Carpworld - - CONTENTS - - Mike Ka­vanagh

Keep­ing with the re­cent theme of an­niver­saries, it is a quar­ter of a cen­tury since Mike dreamt up the mighty hinged stiff rig. This month he sits down with a mod­ern lu­mi­nary to dis­cuss how he has adapted it to suit his own fish­ing re­quire­ments whilst on a large East Anglian pit...

THIS MONTH: Keep­ing with the re­cent theme of an­niver­saries, it is a quar­ter of a cen­tury since Mike dreamt up the mighty hinged stiff rig. This month he sits down with a mod­ern lu­mi­nary to dis­cuss how he has adapted it to suit his own fish­ing re­quire­ments whilst on a large East Anglian pit...

It was No­vem­ber 1998 when I wrote the first Rig­world col­umn, so for me this is­sue is a bit of a mile­stone. On a sim­i­lar theme, it’s been 25 years since I first wrote about the hinged stiff rig, never ex­pect­ing at the time that it would ce­ment a long-held place in the carp an­gler’s ar­moury. But, given its con­tin­u­ous suc­cess, I think it’s fair to say in carp fish­ing terms the rig has now ac­quired iconic sta­tus. I can talk about the me­chan­ics of the rig with a de­gree of au­thor­ity be­cause, con­trary to pop­u­lar be­lief, and de­spite Terry Hearn’s much pub­li­cised as­so­ci­a­tion with it, it was ac­tu­ally my sim­plis­tic view of anti-ejec­tion that con­jured up the hinged stiff rig in the first place and in this month’s of­fer­ing I’ll ex­plain why.

The his­tory of the hinged stiff rig

As I’ve men­tioned pre­vi­ously when writ­ing about the stiff rig, my first ex­per­i­men­ta­tion with ty­ing loops in my hook­links goes back to 1983, but us­ing a loop through the swivel, with a short stiff­ened hook­link to cre­ate a hinge ef­fect, started in 1987 when I was forced to rely on 45lb Dacron to res­cue a dis­as­trous two-day ses­sion. How­ever, I re­turned to the idea late in 1989 when I was fish­ing the fa­mous Dar­enth Tip Lake in Kent. At that point I’d spent 11 years read­ing ev­ery­thing writ­ten by suc­cess­ful an­glers in­volved with rig devel­op­ment, as well as pick­ing up point­ers from those in the know. I also spent hours ob­serv­ing carp feed­ing at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity and not­ing their re­ac­tion and abil­ity to deal with what was, un­til then, deemed to be the only way to per­suade a carp to pick up a hook­bait. That way was to use a hook­link sup­ple enough to al­low the hook­bait to be­have as far as pos­si­ble like a free of­fer­ing. The in­tro­duc­tion of sup­ple braids and multi-strand hook­link ma­te­ri­als, mainly pi­o­neered by Krys­ton, be­came in­cred­i­bly pop­u­lar based on that be­lief and for some an­glers sup­ple rigs re­main their pref­er­ence to this day.

How­ever, given what I’d seen at close quar­ters while ob­serv­ing carp feed and the res­cued two night ses­sion in 1987, I started to ques­tion the va­lid­ity of that be­lief and de­cided to re­turn to my orig­i­nal hinge loop at the swivel, but this time, de­spite it be­ing the com­plete op­po­site to sup­ple, I used short lengths of stiff mono. Ini­tially, I chose Syl­cast Up­tide cast­ing line for my hook­links, which was stiff and springy but once hinged and the hook­bait mounted on a sup­ple hair, was sur­pris­ingly mo­bile and re­spon­sive. En­cour­aged by this I de­cided to stick with my the­ory and give the rig a run for its money, be­cause, al­though there was no doubt in my mind that a sup­ple hook­link would al­low the hook­bait to be taken by a carp more eas­ily than a stiff one, there was also no doubt in my mind hav­ing wit­nessed it many times over that a carp could eject it eas­ily too. I’ve al­ways stated when writ­ing about anti-ejec­tion that find­ing a way to al­low the hook­bait to be taken is, in my opin­ion, not the main prob­lem, pre­vent­ing it from be­ing ejected is the prob­lem, and de­spite all our best ef­forts it con­tin­ues to be to this day.

