The invention of the hair rig is often attributed Lenny Middleton and Kevin Maddocks, but another angler detached from that pioneering pair was thinking along the same lines at the same time.
In this fascinating insight, former Angling Times columnist Arthur Clarke looks back to 1981 when an article he wrote unwittingly lifted the lid on a rig that has become known as the ‘most important invention in carp-angling history’.
It was July 1981 and I hadn’t caught a carp since the first week of the season. My wife and I were spending a week on Costessy No.3 pit near Norwich.
The venue was gin-clear and alive with natural food. Someone said that the fish never needed to eat anything bigger than a pin-head to survive and, with this in mind, we started a heavy prebaiting program using baked beans.
One afternoon, after finding some big fish feeding in close, we introduced a tin of beans. The fish went berserk, stirring up the silt until we could only see huge waving tails.
The feeding spree went on, giving me time to introduce a bean on a size 4 hook to 11lb Sylcast.
One by one the carp left the swim and the silt cloud subsided. I was certain that the bean on the hook had been in the centre of the feeding area, so why hadn’t it been taken?
We agreed that the fish looked as if they were sucking up the beans from some distance rather than picking up individual beans, and the weight of the hook had stopped our beans being sucked up.
After a night in the bivvy thinking about it I came up with what I called the ‘detached bait’ rig. This consisted of a length of 1.1lb Bayer Perlon tied to the bend of the hook, with three beans threaded on the line with a needle and tied two inches from the bend.
A couple of weeks later I returned to the venue and found three big fish in the margin. I dropped in a handful of corn, accompanied by the detached bait rig.
One of the fish went straight down on the corn and sucked in the rig, with my line following him.
Eventually the fish was netted, and weighed just over 28lb 8oz. It was my first fish on the detached bait rig.
I wrote an article about the rig for Angling Times, but it wasn’t until some time later that I was accused, by no less than Kevin Maddocks, of giving away the secret of the hair rig!
I was never a member of the British Carp Study Group and certainly never a confidante of Lenny Middleton, to whom the hair rig is attributed.
I think this was a genuine case of parallel development, and I believe Lenny and his colleagues had been using the rig successfully for some time but keeping it a secret.
I have always deplored secrecy in angling, and have always got as much enjoyment from seeing other people catching fish as catching them myself.