On Saturday 3rd July 2021, what was probably the biggest ever LRF (Light Rock Fishing) event in the UK took place. Nearly 60 anglers took part, all with the intention of targeting the variety of species, large and small, that inhabit the coastline of Dorset.
Every ticket sold had raised nearly £2000 to help fund the brand new documentary, Britain’s Hidden Fishes, a one hour special showcasing the best of British fish in salt and freshwater. The brains behind the project is wildlife cameraman Jack Perks and he managed to raise over £30,000 to get it made – with a big helping hand from Hookpoint Magazine I must add!
So the weekend had arrived and a lot of the anglers had got to Weymouth on the Friday and did what big groups of like minded people do – drink! I had first made my way to meet with one of the sponsors – Chesil Bait N Tackle. This great tackle shop is the headquarters for Majorcraft, Keitech & IMA in the UK, and they were all providing prizes for the various categories. After collecting their very generous top prize of a Majorcraft Triplecross Aji rod, we made our way to the digs for the weekend.
‘We’ were me, my brother Olly, my dad Phil, father in law Sean and Sean’s good mate, Nigel. We did what all the others were doing and indulged in a few good beers, some even better burgers and knock out European Championship football. Deciding not to get too mad on the night before the big event we headed back to get some kip.
Weymouth woke to low grey cloud, drizzle and… a few hangovers! Luckily none belonged to my gang of Lerfers, so off we went with a van loaded with prizes and excitement for the day ahead. We all gathered in the Pavilion car park and, one by one I watched the cars and anglers in them appear.
It was an impressive sight, so many ultralight LRF rods pointed to the sky in anticipation. There were faces I recognised from social media and I got to putting names to them. The LRF community is a very spread out one and quite social media based, so it was a rare pleasure to get to meet the people behind the Instagram names and Facebook profiles. Jack Perks had also joined us, who was another I was meeting for the first time.
Just as I got everyone together to give out the rules and number cards, the heavens opened – wonderful timing… Everyone seemed keen though and went on their way. The rules were simple – no live/real bait, all fish had to be photographed with your card to count.
My role wasn’t really to take part, more to meet everyone and help if required. I soon found myself on the Pleasure Pier, with a group of hooded Lerfers spread out around it, rods pointed down to the water below. I had just missed what would end up the biggest fish of the day – a frankly astonishing 2lb tub gurnard caught by Keith Ide on his first cast! What a start!
Richard Salter, Joe Mole and Mark Taylor were soon on the fish too. With Rich picking out a corkwing burdened with two parasitic isopods, one large female on its head and a tiny male nearby. He dutifully removed the monstrous invertebrate and dropped the newly parasite free corkwing into the sea. Mark followed with a rather lovely common dragonet, his first ever! Things were coming along nicely.
Weymouth wasn’t letting us down with the water clarity, the sandy bottom and seagrass beds were clearly visible, making sight fishing a real possibility in the low tide. Shoals of sandeel and juvenile sprats coasted by, getting attacked from below by the countless micro pollock. There was a prize for smallest fish and it seemed like it wouldn’t be difficult to find, with immature pout also shoaling like piranhas. After a good start, everyone seemed to be struggling to catch anything other than them!
Despite the increasingly slow fishing, I was impressed by 9 year old Nayan, who was joining in the competition with assistance from his mum, Nim. For a boy who had not tried LRF before, he was taking to it well. I guided him to keep the rod still and let the current do the work and he was rewarded with his first black goby. He also caught a ballan wrasse later in the day. He was so keen though and could correctly identify golden grey, thick lipped and thin lipped mullet – a feat that a lot of older anglers struggle with! The future is bright with this lad I think.
A group of anglers I was especially looking forward to meeting was the Hartlepool Lure & LRF gang. I have followed their exploits on Facebook for a while now and I was curious how they would find the clear waters of Weymouth. The lads were on good form and we shared fishing tales while they chased a dragonet around the shallow water at the base of the pier. Considering the fishing wasn’t really living up to the hype in those early stages, they kept plugging away until the end.
There was a strong Plymouth LRF representation too, with local LRF legend Maurice Mitchinton (self proclaimed oldest Lerfer in the UK at 74), Jake Smith, Alex Waring, Clive Sharpe, Lee Russell-Clark and co making the trip. Alex was trying LRF for the first time and caught a cracking flounder near the end of the day. Maurice would go on to catch the finest fish of the weekend though, as the day was nearing it’s close he caught a red mullet! This species being an exceptionally rare catch on LRF tactics, he truly deserved the prize of ‘Coolest Catch’.
Hookpoint and Sea Angling News editor, James Wigglesworth is always good craic. Him and his mates had drunk one too many shandies the night before and were fragile. I found them pestering the wrasse on the opposite side of the harbour. Their delicate state didn’t stop the constant banter though as they ticked off a few species. One of them even managed to snap a HTO Urban Finesse rod on a food van but it didn’t knock their spirits. That wasn’t the only casualty of the weekend – I’m looking at you Andy Mytton!
The Cornish Lerfers were being represented by the wizard himself, Will Pender. A man who spent the majority of the day in serious hunt mode, leaving no stone unturned in his hunt for the most species. As someone who has fished and competed with Will many times, I can confirm he’s a species hunting beast. I knew he would be near the top of the scoring charts at the end of the day. Surprisingly, flounder and scorpion fish were few and far between, unsurprisingly, Will caught both!
