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Monday, 31 August 2015

Blunts Mere 'Adjustable Zig Obsession' Part 1

In this first post I'm going to explain to you how I go about setting up my adjustable zigs and share my thoughts about the approach as a whole. The second part of this blog will be accounting for my zig session on Blunts Mere and the fish I managed to catch. A lot of this blog is theory based so please bare with me, I'm going to explain everything as clearly as possible. I know that a lot of people can't quite get their head around zig fishing, I was one of those people until I made the decision that I was going to really dedicate proper time to it.

As you all know by now, there are no secrets with me, if I find an approach that works then I'm more than happy to share it, if you then adopt it into your own fishing and catch, that makes it all worthwhile. I purposely haven't read or watched anything about zigs because I wanted to draw my own conclusions. As explained in my previous blog, I've come to a point in my angling where I had to commit to this specific style to feel that I'm moving forward, as an angler I want to learn as much as I can about everything that's involved in catching carp. 

Like everything in life that we choose to focus on and indulge in on a regular basis, it's very easy to become stagnant, single minded, and reluctant to step out of our comfort zone. Despite what some people might think, I feel we only really learn from our mistakes, and we only master something by perseverance and a healthy perspective. I find the common problem that can occur is when we don't learn from our 'shortfalls', and proceed to continue down the wrong path, blissfully unaware that we are making the same errors. This can be so painfully true in regards to carp angling and even more so in drumming. 

As a drummer I wanted/needed to be moving forward all the time, I refused to stand still and when I felt that I was stuck in a rut I made dam sure that I was aware, I'd then proceed to make changes, and in doing so, push ahead, the whole process might of led me to 'boarder line insanity' but it was a path I was destine to walk.

It's basically the same situation with my fishing, once you've found a spot that works, find another, once you feel you've made good headway on a water, move on to another ..... it's continuous, doing this widens your experience and over time your "angling mind" expands, when this happens I find you're in a position where you can read the waters in front of you in a far more analytical way. 

Years ago I use to get so negative when I didn't catch and the frustration that I felt would cloud my whole viewpoint. Instead of stepping back and asking myself "why I wasn't catching" and "what I could do to change things" I'd pack up and leave the water in a negative fog, and 9 times out of 10, I'd go back to the lake on my next trip and proceed to fish it in the exact same way again, I wasn't moving forward, I was simply standing still.

Nowadays I take at least three positive things away from each session, blanking or catching, for example, "my casting was accurate", "my solid bags were well tied" and "my baiting was spot on"Once these points had been acknowledged then I would start to think what I could do next time to successfully land a fish or improve my chance of getting more bites. 

I started looking upon my time on the bank as a continuous long term journey rather than a series of single sessions. It took a long time for me to master this train of thought but once I did, my perspective expanded and it goes without saying that my catch rate improved as well.

Zig Caught Common A Few Winters Ago
Cutting out all the above and putting it in the most simplistic way possible - "To expand, learn and improve on anything in our lives, we must be willing to put the time in, acknowledge our mistakes and learn from them." And now this brings me on to adjustable zig fishing, it's been a long and frustrating journey but it all seems to have fallen into place, and all the points I have made so far had to be put into practice to make 'the zig' work for me. 

And so we begin..

There is no doubt that zig fishing can be an effective form of catching carp, it's logic that if a fish can detect a single hook-bait obscured within a lunar landscape on the bottom of the water, they sure as hell can hone in on a static single bait fished in the middle to upper layers. 


Does zig fishing work on every venue? this is debate-able, I'm leaning towards "No", I don't believe it does. Just like bottom bait fishing, all waters are different in regards to what the carp are willing to take, there are so many variables, some feed over big beds, some don't, some take singles, others, light spreads of boilie, some respond to spodding whilst others switch off as soon as spods start exploding everywhere. So taking these points into consideration, it's common sense that some lakes wont produce when 'zig fished', the carp might well eye them up but not feel comfortable sucking them in, obviously this could change over time. 

