What is LRF?
LRF - Light Rock Fishing - is actually a term developed by Daiwa (the tackle company) in Japan for a range of ultra light fishing tackle. HRF - Hard Rock Fishing - is the same, technically being a Daiwa invention (at least in name, if not the fishing style itself).
Today we use the name LRF as a generic phrase for what is more accurately, "Light Game Fishing". Light game fishing in itself is also pretty generic, but basically LRF, light game fishing - call it what you will - is most accurately about fishing with balanced, light, precision tackle for whatever species of fish you're trying to catch.
Many of these fish or species aren't big, so the tackle used to catch them is optimised to simply catch as many as possible - nearing a perfect form of presentation to achieve maximum results.
Although hugely inspired by Japanese fishing at the start, LRF in the UK puts the emphasis on far more species - an unlimited number. Species-hunting gatherings like The Big Lerf and Cornish Lure Festival are hugely popular and often an anglers success over a session may be judged by how many individual species they have tallied throughout the day, rather than by how many fish they have caught.
LRF in Japan revolves mostly around two species - Aji and Mebaru. Aji are exactly the same fish as our Scad (or Horse Mackerel). Mebaru - although they don't look like them - are probably most similar to our small Pollack - in that they live around rocks and harbours and we can catch them in the same ways. You'll often either "Aji" or "Mebaru" on many of the Japanese designed rods.
In essence, although there are many differences between modern day LRF in Japan and the UK, the constant refining of techniques brings them very close together. But while Japan fishes for specific, species-oriented perfection, we fish for all-round learning. This makes Japan the absolute masters of their field, but we are discovering ways here to maximise our daily results, catching as many of the few fish that might be in front of us (no matter what they are) on any given day.
I started my LRF adventure around 2008 or 2009. None of the tackle we see today was available in the UK, and nobody had previously dedicated such time as the few of us back then, to see what we could catch if everything was right and our tackle was more species specific. Many of the fish we catch today were rarely seen (if ever) and our theories about what was and what wasn't catchable on a lure were positively prehistoric. Luckily a few of us wanted to change that.
In the past decade, LRF has advanced through various stages. The experimental stage at the beginning was great fun. Anything goes. We tried absolutely everything (almost) and quickly realised that it would eventually be possible to catch almost any species of fish on an artificial lure - no matter where or what it is. You just needed the right location, the right technique and the right tackle.
With that, all of a sudden our understanding of lure presentation and scaling things up or down to suit conditions or species developed extremely rapidly. Back then, admittedly we didn't catch quite as many of the weird and wonderful things that get caught today, but the path was set.
Thanks to companies like HTO, LRF tackle eventually became mainstream. HTO particularly hit the mark at the budget end of the scale, making LRF much more accessible for the masses - which was a great relief since everything prior to the incarnation of the original Rockfish rods had to be imported at greater cost. Now, almost every lure brand has an LRF section. The way we now fish for perch too has also benefited since the arrival of LRF on these shores. The dropshot revolution of what feels like about 2014/15 was purely spurred on initially thanks to LRF. Bass fishing too has advanced (regardless of whether the hardcore will admit it or not) thanks to the level of understanding about presentation exhibited by LRF tackle and techniques. Before LRF, rarely did we fish a soft plastic lure with any precision. And the heavier end of LRF became HRF - or wrasse fishing with lures.
Although still under-utilised by the people who would benefit most from this style of fishing (particularly young families - due to the ease of accessibility), LRF lives on. The tackle itself has been up and down in terms of trends. Much of it today is more simple - since we have had more than a decade now of figuring things out - but the urge to experiment will always continue within the soul of any true LRF fan.