So, you’ve taken the plunge and invested in a small but perfectly formed collection of bits and bobs to get you on your way. Multiple species await but you need advise on where to start, right?
The way that LRF sometimes gets talked about, you would be forgiven for thinking that it is a complicated thing to get in to. The truth is double-sided…
It is actually VERY easy to get in to, to try, and to catch fish. That’s why it is the perfect aspect of our sport to get more and more kids involved; dare I say it, even wives and girlfriends?! Jo would never consider bass fishing with me but is 100% up to the idea of catching fish from a comfortable harbour wall.
The only time that it potentially becomes complicated is… if you make it that way. It really is just as complicated as you make it for yourself – and by ‘complicated’ I really just mean ‘technical’. Not everybody will have the inclination to switch between 3 and 5lb lines for example to achieve perfect presentation of a small lure; set up a fancy rig; or switch from a size 6 hook to a size 8 for the same effect. We’re all different (despite the fact that we have a common goal) and my advise to begin would be to start simple and just see how you get on. If you call me in the shop and say, ‘Ben, I just want the minimal kit I can get away with so that I can give it a go’, I could pretty much guarantee that if you took my suggestions and put a lure in the right place then you WILL catch fish – without doing anything technical whatsoever! It’s child’s-play in all honesty, and that is one of the main appeals once you give it a go – it will take you right back to the good old days when you got really, really excited about catching fish – regardless of species or size.
Below I have set out some of the major steps I would recommend taking to get the best from your starter setup and to get you in among some fish. Naturally, some things will vary depending on your geographic location but on the whole, LRF’s simplicity means that these (or similar) should work for you.
Read my article titled “LRF: What tackle do I need to start?“. This should get you set up with the right equipment. We are always trying to find better products and improve the value of our starter kit, but I can’t recommend the tackle mentioned in the article highly enough. The article itself should explain why.
Whether you have chosen a fluorocarbon or a braided* mainline, with this loaded on to your reel, the process from here is extremely simple.
* if you are using a braided mainline then the first thing you will need to do is to attach a length of fluorocarbon ‘leader’. Just use around 2 feet to start – this will be fine. Here’s a good little link: Improved Albright Knot. One change I would recommend is to follow the knot as instructed, but do so by first doubling over the braid in to a loop (so that you are wrapping two strands of braid around the fluorocarbon rather than one). This will ensure that your fine braid knots tightly without slipping. It’s a little complicated but with practise should hold tight.
With reel attached to rod and line through rod guides you’re ready to attach your ‘rig’. You actually have loads of options, but I only recommend one to get you started – the jighead. This basically just involves you using a weighted hook with a lure of your choice (recommended around 2 inches in length). All you need to do is tie the jighead to the end of your line – and that’s it! With your lure attached, it’s just a case of casting out and using a simple style of retrieve. More on that lower down.
Where should you go for your first LRF session?
Look for easy access harbours, marinas or breakwaters to begin. Some
piers are also suitable, but not those that are too high from the water! Try to be fishing no further than 15-20 feet above water level. Ideally, get closer. Always consider what you will do if you hook a fish that is too large to lift (perhaps 1lb+). A bonus of such locations is that car parking can often be found close by which makes LRF far more accessible for a larger demographic of anglers than almost any other kind of fishing!
Water clarity can play a part. Clear water naturally makes things easier, but if your area lacks clarity, don’t be put off. All it means is that you may need to be slightly more careful with your lure selection and use those that are more heavily scented. This is where lures like the Ecogearaqua and Marukyu Power Isome come in to their own. Fish lures very slowly near to the bottom, and probably closer to structure and you will still stand a great chance of catching.
LRF can also be applied to deeper water rock marks, estuaries and some shingle beaches, but you will likely find that each of these will more productive in the warmer months. Tactics also vary. I’m sure I’ll cover more on those when things warm up a bit. LRF tackle can be fished in most locations around our coastline. Again, like I discussed in the ‘what tackle’ article, it just depends on the time and place as to what is most suitable.
