Tickling a trout may sound strange to a non-fisherman, but the technique or method of fishing was commonly practiced by poachers, working men and even boys in the 1930s (the Great Depression era) without using nets, rods or lines or any damaging fishing equipment. Although the image of tickling a trout may sound amusing, trout tickling is the art of rubbing the underbelly of a trout using fingers which can put them into a trance-like state and makes the whole process of catching them very easy. Trout tickling is even mentioned in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.
So, how do you tickle a trout? First, you need no elaborate equipment but your bare hands. Now, roll up your sleeves and let’s start.
1. Find a river and ask permission.
Although simple as it sounds, trout tickling is illegal in some public places. Before anything else, get permission from whoever owns the river and see to it that you follow the specific rules set out by the owner.
2. Approach the lie from the opposite bank.
Before you can tickle a trout from a lie, you first need a trout in the lie. Also, remember that fish always face upstream so, start downstream, and then walk upstream while feeling for a trout underneath the overhanging riverbanks.
3. Reach and Crouch down
To feel the trout, crouch down and reach under the overhang slowly. Your hands should be as far apart as possible with your outstretched arms making a ‘V-shape and your body forming a barrier against escape directly into the river. To have a clear picture, imagine you’re holding corners of a rug where you are trying to slide a fish under it.
4. Tickling the trout
Keep your hands as close to the riverbed with your fingers stretched upwards pointing towards the surface of the water like fronds of weed gently floating. When the trout is swimming towards you, work your fingers from the fish’s tail upwards, gently using the tips of your fingers to rub its belly using one hand. When you reach the head, slowly position your hands – one beneath the trout’s head and gill plate, the other at the wrist of the tail. Then, take a firm grip with both hands and lift the fish out of the water. Be as gentle as you can and never squeeze the fish, but gently press your hands together, pushing the fish’s head and tail towards one another to secure your grip.
5. Onto the grill!
Tickling a trout is not game. It’s not like tickling your pet dog where you can stop anytime you want. In the same way that you don’t want to return a trout to the river because it flaps stronger than you can hold. Your grip won’t hold that long, so get the fish out of the water and cook it.
Tickled trout are often said to be in a trance-like state, or in other words in a daydream. The feeling is supposedly like being stroked by the weeds on their bellies. Well, no one exactly knows the feeling, but the truth remains that tickling a trout is effective – it works!