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Pickpockets

Free lining has always been one of my favourite ways to fish - whether it's a large lump of luncheon meat rolled down the bottom of a fast river for barbel or a couple of dog biscuits floating on the surface for carp. There's also something special about free lining on a small river, and something pleasing about using a bait like breadflake, pinched onto the hook and then dunked to make it sink and give it weight for the cast.


I first free lined on the Adur out of necessity - there was so much summer weed that almost any method had real limitations. At the height of summer it meant that half the swims were unfishable using traditional techniques because the tackle would get tangled up and the bait lost in all that greenery. Free lined breadflake worked though because it was visible, smelled good, and was buoyant enough to roll over and through the weed. It became and occasional favourite and helped me winkle out some decent fish in difficult conditions.

Initially I had to get over my fetish for tightening up as if I was using a ledger rig - obviously this made the bait flap about unnaturally, but it was still hard to break the habit. No, the trick is to let the bait settle and then find its way in the flow - and this means leaving the line to bow slightly. You can still see bites (even really sensitive ones) and it gives you enough warning before an interested fish really takes the bait.

That's the best thing about freelining. It's almost as if the fish are taking the bait out of your fingers, first with tiny electric shudders that often don't move the rod top at all - even a delicate quiver tip - and then building to the point where they actually tug one way, you hold steady, they tug again and then you don't strike so much as sweep the rod gently in the opposite direction to make contact. It's like the fish are trying to pick your pocket. I caught two nice little chub and a roach like this, did some chores (dumping old, frazzled maggots and cleaning out the boxes) and bid farewell to my blow up cushion which finally gave up the ghost - air gently wheezing out until I was left sitting basically sitting on the soggy bank.

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