A Guide to Carp Fishing in Weedy Waters

by | Advanced, Carp |

Weed, love it or hate it, you’ll find it in some form in almost all of the waters you are likely to fish for Carp in. It can be something you fear or something you learn to love and the best waters usually contain plenty of it. In this article I will talk about the types of weed you’re likely to encounter, how I approach weedy waters and how to successfully land carp from such waters.

My angling this spring has focused on two venues, both gravel pits, one in Reading situated next to the M4 and the other in the beautiful Oxfordshire countryside. Whilst these are very different waters, they are both clear and extremely weedy. The types of weed you will encounter are likely to differ from lake to lake, according to the time of the year and the substrate of the lake bed. Knowing what type of weed you are facing should influence your angling approach.

The lake in Oxford started relatively clean but the algae took hold quickly, creating plenty of false indications of good clean areas to fish as you would still feel a firm landing as your led hits the bottom. The Potamogeton followed and reached the surface before being destroyed first by feeding activity and then by spawning.

In contrast, my Reading water suffered from Silk weed in the shallow areas due to the un-seasonably warm February we had, this was quickly followed by eel grass which seems to like hard areas where Canadian pond weed will not grow. The Canadian was not far behind and seemed to take up most of areas not already occupied. By June, many areas of both lakes are heavily weeded and accurate fishing is essential.

Potamogeton on the surface in May

Types of Weed

1. Canadian Pond Weed

Canadian pond weed is one of the most common types of weed found in nutrient-rich clear water of the UK’s gravel pits. It can grow to the surface in most lakes and creates thick beds that the carp can tunnel through in complete safety.

It is usually slow to develop at the start of the year but can take over as we move into the summer, making areas completely un-fishable. As one of the most common types you should try and become accustomed to fishing on and around it. I say “on and around” because I tend to avoid fishing in it, preferring to find areas I can present a bait (more on this later).

A handful of Canadian pond weed

2. Eel grass

Eel grass is a fast growing grass-like weed which will appear in the early spring and usually out grows many other varieties of weed. It can be extremely deceptive as leads will fall freely through it giving a good ‘drop’ (indication of a clear bottom) and a smooth pull, but presentation can be very tricky.

Carp love eel grass, as it usually contains food such as snail eggs which you will find anchored to its stems. On a recent session I was fishing a relatively clear area behind a band of eel grass, it was smothered in snail eggs and every morning and evening I would get violent liners.  The weed brought in when retrieving my rigs smelt strongly of carp, confirming they were patrolling regularly through this band of weed.

3. Low Lying Types – Silk Weed and Filamentous Algae

These can be very problematic and you must know when you are fishing over them. They often give no indication when checking the area with a lead and may not come back on the retrieve, but they can certainly hinder your presentation if fishing a bottom bait. I try to avoid fishing in these types of waters where ever possible as they can move and wrap up your rig, leading to poor presentation.

On the flip side, they are also a great hiding place for the carp’s natural diet, so if you are able to present effectively over them you can be very successful. You will also often find these types of weed growing on top of other denser weeds such as Canadian, effectively bundling the whole lot in to a solid mass you could almost walk over.

A bed of Eel Grass

4. Potamogeton

This is a tall fast growing weed which produces leaves on shoots from it’s main stem. Usually flowering pink and white once it reaches the surface, it creates a dense canopy for the carp to move through. It is easily uprooted and will often form rafts when disturbed by the carp. Fishing around Potamogeton can be a great way to find sheltering fish.

Lillies and Reeds make great features for fishing next to. Often found in margins, they provide cover for the fish and can be holding areas. Lillies particularly are like a magnet for carp and you will often see them rustling as carp move through slowly through them. You should take care when fishing near pads, as some types have large root systems rising off the bottom and can create severe snags.

There are many other types of weed you will encounter, far more than I can name or have time to list here but suffice to say carp love them and fishing effectively around them is essential.

Onion weed, often found in shallow water on gravel features

Feature Finding

This is basic but absolutely essential and easy to get wrong, so I will talk through my approach. Understanding what you are fishing over will tell you not only whether it is an area worth fishing, but also how you should present a bait, the substrate will often define my lead arrangement and rig choice.

You will need:

  • A heavy rod – I use my spod rod and only carry one for leading and baiting. I find a stiffer rod gives a better sensation and allows you to strike the weed off the lead if it becomes clogged.
  • A big pit reel loaded with braid – This is essential, no stretch means much better sensation.
  • A shock leader – I use 20lb amnesia, many use braided versions.
  • A distance lead – For checking general areas of the lake bed without gathering too much weed.
  • A grappling lead – To check smaller areas carefully once identified as possible fishable spots. These are commercially available now but can cheaply be made from a sea fishing grip lead and a zip tie.

