The trouble is, the standard bolt rig tells the angler nothing about what the fish are doing prior to this point. This is a huge disadvantage of using bolt rigs, particularly rigs that use a semi-fixed inline lead. When the fish are feeding you can probably get away with not knowing any more than this. Indeed, if you are fishing for a few days then you probably don't want to be bothered with the odd bleep through the night stopping you from getting some decent shut-eye. But if you are not getting bites, or the bait is coming back damaged without you seeing any indication then you need to be able to know what is going on.

The problem with putting a large lump of lead between you and the hook is that unless the fish moves the lead you are going to know nothing about what is happening at the hook. A small improvement is to use a lead that hangs on the line. At least the line only has to pass through a swivel with these leads, rather than right through the whole lead. The next change that you can make is to have the stop for the lead set several inches back from the hook link. Rather than coming up against the lead immediately, with the lead stopped some way back the fish can move some distance before hitting the weight of the lead. I normally stop the lead around four to ten inches back from the hook link. By using the lightest bobbin possible at the rod end, this allows the fish to take some line, giving an indication of what is going on. As with all semi-fixed rigs, it is essential, should the rig become snagged, that the lead should pull free. To ensure that this is the case I use back stop tied from 12lb power gum, that will slide off the line should the lead get snagged.

If you are fishing on anything other than very clean gravel then the small swivel on the top of a lead is not going to allow the line to pass through unheeded. Just imagine the lead sinking into soft silt, or weed and you will see that the small eye on the lead swivel is going to get blocked. Although there are some flattened and shaped leads that do not sink so far into soft lake beds, if you want to ensure that the line moves freely you will have to use a short link. Generally, putting the lead on a 2-4 inch long piece of line with a swivel on the other end is all that is needed. Our tests have also shown that even when fishing on a hard bed this link help in bite registration. Whilst you might think that putting the lead on a link will diminish the bolt effect this is not necessarily the case. The fish will still come up against the full weight of the lead and may have built up more speed (and so increase the chances of it hooking itself) by the time the weight of the lead comes into effect.

Putting the lead on a short link makes an amazing difference to the amount of information transmitted from the hook to the rod. Touch ledgering on rivers is totally revolutionised by using the lead on a short link so that all of the bite is transmitted up the line rather than being dulled by the weight of the lead. The other real eye-opener was when I tried using this rig with a Method feeder for Winter carp. The number of small twitches, knocks and drop-backs that you do not see when fishing with the feeder straight on the line is amazing and has to be seen to be believed.

There is one further modification that, although I do not use it all the time, is extremely useful for shy biting fish. Rather than using a link that is shorter than the hook link, making the lead link longer can greatly increase bite indication. Using a link of a foot or more with a hook link of only a couple of inches means that the hook is always closer to the rod than the lead. This gives incredible bite indication, yet by using a relatively heavy indicator and tight line the bolt effect is still present. Should the fish move towards the angler then the weight of the lead will come into play. Should the fish move away from the angler then the combined effect of drag on the line and the indicator will set the hook. Once again, this isn't a rig to use if you only want to be woken up by fish that have already hooked themselves, but if you want to learn more about what is going on in your swim then give these rigs a go. You will be amazed at how often your hook bait is picked up without the fish screaming off.

Paul runs guided trips and lectures on many aspects of coarse fishing throughout the year. For more information call 01394 610 399.