Fishing Around Weed

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 fishing tackle then most standard 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.

 

Alan Yates – Striking

Striking is one of the most exciting tactics involved in sea angling, its like pulling the trigger of a gun, it’s a crucial part of the hunt to many anglers. But is it essential to success and what’s involved?

It’s a fact that most species of sea fish will hook themselves eventually if you don’t strike simply because they are intent on eating the bait and oblivious to fishing tackle. A deliberate strike makes little difference to the catch rate in many situations although it does please the ego of the captor to think so, whilst more important to many anglers is that a premature strike helps prevent deep hooking!

The way the particular species feeds, what it eats, the mouth structure and its mobility have an influence its ease of hooking. Most of the speedy tropical mid water predators are more difficult to hook than the bottom grubbers such as the flatfish which once the hook has entered the mouth cannot escape, others with large hard bony mouths are difficult to hook because the hook cannot find a place to lodge!

Overall for fishing around the UK a less enthusiastic approach to striking will result in more fish being hooked. The decision when to strike depends upon what the angler wants from his sport, what he is fishing for, the type of bait being used and conservation. If the rod is lurching seawards and is in danger of being lost then a strike is essential, if the rod tip is nodding continuously its likely that the fish is already hooked.

The actually strike can vary from a full blooded sweep of the rod to just tightening the line. Line stretch at distance of course reduces the amount of movement at the hook end of your tackle and some sea anglers even run backwards during the process to increase that movement. Reeling as you strike can also prove more effective, but beware of striking too hard, especially at short range when it may test your tackle and knots.

Let’s look at the best striking technique used when some of the most common UK species.

COD: A relatively slow bottom dweller with a large mouth, invariable swallows the hook when a bait is left on the sea bed. Powerful rod pulling bites are generally after the fish has hooked itself. Slack liners from codling can be most difficult to hook and the answer to them is patience. Take up the line and only strike when the fish pulls the rod tip down.

WHITING: Difficult to hook on occasion, this small predator attacks baits in numbers with some tremendous rod pulling bites that are easily missed, especially in slack tide. More fish are hooked when fishing in strong tide because the fish have to swim to stay still to eat the bait, when it is engulfed they relax and the tide drives them back on to the hook. Short snoods and neat (small) bait presentation and a wired grip lead definitely improve the hooking rate.

BASS: A fast feeding predator that rarely swallows the hook because the bites are so positive. Be near your rod when it takes off. A bony mouth, so a large, sharp hook is essential.

DAB, SOLE, PLAICE AND FLOUNDER: Often flatfish nibble and pluck at the bait, but invariably once they take the bait they are hooked because their mouth is far smaller closed than open. There is in fact no way to prevent flatties swallowing the hook. With hook removal often fatal even with soft wire hooks. For the conservation minded tiny hooks (8s- and less) can be removed more easily with a disgorger and with less damage than large sizes of 2 and above.

TOPE AND SMOOTHHOUND: Positive bites give the angler every opportunity to pull the trigger on this species which is why they are so popular and fun to catch. The tope is one of UK sea species that circle hooks are practical for , but there is a definite technique for striking with circle hooks and it involves a steady tightening of the line and not a full blooded strike!.

RAY: Invariably this species cloaks the bait causing the rod tip to tremble, later the fish moves off having taken the bait pulling the tip down, slacking the line or sometimes pulling your fishing rod over, Because of the way they feed ray are sometimes foul hooked outside of the mouth by a premature strike.

BLACK BREAM: One of the most difficult sea fish to hook because of their bait pecking and small mouths, use light tackle and line, small hooks, bait small and neat and be patient.

GREY MULLET: Mullet like the coarse fish have learned about hooks and line through being caught and returned, their more acute instincts in clear water also makes them shyer. A rule when fishing for mullet is never to strike by sight when you see a fish take the bait, always wait until the float disappears or the tip goes round!

DOGFISH: Infuriating to hook if you react to the bites, ignore them and they are more likely to be hooked, but not every time. Don’t move the rod or bait once a bite is spotted!

CONGER: The old school reckon a conger should be given time to take the bait, but this may allow it to swallow the hook and so striking early is recommended to avoid deep hooking.

STRIKING TIPS

Holding your rod with the line between the fingers you will be able to feel the tugs from the small species and it’s a fun way to fish. Experiment with striking and you will find that in a majority of cases catch rates are greatly improved by letting the fish bite for a few seconds before hitting it. Of course when using multi hook rigs to catch fish for the pot letting the fish hook themselves is far superior to striking every rod tip rattle!

Using braid line that does not stretch is a practical way to improve your bite indication but remember the lack of stretch amplifies the smallest nibble, so be patient and wait for a positive movement.

Alan Yates