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Introduction: The traces you use from the shore depends on four main factors -
  1. the location you are fishing from (e.g. rocks, harbour pier, or a beach) 
  2. what species and size of fish you are targeting (e.g. flatfish or tope!) 
  3. what conditions you are likely to find (foul ground, weed or sand) and  
  4. the depth of water and the tidal conditions you expect to encounter...

It also depends on your own abilities as a shore angler, namely how far you can cast your rig!  So here is our simple guide to (A) casting techniques down the left hand side, and (B) common rigs that would be used with each casting technique on the right hand side.


The key issue in fishing from piers and harbours is safety - for you and other people.  Casting is often restricted by this and by physical obstructions like sea walls, or other anglers on the pier!  Thankfully since you already have access to deep water long distance casting isn't required.  

The main concerns are accurate short range casting and safety for all harbour users.

Fishing from Piers: The Belgian Cast:

The arms open to 45 above your head, keep the rod tip behind you and ensure that the lead does not touch the ground.

You cast right in front of you. There is no pendulum action or swinging of the lead.

It works best with longer more flexible rods - where the fast casting action loads the rod and the pressure is then released more slowly. This is a shortened overhead thump (see below), with no waist twist since little distance is needed in fishing off a pier.

This kind of light sea fishing can be easily done on a 10 foot (3 m) salmon or carp rod.

This casting action is useful when we have several anglers with lines in the water and you need to be accurate in casting and/or where there are passerbys on a pier and your space is limited; or finally if you want to guarantee the direction of your casting.

Fishing in Harbours: The Side Cast:

Here you start with your left arm across your stomach, rod horizontal to the ground, and the lead just off the ground.  You cast right out in front of you, with the right hand pushing the rod out and slightly up, with the left hand pulling the rod across the stomach, inward and even down slightly.  

This is an arm only cast. People suffering back pain use this cast, as do anglers who may only have one arm to cast with...

Whatever you gain in terms of power by increasing the arc the lead takes, will be lost in terms of the accuracy of casting.

A 109 lb skate was taken from the pier in Fenit in Kerry on 19 lb line on a spinning rod, but it took over 4 hours to bring it in! 

See that your kit matches your target fish!

Float Fishing for Mullet in Harbours:

Mullet will often shoal in harbours and rivers mouths, feeding on plankton and opportunitistically on offal, bread, and other effluents. They like ragworm and other standard baits, and the easiest way to catch them is with a standard float rig.  An adjustable stop knot is placed in the main line, and a float is added above the swivel.  A bullet lead gives you weight and you can adjust the depth at which the rig fishes by moving the stop knot up or down the main line. This rig will also account for most fish available in harbours, including mackerel & garfish in the summer months.

 

Legering for Conger & Bull Huss:

Conger eel and bull huss (greater spotted dogfish) are big powerful fish, predators with teeth to match.  The rig used has to be able to take the strain they will impose and take the abrasion from the rocks and rusting debris strewn on the sea bottom.

This kind of fishing requires a strong rod, especially if you expect to take a large fish.  Harbours often have resident Congers that feed off the guts & fishheads.


Beachcasting - The Overhead Thump:

This is where it all starts in beachcasting, and if you are new a little patience and application is required.  Gettting a smooth action is essential even if it means short casts of under 100 yards (90 m) initially.

  • For right handed people, point your left toe directly out to sea, to where you want to cast.   Your right foot will feel most comfortable as shown below: -

  • Your feet should be slightly farther apart than your shoulders, for good balance.  Ensure you have a strong and solid stance and two firm footholds (especially on wet rock platforms).
  • Your left hand will hold the rod butt at the bottom, whilst the right hand is positioned close to the reel, with the line trapped under a finger or thumb and the retrieve arm open on a fixed spool or a multiplier's gear engaged.

  • Hold the rod up at a 45 angle as shown above.  The left arm is straight out, whereas the right arm is bent slightly at the elbow.  Keep the lead still and off the ground to avoid snags. The power comes from twisting away from the sea at the waist, to face over your right foot.  With this the rod automatically moves behind you - check to see the rod tip stays up!

