The 10 commandments of the underwater world
Back in 2006, Rob Hughes gave us his ‘10 Commandments of the Underwater World’. 13 years on he’s back to see if anything’s changed…
2006: “If you don’t feather your lead on the cast and you are using a conventional set-up and braided hooklink, it will almost certainly be tangled when it lands on the bottom. It might look straight as it flies through the air but the main line goes slack as the lead hits the water and it is then that the hooklink twists around the main line. When you reel in everything looks fine, but I can virtually guarantee that your rig will not have been sitting as you wanted it to on the bottom if it was just cast in without being feathered on entry to the water. We tested this a few years ago and 30 times out of 30 on an unfeathered cast, the braided hooklink was twisted round the main line but would unravel on the way back in because the water pressure on the hookbait pulls the hooklink straight and the angler would not know there was a problem.
2019: “Through the passage of time there have been some new products that have been invented to assist with this, and one in particular stands out. We tested it recently, whilst “reverse engineering” a tangle situation. It’s the Fox Extra Long Anti-Tangle Sleeves, and it’s the only thing that I have seen that will legitimately prevent a tangle on an unfeathered cast.”
2. Hooklinks float
2006: “Braided hooklinks all float. Fact. Even the sinking ones float when slack, and we have conducted a number of tests over the years to see exactly what floats and what sinks. Even nylon hooklinks rise up in the water once the lead has landed on the bottom of the lake.
“If you think about how the lead drops through the water, it has to fall first as it is the heaviest part of the rig. It drags the hookbait and hooklink behind it. Once it lands on the bottom the hooklink and bait are directly above it so the next heaviest item of the set-up is the bait. That falls straight down on top of the lead unless the hooklink material is stiff enough to kick the bait away from the lead (very few are!) and the hooklink material then bunches up between the hook and the lead.
“This applies to both braided and nylon hooklinks but is especially obvious with braid as it naturally wants to float. As the braid goes through the air it traps air bubbles in the weave and that makes it lighter than water once it is submerged. The only way to get braid to lie flat on the bottom when it is not pulled tight is to weight it down with shot or putty. Therefore all hooklinks, especially braid, should be weighted.”
2019: “This still remains to be the same today.”
3. Stringers & bags stop tangles
2006: “There is no question in my mind that stringers bags and Sticks help stop tangles. Dissolving foam nuggets like our Fox Hi-Risers will also get you out of trouble when it comes to tangles. As the lead falls through the water the hook follows directly above it. The larger the surface area of the bait attached to the hook, and that includes the bag/foam/stringer etc., the less chance there is of the rig being tangled on the bottom when it lands. The reason for this is that the drag applied to the rig by the bag etc., will untwist the hooklink as it falls through the water to the bottom. The deeper the water the more effect it has, as there is longer for the rig to untwist.
“If you cannot feather your rig on the cast because you want to get it into a position that doesn’t allow feathering, the best way to avoid a tangled rig is to use something to temporarily bulk up the size of the hookbait.”
2019: “The other thing would be, as mentioned above, to use a long anti-tangle sleeve and a very stiff hooklink.”
4. Camouflage rules
2006: “There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that fish are aware of what is going on around them. New things stand out, and if they are feeding well and there is competition between fish it doesn’t matter so much about camouflage and concealment, but when they are a little tricky it can make all the difference between success and failure.
“I start with the line, and it always pays to match your line to the colour of the water you are fishing in. Dark lines are very good in clear water and low light conditions and lighter lines are better in clear water and bright conditions. If there is weed around or algae suspended in the water then go for a green line, but fish it slack, and remember that when you look at your line you are looking down at it, but when fish look at it they can see it from above below and the sides depending on the depth of the water.
“It pays to match the colour of the line to the colour of the water, not the colour of the bottom. Fluorocarbon lines and clear leaders are excellent when you can get them hard on the bottom, but bear in mind that the reason they are good is because the light can pass through them. If they are off the bottom the light can pass through them from underneath and they can be very obvious from above and cause shadowing.
“If you are using tubing or a thicker leader make sure it is hard on the bottom and ideally disrupt the colour of the tube with a marker to break up the fact that it will be lying in a straight line on the bottom. Remember, always that there are very few straight lines in nature.”
