Get Your Coat.
by Lewis Read
are the most
material by far, but
reveals all on the
bank at CEMEX
There are a vast array of hooklink materials available to us lucky carp anglers today – from near-invisible fluorocarbons, to fastsinking supple/smooth braids, coated and uncoated specialist multistrands, to specialised carbon-cored braids. The choice seems endless and could quite easily leave an angler bewildered when they are trying to identify which to choose, where to start and why to use this type of product.
I’ll give guidance on how to start making reasoned, educated choices for your angling, and as to when some products may be used to make rigs that hook more efficiently. This will all go hand in hand in helping you bag more carp.
The skinned-hook-link revolution started with forward-thinking carp anglers looking at many different materials that could be used as hook links. During this search, someone took the huge conceptual leap in using a product that had been designed and manufactured for ice fishing. They found that these coated, braided lines could be utilised to make rigs, and that by stripping the coating to reveal the braided or multistrand core they could tie hooks on and make simple rigs from a single material.
The only problem with these early materials was that they had a high degree of inherent memory – tying them neatly was difficult and they were not necessarily the ideal colour for carp fishing. On the plus side, those anglers soon found that by using these skinned lines they had effectively solved one of the single biggest problems associated with using plain braids – tangles.
In the past, all manner of methods needed to be employed to reduce the incidence of tangles. Complicated rigs, using a combination of braid tied to stiff materials that acted as a ‘boom’, stringers, and rig tubing all effectively increased the diameter of the main line directly above the rig so that it was much harder for the hook-link material to wrap on the cast. Although these methods of reducing tangles worked fine, for the most part the ease of creating an easy-to-tie rig by stripping sections of coating from skinned hook links literally means that the day of the combi-rig has now well and truly gone.
On silty lake beds opt for Black Silt. It’s a drab colour and takes on the sediment.
Heavy Skin is my choice on gravellybottoms.
It’s reliable and very strong.
It It may be useful to offer a bit of detail on the two basic component parts of skinned hook links. Although it may seem obvious that these are the outer sheath and the braided core, there are many subtle differences between all the leading products available.
The outer skins are made in a number of different colours and wall thicknesses and display differing degrees of rigidity/flexibility. The manner in which they are now manufactured really effects how easy hook links are to tie, how durable they are and how they behave once cast into the lake.
Most manufacturers, such as Kryston and Sufix, have worked extremely hard to achieve products that are both easy to tie and strip, yet retain a great balance in terms of the other properties that the skinned hook link’s outer sheath has to exhibit. Most have just the perfect degree of stiffness to ensure a hugely reduced incidence of tangles, but aren’t so rigid that they could kick up awkwardly if cast onto a lake bed that is so rough that the hook link is forced to sit up.
As an initial starting point in
choosing which kind of outer is
best for your own angling, I would
recommend that you need to focus
primarily on the colour of the lake bed.
You may find that there is a product
available straight off the shelf that
blends in perfectly with the specific
colour of the venue on which you fish.
Some colours, such as dull brown, dark matt green and black, make superb ‘go anywhere’ hook links. This may seem strange but in reality the bottom of every lake is littered with debris – bits of decaying vegetation such as sticks, leaves and weed. Consequently, drab hook links are far less obtrusive than you might at first imagine.
If you can, pool a few types between you and your friends and experiment by tying up rigs and putting them in the edge to see which is best. While you do this, I would also suggest that you have a look at how less obvious shorter hook links (less than eight inches) look than longer ones, which from my experiments often seem to stand out that much more.
In some instances you may be fishing in green weed or algae, for which the slightly lighter-coloured green skins match perfectly. In this case the choice is an obvious one. You may even feel that you wish to ‘customise’ the colour of your hook link with short sections of permanent marker pen. This may occasionally catch you an extra carp in clear water if you are able to really hone the level of camouflage of your end tackle to be as effective as possible.
The other major component part is, of course, the braided inner. The type of braid inside the coatings is as diverse as the variety of the outer skins available. Having seen and used many of the hook links on the market, I can understand how hard it is to get your head around which to choose. Apart from the differences in their breaking strains and colours, there are also huge differences in texture, suppleness and abrasion resistance.
Some inner braids are superfine and made from tightly woven Dyneema fibres. These are ideally suited for use with what can be considered larger baits, such as boilies, larger lumps of meat or the bigger hook-bait pellets. These tend to be very robust braids that are ideal where abrasion resistance is an important consideration. The tight Dyneema inners tend to be thinner for their breaking strain in relation to other braids.
A few examples of skinned hook links with the tight braided inners in the Sufix range are Black Silt, Super Skin and the Sheath skins.
Other skinned hook links incorporate braided inners which are very supple. These are made using a looser weave, which is often flecked with another fibre in order to add weight to the braid and ensure that the finished hook link lies flush to the lake bed. The looser weave means that these hook links impart an extremely high degree of natural movement to the bait. Most importantly, this allows the hook to turn more efficiently when used in conjunction with small baits such as maize, maggots or corn.
Examples of hook links with extremely soft braided inners are Sufix Camfusion, Heavy Skin or the Camou Skins.
You’ll be needing some Camfusion and a hook with a wide gape.
Remove a 10in length of Camfusion from the spool. It’s extremely versatile.
Form a knotless knot but don’t tie a hair or strip back any coating.
Thread a micro rig ring onto the tag end, like so. This will hold your bait.
Push the tag end through the eye of the hook to create a small D, as shown.
