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Starting Out HRF Fishing

Niarbyl, Wrasse Heaven?

Niarbyl, Wrasse Heaven?

I took the chance on Wednesday to break in some new tackle and give this much fancied and talking about HRF (Heavy Rock Fishing) a go. The idea was to try some of the spots where I’ve caught Wrasse in the past, Wrasse being my primary target for HRF, and to keep a track of how I got on and come up with some tips in case you’re thinking of giving it a go.

First of all I suppose I’d better explain HRF a little bit, it is basically using fairly light gear and soft plastics to catch Wrasse, Pollack and other species from rough ground. Fairly light gear means lure rods capable of casting between 5-20 grams, 3000 or 4000 series fixed spool reels, 15-20lb braid and short flourocarbon leaders. The lures themselves come in a whole variety of types and sizes but as a start you are recommended to get a variety of 3-4 inch worm and eel patterns in brown/green/grey colours. I am very new to this myself and not being too sure how much chance for this type of fishing I was going to get I didn’t want to spend a fortune so I settled on a Shimano 240 Dropshot rod (although the 270 may be an even better bet) and a Shimano Alivio 3000 reel, this provided very good balance and great casting ability even with very light lures.

4 Inch Slug Go Rigged Weedless

4 Inch Slug Go Rigged Weedless

The actual lures themselves are grubby little things! It seems to be an accepted fact that when fishing for Wrasse in this style you are trying to piss them off rather than elicit a predatory response, you need to get right down amongst the rough stuff and this means using a weedless setup. You’ll need some worm hooks and unless your lures are weighted some worm/cone weights. On the day my main lure of choice was a Slug Go 4 inch lure, rigged weedless with a 7 gram weight. Even in the fairly strong headwinds I was able to cast it out a good 30 yards, looking back possibly too far!

Now down to the actual fishing and the part that nobody seems to mention on all the guides I’ve found! First of all I started off 3 hours before high water at Fenella Beach, a location that has given up plenty of smaller Wrasse over the years to a floated lugworm. My thought process was smaller fish are stupider than bigger fish and I wanted an early confidence booster that what I was doing was right. Unsure I set about using a casting pattern I would use for Trout in the reservoir, covering a large arc at various ranges from the full 30+ yards I could cast to using simple under arm flicks to get right in amongst the rocks. To retrieve the lure I was varying from a straight “crawl” along the bottom to start/stop jerks and everything in between. An average retrieve took perhaps 2-3 minutes. It took me 40 minutes to get my first definite knock-knock take. I pulled into the fish but was too eager and missed. I gave it another half an hour then decided to try a spot behind Peel Castle that had always been very good for Wrasse.

A bite to eat later and a short walk and I was all setup in place in the face of a lovely North West wind that had waves soaking me, not ideal conditions then! Again I started with the same casting pattern and retrieval techniques, testing the full fairly limited supply of lures I had but after 2 hours without so much as a knock I’d had enough. To put this into perspective when float fishing with worm as bait I’d expect a fish every 20-30 minutes from this spot. Thoughts going through my head were…is HRF some fancy Japanese practical joke? Are Manx Wrasse a little backwards and not aware they are supposed to attack soft plastics? Was I doing this totally wrong (Most likely!)? I made the executive decision to head down the coast to Niarbyl.

First HRF Pollack

First HRF Pollack

I hadn’t fished Niarbyl for Wrasse for over 10 years but I’d ALWAYS done well there. On arrival the sea wasn’t quite as sheltered as I’d hoped for but it was a definite improvement over Peel so I made the short climb down the rocks. First cast, strike and a miss. Twenty minutes later I had my first fish of the HRF gear, a nice Pollack of a couple of pounds. It gave a great account of itself on the light tackle, at this point I knew I was at least doing “something” right! This was confirmed when I landed A couple more Pollack on different lures. At least I could say I was no longer a HRF virgin but the idea of this was hassle free access to a few different species. An hour after tide and getting hungry I decided to call it a day and head for home.

The main question then is what did I do wrong, to get the answers I spoke to a couple of people I know who do this fishing from the south coast of England, along with some anonymous help from the web it helped to complete a few more of the finer details for catching Wrasse using these tactics. Here are the lessons you can learn from my 1st HRF session:-

1. Slow it all down – this is nothing like traditional lure fishing. If you get snagged up leave it 5-10 minutes. Don’t be afraid to work the lure without winding for minutes at a time. Having the lure in the water for 10-15 minutes at a time is fine. Gently pulling through snags can sometimes be a bonus.

2. Keep it on the bottom. Do not be tempted to speed up your retrieve anything beyond a total crawl. This is why I was getting Pollack, I was fishing too high. Ideally you want to be in contact with the bottom all the way.

3. The weather is important. Wrasse will seek areas where the water isn’t so turbulent, my heroics were for nothing! Waves breaking over you is not ideal Wrasse fishing conditions.

4. Match the hatch. Do not be afraid to chop and change lures often.

5. Distance is not that important. As with all new tackle the first I wanted to do was see how far it would go. My time would have been much more productive keeping the lure in the areas where the Wrasse are located.


Keeping all these tips in mind and with a little more variety in my lure box I’ll be heading out for another go in the next week, I’m looking forward to catching my first Wrasse using HRF tactics, it’ll be straight on Instagram as soon as it’s landed!

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