I wanted to give myself the best shot of catching so I decided on a water that I felt gave me the best chance. Blunts Mere is a productive venue that holds a lot of carp, I decided that this would be the perfect place to give a focused adjustable zig session a go. I'd been obsessing about zigs for so long and it was consuming any mental space I had in my mind for anything else, I needed to beat the curiosity out of me at the first given chance. 

The day that I chose to go we had winds of 50mph and bouts of very heavy rain. I thought that this would be the perfect conditions, all the natural food would be spinning and twirling through the layers and the crazy chop on the surface would shield the disturbance from my spod hitting the surface. I was planning to get so much slop into the water that it would be impossible for the carp to ignore. I wanted to use the strong winds to my advantage. - 'more on this in part 2'

In the image below you will see a black leaf holding in the upper layers of the water, this was when zigs really started to make sense to me, it held without moving for well over 45 minutes. I started to think that the lake was probably littered with different objects of all varying shapes and sizes delicately holding and fluttering about. 

The Eureka Moment

First things first was how to set up an adjustable rig that was going to function properly. During my 'obsessing' I had been bouncing lots of ideas around in my mind regarding rig components and how I wanted to use them. I started thinking about how you setup a marker float, took the blueprint of it and adjusted it accordingly. 

The first thing that I really thought about was the lead, in my mind this was now going to become an anchor, I wanted something that would hold the bottom allowing me to adjust the depth of the zig without it being periodically dragged along the bottom. If I was to be able to focus on moving my bait up and down, carefully searching out the depths, the whole setup had to be foolproof.

 Carpy Chris 2.5oz Slug Is My Lead Of Choice

You will see in the image above that I've made the lead "safe", what I mean by this is, I've eliminated all the parts that could create tangles. I've slid a silicone sleeve over the swivel and attached a 'running ring' in place of the swivel eye, the line will now be able to move freely through the running ring with less chance of getting clogged up. Because of the leads shape, it will plug nicely into lakes with softer bottoms - a perfect anchor.

Now on to the next piece of the puzzle, for the 'adjustable' element to work correctly every time, I needed an anti-tangle setup that would not only cast well, but upon landing, able me to adjust the depth of my bait accordingly. To do this I opted to use buffer beads and a large wooden bead which I call "The Spacer"

Buffer Beads And Spacer

On the cast not only do the buffer beads and spacer cushion the lead against the float, they also stop the float itself from getting clogged up in the silt and any debris on the bottom that the lead might land in, as we know, if the float doesn't have the ability to rise up, the rig is rendered useless. 

Depending on what type of bottom I'm casting in to, I will adjust the number of beads to suit. For instance over gravel I will use between two and three beads, over silt and muck I will use anything up to five. Doing this ensures that the rig will operate properly upon landing, on the cast both the beads and spacer create a boom that naturally kick the float and hook link away.  

3 Bead Lead And Spacer Arrangement 
'Standard Clear Lake Bed'

4 Bead Lead And Spacer Arrangement 
'Silty Lake Bed'

On the second image above you'll notice that I've compressed some tungsten putty on to the spacer, this is to ensure that it sinks and slides down the line staying clear of the float. All I want suspended up in the water is the float and my hook bait, I don't want anything out of the ordinary to spook the carp. 

For my zig float I use a large 'Fox Predator Float' and simply turn it upside down, this specific float has a silicone sleeve that your hook-link swivel can slide into. it's super buoyant and easy to spot on the surface of the water, if your vision is poor you can always add a fleck of colour to it with float paint. I know that there are floats on the market that are solely specified for zig fishing but any predator float will do the job equally well.

Large Fox Predator Float 'Upside Down' 

Once all the above rig components are on the line then you are ready to attach your hook-link. I favour a link between 2ft to 4ft, anything longer than that can make casting tricky. I find 4ft perfect because it's not too long and it means that the float is exactly 4ft under the hook-bait, this keeps it away from any feeding fish and minimises the chances of a passing carp coming into contact with it. The below image shows the rig setup below the float, you'll notice that the four beads and spacer are naturally kicking away from the lead.

