DON’T FEAR THE GREEN STUFF
While many anglers avoid weed, MATT RHODES reckons it can be the key to success – particularly on pressured dayticket fisheries like Cromwell Lake in Nottinghamshire
WEED. You love it or hate it, and most anglers seem to run a mile from the green stuff.
Yet the carp absolutely adore it, and very often you will find gangs of them holed up in the weediest areas of the lake.
There are several reasons for this. The cover it provides gives them a sense of security and there are often loads of snails and bugs that they can feast upon living on the fronds. Also, depending upon angler pressure, weedy areas can have fewer lines in the water and are therefore seen by the carp as safe.
Whatever the reason, carp spend a lot of time in weed. If you only target clearer areas you might have a long wait before the carp come to you.
There are several different kinds of weed in most gravel pits. The ones that the carp like best are the fresh longstemmed varieties, which might look
like a football pitch on the surface, but down below are caves and channels that the carp use to move around. The stuff that I particularly don’t like is blanket weed. This carpets the lakebed and can grow so thick that fish can’t move through it. Avoid it.
The tactics that I use depend on how thick the weed is. If it isn’t growing too high off the lakebed a light lead and chod set-up can work well, as the hookbait will come to rest on top of the weed, right in the face of any carp that swims over it.
However, once the weed is much taller a light lead can become a liability as it is likely to get stuck in the weed on the drop and never make it anywhere near the bottom. Now your choddy is likely to end up way up in the water, nowhere near the carp.
Now I go completely the other way and use the heaviest lead I can, often four or five ounces. This is fished on a Nash weed lead clip, so it ejects instantly on a take. A heavy lead gives a couple of advantages. First, it means that even when fishing over weed I can feel the drop, and second, it ensures that the lead actually gets to the bottom.
So, when faced with a swim where I can’t find any clear areas, how do I position my rigs? I look at the surface of the lake. Can I see any clearer areas or, in particular, channels in the weed? These are likely areas to target as the weed is going to be thinner here and it is important to fish along these routes that the carp naturally use. It might take me 20 casts or more, but I will keep casting at a spot, dragging in some of the weed every time. Eventually, the weed will start to thin out, as long as my casting is accurate enough. The spot won’t be free from weed, but it will eventually be clear enough for me to get a decent donk as the lead touches down.
In open water this constant recasting with a heavy lead would be the kiss of death, but in weed it matters less. The plants mask the sound and vibrations of the lead going in and it is surprising how quickly I have caught carp after all this disturbance.
There is no point in fishing in weed if you don’t have the confidence to extract fish from it. This comes with experience and using gear that is up to the job. By dropping the lead, the fish will tend to come up in the water and are much easier to keep moving.
Leaders are another no-no, as they simply pick up weed and make it more difficult to land fish, so I use rig tubing instead.
When I get a bite it is important to be on the ball and dictate the fight to the fish. Keep them moving by pumping the rod and walking back to bring them up to the surface and away from trouble.
If a fish should get bogged down then my first ploy is to put the rod down and wait for them to find their own way out. This might take 10 minutes or more, but believe me, nine times out of 10 the line will start moving and you will be in direct contact again.
As a very last resort, fisheries like Cromwell will have a boat available and the bailiff will help you deal with a weeded fish. I never fish a swim, though, where I think I will need the boat, but it is good to know that it is there as a back-up should the worst happen.
I use combi rigs made from a combination of 20lb fluorocarbon and 25lb Nash Armourlink for much of my boilie fishing and weedy swims are no exception. A size 5 Nash Fang X barbless hook balances a 15mm
“IT MIGHT TAKE ME 20 CASTS OR MORE, BUT I WILL KEEP CASTING AT A SPOT, DRAGGING IN SOME OF THE WEED EVERY TIME”
bottom bait and 10mm pop-up, but I like to mould a blob of putty around the knot to help turn the hook on a take. There is nothing complicated about this rig, it is just designed to sit nicely in weed and make it easy for a carp to pick up the hookbait.
Because I am using a fairly substantial boilie hookbait I rely on a spread of boilies to get the carp moving around and looking for grub. A kilo or two of boilies are spread around the rods at the start of the session and then I will top up with an extra handful after each bite or, if I have seen signs of fish, just to keep some bait in the swim. I don’t like to bait too tightly, preferring to spread the bait out to make it easier for the carp to find some of it.
I do like to soak the boilies in lake water for a couple of hours before putting them out. Fresh baits tend to take on quite a bit of water and if this is near weed they will take on the smell of the weed, by soaking them first they actually keep their smell for longer.
Fishing in weed might fill you with dread, but just think how much time carp spend living in it. They are used to finding their way through weed beds and locating food. I’ve caught a lot of good fish from weedy pegs that have been written-off by other anglers, not least one of my best catches ever.
Last season I had a real red-letter session at the high-profile Cromwell Lake in Nottinghamshire. At the time I was working as a bailiff on the lake and so had a good idea of the movements of the fish and how much pressure each swim was receiving. One thing stood out, peg 16, the weediest on the lake, was hardly being fished, yet there were fish showing in its water regularly.
Arriving for a 48-hour session on my days off, peg 16 just happened to be the only one free, so I literally ran around there with my gear, confident that I could be on for a few fish as they were showing out in front of me at about 60 yards.
Each rod took me 20-25 casts to get some of the weed cleared and to get the rig down, but it was worth it as the fish were soon back with a vengeance. My first bite resulted in a 37-pounder, which helped to demolish the weedbed and make it more fishable.
I then had mirrors of 39lb and 34lb. A 41-pounder was next up, followed by a 31lb mirror, a 31lb common, and finally the smallest of the session, a 28lb mirror.
By fishing two rods on the one spot I would wait for a bite on each before recasting, so as not to disturb the groups of feeding fish. This worked brilliantly and kept the bites coming right through the session.
So rather than avoid weed I absolutely love it and, crucially, so do the fish. Learn how to deal with it and you will catch more carp.
Tight lines alert me instantly to a take. I always fish like this in weed.
A lead clip jettisons the lead on a take.
Big leads are sure to reach the lakebed.