My way of re­duc­ing the ejec­tion op­por­tu­nity at the time was to take into ac­count the aver­age cir­cum­fer­ence of a 20lb carp’s open mouth in re­la­tion to a stiff hook­link three to four-inches long and hinged at the swivel. The idea be­ing that the hook­link could ro­tate in any di­rec­tion within that cir­cum­fer­ence and al­low a bot­tom bait to be picked up sim­i­larly to a free of­fer­ing, or at least sim­i­lar to one at­tached to a sup­ple braid rig. My ra­tio­nale was that once in­side the carp’s mouth, the short stiff hook­link would not al­low the hook­bait to just fall out, like it could with a sup­ple one as soon as its mouth opened. In­stead it would, via the hinge loop, drop onto the palate of its mouth and al­low the hook to find a pen­e­tra­tion point be­fore it could be ejected. Of course that was my the­ory but in re­al­ity we know now a carp is an ex­pert at ejec­tion once an un­wanted item is in­side its mouth, so the best that can be hoped for is that ejec­tion by this method at the very least is made more dif­fi­cult.

At the time I was sure it could work, my only real con­cern was would my tar­get carp ac­tu­ally be able, or even tempted, to suck in a three to four­inch long hinged stiff hook­link. I needn’t have wor­ried be­cause the first bunch of fish I hooked, nailed in fact, were tench – which as any­one who has fished for them will know spend a lot of time fid­dling with a hook­bait be­fore tak­ing it. I hooked quite a few in the well-trod­den Pal­lets Swim on the Tip, fol­low­ing scream­ing takes, and I knew from that day on if I could hook the finicky tench on the rig, hook­ing carp above sin­gle fig­ures was not go­ing to be a prob­lem.

I’d started us­ing 20lb and 30lb black Sun­set Am­ne­sia to­wards the end of 1990 which was pointed out to me by Mick Sly when I was in Bob Mor­ris’ tackle shop across the road from the lakes. I was look­ing for a hook­link ma­te­rial that was stiff, but with suf­fi­cient low mem­ory that it could be pulled straight, stay straight and wouldn’t kink like the Up­tide cast­ing line had been do­ing. I took a spool from the sea an­gling sec­tion and as soon as I pulled a length off the spool and ten­sioned it I knew I’d found what I’d been look­ing for. That, com­bined with my hinged loops, the black Dren­nan Boilie hook with the out-turned eye, which I be­lieve was the cat­a­lyst for the Mk1 Stiff Rig­ger, meant the ba­sic rig was now com­plete.

The ad­di­tional hinged boom came about soon af­ter my first ex­per­i­ment, sim­ply be­cause the Tip Lake was a very weedy wa­ter. To over­come the of­ten dif­fi­cult prob­lem of find­ing clear spots I added the boom to a three-inch hook­link which was gen­er­ally 12 to 15 inches long, de­pend­ing on the den­sity of the weed. I used the boom ver­sion with a crit­i­cally bal­anced, hair-rigged popup that could sink slowly and come to rest on the top layer of the weed to en­sure the pop-up stood proud and was vis­i­ble. The other plus point from my per­spec­tive, was that sim­i­lar to the short, bot­tom bait rig, the stiff boom was far less likely to tan­gle, ei­ther dur­ing the cast or on its de­scent. There can be noth­ing worse than sit­ting be­hind rods with tan­gled rigs!

