How to Catch Carp in Weed
Ian Hirst looks at one of the most challenging problems of all of those that confront the carp angler – how to be successful when fishing very weedy waters.
It’s at this time of the year, when venues have become totally choked with weed and the first frosts have not kicked in to start to knock it back, that the carp anger can be faced with his or her most serious challenge. By late summer weed is often at its densest and it can totally consume many waters, making them ‘unfishable’ and by this time many anglers will already have moved off looking further afield for ‘easier to fish’ venues.
If you are one of the anglers that think that way then don’t worry, you’re not alone I used to think the same, and many anglers still do. Now, however, I love fishing weed-infested waters; let me explain my madness...
Firstly lots of anglers avoid fishing in weedy lakes, or indeed weeded up areas of any water and that works for everything from small ponds to big pits. When fishing in these often neglected areas it can sometimes seem as if you have the water to yourself and I’m sure we all adore that feeling, away from the madding crowds, and that’s what fishing’s all about to me and it’s these secluded areas that scream out carp to me, they are unpressured sanctuaries.
At this time of the year, when angling pressure has been intense throughout the spring and summer, the carp are really on their guard and they often become far more difficult to catch. Location is one of, if not the, biggest factor in carp fishing so if your local water has areas of weed that may at first seem unfishable then this is almost certainly where you should be looking for those telltale signs of fish activity. You will find them wallowing around in the safety of the weed laughing at the poor carp angler who lacks confidence to even attempt to wet a line in this no go area of the lake.
Having located your quarry the next job is how and what to feed.
My recent successes have come when fishing in fairly dense blanket weed at long distance. The water I’m on is fairly shallow, averaging around four feet, with shallow margins so it’s a long cast job, which can often lead to fishing blind. Putting a marker rod out will obviously help to locate any clearer areas but let’s assume that it’s solid and you’re fishing in weed, as I am.
Long range fishing can often mean a loss in accuracy for the average angler and I don’t class myself as super accurate at the bigger distances, when your giving it the big one with a shock leader and a large solid PVA bag I am happy to get it anywhere in ‘the area’ and by ‘the area’ I mean the baited zone.
I like to attack a swim in a really positive manner, there’s no point in dripping in bits and pieces when fishing a weed-infested lake, it just doesn’t work, visual attraction is reduced as lots of baits disappears into the weedy abyss.
My approach usually sees me mix up a ten litre bucket of bait which will usually comprise: a 2.5 litre pouch of Bait-Tech Parti-mix - it’s loaded with different sizes of ten different particles including pulses, hemp, tares, etc and these really get the carp grubbing about. I also put in a couple of cans of Bait-Tech’s flavoured sweetcorn, flavours tend to be a personal thing but my advice is to take off the blinkers and try new flavours, don’t restrict yourself. Scopex flavoured corn gives off a really sweet scent which carp love but vitally important is the visual impact that’s required when fishing in weed.
Bait-Tech halibut pellets are also included in my mix with half a kilo bag of two or three different sizes go in the mix, usually 4mm, 6mm and some 8mm. I want the pellets breaking down and releasing their oils and flavours into the water column to continuously draw carp to the baited zone and different sized pellets obviously give different breakdown times, although water temperature will determine the actual speed of breakdown. Even when the pellets have completely broken down I am amazed how often carp will return to the area to search for food items.
Another pouch or a couple of cans of Bait-Tech’s Superseed hemp, either chilli or aniseed, are added to bulk up the mix, and remember lots of these particles are not visible to the carp when fishing in weed and this is one of the reasons I like to use the flavoured variants - to increase the pulling power of the bait; I also chuck in half a can of ‘Growler’ tiger nuts. The final addition is flavoured oil and the one I have been using latterly is the Bait-Tech X-Cite tuna flavour.
The oil soaked mix is left for as long as possible to absorb all of the scents and flavours from the various baits and I like the X-Cite tuna oil to work its way in to the whole mix, the longer you leave it the more the other oils from the hemp and halibut pellets start to work their magic, making the mix even more potent.
It’s at this point you can add your chosen boilies; I crush mine up before adding them to the mix, thereby helping to release their flavours that bit quicker. I like to use frozen readymade boilies and the amount of food type baits you introduce depends on the length of your session.
