Holyhead General Fishing – Part 3

This article was written for Boat Fishing Monthly magazine and can be found in the August 2012 issue.

When setting out on a day general fishing, we all have high hopes of catching a variety of species and as quickly as we possibly can.


Rig selection though is critical and all too often I see anglers, having spent a small fortune on top quality rods, reels and bait, letting themselves down by sticking to their favourite rig, simply because it caught well the last time out.

The general scratch rigs I talk about often need adapting to where you are fishing. The species you’re after or the ground you are fishing the main deciding factors, but there are also times when we have the additional headache in the strength of tide; it is not just a case of clipping on a lighter or heavier weight to cope with the changes in water flow.

Careful consideration needs to be given to the rigs you’re using. It is quite rare that you can fish the same rig at slack water that you can fish when the tide is flowing.


If you’re fishing an area with a very strong tidal pull, you may need to change your rig a couple times to cope with the increasing strength of the water as it pushes your end tackle downtide.

If fishing a 3 down scratch rig in a very strong tide there are two main problems that can occur. The first is the danger that the rig may lift up in the tide and flutter too far off the sea bed and out of sight of those fish rummaging around the bottom after a feed. In extreme cases, together with the first example, there is the additional danger that the rig will tangle up the main line as it is pushed downstream under the pressure of a strong water flow.

Various situations can add to this scenario – anglers letting too much initial line out, or letting line out with a fish bite or trying to trot back to locate feeding fish, a fierce tide soon takes control.

3 Boom Paternosters

One way of overcoming problems with a standard 3 down rig, is to change to a much shorter version of the same rig. Where you may normally be fishing 4 to 5 ft rig length, it often pays to reduce the size to 2 to 3ft and keep the hooks and bait down.

An alternative is the paternoster rig.


This style of rig can be tied in many different ways, but the particular paternoster rig I favour in these tidal conditions normally incorporate wire booms, in either a heavy gauge of steel or the twisted wire variety, which ever you choose, they can all help present a short snood close to the sea bed.

By adjusting the booms being used along with the hook patterns and sizes there are many different species that can be targeted with variations in this rig, from whiting and dabs to the hard fighting huss and especially rays.

Anyone having fished around the mussel beds in Holyhead Bay will be aware of the strong currents over the majority of the marks, yet we get to fish longer periods on certain marks using these rigs and are often rewarded with blonde, spotted and thornback ray along with some decent sized bull huss.


Looking at a good general rig, for targeting a variety of fish rather than something with great finesse or brute force, I again tend to use a trusted 60lb clear rig body. Paying for a good supple monofilament line helps keep the balance of strength and presentation in the rig.

It’s best to start with a rig body of around 5 foot in length, one boom is crimped 20cm above the bait clip. For the bait clip I prefer to use swivel links or crane snaps. The next boom 30cm higher and the next 30cm higher again, next to the swivel that attaches to your mainline. By using swivels at either end of the rig, you are helping reduce any twist that can occur in the rig, this twist can reduce its effectiveness if the rig is kinked or not presented correctly. With the rig body normally threading through the wire boom, the whole 4ft of the rig body, should twist independently of the snood carrying booms.

For snood lines you need to tie fairly short lengths, no more than 15cm; for a general purpose rig using 30 or 40lb fluorocarbon. Bear in mind that if you’re setting out to target the likes of huss and rays , then it is advisable to up the snood line to around 60lb, you need more robust and more abrasion resistance when dealing with the strong mouths of these species.

Hooks for a general rig I have a few choices, Sakuma Manta, or Sakuma Chinu hooks around size 1 or 2 or an old favourite the Kamasan Uptide hook in n sizes 1 or 1/0. Not too many attractors are required in the snoods of this rig, I would stick to just 1,2 or 3, maybe a couple of the large oval luminous beads, to help draw attention to your bait.

This rig can be fished in a couple of ways – cast uptide with a fixed grip lead or with a ball lead, again cast uptide or across the tide and allowed to roll in the strong current to cover more ground and locate fish around the boat, naturally this method is best on slightly clean ground that doesn’t hold too many snags.


When fishing this rig uptide, as with any form of uptide fishing, what is most important here is when the lead touches the seabed it is vital that you continue to pay out main line; in doing so the tide will catch the line, pulling it down tide and away from your lead. A large bow is then created in the line and the grip-lead is pulled into the sea bed, anchoring the rig and bait in position.

With the weight anchored to the bottom, line paid out to create the bow and masses of tidal flow running over the anchored lead and rig your booms & hooks are presented directly on the sea bed, exactly where your prey are searching for food to eat.

On occasions it also pays to incorporate a small 1oz bullet lead just after the top swivel of the lead. This helps keep the rig tight to the sea bed and leaves far less to chance.

If fishing in a very strong tide, where heavy grips are cast uptide or weights up to 2lb of lead dropped downtide, I’ll often use this rig with the short twisted wire booms, and then between the legs of the boom I use bullet or oval leads ranging between ½ and 1oz.

These all add weight to the rig and help keep the snoods down. Doing this is not for everyone, it is not so easy use or cast, but that said it can make the world of difference to your catch rate.

Through the General Fishing articles I have tried to write on the merits of different fishing rigs to help us all get the most from a day afloat, whilst at the same time not needing to set sail with everything but the kitchen sink packed away in the tackle box.

All too often you see anglers with a seat box, on which sits a top box on which sits a winder box, too many rigs it gets far too confusing at times. With a small selection of rigs and a few bits of tackle, you are adequately prepared for most outcomes.

Towards the end of May in 2012 we had a couple days set aside for individuals with the main purpose of both days targeting the big smoothhounds of Holyhead Bay on light tackle.

On both days, four from the 7 anglers had made the journey to Anglesey from the far north east coast of England. Having sampled some great tope fishing in deep water with us in 2011, they were now determined to tackle light and snare a double figure shark in shallow water.

We set sail early the morning of the first day, it was only a short 20 minute run to our intended fishing area and everyone was keen. I had already landed 2 smoothies over the magical 20lb mark in the past fortnight, with many more in the 16, 17 and 18lb brackets. After a few hours of inactivity bar the odd dogfish, things were not quite going to plan.


We had movement in the tide, the crabs were perfect, a little too much bright sunlight for my liking, but we should still be connecting with a few hounds.

This was primetime for Holyhead. The hounds though had been proving to be problematic, with the packs going off the feed just as quick as they would swim through our area eating everything in their path.

We did manage 2 hounds for our 6 hour effort, Dave with a hound of 12lb 8oz and a 6lber for Roy Matthews, small yes, but a first smoothhound for Roy so it was received with a big smile.

Not quite the return we expect though, so for the last 2 hours we changed tact slightly and went scratching out species over the slack water period on the mussel beds. Fortunately these guys were time served anglers and were prepared for any slight changes our day may have had.

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