I ob­vi­ously showed the rig to close friends who, at first, were nat­u­rally re­luc­tant to try it, but when they got their head around it, found their re­sults were sim­i­lar to, or in some cases, bet­ter than mine. Con­fi­dent I’d got the me­chan­ics right I even­tu­ally shared three ver­sions of the rig with a few of the guys fish­ing the Dar­enth com­plex of lakes who took them to their cir­cuit wa­ters: Rod­ney Meadow and the fa­mous Hare­field Lake be­ing amongst them. Zenon Bo­jko, who was fish­ing the Dar­enth Big Lake at the time, took the boom ver­sion I’d shown him to Hare­field where it was well re­ceived and, if mem­ory serves me right, Stu­art Gil­ham in par­tic­u­lar did re­ally well on it. Zenon pre­ferred the short-hook sec­tion, used with the hinged boom to be made with braid rather than the Am­ne­sia I was us­ing, but it was the stiff ver­sion (no pun in­tended) that re­ally caught on. De­spite its suc­cess, even the ba­sic rig was still gen­er­ally kept un­der the radar un­til I wrote it about it and it ap­peared in the Carp So­ci­ety’s mag­a­zine, Carp Fisher, in 1993. At that time the So­ci­ety mem­ber­ship was at its peak and in­side a week of it be­ing posted out nigh on 6,000 mem­bers in the UK and over­seas in Hol­land, Bel­gium and Ger­many be­came aware of the stiff rig. I didn’t re­veal the other vari­a­tions I’d come up with in that ar­ti­cle be­cause that wouldn’t have gone down well with some of the guys us­ing them at the time. I was also acutely aware the con­cept was such a rad­i­cal shift from the norm that I felt the ba­sic rig was enough to be go­ing on with. I did, how­ever, close the ar­ti­cle by men­tion­ing there were other vari­a­tions of the rig that I would save for an­other time, but I left it to Zenon to re­veal his in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the now pop­u­lar hinged boom ver­sion I’d shown him at Dar­enth, in the Carp So­ci­ety’s book, Carp Hunters, pub­lished in 1994. The mea­sure­ments used in the book were dif­fer­ent to mine but none­the­less once the boom ver­sion was out there and the con­cept that a stiff hinged hook­link in vary­ing lengths could and had caught im­pres­sive num­bers of carp, like most pre­vi­ously ‘un­der the radar rigs’ that had proved suc­cess­ful, it quickly be­came the one to use. Not sur­pris­ingly it wasn’t that long af­ter be­ing en­dorsed by some notable an­glers in print that we started to see ready

tied Am­ne­sia stiff rigs in pack­ets in tackle shop and the in­tro­duc­tion of flexi-ring swivels by Gold La­bel Tackle as an al­ter­na­tive to hinge loops.

Fast for­ward­ing to 1998 in a Face To Face in­ter­view in Carp­world with Ju­lian Cun­diff, Terry Hearn ex­plained how he’d come to start us­ing the hinged boom ver­sion of the rig for his pop­ups. Two friends of his Alan and Andy... Andy (be­ing Andy Kidd I be­lieve – a very good an­gler) had shown him and an­other friend Lewis Read the rig, but it was the sup­ple hair ver­sion. Lewis sug­gested to Terry they should have a look at the rig be­cause, ac­cord­ing to Alan and Andy, it was ‘do­ing the busi­ness’. They were right, it was, in fact it had been since 1990!

With a bit of ex­per­i­men­ta­tion in a bath, Terry de­cided, like Zenon, to use Roger Smith’s swim­mer rig D-loop with a small rig ring at­tached to tie a pop-up with den­tal floss in­stead of the hair. It was 1995 when Terry got to use the rig and his first carp on it was Heather the Leather! Not sur­pris­ingly af­ter that he cham­pi­oned the rig be­cause that, com­bined with his out­stand­ing an­gling skill and wa­ter­craft, saw him con­tinue to catch some huge, much sought af­ter, carp on it. I in­ter­viewed Terry my­self in the sum­mer of 1999 for my Rig­world col­umn, partly on the bank at an Ex­iles char­ity fish-in at Lin­ear Fish­eries’ Hardwick Lake, and partly on tape which I still have in my ar­chive col­lec­tion. I pho­tographed the clear Am­ne­sia hinged rig Terry was us­ing at that point and other than the hook he’d been test­ing and a sub­tle curve in his hook sec­tion, es­sen­tially, me­chan­ic­s­wise, noth­ing had changed. Why would it, given his catches and his con­fi­dence in a rig that had al­ready brought him such fan­tas­tic re­sults.

