Lessons In Zigs

You’ll find fish where they are most comfortable, and in the spring that means up in the water

Rob Hughes turns his diving expertise to the subject of zig rigging.

We all know that fish are cold-blooded. That means that they get their core body temperature from the water around them. If the water temperature is 6ºC, then they will have a body temperature close to that figure, which means that they will be fairly static. Air warms faster than water, and water generally warms up as a result of air temperature with a bit of radiation effect from the sun. However, it isn’t just water temperature that warms the carp and causes them to move. The light of the sun’s rays stimulates them to move up in the water, especially after the equinox (21st March), and the sun gets stronger as the days get longer. The heat in those infra-red rays, whilst slow to warm the water, is quick to warm the fish if they are in the upper layers. Think about sun on your skin when you are out of the wind; it feels good, and it’s the same for the fish. When the sun’s rays hit something they can’t travel through, they warm it. Water filters heat pretty quickly, but in the upper layers the infra-red rays will still have a warming effect, hence the reason why the fish like it in the upper layers at this time of year.

A word of warning: don’t go all the way up yet. Until the nights are warmer, the surface layers are still chilly and carp in particular prefer a constant rather than a changing area of temperature.

This amazing shot perfectly illustrates the upper levels of the water where the temperature is unstable – the fish sit just below it in the more stable temperature


Everyone is giving advice to get on the zigs, but where is the best place to start? At this time of year the carp area heading up in the water and looking for light and heat, so if you present a bait where they are comfortable, you’ve got much more of a chance of catching them. The gullies, troughs and deeper areas of the lake are almost certainly pretty devoid of fish now.

Practically speaking, it pays to divide the lake into thirds: the upper, middle and lower, if you like. In the winter the more constant water temperature is in the lower third so the fish will regularly be found in the upper layer of the bottom third. However, it’s now the coldest. In spring the water warms from the surface down so the fish prefer to be in the higher layers. However, because we still have a frost risk, and also because there is still a risk of cold winds that will mix the upper layers, they tend to spend their time in the upper part of the middle third and the lower part of the upper third. Start here with the zigs, and go up in the afternoon if it’s a flat-calm and sunny day or lower in the morning if it’s been frosty. Don’t ignore zigs on windy, low pressure days either.

Colour is king

Absolutely nobody will ever convince me that fish in clear waters are not sight feeders first and scent feeders second, and that in coloured water they use scent first followed by sight. When new to zigging the thought of chucking a bit of unflavoured ‘flip-flop’ out into the pond is a frightening one. However, your confidence can be boosted by two things: one is colour choice, and the other is adding a bit of smell. I want to make my zig as attractive as I possibly can, both visually and olfactorily, and that means a bit of DNA Baits Sticky Sweet, a sweetener that offers attraction but also hangs around for a while. The other thing is that the colour you use is a massive factor. In clear water black is king, so use a black Zig Aligna and a black piece of foam. In slightly coloured water a black-pink mix is a winner, and in really coloured water, a red Aligna with red or black foam is deadly. Red stands out very well in the upper layers and a small flash of it is often all that is needed to induce a bite. Start off with this as a general rule and you won’t go far wrong.

In clear water, a black zig is king
If the water’s slightly murky, try a flash of red

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