Scott Sweetman - Fishing In The Silt
Scott Sweetman explains why he prefers to fish in the silty areas and how he gets the best from targeting these often neglected zones.
Silt is the build up of sediment and detritus that sits on the lakebed and usually home to an array of natural food for the carp to feed on. The fish know exactly where these areas are and will often migrate to these zones to feed on the natural larders, often feeding with much more confidence and aggression than they would on those glowing gravel patches, that are more commonly fished by anglers.
Locating these silty spots can be quite tricky, as some of the best areas can feel quite soft when you’re feeling the lead down, and many anglers often completely neglect these areas because of the softer drop. In my experience, this can be a huge mistake and it’s therefore important to really take care in your leading work to pinpoint these perfect spots within the silt.
When leading for these silty zones, I like to use a pronged lead, attached to a marker or spod rod, which has 20lb Korda Marker Braid spooled onto the reel straight through. The braid offers no stretch, so you’ll be in direct contact with the lead, allowing you to feel exactly what the bottom is like.
I then cast around until I get a positive drop (firm but not a crack) and then gently drag the lead back and if you get a nice, smooth glide through the rod, that usually confirms you’re in the silt. If you land on gravel, you’ll receive that ‘tap tap tap’ sensation on your rod tip, as your lead bounces over the gravely shingle. When I find gravel spots like this, I try to locate where the gravel ends, and the silt starts, so will cast around the area to find where the silt meets the gravel, as this can often be the perfect spot.
There’ll likely be many areas on the lake like this, so locating the more productive ones is where the challenge comes in. This is where experience and watercraft come into play. Keeping eyes on the lake as often as possible to localize the carp’s location is always going to help you. Try to pinpoint the areas you see them show most frequently, or the areas you often see them bubble. I use binoculars all the time in my fishing to look for the smallest signs of fizzing and bubbling, which again, can give those prime spots away when the rest of the lake seems devoid of life. First light is a brilliant time to look for feeding activity, and you’ll often see them ripping up the silty bottom at dawn, before rolling in the same area to clean the silt from their gills.
Once I’ve localized a feeding area, that’s when I’ll get to work with the leading rod and find the perfect spot. As mentioned above, I like to use the Korda Probe Lead for my leading work, as the probe’s will help me identify exactly what I’m fishing over and there’s always a chance of bringing in some of the natural food. If you’re finding bloodworm on your lead, you can guarantee that’s what the carp are feasting on and that zone if well worth your attention.
When I do lead up on lakes that are predominately silty, and feel the same all over, rather than just drag the lead across the bottom, I like to try and wind quickly, flicking the lead up off the bottom and then feel the drop again, all the way back in, where I’m looking for slightly firmer drops where the carp have recently fed - I feel you can learn more like this than by just dragging the lead across the lakebed.
I use a variation of leads when leading up, usually starting with a bare textured lead, with the textured coating helping grab any silk weed or other debris that could be on the spot. It also helps pick up any smells; that black, foul smelling silt I’ll try to avoid. Once I’ve got the drop I’m after and happy with the spot, I’ll then switch to the Pronged Lead, which can be a real eye opener. You may think the spot is clear, but after dragging the Pronged Lead through, you could end up bringing twigs or weed back. So, for peace of mind, especially if I’m committing to baiting an area, I ensure that the Pronged Lead pulls back through the spot nice and clean, so I am 100% confident of what I’m fishing over.
Spots I would say to avoid would be the ones where your leader, lead, rig or hookbait is coming back stinking or tainted, this says to me that those areas have not been fed on by carp for a long time, and consequently, the area has built up with decay. These areas could potentially be baited to see if you notice a change, which is a good way to tell if your area is being fed on, but I’d definitely be cautious at first with these smelly spots.
From my experience, some of the best times of year to be targeting the silt is through the autumn and into winter. I think this is due to a combination of factors. Firstly, those prime areas of fishable silt seem to be in the slightly deeper zones of the lake, so as temperatures drop, and we receive those first few frosts, it’s likely the carp will head to these deeper areas. Secondly, it’s through the autumn that the carp will really start harvesting on the natural food in the lake, as they look to build their bulk in readiness for the winter. These natural larders will be leaving amongst the silt, so will be continually drawing in hungry carp. It’s textbook autumn to see huge sheets of fizz in these silty areas, and over the years, I’ve had several good fish from fishing the silt in the October and November period.
A major advantage I think of fishing in the silt, is it disguises your end tackle when fishing for old, wary carp. The carp are a lot less pressured in the silt and are much more used to getting a free meal there. Rig wise, if the silt is clean enough, I would much prefer to be fishing on the bottom, whether that’s an IQ2 D Rig with a well waited wafter so its hugging the bottom or bottom bait straight out the pack, on a simple ‘Flipper Rig’. The reason I like to use a bottom bait when silt fishing, is the carp are used to putting their mouths right into the silt to feed so I don’t want something popped up above the silt where they could miss it. Moving to my lead set up, I always use a Heli Safe setup on Kable Leadcore if rules allow. With the helicopter arrangement, if the lead plugs into the silt, my rig can slide up the leadcore and I’ll still be presented, so by moving the top bead to accommodate the bottom, you can be sure you’re always fishing (the softer the drop, the further I will move the bead away from the lead, which can be anything up to 4ft)
When I target the silt, the bait I tend to use is boilies. I try and get a bit of distance between each bait to get the fish moving between picking up the baits which in turn, gets them hunting for your bait and often, easier to hook. I do like to add hemp and some liquids to my boilies if I am able to get away with pre-baiting, so all of that goodness gets ingrained into the silt. Adding plenty of salt into my bait I feel leaks into the silt, offering a lot of attraction for no real food value. By adding hemp to my mix, in theory, will take the carp longer to eat, meaning they’ll spend longer periods in my zone, as they hunt for the bait. Pre-baiting at least three days prior to your trip is perfect, so when you arrive in a few days to fish, you can be sure most of the bait will be eaten, but the carp will be returning to look for more. In the fishing situation, I’ll just fire out 50 or so boilies, aiming to get a quick bite, then when I leave, I’ll deposit another bucket of hemp to the zone. Fishing in this way, with just the boilie on your trip can lead to quick bites, and often hits of fish.
A great example of this was a good few years ago, when fishing Pingewood Lagoon in the early autumn, the week prior I had caught quite a rare old mirror known as ‘The Pearly Lin’ at 38lb, fishing in the silt at a certain end of the lake. After that result, as I was leaving, I found a nice little silt spot in a similar area of the lake, but in a neglected swim, giving me a better chance to get back in the swim a few days later. The spot itself was only a small underarm out, one side of the spot was gravel and it sloped off into deeper silt. At that stage, I wasn’t as aware of the importance of the silt, so I baited the seam, with some bait on the gravel and some actually into the silt. I came back to fish 3 days later, dropping straight in the swim and put one rod on the gravel and one on the silt no more than a couple of feet apart. Over the next couple of days, I went on to catch ‘The Pearly Lin’ again less than a week later, ‘The Croptail Linear’ at 37lb and a lovely mirror known as ‘The Leney’ at 28lb, with all the bites come off the rod fished in the silt, which highlighted to me the importance of fishing in the silt and how effective that can be.
Targeting the silt can be a really devastating method, if fished correctly in the right zones, the results are there to be hand and you can often get those trickier residents to slip up.