybe they’ve never felt that missed heartbeat as their quivertip pulls round to the surge of a good fish. These are just some of the joys of legering, the first choice technique of most big fish anglers.

Over the last 30 years or so, legering in its many forms has developed greatly, becoming infinitely more sophisticated. Indeed, legering has progressed so much that you can now buy almost as many bits of tackle for it as you can for float fishing.

There are non-toxic weights in many shapes and sizes, beads of all descriptions, feeders, swing, spring and quivertips, rods lined up in racks and books full of varying opinions on the subject. It’s no wonder that the novice can become confused. So let’s look at a basic approach that will help you put a few better-sized fish on the bank.

Choose your water

Firstly, you can’t catch a fish that isn’t there, so you must fish the right sorts of waters. But where do you look? Local and national press reports and tackle shops are good sources of information. Tackle shops also sell permits for day ticket waters and some have contacts with local clubs and associations.

Some types of water are more likely to yield a monster to the right approach than others. For example, your chances of a 2lb (0.9kg) roach are much better in a big reservoir than in your local farm pond. Estate lakes are well established lakes which form the backbone of traditional still-water fishing. They are called estate lakes because it was the fashion in the 18th and 19th centuries for wealthy landowners to dam streams and excavate lakes on their estates – and a good thing too!

This type of water contains some species to good size although others, such as roach, rudd and sometimes bream and crucians, become stunted and rarely grow to specimen proportions. Tench are also common and often reach good weights, with carp, perch, pike and other species very likely to be present . Gravel pits are another common type of big fish water. Whole books have been written about angling on pits; they are a complicated subject. In many pits the fish can grow very large, sometimes with record potential. In fact most Stillwater records are pit fish.

Gravel pits are often difficult waters when it comes to fish finding. They are comparatively new, most having been dug since World War II. This means they are rarely silted, sometimes have sparse weed growth and the species present can vary widely .

Reservoirs are also worthwhile. They come in all shapes and sizes from giant dammed valleys to small concrete bowls but they can contain some very big fish. Choosing your swim is your first task once you’ve found a good water. Nowadays it is common to cast long distances, but never cast farther than you need. In most estate lakes the fish are likely to be near the edge.

In addition, long range fishing can cause difficulty with bite detection and undertow – you often need special equipment, such as weighted bobbins, to combat drag on the line. So don’t worry if you can’t cast far. You may catch more than those who can!

Look for areas of cover such as weed and all sorts of snags. Plumb carefully for abrupt depth changes and drop-offs and put your baits at various depths on these features. Try to fish facing the direction of the prevailing wind. It is said that food collects on the windward bank and it’s certainly a good place to start looking for the fish.

Tackling essentials

Always use tackle that’s strong enough to land your fish – don’t be afraid to try heavy gear in weedy or snaggy water when you’re after big fish. You’re going to need heavier, carp-type gear and up to 12lb (5.4kg) line for big carp and tench in weedy water whereas light Avon-type leger gear with 4lb (1.8kg) line is perfect for big perch in a snag-free swim.

Lighter tackle and smaller baits can produce some good roach, rudd or bream. Other species may surprise you. Perch can show up at any time and the big ones are not as rare as you might think.

Fish ‘n’ rigs

What should you try to catch? If your water is an estate lake, it may well be quite silted. Tench and carp don’t mind a bit of mud — in fact there’s little they like more than a good root around. But roach, rudd, bream and perch prefer a cleaner lake bed. -//-

Don’t over-complicate things. Start with a simple leger rig and lobworm as bait. There is nothing quite as good as lobworm for helping you discover what species your lake contains. They all love them! If you find you’re getting bites you can’t hit, only then is it time to change your rig, or try varying hooklengths and bomb links.

If worm doesn’t work or catches nothing but small eels, try breadflake or paste, sweetcorn, luncheon meat or boilies. Unless there aren’t many small fish in the water, avoid maggots on the hook or you’ll be plagued by twitches. Where there are still-water chub, try a deadbait quietly legered in the margins after dark.

The larger the bait, the more time the fish needs before you strike and the more freedom of movement you should build into your set-up. With a small bait like maggot or a single grain of corn, a swingtip or quiv-ertip is best for spotting bites.

If you’re using larger baits, a simple bobbin, such as a squeezy bottle top hung over the line at the rod butt, is usually better as they generally allow the fish more time to run. They work well with electronic bite indicators in many cases.

Groundbait lightly at first, or better still, loosefeed with samples of your hookbait, and perhaps some maggots or hemp as well. Only put in lots of feed when you’re sure it’s needed. You can afford to be more liberal with your free samples if you spot decent tench or carp rolling over your feed, or if you’re getting plenty of bites.

A feeder can be a good idea. But don’t try it in very shallow water as the splash can scare the fish. Make sure you cast accurately to the same spot each time.

With this basic approach and these few variations, you’re well on your way to some highly productive Stillwater fishing – and some excellent fish!