2019: “Since I originally wrote this piece over 10 years ago, there have been some brilliant developments in line and one of those is Illusion Trans Khaki Fluorocarbon and also Exocet Trans Khaki Nylon from Fox. The whole reason it was developed was as a result of my findings underwater and the great thing about the fluoro in particular is that it is adaptive. It changes colour according to the amount of light in the water and basically matches its surroundings. If you want the ultimate in camo and concealment of your lines, then look no further than this.”
2006: “Sound definitely travels well through water, and whilst it is important to stay relatively quiet on the bank, it is a lot more important to be quiet when you are in or on the water. Water is, in fact, quite a good sound insulator and sound waves lose some of their power as they pass through the surface film of the lake from the air. Sound made in water however, is completely different and any noise, especially a sharp one, will travel for a long distance. The conclusion is of course to keep the noise down when on the banks simply to keep the peace, but definitely keep quiet when wading or boating on the water."
2019: “I’ve conducted numerous experiments with sound passing into water and buzzers are a good example of an urban myth. I’ve done loads of tests and have almost always concluded that sound waves don’t travel down the line to any great effect. I did find that high tones seem to penetrate into the water more than low tones and could be heard underwater by human ears more than low tones, but on the whole it’s “sharp” noises, such as bangs, claps, booms etc. that penetrate. “Soft” sounds such as voices are very hard to hear.”
6. Don’t always believe the marker
2006: “It’s fair to say that most of us use marker floats most of the time for feature finding, and that they are a great help to find the depth and also give you an idea of what is on the bottom, but to not take that as gospel. On a number of occasions I have chucked out the float, thought it was clear then gone out to find a fine layer of weed on what I thought was a clean gravel bar.
“It always pays to cast a bare hook out, or better still a grappler lead a few times to your target area and check that there are no clumps of weed around that could cause your rig to be fouled or your hook to be caught up. If there is weed in the lake, there will be very few consistently clean areas that have absolutely no weed on them. Just because something feels clear on the cast it doesn’t necessarily follow that the lakebed around the area will be perfectly clear, and it only takes a few small strands to spoil what should be a perfect presentation.”
2019: “If the water is clear, take it that there WILL be weed around.”
7. Light penetrates a long way
2006: “Light plays a big part in our angling, not just by giving the fish security to feed, but also by how much they can see your rig etc. I’ve dived to over 100ft and in clear water there is still plenty of light down there to see everything. Some people are surprised when we talk about how far down light will penetrate, and there is some total bull spoken by people who think they know about colours and light penetration in water. For example, I’ve seen it written that red is invisible at 15ft. What a load of rubbish. If it was, red boilies, and more to the point red maggots, couldn’t be seen. I accept that red light is filtered out in water but the object simply doesn’t disappear, it just appears green. However, this only happens at a depth of 10 metres or 33ft, but most tests have been done in saltwater not freshwater and the difference in colour filtration is completely different. It’s a weaker colour so it loses its impact, but it’s only when it gets really really deep that it changes significantly.
“What light does have a big effect with, especially in clear water, is glint. If you use shiny stuff i.e. swivels or hooks, they will glint on the bottom and be very obvious to the fish. The effect is worsened if you fish in shallow water and there is a ripple on the surface as the ripples cause the sunlight rays to effectively move so rather than just glinting, your end tackle shiny bits will flash on and off and be really obvious to the fish. It’s a bit like strobing. It’s also one of the reasons why white baits work so well at opposite ends of the depth spectrum i.e. very shallow and very deep. White works best in very low levels of light e.g. winter or deep or very high levels of light, e.g. shallow or bright. In between it’s simply another colour.”
2019: “Nothing’s changed there with those findings and theories.”
8. Why Chod Rigs work so well
2006: “Regular followers of this column will know that I champion the Chod Rig at every opportunity. For me, it is a brilliant rig to cast out and is one of the best anti-tangle rigs around. Being short and stiff, the hooklink cannot tangle around the lead as it can with conventional set-ups, and if you semi-fix the hooklink part of the way up the leadcore/leader you can be sure that the rig will not bury into weed on the bottom.
“As with most casts, the Chod Rig cast is feathered or hits the clip to get it onto a spot, but it’s one of the very few rigs that can be “drilled in”. Just remember you need to set your beads in the right place though as a loose bottom bead over weed may cause a problem, or a loose top one on a tight “drill cast” will lose you the chance of getting tight. The addition of a little bit of foam will ensure it doesn’t tangle if you want to “drill it in” to a spot and not have to worry about holding back or feathering down.
