Trout tickling

Trout tickling

There can be much free food to be found in your woodlands, and the menu could be augmented with fresh fish, if you can master the art of trout tickling!

When you are walking along the banks of a stream or small river you will often startle a trout and it is likely to swim underneath the bank. If you lie, face down, on the bank at the point where the fish was last seen, you can then, very gently, slide both hands (two or three feet apart) beneath the bank and move inwards in a pincer movement. You will need a very gentle and delicate touch, much as though you are caressing your lover!

Keep your hands as low as you can as you try to stroke the underbelly of the unsuspecting fish. Remember that you will not be able to see what is going on under the bank, so you will have to identify by touch. Is it a stone, a tree root, a trout or even something horrid? If it is a fish then you will need to gently rub its underbelly whilst deciding which way around it is, then move your hands towards the head of the trout and smoothly, but firmly, tighten your grip around the gill/fin area behind the head.

You have now “tickled a trout” - but that’s not the end of the story! You will now need to try to stand up, whilst maintaining your grip on the fish with both hands and get well away from the stream. If you try to throw your trout back onto land, whilst still in the prone position, apart from unnecessarily damaging your fish, it will go ballistic and there is a fair chance that the next thing you hear will be a plop, as it regains its freedom!

It may seem difficult at first, but with practice it is possible to become quite proficient. A good way to hone your skills is by trying to locate and ‘catch’ the soap in your bath, without looking! If you are in the happy position of owning your own woodland what could be nicer than smoking your own trout with your own wood providing the smoke?

Trout tickling has been with us for a very long time and is mentioned in Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’ when the lady-in-waiting Maria greets the arrival of her supervisor and head of Olivia’s household, the foolish Malvolio, with the words “for here comes the trout that must be caught with tickling” (Act 2, Scene 5).

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I prefer my trout baked not poached ..

Paul Atkins

19 August, 2021

You people are crazy! Cute, but crazy. Tickling a fish is poaching? “Rich toffs”. How sweet. Clearly you are all Brits or from the UK in some form or another. Us crazy wild people from North America are a little more open-minded. I love how incredibly brilliant and versatile this is! What a great way to stick it to the man. Common folk are excellent at finding a way to make ends meet. Probably ate better and lived longer than the rich folks, too.


3 October, 2020

[…] –         fish […]

Think this conversation has run its course.


26 March, 2015

David Too!, I hope you are kidding! and not serious about breaking laws and killing just for fun. I do share the views of the “Wild Trout Trust”. http://www.wildtrout.org/content/trout-facts. Please show them respect.

Ulrich Brossmann

26 March, 2015

Ulrich Brossmann, I find you sad and disgusting, but I wouldn’t break the law and kill you.
I would catch you for the fun of it, then release you. I prefer to kill and eat wild Trout.Yum

David Too!

21 March, 2015

It is simply sad and disgusting how many people advocate here breaking the law to KILL wild trout. Probably be nothing could be said against to try it for fun – if the fish is released (should suffer no harm).

Ulrich Brossmann

20 March, 2015

[…] an article about trout tickling in the UK.  Be sure to read the […]

Sorry typo- any, not Rhein. Hate predictive text.


4 June, 2012

Would love to try. How big a river do you normally need to get good fish. I’ve a little stream near the house maybe five feet wide and not very deep – are there likely to be Rhein in this suitable for tickling?


4 June, 2012

Also forgot to add in my last post. Most of the salmon dont make it back to the rivers anymore because they are trawled in or just outside uk waters and sold only to the finest uk restauraunts or flogged at great profit by the uk government/fisheries companies to the world while we eat farmed fish!!!! Common sense has evaporated in the uk due to the greed of the pound note and the control over people.

Dave three

13 July, 2011

Are you telling me nature cant take care of itself and that the rivers cant cope without human influence? Thats rubbish. The reason tickling is illegal is because the greedy rich toffs will not stand local lads fullfilling their natural right to enjoy the river and its bounty because they think that money buys them the right to own the river and the fish in it. The term poaching was created by these people. In fact if you research your history youll find it is another way for the rich to enslave the free/poor into working in their factories etc because they arent allowed to feed themselves from the wild even though its a birthright! Instead we have to give our lives over to them by working to pay for farmed fish in a supermarket. A bloody disgrace.

Dave three

24 January, 2011

River fish aren’t exactly ‘free’. Water boards spend millions on maintaining water quality, banksides and footpaths have in some cases to be managed/maintained, and in many cases the trout in there are bred in farms and released for the benefit of the licence paying fishermen. With a rod and line, the fish have an option – to take the bait, or not. ‘Tickling’, pure and simple is very clever and requires much patience. On the other hand, when we were kids, out for the whole day we used to watch the shallows for fish, throw in a pebble to scare it under a rock – then just wade in, stick our hands in and pull it out. This is NOT ‘tickling’. We even had short (6″) sticks with a hook lashed to the end for those we couldn’t get a grip of. None of these fish were taken home, we roasted them for lunch on sharpend sticks over the hot ashes of a small bright fire (carefully putting the fire out afterwards and covering it over). Delicious – and yes – it IS poaching!


25 October, 2010