Fishing with Feathers and Daylights

Multiple Mackerel
Mackerel caught on daylights.

Feathers and daylights are a type of lure which is primarily used to catch mackerel, although other preadatory species can also be caught on them. Typically sold in rigs containing between three and six individual lures, feathers and daylights are cheap to buy and are widely sold by sea fishing tackle shops and online retailers. Ever popular with anglers across the whole of the British Isles, feathers and daylights are an extremely effective type of fishing lure which can successfully catch a fish on every lure if they are attacked by a shoal of mackerel. Due to their effectiveness, feathers and daylights are a mainstay of summer lure fishing across the British Isles.

Types of Feathers and Daylights

Feathers and Daylights
Left: traditional white mackerel feathers, and right, silver daylights.

Feathers consist of a hook which is dressed with either natural or artificial feathers – a design that has changed little over the decades. When drawn through the sea the feathers resemble a small fish and tempt larger predatory fish into attacking and becoming caught on the hook. Daylights are similar and achieve the same result but use synthetic plastic material instead of feathers. The hook size is usually 1/0 or 2/0 for rigs which are designed to be used from the shore, although rigs designed for herring can have hooks size 4 or 6, and those for cod fishing from a boat can have hooks up to size 6/0. Read our full article on the different types of feathers and daylights used by UK anglers by clicking here and Sea Angling Shop’s range of feathers and daylights can be viewed by clicking here.

Rods, Reels and Line

Anglers have a number of options when it comes to which rods and reels can be used when fishing with feathers and daylights. Some anglers simply use a standard 12ft beachcaster and attach 4 – 6oz weights. While this is an effective way of catching mackerel there is little sport to be had in using such heavy gear to fish for relatively small fish, plus it can become very tiring to use a heavy beachcaster to constantly cast out and reel in. Many anglers therefore step down to use either bass rods which are generally around 11ft long and cast weights of 2 – 4oz or spinning rods of 7 – 10ft which cast weights of 1 – 2oz. Both of these options are much more fun to use to catch mackerel on feathers and daylights and also much less tiring to use to cast all day. As with spinning, most anglers use simple fixed spool reels rather than multipliers and fill these reels with monofilament line of the appropriate strength (12lb – 18lb depending on the rod being used) and there is no need to use a shockleader. View the range of spinning rods and reel sets which are available from Sea Angling Shop by clicking here.

Fishing Locations and Species

Coalfish Caught on Feathers
A small coalfish caught on a feather rig at a rock mark.

As with all kinds of lure fishing, feather and daylights are most likely to produce fish is they are used in relatively deep water. For this reason piers, jetties, harbours, rock marks and breakwaters which give way to deep water are the favoured location for using these types of lures, although there are some steeply sloping shingle beaches where they can also be used to catch fish. It is usually most effective to use feathers and daylights from these locations over high tide when the water is at its deepest, although this can vary from place to place. It is overwhelmingly mackerel which are caught on feathers and daylights, meaning this type of fishing is carried out from the late spring to autumn when this species is present around the British Isles. However, other species can also be caught on daylights and feathers including pollock, coalfish and bass, although with these three species it is generally the smaller and undersize specimens which are caught on these type of lures, while greater sandeels, weever fish, gurnard and herring can also be caught on feathers and daylights.

Feather and Daylight Techniques

A Mackerel Caught on Daylights
A mackerel caught on daylights.

Most anglers fishing with feathers and daylights simply cast out as far as possible and then reel in with either a slow and steady retrieve or a sideways swipe of the rod (similar to striking) followed by several fast turns of the reel. The latter method will see the feathers or daylights rise and fall as they move through the water, meaning the lures are covering different depths and allow mackerel and other species the chance to attack. An alternative is to drop the lures directly down a rock face, harbour wall or between the structure of a stilted pier. As long as the water is deep enough then fish will be present and can be tempered into taking the feathers or daylights if they are jigged up and down to impart movement into them.