If there’s water, fish it! And if you can grab a friend to go with you, do it! This is a super social way of fishing.
The best tactics to use do vary through the year, but in aid of keeping it simple, by far the simplest setup will involve is something along the lines of a size 6, 8 or 10, 2g jighead matched with half a Marukyu Power Isome worm (medium or large). With this you will be in with a great chance. What to do with it throughout the year varies, but I’ll keep it as simple as possible.
In the winter, along with a slight shift in species (although we have been catching mackerel in January this year!), the fish are generally less active and the majority remain lower down in the water column (there are exceptions!). You may also find that the hours of darkness become the most productive. Day time can sometimes be hard – although you will catch. To begin, at night look for areas of water that are lit by streetlights. The lights will attract all manner of food and fish. The light isn’t essential but it will make your job easier while you find your feet.
So, let’s say you found a safe spot to fish and you’re casting in to say, less than 20′ of water with very little in the way of current…
1) Cast and allow the lure to hit the bottom – watch the line and the way it leaves your spool to judge when it is down – if you don’t feel it.
2) Pick up the slack line to regain contact with the lure.
3) With your rod tip pointing downwards and to the side, begin retrieving the lure as slowly as possible whilst keeping it from catching or tripping bottom. While fish are relatively cold and cautious, a straight retrieve (even with a straight tail lure that doesn’t appear to be doing anything) is often all that is required. Too much movement can be counter-productive. Keep it low and slow.
4) Should you feel a knock on the line, don’t energetically strike! Keep a cool head and keep slowly winding until you feel the weight of the fish, then slowly lift the rod and play the fish to the water’s edge. Small Pollack in particular have a habit of tail slapping a lure rather than eating it so you may feel knocks on the lure well before hooking one.
5) If the fish is small (you will have to judge this yourself) you may be able to swing it up and straight in to your hand. If it is larger then use either a landing net with a long handle, a drop net, or look for a safe position where you can reach it at water level.
Job done! Your first LRF fish is landed! This fish could be one of literally any species! It’ll be impossible to predict.
There are of coarse other things to try an
d another successful method could see you dropping a small lure vertically down the wall and to the bottom to tempt any number of bottom dwelling species. With time you will find that you are capable of targeting and catching multiple species from different areas of water in front of you – intentionally! Obviously fishing is of those things where you could really be doing one of any 5000 things, but the above should at least catch you a fish or two to get you started.
In the warmer months, day time sport can be hectic. With the water temperatures higher, fish are more active and popular summer species like Mackerel, Garfish and Bass will provide good sport. Smaller species (and Wrasse) will also be active in close proximity to harbour walls and other structure. Night time can be equally productive – it tends to vary from place to place. Fish are more likely to attack faster moving lures and respond to more animated retrieves. A slightly quicker version of the winter tactic described above will still be very productive. This is the thing with LRF – you could easily just fish one single type of lure Ecogear Straw tail Grub or Marukyu Power Isome on a size 8, 2g jighead and catch fish all year round with one standard, straight retrieve!
Summer tactics can vary a little more because it will not only be the slow and gentle retrieves that work for you. Most things will! Better or more determined anglers among you will be capable of working out which methods catch you the better quality fish (more on that in a later article). Truth be told, even if you are inexperienced and are over-working a lure, active summer fish will often still be willing to play ball.
It would be all too easy to go in to numerous things for you to try. There are so many options, which is perhaps the reason why it can seem a little complicated before you give it a go? The UK is a big place and we all have our own different set of fishing conditions. The things that I have highlighted above have worked particularly well for me over the past couple of years or so and I believe the points to be a trustworthy starting point. Hopefully it all makes sense. Obviously everything here is aimed predominently at guys or girls that have very little LRF experience. Hopefully it will provide useful.