How to use a paternoster rig

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how to use a paternoster rig

I like to practise traditional methods. Not just for sentiment, but because there are waters where the fish respond well to old rigs like the paternoster.

The traditional method of making the rig, was to tie the paternoster with a second piece of line and a four turn water knot. This produced a neat and simple rig that worked well. But this is a fixed lead rig. Fixed leads are banned for reasons of fish safety by most latter-day fishery owners.

Today, the paternoster has become a running rig. By attaching the lead link to the main line with a swivel. The lead is no longer fixed and can freely run up the line. The hook link is attached to the main line with a swivel, which also acts as a stop for the lead link.

This rig can be further adapted into a semi fixed rig, by adding a float stop above the lead link.

Is the paternoster rig good for Carp fishing?

Carp fishing has been made very popular by match anglers and commercially run fisheries. In fact some of the early commercials were opened by match anglers who wanted to create and offer the best facilities for their sport. Since then, many commercial fisheries have been opened by farmers and others, to offer match and pleasure fishing to the public and provide an alternative revenue stream.

Invariably, commercials consist of pools and lakes stocked with mainly common Carp and F1’s. The Method, and similar self hooking ledger rigs, will out fish the paternoster most of the time. I believe these are the correct tactics, when fishing a water that has a large number of farmed Carp. But does this mean that the paternoster is no good for catching Carp? No, it means that when fishing a Carp pool, self hooking rigs will on the whole be better.

Find out more about the Method in my article.

Method feeder fishing for carp – learn how

Carp free Lakes

My local club, Hassocks Angling, has two Tench lakes which do not contain any common Carp. Tench, Bream, Roach, Perch and Crucian Carp, but no commons. Both of these lakes are maintained sympathetically to be as natural as possible. Marginal weeds, lilies and Canadian weed are allowed to grow to provide a habitat for insects, crustaceans and other natural fish food.

These two lakes represent a halfway house between a completely natural water and a quite artificial commercial fishery. A paternoster with a bomb or small cage feeder can be very effective on these Carp free, semi natural waters.

Local river

My local river, the Adur, although managed with man made weirs and sluices, is in many respects very natural. In the summer there is rich plant growth, in amounts that will put off many modern anglers. I frequently I find myself quite alone fishing the river.

On a natural fishery like this, the old methods work very well. Although I have found the Chub and Bream don’t mind a pellet or two in late spring and early summer, before their natural larder has built up. At these times a paternoster rig with a banded course pellet can work very well.

In mid summer when the flow is slow and clumps of rushes are everywhere. When the water is gin clear and the river bed is carpeted with eel grass and silk weed. A paternoster with a slow sinking bait on a long tail, of perhaps three or four feet, will allow the bait to settle gently on top of the weeds, where the fish will find it.

In the winter, a shorter tailed paternoster with a lump of cheese paste can work wonders for the Chub. By varying the length of the tail and the length of the lead link, an almost endless number of variations can be made to suite most conditions.

Long or short hook length

As a general guide, hook length should be either shorter or longer than the lead link. If the two halves of a paternoster are equal, you invite tangles on the cast.

A long hook length is particularly useful when fishing for shy biting fish, wild river Bream for example. It gives the fish more confidence and plenty of time to commit to eating the bait.

A longer lead link is good for fishing over weed or silt, where the weight will to sink out of sight leaving the bait on top. Short hook lengths often self hook, even without using a hair, producing a drop back bite followed by a strong pull.

Paternoster Rig

River tiddlers

Natural waters contain large numbers of small fish, especially in the spring and summer. These small fish will try to eat anything that is small enough to get into their mouths, including float stops and swivels. In my experience, any rigs that are made from bits are virtually useless on a river, because of the continual false bites.

I don’t use rigs made from assembled bits and pieces on rivers at all. I don’t use the fixed paternoster either, I use a semi fixed paternoster that employs a slip knot.

To make a paternoster with no bits. Tie the hook link to the main line, then tie the paternoster with a piece of weaker line using this slip knot.

paternoster slip knot

The knot will grip the main line quite tightly, enough to cast a 1oz Arlesey bomb. The lead link can be slid to any point on the main line allowing easy adjustment of the hook length. Use the knot connecting the hook link as a stop, or add a stop knot below the lead link, but never put anything above the lead link.

Swing and Quiver

There was a time when a swing tip rod, with a feeder tied to a paternoster rig, cleaned up on the match scene. This, and other ledger rigs, caused some traditional float anglers to stop match fishing in disgust. Claiming that the ledger was cheating. But there is no denying that the swing tip is an excellent method of seeing a bite.

Almost without exception, quiver tips, or feeder rods, have replaced swing tips as the preferred method of bite indication. I completely understand why this has happened. I use one myself, but I have to say that sometimes, I wish I still had a swing tip.

Bite indication

There can be few anglers who are not familiar with the tip wrenching bites of the Method feeder. If you accept that the Method was designed for Carp, then the paternoster was made for everything else. In my local river I mentioned earlier, there are very few Carp. They just don’t seem to survive in any great numbers, but there are plenty of other species to catch.

The sensitive tip of a quiver rod, seems almost superfluous with the “pull the rod in” bites of a Method feeder. But the sensitive tip makes perfect sense, when used with traditional light ledgering rigs like the paternoster. Well it would make sense because the quiver tip was originally developed for light ledgering.

The wild fish of natural waters, for their very survival, are always very cautious. Sometimes a bite will register as just a slight pull or two on the rod tip. You have to be paying full attention to hit bites like this. Easier to hit, are the bites that make the tip quiver and shake. Roach are the usual culprits. A slow but positive pull on the tip are the bites we want. As slow pull is likely to be a decent fish of several pounds, often Bream.


The paternoster is very much a traditional anglers tactic. Used on rivers and the few remaining waters that don’t contain the common Carp. It is a light ledger rig for natural waters with baits like caster, maggot, worm and bread to catch our native species. It can be used with hard pellets and swim feeders and can be tied with no bits to reduce false bites. The paternoster is a very useful and adaptable rig, but like all rigs, it is most effective when used in the right place, in the right way.

Feeder fishing – hook bait and feed together

How to tie five good fishing knots

Fishing with an Arlesey bomb


Coarse Fishing Knots