But what did change in the spring of 2000 was the type of hook­link ma­te­rial sourced by Adam

Pen­ning, dur­ing his ten­ure with ESP, to fur­ther stiffen the rig. Thanks to Adam, ESP were the first com­pany to sup­ply the Stiff Rig Fil­a­ment that Terry had asked for to com­pli­ment the Mk1 Stiff Rig­ger hook. I knew the ex­tra stiff fil­a­ment would work, in fact in my ar­ti­cle I pointed out it wouldn’t mat­ter if you chose 50lb line for the hook­link as long as it was hinged. Also, I was aware of a guy (a friend of my close friend Gary Gande) in the early 90s, who at first wasn’t con­vinced about my stiff hook­link the­ory when he was shown the rig and de­spite Gary’s as­sur­ance de­cided he would put it to his own test. So he made up a short hook­link with 70lb sea fish­ing line. The line was too thick to tie the hook on with a knot and too thick to tie an over­hand knot for the hinge loop at the swivel, so in­stead of a knot he man­aged to feed the line through the eye of the hook and then fold­ing it back whip the line to­gether to make a join. He did the same at the swivel to make a hinge loop. To cut a long story short he took the rig to Waltham­stow Reser­voirs, cast it out and in less than 15 min­utes landed a well hooked 28-pounder... that con­vinced him!

ESP went on to lead the field in sup­ply­ing ded­i­cated rig ma­te­ri­als to con­struct the hinged stiff rig, and with Terry’s me­dia pres­ence and the rig’s suc­cess rate, other sup­pli­ers had to sit up and take no­tice. The rest, as they say, is his­tory but the one thing that still pleases me im­mensely, is that, af­ter all th­ese years, my orig­i­nal stiff hinged antieject me­chan­ics (in all their weird and won­der­ful forms now – whether that be knot­ted loops, peeled coat­ings, crimped loops, swivels or rings), are still do­ing what they did for me when I started the ball rolling in 1989, catch­ing carp for any an­gler who puts his trust in a method of pre­sent­ing a hook­bait that once upon a time de­fied logic.

It was 1995 when Terry got to use the rig and his first carp on it was Heather the Leather!

One of my orig­i­nal Am­ne­sia hinged boom rigs with the per­fectly matched Dren­nan boilie hook, which for al­most a decade was the fore­run­ner to the Mk1 Stiff Rig­ger

Top, two Dren­nan boilie hooks. Be­low, the two phases of the stiff rig­ger hooks – the only real dif­fer­ence pat­tern wise be­ing the straight point

My stiff rig ar­ti­cle in Carp Fisher in 1993 reached nearly 6,000 mem­bers at home and abroad – the cat was out of the bag! As you can see I only re­vealed the ba­sic rig in the ar­ti­cle but promised to come back to vari­a­tions of it an­other time Zenon’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the rig in the So­ci­ety’s book, note his pre­ferred braid hook sec­tion for the boom ver­sion with pop-up tied on with den­tal floss to a small swim­mer rig loop

Ju­lian’s ‘Face to Face’ in­ter­view with Terry in 1998

Ex­cerpt from the in­ter­view where Terry ex­plained to Ju­lian how he was shown the hinged stiff rig by his friends Alan and Andy)

On the right my old spool of solid fil­a­ment Am­ne­sia and on the left the mod­ern repack­aged ver­sion, still go­ing strong!

The first of the stiff fil­a­ments that set a bench­mark for other sup­pli­ers to fol­low

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