Some anglers believe that lots of tackle is needed to catch lots of fish. They carry a variety of rods and reels. They take boxes full of floats, hooks, lures, swimfeeders, legers, split shot and line. They have a vast range of bait: maggots, casters, cheese, sweetcorn, luncheon meat, bread, boilies, sausage and pellets.
But....there some anglers who believe quite the opposite. They say "no" to the legion of tackle and equipment. They travel light and practice a method of fishing that is very basic and very simple....and it is called freelining.
What is Freelining?
Freelining is a method of fishing using nothing more than a rod, reel, line and hook. There are no floats or split shot or legers to splash in the water. The line is free to flow in the current or to rest on the surface. It is a method of fishing that presents the bait as naturally as possible.
What Can be Caught?
Any freshwater fish can be caught by freelining.
Barbel, hiding among streamer weed, will be tempted to chase a wriggling lobworm bouncing across a gravel bed. Carp cruising the margins of ponds or lakes will hungrily gulp down a flake of floating bread. A deadbait cast into dark water beneath an overhanging bank will be irresistible to a pike. And dace, grayling and trout will snatch at a maggot passing through their bubbled filled rapids.
But....without having floats or legers the freelining angler needs to find alternative ways of getting the bait close to the fish and the two methods he employs is stalking and using the river.
At most fishing venues there are trees and vegetation on the banks next to the water. All this growth is the habitat for a multitude of insects and mini-beasts of which many invariably fall into the water. It is a regular supply of food so it correct to assume there will be fish close to the bank and they will stay there as long as they are not disturbed.
Stalking means getting as close to the fish as possible without being spotted. Stalking brings out the hunting instinct of the fisherman and can be extremely exciting when you glimpse the dark shadows of fish almost at touching distance. Polaroid glasses or binoculars are a great idea to use because they cut the glare from the water and make fish more visible.
The essential criteria of successful stalking is being quiet.
Tackle up away from the place you are going to fish. Approach with care. Move slowly, crouch and creep if necessary. Wear drab clothes and use surrounding vegetation for cover. Fish are wild creatures and will be alarmed by sudden movement and vibrations. If all goes well and the fish have not been disturbed simply extend the rod slowly above the water and allow the bait to gently drop onto the surface.
Watching a fish gracefully turn and draw the bait into the cave of its mouth is an image never forgotten!
Using the River
Find a place where there rapids, a weir or a stretch of water with current. Cast the bait and allow the line to run free from the reel. Let the flow of the water pull and lead the bait. Hold the line between finger and thumb and, with practice, you will feel the bait bouncing along and be able to detect a bite.
In swims where the river is sluggish, or in ponds and lakes, freelining is still a good method to try.
Select a heavy bait to put on the hook. Choose a large lobworm or a cube of cheese or maybe a bunch of sweetcorn. Using heavy bait will act like a leger and, when cast out, will reach fishing areas some distance away. Again, bites can be detected by holding the line or just by watching the line for twitches and jerks.
If you want to travel light, and be a wandering hunter, then freelining could be the method of fishing for you. And....how about becoming really "native" and finding natural bait next to the water? Worms under stones....slugs in wet grass....grubs on leaves....spiders, moths, caterpillars, berries, flies, beetles...hmm!