Monday, 31 December 2012

Stillwater roach - the helicopter bolt rig

There is nothing more frustrating to me than having a lot of free time and not being able to fish, it is my idea of hell. When I say not able to fish that isn't of course totally true, let's make it not able to fish where I want and for the species I want and recently that has happened week after week. The weather people have now decided that 2012 was the wettest year on record, nice of them to announce it but I think we may just have guessed don't you? I watched a tv program on the year's weather the other night, one of those programs that just rubs it in a bit more but there wasn't much else on so I left it. It appears that the last twelve months or so has been messed up by the Gulf stream flowing too far to the south, of course you may have known that all along but I'm not a great viewer of the news and all that business so it was fresh to me. One theory is that this shift in the Gulf stream's flow is down to the melting of the polar ice and if so then this may just just be the start of things to come, and if so I for one am emigrating! Anyway enough of the depressing talk, let's go fishing.

Two or three winters back I spent several sessions on an old quarry after it's roach. There were rumours of 2lb fish and I did find a couple of pictures of a brace roach claimed to be that weight online though as they were in a net there was nothing to judge them against so there was only one way to find out and that was to fish it. I had been tinkering with the short hooklink helicopter bolt rig for the roach on my local reservoir and with the water in the quarry plunging steeply to twenty five feet odd it seemed that it might be a good idea to continue with the method on that water too. Nevertheless on my first session I went in on a standard feeder rig fished on the tip, plenty of fish were caught of all sizes up to a pound or so but I decided that I was going to fish two rods on my next session as it was obvious that I had to get through a considerable number of fish if I was to have a chance of a better one. Next time out one rod was fished on the maggot bolt rig and the other on a mini boilie in the hope of putting the small fish off, it did in fact it put everything off and only the maggot rod produced fish all day. The decision then was do I stick it out on rod rod with the boilie or switch both to maggot, I had tried the mini boilies extensively on my local and they didn't work for me, in that case they just didn't prove to be selective and caught roach of 10oz plus just as regularly as did the maggots, in the end I decided to go all out on maggot and play the numbers game. The end result of the mini campaign was a best roach of 1lb 7oz to me, Leo's biggest was 1lb 6oz and I believe Steve had one at 1lb 5oz, between us we had caught a lot of roach and my conclusion was that a brace of 2lbers was incredibly unlikely, maybe it could do a "2" but if so it would be a very exceptional fish for the water.

A nice fish from the previous campaign
So back to the present and a return visit seemed as good an idea as any of the others that I could muster up, at least I knew for certain that the place wouldn't be flooded. Leo joined me and we timed our arrival perfectly, a head torch was needed to get to the swims but by the time the kit was set up it was light enough to line up some casting markers on the far bank. Both rods had been rigged up with bolt feeders and I just had to clip on the hooklinks and get fishing. Hooklink material is one thing that I am still messing about with on this rig, almost all of my previous fishing has been done with 4.6lb (0.14mm) Silstar Matchteam, 3.3lb at times too, though as a pre-stretched line it does tend to kink and twist easily. I decided to try something out and started out on 4.6lb non stretched mono with a diameter of 0.18mm, tow rope to many roach anglers I know, most wouldn't have used the size 16 wide gape hooks with a single maggot either but my experience has been that you can normally get away with that or dare I say even bigger. I know friends who have scaled right down with the rig and who assure me that it was essential in the prevailing circumstances so I'll always keep an open mind but my current thinking is that with such a short hooklink subtle presentation may actually work against you sometimes. Compare it with the carp anglers stiff rig on a smaller scale, the fish only has a very small amount of play in the rig before hitting resistance. A stiffer hooklink combined with a relatively large hook in my mind exaberates the fishes problem in dealing with the situation, once the bait is in its mouth the more supple the link the easier it becomes to eject. Of course that only works should the extra stiffness not make the bait harder to take in the first place.