If I am starting without any idea of the topography but have an idea of where I want to fish, I will cast around my desired area with the distance lead, to check how the lead lands and whether I can get a smooth pull when dragging it along the bottom. After doing this a few times you will quickly become familiar with the sensation fed back by the resistance encountered.

It is important to draw the rod back once the lead has hit the water and you have trapped the line to ensure the lead is falling at a good speed on a tight line as you lower the rod, this will amplify the indication.

Do this slowly as you can completely miss small areas by moving the lead too fast, if it feels smooth clip it up and re-cast to check the drop. Once you have an area giving a good landing and smooth pull along the bottom I switch to the grappling lead to check that all is clear. This will bring back samples of what is on the bottom, showing you whether there is weed, clay or even food items like bloodworm on the spot.

If you get a smooth pull with the grappler you’re on the money!

Putting the grappling lead to use – essential to my angling

Fishing on and in Weed

If you cannot find clean areas all is not lost, in some situations plumbing like this may destroy any chance you have of catching, especially on short sessions. In these instances it is essential to know what you’re facing and you can fish either in or over, depending on it’s severity.

Heavily weeded areas choked with Canadian can be a great bet for a long running choddie – if you cannot get a drop or you feel the lead falling through the weed try to check the length. You can do this by retrieving it on the grappling lead and measuring from root (these are thin white stems and will be growing from the black end of the weed) to the tip.  If you fish your Choddie with the top bead longer than this, you should be presented.

Canadian Pond Weed root stem

This approach can be deadly if the fish are moving over the weed. Be cautious of tightening your line in this situation, you need everything to lay gently over the weed.

Areas of lighter weed can be assessed in the same way, if you have sparse Canadian or low lying silk weed a choddie or low popup will usually present perfectly well. If baiting with small light items such as particle, maggot or boilie crumb it will carpet the weed nicely.

Both methods have resulted in good results for me, whilst I would always rather be fishing a clean area sometimes you have to make do with the best that’s available and as long as your rig is presented you’re fishing!

A carpet of Canadian, a choddie can work very well over this

General Tips & Advice

Finally, a point on landing fish in heavily weeded lakes. Carp are experts at avoiding capture and even once hooked will try to shed the hook at all costs. They will bury themselves in the weed making it all but impossible to extract them and it can take only a small obstacle to prevent you from losing them.

As an example, in early April this year I lost a fish which ran along the bottom and kited around in an arc picking up clumps of algae in its path. I was completely unable to move it from the bank but the following day from the boat nothing substantial could be seen, once you’re not in direct contact you’re unlikely to force them out.

You will need to make sure your tackle is up to the job, use a good main line, 15lbs+ mono or heavier braid (if allowed) to cut through the weed. You will find mussels and abrasive items as well as line snags from other anglers within the weed which can easily deprive you of a fish landed.

A rod with a good test curve is essential, 3lb or over to give you some control over any fish hooked I would suggest. You should also fish with a tight clutch, if the fish can run freely, it could already be far too late by the time you pick up the rod. In short, consider it similar to snag fishing.

A mid 20 from this year which required the boat to land after burying itself in a weedbed

If you find yourself playing a fish that manages to ‘weed’ you, first I would try to maintain pressure. If the fish kicks from the other end it will often come free given time. Don’t pull so hard you pull the hook out or harm the fish, it’s easy to panic and there’s really no rush.

If after a time I cannot break the stalemate I’ll put the rod down with a slack line and loose clutch, if the line tightens it’s probably still there and you just need to wait for it to start moving again.

If all else fails, I would call the bailiff for help with the boat, once above the fish they come out easily and are often ready for netting. There are instances where the fish will swim away when allowed but just stops at the same point when retrieved. This usually means it has gone behind something and you cannot pull it around it. In my experience, these situations will end with a loss unless the boat can be deployed.

I would never pull for a break if the fish may still be attached, you don’t want to leave the fish tethered or trailing tackle and you shouldn’t put that sort of strain on the fish (consider you might pull 6-8lbs through the rod when bent but easily 15-20 when pulling straight to break the line).

Hopefully this has been of use, weedy waters should not be intimidating and you can usually find a presentable area, in fact it can narrow your choices making it easier to locate areas of feeding activity. Paying attention to the environment you’re fishing in will improve your fishing no end.