With the mix prepared and allowed to soak I then set to work with the spod rod and blast it out to the spot via a spod or Spomb; make sure you put plenty in, 20 plus spods is ok for starters.
Next it’s out with the throwing stick I like the Nash Cobra design because they have a loading hole on the handle for speed and ease of filling, they also make them in three different lengths, each available in three different diameters; if you are fishing at distance go for the longer length stick with a 20mm boilie. I will usually introduce around kilo or two of boilies to start with, spread over and around the spodded area.
Having blasted out the spod mix and used the stick to get a good spread of boilies it seems natural to present the hookbait in amongst a similar, separate pile of bait that looks no different to the free helpings, and here lies the secret.
I put a separate bucket aside and into this goes my solid PVA bag mix; it’s important that the bag is packed as tightly as possible to both aid distance and to stop the lead moving in the bag, as this will cause it to rip through the PVA, especially on a big chuck.
Into my PVA bag mix goes: Two bags of 2mm Special G pellet, a bag of salmon fry crumb - this enhances any bag mix as it’s not only a proven big fish attractor but it also helps to fill all the gaps around the pellets - I also add some Special G groundbait - not a lot but a liberal helping - I don’t want to be casting a PVA bag of groundbait at the carp but want a mix that will soak up the X-Cite Tuna Oil that also goes into the mix and will then release the tuna oil over a period of time, enabling the carp to home in on my bag mix. Once I have added a dose of the tuna oil I give the mix a good stir.
Quick tip: If you’re fishing in deeper water, say eight feet or more, add a second bag over the top of your PVA bag to ensure it gets down through the weed before it starts to breakdown.
As far as tackle requirements and rigs for weed are concerned I employ 3lb test curve rods with strong main lines - and for me that means 15lb minimum, and more often than not I will use 20lb fluorocarbon. To this I attach Diffusion Camo Leaders and attach an inline lead drop-off style, with the leader running around the outside of the flat inline weedy coloured lead. I also add a couple of pieces of Kling-on weed-coloured putty to the leader to help it sink down that little bit quicker.
One other point here is that you need to crush down the end of the swivel that slots inside the inline lead, so always carry a pair of pliers. I use a ring swivel with a quick release clip so I can quickly add a braided hook length, usually a short three inch one. You don’t want a long hook length as you then run the risk of it tangling in the bag and when the fish picks up your hookbait you want it to immediately feel the weight of the lead; the exact weight of the lead you use depends on the distance you are fishing and the size of the bag you are using.
I like to start with a large, perforated bag and I use the Fox Rapid loading system as it’s the quickest method for loading a PVA bag and the twist and lick system does away with having to tie them up with bits of pva string or tape. Once completed properly it’s 100% secure, the last thing you want is to punch out a large PVA bag that’s taken five minutes to load and tie up, only for it to explode mid air like a firework.
The beauty of this method is that the large and heavy bag will bomb through the weed and, once settled, will burst open leaving a pile of fish-pulling goodies with your baited hook sat right amongst them.
I tend to use a snowman hookbait presentation; I like the way it sits up so the carp can see it easily, and I like a fairly long separation of hair from the hook so the bait can sit up unhindered with the hook then usually covered by a layer of bait. It’s also a very flexible presentation as you can use various combinations of different-sized baits and colours, in both your boilie and pop up.
I tend to use either an 8 or 10mm Bait-Tech hi-viz fluoro pop up for visual attraction and I carry both the Sweet Coconut and Pineapple Squid flavours, both are excellent fish attractors but try experimenting with different colours and see which one works best, you will be surprised, certain colours can work best on different days.
An important point to note is that when fishing weed you need to set your clutch or Baitrunner tightly as you do not want a fish to get a head of steam up and into the weed before the fight even begins. Apply the same principles you would if you were fishing to snags and you won’t go far wrong – so it’s a solid set up and sit on the rods!
With the set up described the lead will discharge immediately on the take and because of this you are immediately in direct contact and the fish will tend to do most of its fighting near the surface and, with no lead dangling around, there’s less to tangle in the weed.
If the fish does weed you up just be patient and apply steady pressure and eventually the fish will usually come free; remember you are fishing a heavier set up than ‘normal’ so you can apply a bit more pressure than usual.
Apply these simple principles and you can extract carp from swims you never dreamt of fishing previously, remember it’s all about confidence!