Many carpers find the thought of fishing in silt a tough proposition, but does it really need to be? What can you do to make it easier? Autumn sees a lot of debris or ‘chod’ enter the water as trees lose their leaves and start to rot down into mulch, which can drastically affect bait presentation and often makes the difference between catching fish or having a blank session……Soft mud or silt can cause similar headaches for those anglers who are not sure on the best way to combat the problem or achieve good presentation.
The first step (and often overlooked) is to realise that you are actually fishing into silt or bottom debris; this is achieved by using a marker float set up or at least ‘feeling a lead down’ onto the lake bed. When cast into silt, a heavy lead often ‘unplugs’ when initially retrieved, and is then felt to glide across the bottom until it contacts a different surface, such as gravel, which may result in the lead ‘tapping’ over the small stones. The lead may smell ‘muddy’ when brought to the surface, and, at this point, it’s important to remember that fishing into very smelly silt isn’t a good idea, as it rarely holds food items. ‘Clean’ silt, which does not stink, is much better as it often holds bloodworm and other items of food guaranteed to attract fish. By attaching the marker lead to the mainline with a doubled length of white wool, it is even possible to estimate the depth of mud into which you are fishing as it will discolour on contact with the muck. Obviously the wool may not take a huge cast, so be careful!
Once the presence of a soft lake bed has been established, what is the best way to fish and get the best chance of a bite? To start with, some anglers will say that if there is food within the silt, that is where the fish will be most active, so the hook bait should be buried as well; using heavy leads and short hook links in this way takes an awful lot of confidence for some anglers, so I’d like to consider other methods of presenting the bait.
The ‘chod’ rig is used by many anglers, but why is it so effective? Using an extremely short (2-3”) hook link, which is then trapped loosely between two rubber beads some way behind the lead on a lead core or other leader, allows the weight attached to the end to dive into the silt. This then leaves the hook bait exposed on top of any obstructions as it runs back up the leader. Designed to be used with a ‘popped up’ bait, it lends itself very well to fishing in unknown depths of mud, as it can be adjusted to suit conditions and put a bait lightly on top of the ‘chod’. (Lake bed debris).
Lighter leads are the second option; a 1oz lead (or less!) is, obviously, not going to sink into the mud as far as a 3oz lead. Using a dumpy pear or even a flat lead presents greater surface area than a distance bomb so will also penetrate less deeply and will not drag the hook bait into the silt. Coupled with a longer than usual hook length, this can be the perfect answer. Correct hook link length can be ascertained by using the above method (white wool) to attach the marker lead and adding a few inches to allow the hook bait to rest clear of the silt.
The use of PVA is now a primary part of any carp angler’s armoury, so it makes sense to use it in this situation. A single nugget wrapped around the hook can slow the fall of the hook bait through the water to leave it sitting nicely on top of the debris. Better still, place 3-4 nuggets in PVA mesh as you would to present freebies around your hook bait, then nick the hook through the mesh a couple of times. When it hits the water, it will hold the hook well clear of the bottom for a few seconds as the PVA degrades, then lets the hook sink slowly to the lake bed; perfect! This works especially well when combined with a stiffer or combi-hook link as it will ‘kick’ the hook away from the lead as it settles. A solid bag set up is worth thinking about too as it will settle gently before melting away.........
The ‘snowman’ or critically balanced hook baits will also slow the rate of descent of the hook, so using a bottom bait topped with a pop up can often prevent the hook being pulled too far into the muck. It is important to test this set up in the margins first so you can be sure it is working correctly. The bait should just sink to the bottom and come to rest gently on top of any obstructions leaving the hook clear of debris.
When putting free offerings over your baited patch, think about what you are trying to do; if your hook bait is clear and resting exactly where you want it, then it is better to use lighter baits to surround it and draw fish into the swim. Using heavier boilies or bigger pellets will result in them sinking into the mire away from your baited hook; using particles such as hemp or corn will allow you to build a bed of attractors close to your bait as they will not sink.
I’ve watched carp buried up to their gill plates in silt searching for bloodworm and other titbits, so in that situation, I would have no problems using a ‘normal’ rig to put the bait deep into the feed area, but like most other anglers, I prefer to know my bait is clear of any debris in a an area where my target quarry can see it! Using some of the hints listed above, anyone can fish in silt, so why not give it a try? You may be very surprised at the results!
Clint Walker, Oct 2010 ©