Two 50 gram Blackcap feeders were positioned about thirty yards out into the lake, in this instance clipping up wasn't practical due to the depth, on a shallower lake I would use a pole elastic stop knot positioned at the tip ring while the line was clipped at the reel and would lower the feeder down through the water by following the line with the rod tip. Trying the same technique in such deep water with a steep bank behind me to stop me sweeping the rod back wouldn't work and the feeder would swing back towards me spilling maggots during its arc, in this case the cast was so short as to be easy to judge anyway so no problem.For half an hour or so I just kept working the feeders, casting one after another every few minutes to get some bait into the swim and I then slowed it down to a cast every twenty minutes. It took an hour to get the first bite but once they had arrived the action was frantic to the extent that I considered winding one rod in. The fish weren't big by any means, mostly roach to 8oz's or so with the odd small skimmer thrown in and unfortunately a few roach/bream hybrids too. I don't recall catching any hybrids when I last fished the water so it was a shame to see them now appearing, of course they may just remain as an occaisional occurance but it still puts some doubt on the roach stock in future. It was bite after bite after bite for maybe an hour and a half and then it slowed down, by midday it had slowed to a halt which was a bit unusual. My first thought was to scale down and see what happened and one rod was fixed up with the 4.6 Silstar to an 18 with the other on 3.3lb and a 20, neither made a blind bit of difference with just the odd fish coming to either rig. I then swopped one rod back to the "tow rope" and size 16 and got the same result, just the odd fish, it makes you think doesn't it. In a nutshell I think that they had moved, I think that they were up in the water. A standard feeder rig with a long hooklink may have caught me a few more fish at that stage but Leo had been struggling all day for his chosen perch quarry and I was suffering considerably due to a stupid mistake I had made so we decided to call it an early finish.

The stupid mistake was to assume that the already wet inside walking boots I was wearing would be fine if I wore my Sealskinz waterproof socks, wrong, the socks made my feet damp and I froze, the Sealkinz are now definately for work use only which is what I bought them for. I should of course have been wearing my winter boots but since getting my new van I've discovered that the pedals seem to me closer together than in my old one and it isn't safe to drive in my size 12 snow boots, next time I'll not be so lazy and just get changed after the drive!

Here's a quick look at the short bolt rig the way I set it up, It's very straightforward, the most important thing is to try and avoid any twist caused by the hooklink or feeder. I include an extra swivel above the feeder which helps in that respect, a snap link between the two makes it easy to change feeder size/weight and a small piece of silicone over that stops the line tangling on it. The mainline is 6lb to cope with the continual casting, some use flouro but I'm just using bog standard mono. A small Korum quick change swivel is fixed between two grippa stops but either side of the swivel I use a tiny glass bead which keeps it all nice and free moving, I tried various tyupes of specific fishing beads but none are as friction free as those glass ones, you get hundreds of them for pennies on Ebay sold for jewellry making and I believe that they are 2mm in diameter. The hooklink which is tied to three inches or so in length is then attached via a loop onto the swivel. Tying the hooklink is by far the most fiddly part of setting the method up. I use a hook tyer and cut the tag end long so that I have plenty to play with, I then make a figure of eight loop knot as normal but keep a small baiting needle to hand. It makes it so much easier if you catch the loop with the needle and pull the knot together that way, a tiny piece of silicone float rubber then holds the link in place on the swivel. After casting the line is tightened right up and a bobbin is attached but instead of having a drop I fish it tight up to the rod, it is only there to indicate drop backs. I also sometimes clip the line to the rod just above the reel which aids the bolt effect further.


  1. Nice and simple Rob and very effective. Some lovely catches you've had and those perch......nice.

    1. Hi Nathan

      Thanks mate, just had a very quick look at your blog and it looks excellent, I will add it to my reading list and get back to it asap, I'm well behind the times at the minute I've loads of catching up to do

    2. which alarm is best for roach perch bream

    3. I use Delkims but in all honesty any reliable alarm will do. The beauty of the Delkims is its adjustable sensitivity but you don't need anything super sensitive for bolt rigging

    4. thanks Rob new to spec/ fishin ex club angler dont like carp puddles use fox macro mx+ at mo good web page lotts of help thanks

    5. thanks ex club angler new to spe/ fishin but lotts of hellp on blog thanks