Margin Monsters & the 'Simple Faithful' Rig
A detailed look and a couple of case studies into its success...
I first used the Simple Faithful Rig - as it later got called by Joe Wright - ten years ago on a big low stock Oxfordshire pit. A lot of my fishing revolved around short overnight sessions and as I preferred to tie my rigs on the bank rather than have a stock of them tied up in advance (I have no idea why!) I wanted a rig that was quick and easy to tie. The rig is ridiculously simple and comprises coated braid (ESP Two-Tone back then, Tungsten Loaded now) and a Curve Shank hook (Raptor Curve-Shanx back in ’08 and the superior Cryogen version now). The only other essential component to tie it is a short length of 0.5mm silicone tube to trap the Hair on the bend of the hook.
How to tie it
1. To tie it, simply strip around 3” (8cm) of coating of the end of the braid, then tie a small loop in the end of the exposed braid for the Hair stop.
2. Then cut the braid depending on how long you want the hooklength. I tended to tie this rig quite long, 10-12” (25-30cm) as I was fishing for big carp over boilies and a clean bottom so they were righting themselves and moving between each mouthful and my theory was ‘give them enough rope…’
3. Next thread on a short section (3mm) of 0.5mm silicone tube and slide it down to the stripped section that will form the Hair.
4. Now pass the hook point (I used a size 6) through the silicone tube, being careful not to snag the braid on the point. Locate the tube on the bend of the hook and then set the length of the Hair. I used a long Hair with around 25-30mm separation between the bait and the hook. I thought this was key to the rig’s performance as it made it more difficult to eject the hook with the bait on the end of the long Hair acting like a counter weight, helping the hook to turn and prick in the bottom lip.
5. Then tie a Four-Turn Knotless Knot. With around three-inches of coating stripped for the Hair the turns on the shank and when the braid exits the eye should be coated - not stripped.
6. Next make a break in the coating about 10mm above the eye. The gives a flexible hinge above the 10mm coated section. This coated section acts like a line-aligner/kicker, helping the hook to turn and prick.
7. Lastly, either tie the hooklink directly to a swivel or tie a loop in the end so you can change it quickly.
8. Hookbait-wise I used baits straight out of the bag with a sliver cut off either side so the bait lay flat.
This simple bottom bait rig ended up accounting for all of the eight fish I caught during my first couple of springs on the big pit - to put that in perspective the lake was thought to hold between 20 and 30 carp in nearly 100-acres so I was pleased with that return, especially given their average size. I was fortunate enough to catch what were perhaps the lake’s two most prized known residents with my first two captures, The Long Common and The Big Fully and wrote the story in Gaz Fareham’s book The Forgotten Chapters.
A few weeks passed between the capture of The Fully that concluded the book chapter and the next flurry of action. Not much had been happening and I had been struggling to locate the fish. A period of high pressure meant little in the way of encouraging winds and I found myself one sunny Saturday around mid-June walking around the pit looking for any signs. The long-term forecast was predicting a new band of low pressure from the southwest - perfect conditions for the big pit and it was due to arrive late the following week. So I was keen to find a likely looking spot on the east bank and pre-bait accordingly, ready to fish the following weekend when the conditions looked set to be nigh-on perfect.
The east bank was fringed with willow saplings along pretty much its entire length. This made it difficult to even see the water along large sections of the bank, apart from a few open bits here and there - there were no swims as such. The margins were fairly uniform though, dropping off to a few feet deep straight off the bank where it had been undercut by years of southwesterly’s and then fairly quickly shelving off to eight- or nine-feet deep. I wanted to have a closer look along the margins that were screened by the saplings so fetched my chesties from the van along with a marker rod and my landing net handle which would act as a ‘staff’.
I got in up towards the northeast corner and began to wade along the front of the willows. Where there was no wind the vast expanse of water was unusually like a mill pond and the east bank margins were tap clear as they hadn’t been pummelled by the prevailing southwesterly’s for a couple of weeks - all that would change a few days later.
As I waded along I could see everything, the margins varied from waist to chest deep and then I could look down the shelf as it dropped away into darkness. The gravel was loose underfoot due to constant erosion but I could walk along fairly comfortably with the aid of the net handle.
Heading south I had walked quite a long way, maybe over a hundred yards (which feels like a long way when wading!) without really seeing anything of note. Then as I rounded a very small bay where the bank was largely made up of eroded clay and rounded a slight corner, I spotted a glowing gravel patch at the bottom of the marginal shelf. It was more of a strip, running parallel with the bank, maybe a yard long by a couple of feet wide. It stood out like a sore thumb, glowing bright yellow when everything else had been fairly nondescript blanket weed and chod so far.