Now, burn the tag end with a naked flame so that it forms a blob next to the hook eye.
Your rig should now look like this. The blob will prevent the tag end pulling through.
Strip back half an inch of coating two inches away from the hook, like so.
Attach a small latex bait band onto the micro rig ring. This acts as your hair.
Now mould a section of tungsten putty around the supple piece of material.
You now have a hinge rig. Attach your chosen pop-up and away you go!
You can also use the rig with a bottom bait. There you have it – superb!
Generally, the difference in the manufacture of the two main groups of braids means that the inners of the softer braid are ever so slightly less robust. However, in practical terms this is such a very slight difference that it simply isn’t evident, except in the most extreme angling situation – perhaps when we are fishing in really heavy weed for huge fish. If the conditions were so bad that you honestly felt that the hook links being described in 15Ib and 20Ib wouldn’t be robust enough, then I would ask you to seriously consider whether you should be fishing there at all. Fishing at all costs simply isn’t acceptable!
Of course, both the generic types of braided inner will still work extremely well when used in conjunction with any bait, hook size and rig, but in carp angling it’s often the small refinements that can make a big difference. Fine tuning all the components of your terminal tackle is an essential part of improving your results in the long term.
Perhaps the simplest, and arguably the most popular, presentation utilising the skinned hook links is to create a knotless-knotted presentation with a few inches of coating stripped back. Although this is simple, it should never be ignored because thousands of carp are caught every year on this set-up. If you’ve never used a skinned hook link before then this would certainly be the best starting point. As long as you are absolutely fastidious in checking your hook points, then there are few carp swimming that won’t occasionally fall foul of this type of rig.
If you feel it is necessary to create more complex rigs, perhaps because you are suffering the occasional hook pull, you can start stripping back more coating, tying up longer hook links or even incorporating a small section of angled shrink tubing on the eye of the hook, you can also use the Line Aligners from Taska that are pre-bent for easy use. Another way to create more hook-ups is to place a large blob of Critical Mass tungsten putty halfway up the hook link, which achieves two benefits. It helps to hide the hook link by pinning the material tight to the lake bed and it enhances the aggressive turning action of the set-up, almost as if the hook link was only the length of the distance from the hook to the putty. The difference can be quite tremendous!
Beyond the obvious rig tweaks described, skinned hook links offer an almost limitless number of rig variations. Who says you have to strip much of the skin off? One of the most effective rigs of all time is a semi-stiff strong mono hook link tied with a ‘D’ on the back of the eye. The only problem with this was that it could be difficult to find monos that could take the strain exerted by inturned hook eyes on the section that runs over the eye on a whipped or knotless knot.
However, by utilising a semi-stiff coated braid, this rig can be made to be very strong and can be safely used with inturned-eyed hooks, thus benefiting from the increased hooking potential of the angle created by the hook link, leaving the hook and super-secure hook-holds that these patterns offer. Another massively effective tweak, which means that this type of rig is even more effective than the original version, is that a small section of just a few millimetres of skin can be broken approximately an inch from the hook. This means that the hook is free to pivot from this point, which again improves the rig’s effectiveness.
In the following Video Lewis Read shows you how to tie the Knotless Knot
Try this little experiment for yourself – if you tie the rig and carefully pull it so that the point runs and catches across you hand and fingers, feeling and observing how the hook is acting, and then incorporate a small, broken section an inch from the hook and repeat, you should see exactly what I mean.
Another benefit of this rig is that it can be used with a bottom bait or a balanced bottom bait. Then, by incorporating a counterweight below the break on the outer skin and using it in conjunction with a buoyant bait it makes a superb pop-up rig as well. The other rig that I have shown today is primarily a pop-up rig. This set-up is one that has been used to great effect by my mate Jon McAllister. It offers the angler the enormous benefit of actually being able to change hooks without having to retie a complete hook link. Pure genius Jon!
It’s relatively easy to tie and, as long as a hook with an out-turned eye is used, such as a D-Ceptor, the finished pop-up sits perfectly every time. I use this rig when I am not using my normal hinged-stiff-link pop-up rig because the baits I’m using are smaller and less buoyant than the 12mm cork-ball hook baits that I make. This opens up a huge variety of readymade pop-ups, fake baits and smaller cork-ball baits, and that means that I am free to experiment on busy, prolific waters to find out whether one size of bait, flavour or colour is better than another.
I attach all my skinned hook links via the figure-of-eight loop knot to a Q-Ring. This is simply because the loop knot is easy to tie, extremely strong and again allows additional free movement to the rig, acting as a free-moving pivot point. The benefit of the circular Q-Ring over other popular clips, is that you don’t need to cover the attachment with a silicone sleeve – which would effectively nullify this effect.
The choice of lead arrangement to use these hook links with is very personal too. I generally prefer the helicopter rig because the position and movement of the swivel above the lead ensures that the hook bait will usually be well presented on slightly messy lake beds.
However, the normal rules apply, in that if you are fishing on very clean spots you can always utilise a inline-lead set-up for the improved hooking potential that this type of lead arrangement offers.
Undoubtedly, it’s that inherent flexibility of the skinned hook links that is the single biggest plus point – offering a myriad of options and rig variations. Ranging from the very simplest rigs, all the way through to relatively complex hooking arrangements, This family of hooklink materials offers unparalleled scope to use your imagination to create rigs that, while being subtle in appearance, are anything but subtle when it comes to doing the business and catching us carp.