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19 Oct 2016
by Rob Hughes
The truth about bite indication and line lay
Our resident diving pro and big fish angler, Rob Hughes exposes the few truths about bite indication and line lay…

We all know what the Highway Code says about indication, and that if you get it wrong it can lead to disaster. That very same principle can be applied to carp fishing, as without any shadow of doubt, indication is one of the important aspects of catching fish, but also one of the most overlooked. Here, our resident diving pro and big fish angler, Rob Hughes exposes the few truths about bite indication and line lay…

Can you imagine feeder fishing and the tip not being pulled round, or float fishing and it not going under? As carp anglers we face the rather difficult truth that we are getting bites an awful lot of the time but don’t know about it. The usual answer given by the latest carp tiger is that the solution is rig efficiency and the latest knock ‘em dead rig should be used… but that’s only part of the story.

An efficient rig goes a long way to helping you catch fish and it goes without saying that your hook should be sharp as it possibly can be. There isn’t one rig that solves all problems and in fact, the whole issue of rigs is not really about fooling the carp as some would have you believe, it’s about presenting a bait well in any given situation. The rig you use should be suitable for the style of fishing you are practising, the bait/baiting application you are using, and the bottom you are fishing over. The carp don’t really need fooling as they are not interested in the rig. They see the food, pick it up, feel something that they don’t like, and then spit it out.

And herein lies the problem. We need to know when they pick it up, ideally before they get rid of it.

There are a few very easy things that we can do to get improve our indication and thus our catch-rate and having a one-toner is all well and good but I have seen numerous occasions where indication has gone terribly wrong and fish have got away with murder. Please don’t for one moment think that this is down to super intelligent carp. It’s down to our inefficiency, either with the rig we’re using or the way our indication is registered.

Line Lay: massively important for good indication

Line lay: tight vs. slack

Absolutely, categorically and unquestionably, the way your line is fished will be one of the most significant factors in your indication equation. Too tight in the wrong situation and you run the risk that your presentation is affected and you might not get as many pick-ups in the first instance. Too slack and if you do get a pick-up you won’t know about it and worst still, the fish can move off without you knowing and find a snag or a weedbed and get stuck or lost.

Slack and on the deck? Not always – in fact not often

Unfortunately there seems to be a general misunderstanding that slack lines somehow all sink and follow the contours of the bottom and give a better line lay. They don’t. There’s all sorts of reasons why this doesn’t happen, such as material, the way it’s laid down and also the obstacles in the way, but any vision that you may have of your line lying beautifully along the bottom in a nice slack curve should almost certainly be ignored. The biggest point though is how long it takes to get a registration at the rod end. It is surely common sense that if there is more slack out, it takes longer to pull it tight, and the alarm or bobbin can only register a bite when it is pulled tight. The best indication that we have seen ever in all of the tests that we have done over all the years, was a braided line fished bow string tight, heavy lead and a springer indicator. You do the maths on the stretch and slack lines in that one! Case dismissed.

Tight lines off the deck are always a potential problem… until Illusion Trans Khaki that is

However… I’m going to throw a spanner in the works here. Practically speaking, whilst tight lines are unquestionably better at indication than slack (I will argue that point with anyone, anytime), there are added factors such as fishing for liners, making a compromise, approach direction of fish, weather conditions etc., when a semi-slack line or slack will be the best for the situation that you are in. It isn’t all about indication, so look at the big picture before deciding what to do.

Hughesy's solution: There isn’t one answer. You have to work this one out but here are some starting points for each situation

Pivot points

A pivot point is the name I give to things between the rod and lead that cause the line to pivot – e.g. a weedbed, snag, post or something that is below the water that affects the straight line between the rod tip and the lead. They are important firstly because they can affect the line lay in the first place, e.g. trying to get a line to lay down flat on the backside of a weedbed is tricky, and also because they affect indication as a fish can move but the line will pivot from that point rather from the rod tip and that affects sensitivity massively.

What a nightmare. This is a serious hinge point and the only way to improve indication is to use a tight line

On one particular day I was testing a situation where the fish would kite on a semi-slack line. I picked the rig up, swam diagonally back in towards the bank and nothing has happened. I carried on going and eventually gave up as I was literally tens of metres away from where I started. I popped to the surface to check and there had only been a single bleep at the rod end. A weedbed had caused a pivot point and I was effectively kiting off that rather than the rod tip and the angler knew nothing about it. Slack and semi-slack lines are the worst offenders here and it can occur as a vertical pivot point, especially if the weedbed is close to the rig’s end or as a big issue when it comes to kiting fish on a horizontal plane.

Even a little pivot point like this can make a massive difference to indication

Hughesy’s solution: Heavy drop-off leads, tight lines and the line in the rod clip.

The type of line that you use

In years gone by we did a number of underwater bench tests as to what was the best for indication. Tight lines, slack lines, braid vs. mono etc. There were all manner of variables, but one of the major things that jumped off the page at us was the massive difference between mono and braid. Braid bites can be instant whereas mono can be springy, and that affects the beep at the beeping end. The fact there’s no stretch is a massive benefit, but sadly to do this you have to use braid which is regularly banned and is also very obvious in the water, or fluoro which is expensive, and as we have seen from previous tests, very obvious when it is off the bottom.

Enter Illusion Trans Khaki Fluorocarbon. I’m going to make absolutely no excuses whatsoever for the fact that I am promoting this line because I suggested it to the lads at Fox as an idea in the first place and was heavily involved in its development and testing. It does exactly what it should – e.g. sinks when you need it to, if you like a sinking line; is as invisible as anything I have ever seen underwater; but also, and this was a big plus that we didn’t realise when we were testing it, there is so little stretch that it is as effective as braid for indication. I’ll be honest with you by saying I didn’t think there was any point using fluoro all the way through as I felt it was expensive and unnecessary. I was wrong.

The Trans Khaki Fluorocarbon main line up in the water. Fluoro’s usually glow but we had to put weed on it to see it

Steve Spurgeon opened my eyes last year at Holme Fen as he was using it all the way through and I was totally blown away by how good his indication was. In fact, for the given situation it was significantly better than any other indication I have seen. As an all round product for better indication and line lay, whether you want to get it on the deck and fish it slack (tick), fish it tight and have it up in the water with little spook-effect (tick) or whether you want to know instantly when the lead has moved, this is the key to getting the best of it.

Conversely, on another occasion with a different angler, he had a mare and I had literally almost run out of water before there was any indication. Everything looked great but it was the type of line he was using that was at fault. It was a very heavy sinking nylon in a clear lake with no weed. Perfect you would think, but the line was so heavy and stretchy that although in principle it looked great, for medium- to long-range fishing it was a disaster. It was too slack and like pulling on a loose elastic band. Once again, tight is best.

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