What the f*ck is that all about? That doesn’t make any sense. I don’t get it.” Sound about right? That’s the usual response I get when I reveal a ‘proper’ Withy Pool Rig from my rig pouch. Not that I use the ‘proper’ version very often, I might add. In fact, my ‘proper’ Withy Pool Rig was borrowed from another angler who swears by it, to act as a reference point when tying it up myself. Truth be told, I much prefer a diluted version of it for my own fishing, because I still can’t quite wrap my head around it, but it does work very well.
It’s my understanding that the Withy Pool Rig was, indeed, first devised on the banks of the Withy Pool syndicate. I’m assuming the carp that lived there were trained by Houdini, otherwise the rig would probably never have been devised. At first glance, it’s a marvellously complicated thing: its curve based around the contours of a carp’s bottom lip, with blowback rings and other associated gadgetry designed to confuse a feeding carp – but it’s not actually that complicated to tie. You don’t need to know how to tie a strange knot and you can pretty much use whatever hook you like, depending on what meets your eye, but everything else is the subject of much study.
Bunch of benders
I used to fish a lot with Shropshire trio Ellis Brazier, Alex Perrin and Steve ‘Bog’ Redding. All huge exponents of the Withy in some form or another. Ellis liked a ‘Half Withy’, whilst Alex preferred something approaching a ‘Two Third Withy’. They were rigs that made their way into my own armoury and rigs I continue to use with confidence today.
I always liked Ellis’s means of bait attachment with this rig. A small loop was all that poked from his shrink tubing, meaning any size bait could be quickly attached or detached on lengths of floss – great when alternating hookbaits over a baited area or when trying different colours and flavours when ‘scratching’ for a bite. On a braided hooklength, it’s super-simple and mega effective, albeit I don’t think it does much mechanically once in a carp’s mouth.
Other versions of the Withy have a blowback ring on a standard Hair, whilst the ‘proper’ one has a rig ring or swivel sliding up and down the shank behind a hook bead. Maximum movement, no tangles – it makes sense.
The ‘proper’ version also has a very exaggerated, let’s call it ‘deliberate’ curve. As I alluded to earlier, I believe the idea is for the curve to trap the carp’s bottom lip by moulding around it. I’ve heard stories from Savay anglers about regulars running around with bits of leadwire to mould them around a target fish that’s just been banked. Can you imagine, sitting there with a 40lber on the mat whilst one of your fellow syndicate members starts wrapping solder wire around the fish’s bottom lip? It takes an intense thought process to go to that degree of finesse, but whilst most would be quick to belittle such an anal thought process, I almost admire the attention to detail.
The resulting curve then sits prone underneath a buoyant pop-up bait, so any grazing fish that meets it will be almost literally trapped by the curve. It’s almost like once their lip goes into that gap it can never come out, because there’s a hook acting like a barb to prevent that. The perfect ‘mouth trap’ if ever there was one.
Some versions of this rig are tied in stiff mono, and at first I didn’t understand that at all. The rig wouldn’t be able to spin and would have all its movement removed. I’ve watched ‘Negative’ Nige Williams catch a better-than-average stamp of fish tying it using 18lb Maxima on more than one occasion. A proper head-f*ck for me, but Nige has maximum faith in it.
With braid, however, the curve still can’t really spin around due to how much of the shrink tubing is on the bottom. So why not use the stiff material? I suppose I would simply use whatever the lakebed required me to use. Stiff for hard, soft for soft. I know Steve Renyard, who had a big hand in the original rig, prefers it with braid, so it obviously works whatever the material!
This ‘anti-spin’ concept really does pickle my brain, as I think it’s an important part of what makes so many rigs effective. When using a pop-up bait, a less aggressive Withy – like the ‘Two Thirds’ or ‘Half Withy’ – are essentially helping the hook spin on its axis to meet a bottom lip; a bit like a Chod Rig does. When a part of the carp’s mouth touches the back of the shrink tubing, the hook is encouraged to spin and meet it. With the full-on ‘proper’ Withy that doesn’t really happen. Unlike the ‘proper’ Withy, however, the watered-down version doesn’t present a true ‘mouth trap’.
Recently I’ve been playing around with the Korum Curved Rig Aligners and also the new Avid Carp Withy Pool Adaptors. They are essentially the two versions I have used and experimented with when using shrink tubing, they just make it a lot easier. I’ve always been ‘twitchy’ about using the full-on version but have caught a few nice fish on it with the Avid Adaptors. The rig is almost ‘unfair’ in the way it hooks the fish – it’s almost impossible to hook them other than in the fattest part of their bottom lip. With the ‘Half Withy’, hook holds are more sporadic, albeit I might add that there are usually more of them to compare.
Like everything we’ve looked at so far in the ‘Little Things In Life’ rig series, all you CARPologists reading this can make up your own minds on what you think is right or wrong. For many of you, you’re probably still thinking ‘I don’t get it’, whilst others may be thinking the Withy is the rig for you to land one of those rarely caught giants with Houdini-type talents. Whatever you do, keep an open mind. These rigs usually gain a following for a good reason, so whether you bend it like Renyard or curve it like Williams, let your catch results do the talking.