The Flying Collar Rig is wrongly thought to be a relatively new rig but was actually devised and developed between the two great wars and originated in the southwest of England for fishing with live or dead sandeel over reefs. Like most rigs it has been refined over the years and has been responsible for the development of specific tackle items designed to make this rig work more efficiently.
Originally the booms used to tow the hook trace and bait or lure were short 8-inch ones made from brass wire, but anglers quickly realised that these short booms caused frequent line tangles during the descent to the seabed. To combat this longer home made booms 12-inches or more in length quickly became common and proved more efficient at keeping the hook trace well away from the main line as the tackle descended to the seabed.
The Flying Collar Rig was also, in part, a catalyst for the rise in popularity of the artificial rubber eel. Such was the effectiveness of the long trace in conjunction with the rubber eel, that having live sandeel became less of an advantage. This influence was compounded when wreck fishing for pollack and coalfish became highly popular. The Flying Collar Rig and rubber eel combination accounted for a string of big pollack and coalies from the southwest wrecks during the early 1970’s with famous Plymouth skipper JJ McVicar and his boat June Lipet leading the way.
The key component in a Flying Collar Rig is the boom. A big mistake made by many anglers, especially when fishing in depths over 80ft and using heavy 10oz plus leads, is to choose a plastic bodied tubular boom. The problem with these, is that during a fast descent of the tackle towards the seabed, the plastic tubing can flex upwards in a U shape due to water pressure on the tubing, but more so from the drag of the artificial eel. This drag effect is increased the bigger the rubber eel is. As the boom flexes the distance between the main line and hook trace dropping vertically side by side decreases increasing the chance of tangles.
Experienced anglers using Flying Collar Rigs will always choose a stiff wire boom not prone to flexing on the descent. Because of the stiffness of the wire even a big rubber eel or shad can be dropped at speed through the water levels without the worry of the hook trace and eel wrapping around the main line. The long stiff wire booms, often referred to as French booms, will not flex so maintain the distance between the main line and hook trace when descending. Also, having the ability to descend at speed, this maximises the amount of time you can work the eel over the wreck when drift fishing to increase your overall catch rate.
For reef fishing in depths around 100-feet choose wire booms with a length of at least 10-inches. For wreck fishing in depths over 150-feet booms of 15-inches in length are essential to maximise fishing efficiency. Veals and Fox both do 10-inch wire booms, but Fox also produce a 15-inch Flying Collar Boom specifically designed for wreck fishing.
Tie the main reel line, which needs to be between 15lb and 20lbs for general wreck fishing, to the top eye of the wire boom. Some anglers prefer to use a snap swivel connector to connect the main reel line to the boom, though this is not essential.
To the leg of the boom add a short 3-inch section of weaker 12lb to 15lb line to tie the lead weight too. This is a safety system that will break before the main line should the lead weight get snagged in the wreck or surrounding debris as it hits the seabed. Some anglers prefer this weak link to be made from a tie wrap or telephone wire using just a couple of light turns to hold the lead in place.
The hook trace is tied to the eye of the wire boom. This needs to be a clear mono line 12lb to 18lbs in strength. For fishing in shallower water over reefs a length of 10 to 12ft is about right. For wreck fishing use a minimum of 12ft with 15ft to 18ft being the average. Tie the rubber eel or shad to the end of the hook trace.
Always add a size 4 rolling swivel to the middle of the hook trace. This reduces line twist in the hook trace as the eel descends at speed in the water, but also when actually fishing as the eel is retrieved.
To further minimise the chance of tangles, especially during periods of minimum tidal run, a good trick with the hook trace is to have the upper half of the hook trace made from stiffer 30lb clear mono, then add a size 4 swivel, and have the lower half of the hook trace made from normal 15 to 18lb mono. The stiffer 30lb line helps keep the hook trace straight, again during descent to the seabed and during actual fishing.
HOW IT WORKS
Allow the tackle to descend to the seabed, but as soon as you feel the lead touch down, put the reel in to gear and lift the weight up off the seabed or wreck a few feet. Pause for a few seconds to allow the hook trace to straighten out in the tide away from the boom, and begin a slow to medium speed retrieve. Count the turns you make of the reel handle and note the number when bites begin to occur. This is the level at which the fish are currently feeding and allows you to anticipate future bites.
The take from a pollack or coalfish is typically an initial slight increase in pressure on the rod tip as the fish draws in water to suck in the eel. It’s a mistake to strike. Simply continue winding until the rod tip pulls hard over and the hook sets itself. The fish will then dive back for the wreck.
If bites are few and far between, or the fish can be felt just plucking at the tail of the lure, then always try increasing the length of the hook trace to induce more bites before trying alternative lure colours.
This is exactly the same flying collar rig with the 15-inch wire boom, but using a shorter 4 to 6ft section of heavier 30 to 50lb line and a weighted rubber shad such as the Calcutta shads.
This rig is used for working the shads, and rubber eels, tight to the seabed and through the wreck structure. Again let the lead weight touch down, then jig the shad a few feet above the seabed. This swim and sink action of the lure has proved highly effective for ling, cod, bigger pollack and also coalfish when wreck fishing. It also works well over the shallower wrecks for bass in the summer.
LURE COLOUR CHOICE
It pays to carry a good range of colours in both rubber eels and shads for use with flying collar rigs. Black is a good all round colour for clear water conditions as it gives a good silhouette, with red also very effective. In water with slightly less clarity try a white or yellow lure to stand out more.
Big coalies and pollack show a liking for luminous yellow and orange eels and shads, as will bottom hugging cod and ling. The pearl white, pink ice coloured shads, also the mackerel look-a-likes are the ones to use when after wreck bass and pollack.