Some anglers would laugh at the use of the words ledgering and skill in the same sentence, but for those who are not content to wait for their rod to occasionally be dragged in, refined ledgering techniques are an important part of our armoury.

As the title suggest, ledgering in rivers is all about balance. Actually, it is about minimising the resistance felt by a fish before a bite is registered on the rod tip. This of course, starts with the correct choice of rod. It is certainly a sign of the times, that the latest Leeda catalogue, the trades 'tackle bible' contains only a limited range of running water ledgering rods. Just five years ago there would have been five times as many rods.

Forget about the traditional ten foot screw-tip-eyed multipurpose tool. No purpose would be closer to the truth! The only reason I can think of for using a short ledgering rod is if overhanging trees are troublesome. This problem is generally more than overcome by the increased control and line pick up offered by a rod of thirteen feet or more.

You will also need a rod with built in quiver tips ranging from 1/2oz up to 4oz. Learning to choose the right tip comes with practice, but the simplest thing to do is thread the rod up, tie on a bomb and chuck it out. Start with the lightest tip and gradually work up until the tip bends no more than a third of the way round when downstream ledgering, or no more than half-way when ledgering across the flow. The importance of this will become clear later on.

The other item of tackle worth considering at this stage is your line. Whilst there are a whole host of feeder braids now available, I feel that their use is really restricted to fishing shallow stillwaters and slow flowing rivers.

If you go sea fishing over deep water then there is no doubt that using braid will greatly reduce the amount of lead required to hold bottom. As the column of water is moving more or less at the same speed until it gets really close to the sea bed then the pressure on the line is relatively constant. So you might think that braid would be useful in a river. In a river the situation is very different as the currents are continually on the move. Just watch a weed bed swaying in the current. With a nylon line the 30% stretch in the line allows some of this change in pressure to be taken up, yet with braid there is far less give and a well balanced lead is likely to shift much more easily than when using nylon. Actually, if you feel the need, there are some excellent fine diameter nylons available now. Yet I still use Maxima for all my ledgering, far from being a thin line, it is like tow rope, but by balancing the tackle this has very little influence on my fishing.

Down not out
Most anglers still seem to fish downstream, either directly down the bank, or across and down. If you are fishing downstream then the chances are that most bites will be signalled by the line tightening and pulling down as the fish moves away with the bait. If you use a bomb or feeder directly on the line then the fish will feel the resistance caused by even a (so called) free-running weight before the bite is transmitted to the tip.

The simple answer to this is to put the weight on a six inch tail. When cast downstream and tightened up this will mean that the lead will be sitting downstream of the point where it is attached to the main line. When a fish picks up the bait and moves downstream the tip will go round, but the link to the weight will slacken offering no resistance. In fact, when using a six inch link the fish will be able to take almost twelve inches of line before feeling the weight of the bomb.

You might imagine that having the weight on a link would tend to lift the bait off the river bed, but this isn't the case. With the water pressure acting downwards the line is pinned down even when the bait is positioned no more than a few yards downstream. Try it in clear water and you will see what I mean.

Whilst most anglers and many swims dictate that you have to fish downstream, you can also fish across and even upstream often much more effectively than by casting down. Next week I will look at how to balance your tackle to make the most of these other ledgering situations.