Fishing in and around weed is an aspect of carp fishing that some may struggle to come to terms with.
I appreciate that a lot of waters, particularly commercial waters with a fair stock of fish will not end up looking like a football pitch, as do some of the lesser stocked, big pits I have fished over the years and this in itself can present more of a problem. After all, if you are not used to dealing with any weed at all throughout most of the year then, in the middle of summer, when you suddenly start pulling it in by the bucket load it can sometimes be a bit daunting.
Personally I love weedy lakes; I think that it gives you more of an idea as to where the fish will feed, which way they will travel and what areas they will like the best.
Weed comes in many different forms and each type can tell you something about the lake bed, depths and what type of clear areas you can expect to find nearby.
If you have a lake that is not generally weedy and only small patches or areas of the lake start to ‘green up’ in the summer then these areas will be very interesting to the fish, not only will they harbour a certain amount of natural food but the fish will find shelter and cover in and around the weed and any substantial amount of weed will have it’s own little eco-system based around it.
Firstly let’s look at marginal weed, weed that attaches itself to the slope from the bank downwards which is often the shallowest and warmest part of the lake.
The most common of these is Canadian Pondweed which, in the right conditions, will spread right out and cover acres of the lake bed. It is very hardy and grows in extremely dense patches, leaving little or no clear areas between the stems, luckily though it struggles on the harder ground and this leads to the more fishable areas remaining clean. Finding them becomes easier the longer the weed grows as you can obviously see the gaps.
Canadian tends to grow quite uniformly in length so if you see a gap it’s very often going to be a gap on the bottom as well, and not just a shorter section of weed. I have never done particularly well fishing actually in amongst the stems of Canadian Pondweed and I always try to find a clear piece of bottom to present the bait.
Donking a lead (without a marker float) using a braided line is the best way of feeling for a clear area but the actual ‘drop’ of the lead is just as important as the ‘feel’ as it hits the bottom. By trapping the lead on the surface after the cast you can control the drop and you should feel for any slight knocks or pulls on the line as it sinks, if you feel any resistance on the way down then you know you are through the weed rather than next to it.
The same goes for pulling the lead back to see if it is clear, you should always stop at the end of the pull and lower the rod tip back the way it has just come. If the lead then sinks and hits bottom again it stands to reason that it must have been off the bottom at the end of the pull, this will be the line running over the weed and lifting the lead up, the length of the drop will give you the length of the weed. If it’s a true clear area than the lead should stay in contact with the bottom as you slowly pull it across the bottom and not re-sink when you slacken off.
Another common weed that likes the margins is Silkweed; this type of weed only really flourishes in shallow and well lit water and is often a lot more manageable than it first seems. The problem with Silkweed is that it looks so terrible when you reel it in, the reality though is that you are ‘gathering’ the individual stems and releasing the water that holds them apart as you lift your rig from the lake, this makes it look a lot thicker than it actually is on the bottom. I have caught hundreds of fish by fishing on silkweed, just let the rig fall into it and NEVER pull it back in the slightest. As long as the weed is not ridiculously thick your bait will be presented to a degree that the fish can still pick it up. Using longer than normal nylon or fluorocarbon hooklinks will help but the main trick is to trap and lower your bait making sure it stays where it falls.
Silkweed out in the middle of the lake is a bit like a ‘magic marker’ as it always denotes a change in depth and bottom make up, like a bar, plateau or shallow hump and, more often than not it is associated with sandier or gravelly lake beds areas, giving you an perfect feature to fish to.
The easiest way to check it is truly clear is with a rig, as the hook will gather the weed every time so, if your hook comes back clean you have found what you need.
Milfoil is another form of weed that is fairly common in our lakes, it can sometimes be mistaken for Canadian but it is actually very different indeed. Whereas Canadian has quite uniform short leaves, Milfoil has a thicker stem and supports little sprigs of three or four leaves all spaced in clumps out along the stem. It also grows easily in deep water and is, without doubt, my least favourite weed of the lot.
Milfoil can totally choke whole areas of the lake and it cuts down light dramatically, it also attracts and collects algae and particles of all sorts creating a murky environment which, I believe, the fish do not particularly like so I never fish within it. I always look for large clear areas nearby that I can be sure are well fishable. But this type of weed is only usually present on lakes that have a good head of mixed weed so, for lightly weeded lakes it is not usually a contender.
Whichever type of weed you may encounter the one thing that will dictate successes or frustrating failure is your level of accuracy when placing your bait. Try to use the reflections on the lakes surface, tree line shapes, line markers, clips and everything else at your disposal to ensure, once you have found a spot, that you can confidently keep placing the rig on the same area, close enough is not good enough when fishing in and around weed.
Simply substituting bottom baits for pop-ups is no guarantee of success and, although I have seen it written a thousand times, casting a solid PVA bag into thick weed has never, not once, done me any favours whatsoever!
I think a good way of mentally dealing with weed is this; imagine the bed of the lake totally barren, the fish can feed wherever they want and you can present a bait anywhere you wish, perfect, or is it?
Now imagine 70% of the lake bed covered with weed in which you cannot present a bait at all, to me that has just made everything so much easier as I am now only looking for the right spot in 30% of the total area, surely that’s easier than trying to find a feeding area somewhere out there with no clues whatsoever.
So, what of rigs, is it necessary to completely re-think your approach to weed, personally I don’t think it is. Unless you have massive weed beds that can really effect the strength of your standard fishing tackle then most set up’s are more than adequate and, if you have found clean spots to fish then bottom baits are also fine.
The one thing that will help is to have a decent lead release system that comes into play when you hook a fish as a lead on the line can cause no end of problems if a fish makes it to the sanctuary of a sub surface weed forest. I would strongly recommend that, whatever lead clip you choose, it is one that pins to the swivel otherwise weed will force the whole clip, complete with lead back up the line, causing the lead to stay put and travel back on the leader and cause no end of problems.
Simple is important in weed, as a complicated rig that relies on sliding rings, and balanced components, can easily become hampered by the smallest strand of weed and less effective as a result.
I have touched on the subject of accuracy with your rigs in weed but what about baiting up, is it necessary to get every single bait you put in, onto the clear area?
Personally I think it works against you and I deliberately scatter some baits into the surrounding weed, although it is hard for you to fish in the weed it is not hard for the fish to feed in it, and this helps to increase the size of the areas as they rip up the weed as the root around in the stems. By breaking up boilies you change the sink rate of the bait and its ability to work its way to the bottom where it might lay hidden from view, bits of broken bait hanging at various levels in the weed is a good attractor and will help the fish home in on your clearer baited area.
If you fish a clear spot regularly and keep the bait going in you will probably notice that the spot just keeps getting bigger, a sure sign that you are getting everything right and the fish are regularly feeding and uprooting the weed in your swim.