Over the period of a year I have been in a fairly unique position of fishing a lake that allows boats, but you must cast to your placed markers because there is a no towing out of hook baits rule. The water clarity is normally good, so it was possible to find your rigs and hook baits sitting on the lake bed. This really opened my eyes to a number of things and made me think about a few aspects of my fishing, especially when I’m in a normal fishing situation without a boat.
Firstly, I was surprised to see how obvious some rig components were out on the lake bed in a fishing situation. When I first started fishing the water I was using gravel coated leads that had been made up for me specially to match the lake bed on my previous water. The coating was made up of mainly pale greys and browns, but the gravel bars on my new water had a much more of a yellowy/brown tinge to them. So when I was drifting about looking over the side of the boat through a glass bottom bucket, the lead was always the most obvious thing when sitting on gravel. I experimented with a few colours to try to blend the lead in and make it less obvious to the fish. I did find a colour match for the gravel, but these leads stood out when the rig landed in the light silt or fine weed at the base of the gravel – it wasn’t a problem in the deeper silt or weed because the lead was buried. So I settled for a darkish brown speckled lead, it didn’t exactly match the gravel but it just looked like a darker stone and was much harder to find on the bar than the first leads and it blended in on the dusty light silt areas as well. I then started to pay more attention to the colour of my lead core, switching between a light brown sandy coloured one for fishing over gravel because four feet of straight dark line was quite obvious from the boat. I was still fishing the darker more traditional coloured one for fishing in silt or weed. The hook link material was changed to blend into whatever I was fishing over and so were the lead clips. It got to a point in my last couple of years on there that I stopped looking for my rigs and just tried to search out my hook baits because that seems to be the most visual thing, although I can make out the rig in shallow water once the bait has been found.
Another surprising thing that I learnt is where the lead can end up on the bottom in relation to where it hits the surface. What I tend to do on the lake is visually find a feature using the boat and then mark it up using an H-block marker. I then return to the bank and cast next to the block, but what I have found is that the lead very rarely travels vertical through the water. If a heavy lead hits the water with pace on a slack line it can travel up to six feet or more forward under the surface until it hits bottom or the density of the water saps the kinetic energy out the lead allowing gravity to take over and its then that lead will drop straight down. But I have found that the most common problem is the lead coming back to far under the water, a number of things can cause this. If you are clipping up to the spot and hit the clip too hard the rod will compress and the mono will stretch slightly, but once the initial energy has been absorbed the rod will straighten and the line will contract causing the lead to spring back under the water and it will fall short of the mark. The other major factor to consider is a cross wind, the bow in the line on the cast caused by the wind can bring the lead back a long way. This is exaggerated the further out you fish and the deeper the water. If the lead is sunk on a tight line with the rod in the air the bow will increase as the lead sinks bringing it back towards you and again this can make the lead fall well short of the intended target. The best way I have found to combat the problem and reduce the bow is to let a little bit more line out of the clip than I would normally do in calm condition and cast the lead on a lower trajectory keeping the rod tip low to the water but still at a 90°C angle when the lead hits the surface and then follow the lead down with the rod tip until you get a good touchdown. It takes a bit of trial and error with trying to work how much extra line to allow in any given situation and sometimes it is necessary to cast slightly past your maker on really windy days to counter act the bow, but it is possible.
One situation sticks out in my mind when I had to cast with a strong side wind to a small spot of around three feet square, about 90 yards out, the most frustrating thing was that it was a blustery day and the wind speed kept changing. Which caused some accuracy issues but the biggest problem was how much of a bow the wind put in the line I must have had 50 casts at that small gravel area amongst dense weed, but every time one landed on the right line for the spot I would go out in the boat and find that it had either fallen short of the area because a big gust of wind had caused a huge bow or the wind hadn’t caught the line as much as expected and with a relatively straight line the rig had over shot the spot. When I finally did hit the spot I managed to pull the lead off the area whilst trying to take the bow out of the line. After I felt the lead touch down on the spot I frantically wound down to straighten the bow before it settled on the water and crossed over the other rod and as soon I felt the slack was taken up I stopped winding, but even though it was a four ounce lead and I barely felt any resistance the tension it was enough to move the lead in the strong wind. On the spot I could just see the drag marks and the lead had disappeared into the weed. I lost patience in the end and fished a choddy in the weed and suffered a blank as a result!