  • The correct casting action is a smooth pull with the waist twist releasing, with the left arm pulling the rod out and across and slightly down and the the right arm pushing the rod out and up.  This smooth action will propel the lead out and up - release it when the pressure builts to the maximum.
  • At the finish position, you left arm is bent at the elbow, and the right arm is straight, facing in the cast's direction.

There is no alternative to practice. Ideally the rod tip will move almost in a straight line from behind you to directly in front of you.  The lead and cast always moves in the exact same direction as the rod tip.  

If you do want to apply power, use a shift of body weight from the left leg at the back to the right leg at the front at the same time as the waist twist is released but remember that accurate and long casting comes from good technique, not power.

The Standard Paternoster

A basic three hook paternoster is a simple rig, cheap and cheerful and it works.  The basic idea is that bait is present at three different levels in the water, near the top, in the middle and along the sea bottom.  The slope of the beach or target mark will determine how long you make the trace overall and the distance between hooks.

Variations on this include using a baited spoon complete with sequins and beads for the final hook, to attract any flatfish. You should use different hook sizes, as a small fish (poor cod, blenny or pouting - do not take immature fish) can serve as fresh bait.

Exploring with the "Ave Maria":

I use the Holy Mary - of my own design but I'm sure its not unique - for exploring new marks, particularly from the shore or in shallow inshore waters from a small boat.

The name Ave Maria or "Holy Mary" is a pun on Paternoster which is the latin for "Our Father" - very irreligious of me I know...!

It is basically a modified paternoster, with the top hook (located above the swivel on the main line) designed to swim around just under the water surface, the mid hook usually pennel rigged to take a big smelly bait, and the final smallest hook - armed with lugworm - aimed at any local flatfish.

Bass, all manner of flatties, coalfish and pollack, one unfortunate haddock, a weaver fish, a smoothhound and gurnards have all succumbed. The rig's value lies in quickly identifying what works best on a new mark.

Bait Clips and Impact Shields:

In most regards, shore traces differ little from their boat trace counterparts, however there are two additional items of use to shore anglers.  The first is the bait clip.  Since long distance casting has a lot to do with streamlining a rig, bait clips are vital.

Added to the rig, a bait clip will hold the baited hook in place during the cast.  The impact on the sea water will dislodge the hook leaving it free for a target fish.  An impact shield is a bigger bait clip and it comes into its own when you are using bigger and softer or more fragile baits like frozen lugworm. I tend to use them only on the bottom of a rig, with bait clips used above, in a 1 up / 1 down arrangement.

Bait clips and impact shields only work if the hooks stay in place during the cast.  

Loose clips will fail.  When constructing the rigs, always position the clips & hooks first and only then crimp the beads into place.  


When you have the overhead thump down pat, and you are getting 70 yards plus from baited traces, then and only then might you have a go at more advanced techniques.


Fishing from Rocks - Backcasting:

As the name implies you make this cast with your back to the sea. It is particularly useful for people suffering from back injuries or back ache after a long day! 

With your back to the sea, and the rod held at the usual  45 angle, with the left hand hold the butt down on your belt line, and the right hand higher up near the reel. 

You make a right (back) to left (front) sweeping motion. Just before the lead passes in front of you, the rod being almost perfetcly upright, you draw the rod tip upwards and you stop the movement (without gettting turned over to the sea).

The cast literally flies out over your back! 

You can undoubtedly gain in precision by practising this cast but it is not a very accurate cast, which is hardly surprising given you are looking the other way! It has the benefit of casting large baits but it needs a very long rod - 13 - 14 foot. 

It is not used alongside other anglers.

Wire Booming for Wrasse

Wrasse are tricky.  This rig will account for any fish in the area, but it was specifically designed to take wrasse from off rocks, reefs or in harbour areas.

An adjustable wire boom is threaded onto the main line, with a swivel and rotten bottom link added. Thee boom can be moved up or down the main line to match the depth at which the fish are feeding.  The rottom bottom is vital in wrasse fishing as they live in very foul ground with strong currents and heavy weed.  With this rig, you will detect bites immediately.


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