Weed – some hate it and some of us love it. Either way it’s difficult to avoid as our lakes seem to be getting weedier year on year. Obviously there are plenty of venues that have little or none of the green stuff but most of the big target fish live in crystal clear gravel pits that can be like underwater jungles. Learning to fish in the weed is something that most anglers will benefit from either now or at some stage in their angling.
Nearly all my fishing over the past few years has taken place on weedy waters. The weed forced me to go through a steep learning curve regarding several aspects of my angling. For those of you who may be going through a similar process or will be doing so soon, here are a few things I have learned along the way that may, hopefully, make the journey easier.
The use of safe rigs is paramount at all times but, when fishing weedy venues, it is necessary to pay even more attention to this area. The likelihood of line breakage is higher owing to the abrasive qualities of weed and the damage it can cause your mainline.
Certain presentations are just not suitable in a weedy situation. I am referring to running rigs which, in open water, are among the safest but can become a liability in weedy situations. If the lead gets trapped in the weed the fish can be several yards from it and it will be nigh on impossible to put any pressure on the fish.
Lead clips, weak links or the Choppa Droppa will all aid rig safety whilst allowing you to fish effectively. Whatever set up you are using it is important to test it to make sure the relevant parts (leads or beads) release under minimal pressure.
When faced with a weedy situation I would much rather fish short than at long range. The further out you fish the more weed beds a hooked fish will have to be brought back through and the more opportunities it will have of diving in and locking everything up solid.
There are presentation advantages to fishing short too. At range it can be difficult, at best, to cast into little holes in the weed. Close in, however, fishing a tiny hole becomes a viable proposition and it is often possible to wade in and lower a rig into position. Similarly your baiting up will be more effective and accurate.
I don’t fish short every time. Say, for example, I’ve found fish in two different swims. In the first there are fish showing at 60 yards, but I’ve seen a few carp in the margins of the second. I’d almost certainly choose the second swim, as I will have a greater chance of landing one from closer in.
I use slack lines almost exclusively these days and I have found it a distinct advantage to fish with my rod tips high above the surface. I may have to put up with a few false bleeps on my alarms but the pay off is well worth it. The sole reason that I fish this way is so that, on the take, the Carp’s movement lifts the line up and out of the weed. With rod tips down low the tightening of the line pulls it down, through the weed, like a cheese wire. I want to keep as much line as possible out of the weed and high tips helps me to achieve that.
There are no long casts on the lake I am currently fishing. In fact, in the majority of swims 60 yards is past middle but, because of the heavily weeded nature of the venue, I use 3½lb test curve rods.
A soft rod is next to useless when trying to extract a weeded Carp so this is no place for a light set up. In the past I’ve had rods, that were supposedly 3½lb TC, that folded up like sticks of rhubarb so choose carefully. It is surprising how little pressure you can exert on a fish, even with a powerful rod, so something with plenty of backbone is the order of the day.
Every item of end tackle is going to be put under extra strain so it is important to make sure everything is up to the job. I won’t drop below 15lb (0.4mm dia) mainline for weed fishing and I use the strongest hooks I know (Chodda, Grabba and Claw) combined with a 25lb hooklink material.
Whatever end tackle you use my advice is to test it before using it. I wouldn’t rely on what it is claimed to do only to find out, to my cost, that it doesn’t live up to its billing.
Since tackling weedy waters I have dropped my usual lead size from 3½oz to 1½oz. With the lighter lead hooked fish tend to rise to the surface where it is far easier to keep them out of the weed beds. A big lead will encourage a Carp to stay low, in amongst the thickest of the jungle so are best avoided unless you set them to come off as soon as a pick up occurs.
I have found that the shape of the lead can also make a difference to the outcome of a battle. A dumpy lead will constantly catch in the weed so I always opt for a more streamlined distance shape, which pulls free with relative ease.
Finding spots is far easier with a bare lead than it is with a marker float. Once a spot has been located it is fine to put a marker on it but while searching for a drop a bare lead is less likely to get caught up. Again a distance shape is preferable as it can be pulled out of the weed and you can feel for several drops all the way back to the bank. Put a dumpy pear on the end and weed will gather around it cushioning the feel of it hitting bottom.
On a weed infested venue there will, in all probability, be areas that have so much weed in them that there is little chance of landing anything from them. Unfortunately these areas will be extremely attractive to the residents so there will be a great temptation to place a bait in them.
Please think about what you are doing. Have a plan for when you hook one and if you don’t think there is a good chance of landing a hooked fish don’t cast there.
I believe it is better to get my rig, spot on, where I want it rather than worrying that my presentation is hung up in the weed. Spots may be small and it can take an extraordinarily large number of casts to get the drop I am looking for.
I don’t concern myself unduly about all the casting though. Generally I have found that, when in weedy areas, fish are more settled. They seem to be far more confident than they are in open water and don’t tend to spook easily.
Get on the Chod
This is, by far, my favourite way of presenting a hookbait in weed. I have found it, not only the easiest, but also the most effective way of getting a bite in a weedy situation. There are many advantages of using it. I don’t need to find a clean hole in the weed, I can get rigs in the water with minimal disturbance and I can cast to where the fish are rather than where there is a clearing.
As my hookbaits are presented up in the water, on top of the weed I need not worry about being too accurate with my freebies. In fact I’d rather some of them were hung up in the weed, at all levels. It took me some time to gain confidence in this method but, unless I’m on a clear gravel patch, it is now my default tactic.
It can take some time to be confident fishing weedy waters but provided you fish sensibly and safely there really is nothing to be afraid of.