I climbed out to gauge where it was from the bank and peering back through the slot in the saplings, I couldn’t see it at all, even with the clear water and polaroids. It was right at the bottom of the shelf and where the margins went out fairly flat before sloping sharply, the angle made it impossible to see. But my wading position gave me a completely different angle and it was possible to look down the shelf and see it glowing like a beacon.
I liked the look of this so ran back up the bank to where I had originally started and where the marker rod was stashed. Getting back to the spot I flicked the float about ten yards and inched it back with my fingers. Soon I felt the familiar tap, tap of gravel until the lead locked where the shelf started to rise. I let the float pop to the surface and it appeared about five yards out. I waded back out and from my previous vantage point could clearly see the braid rising up and the float sitting proudly directly above the gravel spot. I analysed the spot as much as I could gazing down at it. Nobody else had been baiting but it looked like the spot had been picked clean. Why that precise spot along that long section of bank I didn’t know as there was nothing really notable about it but it looked very presentable.
I didn’t bait there and then. The low was due to arrive on the following Friday so I vowed to return on the Tuesday evening, bait the spot and give it three days to fester before returning to fish on the Friday evening which would hopefully coincide with the carp arriving on the end of the new warm wind.
I popped down on the Tuesday evening after work and popped the float up on the spot. I had also taken my two fishing rods with me, and minus hooklinks flicked them out to gauge how close I needed to fish them together to land them both on the clean gravel and also the trajectory I needed to get them to fall back on a tight line through the nine feet or so of water and crack down on the narrow strip. It was only close in but the spot was small so I wanted to get it bang-on. A few casts and I got the feel for landing it on the money and gauged the far bank markers to get it as inch perfect as possible. Then I deposited 5kg of oily red 18 millers around the float and left it to do its work.
Counting down the days
The rest of the week couldn’t pass quickly enough and before I knew it I was barrowing my kit around to the east bank. As forecast, grey skies and a warm southwesterly was barrelling waves across the pit and although the northeast corner was getting the brunt of it, my little pre-baited swim was looking very promising indeed.
I flicked two ‘Simple Faithfuls’ out and even through the dampening waves they cracked down on the spot. Dipping the tips I got the brolly up, sheltered nicely by the willows bent in the wind and got the kettle on. I didn’t introduce any bait that evening, I didn’t know for certain if they had been on it or not but felt quietly confident.
A fairly sleepless night followed with the constant sloshing of the waves over my rods keeping me awake for long periods. With the onset of dawn nothing had happened, the rods were festooned with drifting weed where I had buried the blanks under the surface and I knew I needed to pack up fairly early as it wasn’t possible to erm… be seen fishing that bank during the day.
And then around 6:30am, and completely out of the blue, came the familiar big pit one-noter! The fish had probably gone thirty yards before it slowed and I started gaining line. Before long I could see a bar of gold boring deep down the marginal shelf. Wading out I scooped it up and lifted it ashore.
It was a common I didn’t recognise from any previous photos. Long and lean with a floppy tail, it weighed 29lb 8oz. With photos done I packed up and topped up the spot with the plan to return that evening.
Before long I was back, rods flicked out, banksticks in the same holes and the brolly set up over the same slightly flattened patch of grass. I felt even more confident now. The spot had produced, the conditions were perfect and I felt like the bait put in that morning will have kept them in the area. Just like the previous night the hours of darkness were quiet apart from the wind and waves, then like clockwork it happened again! Not long after 6am the bobbin on the left-hand rod dropped slightly, then smacked the blank and the sound of duelling clutch and buzzer filled the air.
This one slowed quicker, it felt heavier, more dogged than the common. And then I saw it: a big pale shape and then huge plate-like scales, as it rose in the margins. In the net, then up the bank and on the mat. She weighed 35lb 8oz and as we did the photos she was extruding red fishmeal onto the mat, indicating that the bait I had put in the previous morning had taken effect.
I think I did one more fruitless night on the spot the following week and then the pit went pea green with huge rafts of drifting rotting weed and I called it quits for that year. The following year, 2009 I returned. The little gravel patch was still nice and presentable and with the usual pre-baiting and using the simple rigs it produced two fish on my first night of fishing it (including a repeat of the Big Fully), one on dusk, the second just after dawn. I returned the following week and again it produced two fish, one each either side of the dark hours, a low-thirty linear and 29lb mirror.
I fished it a few more times after that and never had another bite, it didn’t matter though, I had had my fill.