“The movement provided by the ring swivel allows the hook to spin very well, especially if you curve the hooklink, and despite all of this movement I have yet to see a Chod Rig tangle on the bottom after a cast. It’s true to say that sometimes the hooklink will wrap on the leader, but I believe that the hook will free itself a lot of the time as it falls through the water, and being short and stiff, there is not as much of the chance of the tangle lasting all the way to the lakebed.
“In any event this is a rare occurrence. If you are having problems with tangles in your set-up and you haven’t yet tried a Choddie, give it a whirl; I’m sure it will help out no end.”
2019: “The Chod Rig was one of my favourite rigs in the past - as I’ve clearly stated above - but it’s a rig that doesn’t seem to get used as much today. However, the theories and information still remains solid, it’s just not so in-vogue in 2019.”
9. Pop-ups don’t pop up at depth
2006: “This is a real minefield as different pop-ups act in different ways. The length of time that they have been in the water, the type of pop-up (airball or corkball) and the depth that they are being fished all have an effect. Water pressure really only comes into play in deep water (i.e. over 30ft) as after this depth one bar of pressure is applied to the bait. This means that the air inside the pop-up at this depth is squeezed by 50%. If an airball pop-up is just popping up in the edge, the chances are that it will become critically balanced at 30ft, as there is no longer enough air inside it to lift it up off the bottom.
“A corkball pop-up will stay popped up unless it is at extreme depth as there is little air inside it to be squeezed. The answers to this conundrum are so bait and depth specific that the best thing to do is to test the bait in the edge after you have caught a fish to see if it is still popped up or whether it sinks. If you are fishing at less than 15ft the difference between the bait in the margins and out in the lake will be negligible. The best thing to do is to bung the same bait back out. After all, it worked 15 minutes or so before when you got the pick up in the first place, so it was probably perfect then!”
2019: “The same stacks up today as it did in 2006!”
10. Bait spread
2006: “The type of bait that you use has a big effect on how it looks on the bottom of the lake. That’s an obvious statement, but if you are looking to re-create a certain type of feeding area than you can get it very wrong if you don’t use the correct type of bait.
“I have been underwater by a marker float watching pellets being spodded on top of me and the spread that comes out is vastly different depending on the bait that is in the spod. For example, a groundbait-based spod mix will explode as the spod hits the surface and the water forces its way into the holes in the side of the spod thus making a bigger spread of bait in a short line.
“Pellets behave according to their size, as smaller pellets tend to get caught up in the vortex of water created by the spod entering the water and are spread out into a wider area. Bigger heavier pellets hold their ground a little bit better and fall cleaner through the water but will still spread a little because of their shape. The best bait to get straight to the bottom in a tight area are round boilies as they fall through the water fairly evenly.”
2019: “The only big change today is we mostly all use Spombs rather than the traditional spods with holes in that we used back then.”
Hughes’ top five most interesting observations whilst down below
1. Carp behaviour
“Carp have their own characteristics and I’ve met up with some real characters during my many hours underwater. The biggest fish in the lake at Kinsgbury always stood its ground whenever I turned up and seemed quite aggressive towards me. Hendrix at Cleverley was another I swam with, and was clearly very calculating. It spent ages looking at Milky’s rig before swimming off. They’re all different, so don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”
2. Sleeping carp
I’ve bumped into a few sleeping carp in my time and they are pretty easy to sneak up on. They lie up mid-water, dorsal fin relaxed, and go into a trance or dormant state. I’ve seen it loads of times, and they don’t half jump when I wake them up. Tench are the same, but they usually spot me first and scare me rather than the other way round.”
3. Carp planting themselves
“This is a weird one that I have only ever seen at Thorpe Lea in the winter months but they plant themselves in the weed like tulips, burying their heads in the weed but lying vertical as opposed to horizontal. They do it every winter and I’ve never seen it done anywhere else.”
4. Carp becoming obsessed with something new
“Whether it’s me getting into the water and they are curious about me, or whether they are bored and want something to do, they regularly spend time with me watching what I am doing. One time we put a Zig Rig in front of an underwater camera and they didn’t take the rig as they were obsessed with looking at the camera on the pole.”