Rig Setup Below The Float

Now we move on to the hook-link section, I've gone through a fair few different lines that are designed for zig fishing, to be honest I haven't been very impressed with any of them, they seem prone to twisting and kinking easily. The material that I find the best to use is 'Rig Marole Specialist Mono' in 10IB and 12IB breaking strains. It stays nice and straight, doesn't kink or twist and has great knot strength, it's a very workable material and very hard to spot when in the water. 

In regards to hook pattern, both the Nash Fang X and Twister hooks in size 8 are perfect. Because of the Twisters angled eye it creates a nice natural curve without having to use any silicone tubing. The Fang X is an aggressive hook pattern which is well suited on a rig such as this. For camouflage and covert purposes I wouldn't use any hook bigger than a size 8.

Vital Components

I set the hook bait up exactly the same as I do on my pop up rigs with the only difference being that my bait is touching the hook, I want the carp to be nailed the minute it mouths the bait, also with the bait being pinned close to the hook I feel it helps in disguising it. If you use a long hair you've got to think that the hook will be more visible floating up in the water.

Now on to the hook bait, it can be a minefield when deciding what one to use, not only are there so many now on the market, you've got to consider what a carp is most lightly going to have a go at. In darker water I feel that your oranges and yellows really come into play, we've got to think that the carps vision is slightly obscured. 

In clearer water dull colours like brown and black will stand out very well without being overbearing. On the day of my session I decided to go with a mixture of yellow, black and dull white, this made perfect sense to me because the water wasn't really clouded up, in fact it was clearer than usual. 

Don't Be Afraid To Experiment With Your Bait

In the image below you'll see how I set my hook bait up, the hair is very short and locked in place with a tiny piece of silicone tubing. The hook in this picture is a fang twister, you'll notice that the hook is sitting at a nice aggressive angle. The hook bait is an 'Avid Zig Lite' topped off with a buoyant imitation maggot. The maggot sitting on top of a fleck of yellow and black might just nail a curious carp, anything that mimics a natural bait is a sure fire winner in my book.

Simple But Effective

The rig is pretty much finished now, one last touch I like to add to ensure against tangles is sliding a 'anti-tangle' sleeve over the swivel of the hook-link. This is to make sure that the link is kicked away both on the cast and upon entering the water. Anything that maximises the anti-tangle properties of the rig is a must, you want to feel at ease knowing that the presentation is functioning correctly after every cast. 

You usually know if a tangle has occured because the float won't rise to the surface, I can say that after countless casts I think I've suffered from tangles about three times. This was due more to my casting style rather than a fault in the rig setup. I will explain more about how I cast this rig in part 2.

Anti-Tangle Sleeve Over A Size 8 Swivel

Once your hook link is tied and ready you simply attach it to the mainline 'that's running through the centre' of your float and slide your swivel into the silicone sleeve, you're now ready for the cast. Because the swivel slides into the float I feel that this enhances the "self-hooking effect", not only that but if you get a crack off the swivel will release from the float safely. To ensure this is the case, I rub a little Vaseline onto the hook link swivel so it releases without too much effort.

Slide Hook Link Swivel Into The Floats Sleeve

Finished Rig

To conclude this post, I've been around the houses with different rig combinations, looked at all the gadgets on the market including some of the 'zig kits' available and I can confirm that I'm 100% confident in using the rig I've explained. 

The key to a good adjustable zig rig is making it nice and streamline without any cumbersome booms or connectors, none of it has to be complicated. Simplicity is the key and whatever components you use, make sure that each one is relevant and has a role to play.

If you follow the blueprint of a marker float setup you really can't go far wrong. I hope what I've explained makes sense to you, I've been as thorough as possible. Part two of this blog will show the effectiveness of this approach, it turned out being a great session with lots of action and I look forward to sharing it with you.