Cornwall is blessed with a lot of rock marks that have deep water right at your feet and rocky underwater terrain. At this time of year in particular, these kinds of places are stuffed full of an assortment of colourful bold-biting little fish that can really brighten up your day while you’re waiting for a response from something more sizable. For me the vibrant colours of the male cuckoo wrasse are one of the top prizes but on some marks I visit you can make minor adjustments to your approach to catch five or even six different wrasse species. Variety comes in the way of fun mini species (like tompot blennies and sea scorpions), small pollack, pouting, rockling and (if you’re lucky) the pugnacious triggerfish.
There’s a lot of competition for food between these smaller rock-dwelling species but I think it’s always best to assume that the majority of the time their survival instinct is keen. Clumsy rigs will still get bites as the critters dart out to nip chunks off the bait but in my experience, a lot of the time you will reel in empty hooks and no fish. It’s easy to get complacent about fishing for small stuff and assume that the hungry fish will overlook goofy presentation but putting some effort into getting things looking good will result in more fish to the rocks and more in the way of bonus species too.
Finding a rig that could present well to these smaller species while still being tough enough to survive extraction from snags was a headache for me for a short while. I’ve always gone down the route of simple mono paternosters with minimal components, but making these out of heavy enough line to survive regular trauma meant that I was tying size 4 hooks to 60lb mono – a lack of subtlety that I wasn’t at all happy with.
My first effort at a rig design better tailored to these situations involved tying blood loop droppers into the rig body and then connecting a lighter hooklength with a loop-to-loop. This worked well and I used it successfully for some time but I inevitably attracted the odd tiny conger that span the rig into a snotty crinkled mess fit only for destruction. This soon got frustrating and I found myself wanting to put an extra swivel in to combat this behaviour and preferably some way of helping the hooklength to stand off from the rig body a bit more.
The answer to these teething problems came when I began experimenting with a variation of the blood loop – the twisted boom. This knot produces a proud stand off section that you can easily incorporate a swivel into. Tie a short section of lighter line to the swivel, add a pop up and a small hook and you have something that will present a small bait very nicely. The final touches are the rotten bottom system of your choice at the base of the rig (I prefer an inverted rig clip or a simple loop-to-loop if fishing at short range) and a swivel at the top.
This, however, is not the most effective version of this rig for me. This pattern will drape across the bottom with the sharp little hooks catching on the rocky ground – the addition of a rig float to the top of the rig makes all the difference. These odd-looking balls of foam will make your rig stand up off the bottom and your little baits shimmy to the movement of the underwater world. I usually use the red Tronixpro rig floats and find them alright, but if you want the plastic sleeve inside to remain fixed it’s best to superglue it in place as they quickly come apart otherwise. I’ve also used bits of broken polystyrene floats – anything that’s highly buoyant will do.
Fishing like this I rarely lose an entire rig even over very rough ground. You can tie in as many booms as you like too – I typically make it with two. The beauty of this design is that although it does take a little time to make, it’s a worthy investment as it’ll catch you a lot of fish, has pretty good resistance to the tanglesome properties of tiny eels and can easily last a session or two – you just keep replacing the hooklengths and rotten bottoms as you lose them. It’s great with strong coarse fishing hooks in the size 1-4 range for triggers, ballans, cuckoos and corkwings but for extra variety try it with lighter hooklengths and hooks as small as 10-16 to catch colourful tiddlers like goldsinnys and rock cooks that many anglers completely ignore.
Although I originally started using this rig for my summer rough ground fishing in Cornwall, it’s a great option for any other situation where you might find yourself fishing for small to medium size fish that like to feed just off the bottom. For instance, I used it a lot on a trip to Sark (Channel Islands) for black and couches bream over clean to mixed ground. Like many of the rigs I like to use for my fishing, you only have to make minimal changes to adapt it to suit a broad range of species and fishing situations.