I appreciate that many anglers like to float fish, and that it is relaxing sitting by the river staring at a red (or orange) tip bobbing around in the water, and waiting for that tip to dive under as a fish takes the bait, but float fishing on the Norfolk Broads can be a real faff. Waves/wash caused by boats, the wind (you don’t need much of a breeze to make the Broads very choppy) and the sailing boats that tack right up to the bank and without a damn where you or your tackle is makes float fishing less desirable than it should be.
The easiest way to fish the Norfolk Broads is to use a sinker/ledger weight and pin a hook bait to the bottom. Pinning the hook bait to the river bed will ensure it remains in situ regardless of the wash/waves and wind. Ledgering also means there is no tackle floating around for the boats to snag your line and take it down the river attached to its propeller.
There are books dedicated to end tackle set ups and rigs, but these will be of very little use when fishing the Norfolk Broads. Helicopter rigs, pulley rigs, paternoster rigs……. etc. are of no use in the Norfolk Broads. Sure you can use them if you want to, and you’ll probably catch fish with them too, but they are an overkill and spending a lot of time tying a delicate and complicated fishing rig is time wasted time you could have spent with your hook bait in the water.
The best bottom fishing rig for fishing the Norfolk Broads is also the most basic, a standard running ledger rig. This rig is simple, requires very little end tackle and can be tied in a few seconds. Whilst there is no need to use any swivels or rubber beads with the running ledger rig I have to admit that I always do.
A swivel between the hook link and the main line ensures the ledger never gets any closer to the hook bait than the length of the hook link. You can use a float shot to stop the ledger getting too close to the hook, but lead shots have a tendency to ‘pop off’ after a few casts/reel ins.
I also use a small rubber bead between the ledger and the hook link. This acts as a shock-absorber and stops the ledger banging in to the swivel and jarring the hook bait during the cast.
This is the most basic running ledger rig and requires the least amount of tackle. The ledger is threaded up the main line, and a hook is tied to the end. A split shot is nipped to the line, about 6 inches or so from the hook, to stop the ledger reaching the hook.
This is a bit more advanced than Rig 1 but still easy to tie. The swivel stops the hook link from kinking and weakening. The swivel also helps prevent tangles. The rubber bead acts as a shock absorber, and stops the ledger from hitting the swivel on the cast.
Whilst fishing the Norfolk Broads I have seen, and still do see some anglers use some very elaborate looking bottom fishing rigs, all of which are totally unnecessary and not needed. Many anglers seem to think that the fish in the Norfolk Broads are finicky biters and a super sensitive rig is needed to encourage them to bite. Having spent years fishing the Norfolk Broads I have come to realize that this is not the case, and if a fish is going to take the bait it will take the bait, even with the crudest of rigs and tackle.
If you have a trip planned to come to the Norfolk Broads to fish I would urge you to consider fishing the bottom and using a simple running ledger rig.