My thoughts on the hair rig, running leads, semi-fixed rigs and slack lines…
The hair rig
This rig was a revelation for specimen fishing. Kevin Maddox and Len Middleton first came up with the idea of presenting a bait leaving the hook free to prick into the lip of a fish. Here we had a new way of presenting a bait with the hook totally exposed. Prior to this, the hook was buried and hidden in a paste type bait or particle, trying to get carp to feed on your hook bait and actually eat your offering. Studies of carp by the early specimen hunters realised that carp always taste a bait, by sucking and blowing on the bait before getting stuck into their meal. This is where the hair rig works.
As the bait is sampled by the carp, it is sucked in and blown out and the bare hook hopefully drops onto the bottom lip. What we want is an instant reaction on the bank, as indication, which is where a heavy semi- fixed lead engaged the hook into the lip, causing the carp to bolt.
Running lead with slack lines
So that is the idea of the hair rig! So why are some anglers returning back to pre-hair rig days and trying to get the carp to eat our baited hook? It is my opinion that we are not only missing the opportunity to detect proper bites but also creating welfare issues for the carp. With a running lead, especially if it is fished in conjunction with a slack line, there is every chance that the fish will swallow the whole hook link or get deep hooked. I fished a set up similar to this some 25 years ago, hooking and landing a deep hooked carp. Not a pretty sight! I was distressed with this capture, never mind what the carp felt. Never again will I use this set up. In my opinion it was cruel to say the least.
Running leads and tight lines
Running leads can give you immediate indication, which also includes when a carp is testing baits, however you do need to fish a tight line to get the proper indication. Create a slack line and straight away you have lost that indication but have created a problem if a fish has decided to taste and eat the bait. The only time that I will fish a running rig is when I am barbel fishing and this is because I am fishing with my rod in the air and a very tight line to the lead or feeder. I know there will be plenty of critics out there that will totally disagree with me, but just picture a carp feeding and the risk of the bait being taken down the throat of a carp. As I said, the hair rig with a proper semi-fixed set up reduces the chance of a carp swallowing a bait and hopefully creating a run. Something else that will increase runs when carp are testing baits, are short hook links, this is probably why the chod rig type set ups are so popular at the moment, as it incorporates a very short hook-link.
So is there a place for slack lines?
I get great pleasure in free-lining a boilie on a short hair rig, fished in the margins around crumbed baits. The difference is I only fish this method stalking, in other words I am sitting with one rod in my hand and watching the movement of the slack line. Close range fishing on indicators, and you will see me slackening off my main line so that the line drops off my rod tip so as not to spook any marginal touring carp. With this method I would only use the semi-fixed lead set up and would not entertain a running lead because of the danger of deep hooking a carp. I am sure that other anglers have different views on my ideas, but I can only go on my experience and what I believe is happening at the business end of my rigs. Paul