Another gang who were sure to do well were Adam Kirby, Dan Sissons and Chris Wheeler. These LRF veterans are true stalwarts of the scene, trailblazing long before I got involved. They had competition heritage and local knowledge, so they were the ones to watch. Unfortunately, I kept missing them as they made their way around the harbour and piers, but I could see their tallies grow on social media.
To assist me with keeping count of the species, I had set up a Facebook Group (titled The Big Lerf Group funnily enough), so anglers could post as they caught. This led to the most pictures of micro pollock I had ever seen! Plus, of course, some rather cool catches like black bream and tub gurnard showing up on the feed. It’s a group I will utilise in future events so feel free to get involved…
Although I can’t go through everyone and list them, we would be here forever! I would be amiss to not mention Matt Barnsley and Danny Hill – who get involved in every competition they can and are just top blokes. It was also great to finally meet Ben Coleman, Ray Neville, Richard Widdowson, Lukasz Jablonski, Charlie Sebbage and so many more. The social, friendly side of the comp’ was by far the best bit, which is exactly how LRF should be.
Back to the fishing and my best spell coincided with a sweet half hour alongside Jack Perks. Jack is no die hard Lerfer but he was on 6 species to my 2 at the time… Even with my fishing being unimportant on the day, I still had pride to maintain! Among the weed lined teeth of the Stone Pier, I had a strong bite that sent my Majorcraft Aji-Do into a glorious curve, with a spirited little ballan wrasse being the culprit. It was soon clear that the real action was on the top of the concrete teeth though, a small tanago stinger hook added to my dropshot produced a shanny and corkwing wrasse in quick succession, taking me to a more respectable 5 species.
It was during this time that I finally got to chat with Daniele Francia (otherwise known as Momo) of Streetfishing London – one of the sponsors of the event. He was enjoying his first taste of LRF and caught a real brute of a corkwing wrasse, which is an LRF staple. It was a pleasure to talk football and fishing with him after a year of working with him on social media.
Momo was down with Lee Jackson, David Ford and George Cunningham (of HTO, Prime Angling and many others). They also had got on the sauce the night before, leading to these seasoned species hunters struggling through the day. Lee even making do with a broken little finger! They were a good laugh though and George managed to catch the only bass of the day, adding to the overall species count.
Although this was a typically male dominated event, a few ladies joined in and provided some memorable moments. My favourite being when I watched Becky Pullen’s rod pull round like she had hooked a wrasse! She lifted the fish up into the net to reveal it was in fact a huge jet black common blenny, a real specimen size mini monster. You could tell she was surrounded by Lerfers as everyone appreciated this miniature beast she had caught.
I took the time to chat with as many anglers as I could as I walked around the harbour. There was a special feeling about the place as every few metres I would come across someone new, tiny rod in hand, targeting a variety of species. That to me will be a lasting memory of the event, being able to enjoy the company of so many like minded anglers. All who were just happy to be involved after such a difficult year.
As the hours ticked on closer to the 6pm finish, I had found another two species in the form of a black goby and a truly tiny flounder, taking my total to 7. It was soon time to total up who were the overall winners in the various categories. The top prize was being tightly contested by two anglers – Will Pender and Adam Kirby – who would it be?
It was 6pm and 50 plus anglers had gathered back in the car park ready to hear who had won what. Myself and Andy Mytton had gone through all the photos and we had our winner of the top prize. Finishing on a very respectable 12 species, Adam Kirby was our man! Now the proud owner of the Majorcraft Triplecross – donated by Chesil Bait N Tackle.
Next up was Keith Ide collecting his Spro Net, 4m Handle and Spro bag donated by Osborne & Cragg Tackle Shop, Plymouth. Keith earned it with his fantastic tub gurnard caught on his first cast as biggest fish.
With a collection of Keitech soft plastic lures, again provided by Chesil Bait N Tackle, up for grabs for coolest fish. There could only be one winner, Maurice Mitchinton with his incredible red mullet.
Smallest fish was a tough one to judge, with so many pollock eligible, barely bigger than the pound coin they were being compared to! We judged that Richard Widdowson’s frankly miniscule pollock took the prize. An IMA tackle box given to us by Chesil Bait N Tackle proving a fine reward for such an impressively tiny fish.
Jon Owens aka Jonny Lerfer, had donated prizes for the most wrasse species and Dan Sissons won it with 3 species. A huge thanks to Jon for supporting us with a myriad of niche Japanese tackle.
And finally, Streetfishing London’s prize would go to the person with the most species on hard lures… This would go to Cornish Lure Festival favourite, Mervyn Jones! His surprise at winning made the result all the sweeter.
With all the prizes dished out, the anglers began to disperse, with smiles beaming and a combined 18 species caught. A total made all the more impressive by the lack of mackerel and garfish around. As a sign of good things to come this one felt special, topped off by England smashing Ukraine 4 nil in the Euro Quarter Finals! What a weekend.
Thank you to everyone who got involved and sorry if I didn’t mention you. There will be a countrywide event happening on the weekend of the 10th, 11th and 12th of September, so I look forward to talking more about that. A huge thanks again to Chesil Bait N Tackle (Tacklewave), Osborne & Cragg, Streetfishing London and Jonny Lerfer for the prizes, you were all so generous.
One final mention for Jack Perks, whose documentary, narrated by Jeremy Wade, is now in the works. Please support that as much as you can, our native fish need to be celebrated and cared for, this film will go some way to doing that.