If I land the lead to close to the float I sometimes follow the rod tip down with the lead to ensure it drops fairly straight and alongside the marker. What I mean by this is when the lead hits the clip or is feathered down into the water on the cast I hold the rod vertical and as the lead descends, I slowly drop the tip but keeping in contact with the lead until you feel it touch down on the bottom, otherwise the lead will come back towards you in an arc which is exaggerated in deeper water, although I do use this to my advantage when I over shoot my marker slightly by keeping the rod vertical allowing the lead to come back towards me slightly. I have actually pulled the rod tip back when I have cast a few feet to far so that the lead comes back a long way on the decent to make it land in the correct place, but it does take a lot of guess work to make it land in the right area and I wouldn’t be to happy doing this if I wasn’t going out to check it was where I wanted it. This can help straighten the rig out nicely but I have to be careful if there is weed around because it is easy for the hook to catch the stands and ruin the presentation before it hits the bottom.
I always try to feel the lead down on a tight line and feel for a touchdown. When I feel the lead on to the lake bed it gives me some idea of what I am fishing on, if it cushions down or I don’t really feel it hit the bottom, the chances are I am in dense weed. If I get light touch down and the slight bend in the rod springs back slowly I assume I’m in silt and if I feel a solid thump or ‘donk’ transmit up the line as the lead hits the lake bed then I know that I have hit a hard bottom such as gravel, clay or sand, but it’s not as fool proof as I previously thought. I have felt the lead thump into the lake bed on a few occasion, but once I have gone out in the boat and looked over the side I haven’t found the rig sitting proudly on the gravel as I have expected, I have instead discovered that the line is disappearing amongst some strands of stringy weed or I have seen the hookbait caught up in silkweed and rendering the rig a lot less effective than if it was sitting on a clean hard bottom.
On both these occasions I have felt the donk because the lead has landed on a hard bottom but has gone through the weed to do so. This happens a lot more than I previously thought and in a normal angling situation when I can’t visually check the lie of the rig I would never know. It’s made me realise that an extra bit of plumbing work in a normal fishing situation is well worth the effort, just so I know exactly how big and how clean the area I am fishing is so I can ensure my bait lands on the cleanest part of the area and is fishing effectively.
Another subject that finding the cast rigs by boat has made me consider is how the rigs lie in the water. In the past when I was fishing in a normal situation I had just assumed the rigs would be sitting nicely on the lake bed away from the lead and lead core and stretched out straight or just with a slight bend in my hook link, but this is rarely the case. As I look back in my diary I can see a note I made that illustrates the point. I had two rods out in front of me with good presentations on a clear spot.
The first rod is on a stiff coated braid which was sunk on tight line with a static rod because I over shot the marker slightly, it has come to rest in a perfect location with the braid kicked straight out from the lead, but the stripped back part has folded back on the coated section and the bottom bait is settled alongside it. But I can see in the shallow water that the hook is unimpeded and not tangled, so it’s not a perfect presentation but still a very good one. The rod that was next to it was a pop up, it landed in a good area on the shallow plateau, but I could see that the hook link had got twisted around the lead core possibly in flight and the pop up is hard on the bottom as the hook is trapped under the lead core making it near on impossible for a Carp to become hooked on it. I wound the rod in for a recast and the tangle had come out in the retrieve, so without the aid of the boat I would have been unaware of the tangle and would have not fished effectively on that rod. This happens more often than I realised in the past and is something I am very conscious of when I am fishing other lakes without the use of the boat. I know I can’t check the rigs in a normal situation but I take every precaution to ensure it doesn’t happen. I watch the rig in flight to ensure there is separation between the lead and bait; I feather it down before it hits the water so that the rig is propelled forward and I sink it on a tight line to stop the hook link and lead core coming together. I still can’t be 100% sure that I am tangle free but I’m happy that I have done all I can.