Zig-Rig Hauling - Craig Runham

The alarm went off at 7:20am on a Monday morning and I was surprised to see a heavy frost when I looked out of the bedroom window. It hadn't been forecasted to be so cold overnight. After defrosting the car it was time to head over to the Yateley complex in hope of one of Sandhurst's finest. First stop was to get a 24-hour ticket from Yateley Angling Centre. I was informed that the weekend was very busy and nothing had been caught since the Thursday. For Sandhurst, which is a highly pressured lake that sees some very good angler fishing it, this was unusual.

As I pulled up into the top car park I could see there weren't many people fishing the lake. There were six anglers on the previous night and a quick lap of the lake confirmed nothing had been caught. On my walk around I had seen very little to go on. I had spotted some pin-prick bubbles in open water at around 90 yards. I knew from the map of Sandhurst's topography that the area in question was between four and six feet in depth and predominately weedy. I have learnt from experience that this can be a very good holding spot for fish in the winter; the weed tends to hold extra warmth and safety. The fish would soon be waking up for spring so I figured that, during the warmth of the day, they would be up in the water, trying to get any rays of sun and warmth that was possible. I settled in a swim that offered me plenty of open water and that wasn't fished the previous night.

Zigs have never been my favourite choice of rig but for waking up spring carp there was nothing better, so they were to be my choice of tactics. The problem with zig rigs is that unfortunately the occasional hook pull can occur. Also, with light hook links and small hooks it can certainly be hairy to play a big fish, especially when there is weed around adding to the problems. I used Guru N-Gauge 9lb mono as a hook link. This mono is extremely thin and strong and I coupled it with a subtle, size-10 Mixa hook giving me the most inconspicuous setup I could use. The hook bait was made from black and yellow high-density foam. The yellow foam was used as the topper with the black underneath. I was using a 4oz Distance Casting Lead, with a Hybrid Lead Clip. The reason for using such a heavy lead was to ensure the lead would be dropped on the take, instantly forcing the fish up in the water and away from the weed. Having a lead banging around is not ideal and may cause a hook pull. When fishing zigs, a tight line is required. I fish the bobbin with a two-inch drop for indication. Don't always expect violent takes when fishing zigs sometimes a small lift on the bobbin can be a take.

I fished the two zigs at around 80 yards, to where I had seen the pin-pricking earlier. One zig was fished at 3ft and the other around 4ft. The rods had been in place for a matter of minutes when the left rod signaled a slow, stuttery take. I was on it in a flash and bending into what felt like a very decent fish. The fish held out at range, powering up and down. Bit by bit I drew it gently closer until finally, after what seemed like a eternity, a good scaly mirror was seen charging up and down the clear margin. Soon, a nice-looking scaley mirror lay beaten in the bottom of the mesh. It looked to be over the 30lb mark and the scales confirmed a weight of 31lb dead on. What a start to the session and I couldn't help but feel very confident of more action. The rod was recast to the same spot. Now all three rods were fishing with the same length zigs and at around the same range to a low-lying weed bed. My confidence soon took a knock as I sat behind motionless buzzers for the rest of the day. There was still an occasional sign that the fish were still there, but it wasn't till just before dark that a series of bleeps had me bending into another powerful fish. This time yard after yard of line was taken from the spool and after 15 yards or so of line had poured from the spool the rod sprung back and it was all over. For some reason the hook had pulled. That's the unfortunate thing about zig rig fishing. Five minutes after recasting the rod it was away again. Once more the rod sprung back after a few minutes of playing the unseen fish. I couldn't believe what had just happened; I was totally gutted to say the least. The next run was around 10:30pm and soon a mid-double common was resting in the folds. The rod was recast and just as I climbed into the sack that was away again. This time the fish felt heavy and slow moving. From the start I could tell a bigger fish was connected. After what seemed like an age, I had a heavy fish charging up and down the margins, sending big, oily swirls to the surface. The runs soon got slower and much less purposefully, soon I was slipping the net under a big-framed fish that at first glance in the net I felt it would go around 35lb. I didn't quite guess it right and the needle settled on just over 33lb. I certainly wasn't complaining that's for sure. The rest of the night produced a further three fish with the best being a 24lb 12oz mirror. As dawn broke I was shattered and felt like death as I clutched the first tea of the day. It had been an hour or two without any action, so I felt a recast was worth a try. It worked instantly, as five minutes after the recast it was away again and a pretty 21lb 12oz mirror was the culprit. As we finished the photos, the other rod was away. Again, this felt like a good fish, using its weight, slowly moving in one direction. I had just started to gain line and was feeling that I had started to take control of the fight when the rod once more sprung back. I was sure that I had just lost a good fish. The hook link had been cut in half on this occasion.
The next two hours passed by without so much as a bleep or a sign. I was just starting to pack away when the left-hand rod pulled up tight and I found myself attached to what felt like another good fish. I knew that this was my last chance of a fish so I took it extra slow and played the fish very carefully. Soon a good mirror was seen through the glassy surface and I finally lifted the cord around the wide-framed fish. I had finished the 24-hour session in style. The mirror went 31lb 12oz and was my third thirty in 24 hours. In total I had racked up 12 takes, landing eight fish with three thirties, three twenties and two doubles. What a crazy session and one I hope to repeat in the future on Sandurst. This session proved that, given the right situation, zigs are devastating. Good luck and bag a big ’un.