Tom Maker runs through his tactics for fishing in silt, during a recent session on the notoriously shallow, super-soft bottomed Sitch Fishery where even a drop is hard to feel!

Tom Maker runs through his tactics for fishing in silt, during a recent session on the notoriously shallow, super-soft bottomed Sitch Fishery where even a drop is hard to feel!

I have to admit, the vast majority of the waters that I fish are gravel pits and as such the bottom is very firm almost everywhere. If you are fishing silt on the Linear complex for instance, it’s never too deep and doesn’t require much in the way of rig alterations to help you fish over it effectively. In stark contrast to this, ancient meres and estate lakes tend to be almost completely covered in silt. On these types of venues, you simply have no choice in the matter, you have to fish in the stuff and as such your tactics need to be tailored to suit the harsh and unforgiving environment.

First of all, it is easy to be scared of such a prospect, but there really isn’t any need. The carp of silty lakes will be more than used to digging through the silt and certainly won’t bat an eye lid at feeding on your bait within it. However, it is important the fish can find your bait and rig.

During a recent session I was faced with silt fishing, but to the extreme! For anyone that doesn’t know, The Sitch is a lovely old lake located in Shropshire and I was lucky to be able to jump on there for the day whilst being in the area for work. The lake is famous for being extremely shallow and silty, the combination of these two factors are incredibly challenging to get your head around. There’s so little water and so much silt, you cannot get a drop in most areas of the lake, your rod tip almost locks over, like when you cast into thick weed! But of course, you haven’t, it is so difficult to wrap your head around, yet the rewards are certainly there to be had.

The first thing to address is your rig, it’s no good casting out a six-inch rig like I would on Linear and hope for the best! The rig and bait would be long gone, buried deep in the silt, well out of the carp’s eyesight. There’s two different ways you can fishing in silt, the first is to use a Helicopter rig, with a fairly long hooklink. By pushing the top bead up the line or leader, you can ensure it falls on top of the silt rather than in it. The other way is to still use a lead clip system but use a long hooklink, 12 to 14 inches is a good starting point. It’s worth noting both of these methods are best used with a light, dumpy-shaped lead. The light lead doesn’t plummet into the silt as far as a heavy one and by using something less streamlined like a dumpy pear or flat pear, the shape slows its travel down and means it doesn’t sink as deep as a distance style lead.

I also pay careful attention to my hookbait too. I see a lot of people using pop-ups in silt but I have found much more success using slow sinking bottom baits. It has to be something to do with the fish’s line of sight, as they bury their heads in the silt munching through the bait, a pop-up would look rather alien I imagine. For my session on The Sitch, I used a Manilla Active bottom bait tipped with my old faithful, half of a Peach & Pepper pop-up. This combination is perfect and has accounted for numerous fish over the years, plus it suited my baiting approach as well.

When fishing on silt, I always want the feed to be sat on the top of it, just to make sure the carp can see it. With this in mind, I use half boilies, which flutter down to the bottom and land perfectly on the top. The bottom is so soft on The Sitch that whole boilies can fall too quickly and become smothered by the debris. Therefore, the half baits play a big role in ensuring the bait is in the carp’s line of sight. This is also further exaggerated by the use of Manilla Active, the pale colour is obviously the polar opposite to the colour of the lakebed, making it stand out from a fair distance. The only time I would use something different, would be if bird life is a problem, in which case I would use a darker bait like Krill Active or smaller feed. Due to the Active coating on the boilies, they also provide instant attraction to ensure anything in the area hones into the signals instantly!

With my spot decided I put my rods out and put a few Spombs of bait out over them. As I knew I was off at the end of the day, I didn’t want to overcommit to it and just gave them half a dozen spombs along with some Cloudy Liquid added in for good measure. Although the lake is shallow, I didn’t see a thing during the day… you’d think if the carp were there, especially in shallow water, you’d see some signs but the only time I knew there were fish there was when the bite occurred! As always with shallow water, it felt like a good fish from the off. Anyone who has fished a super shallow lake before will know how the carp tend to fight, they can’t go down, or up, they can only go away from you! After a few powerful, but deliberate runs, I was convinced I was attached to one of the better fish. As it neared the boards of my peg, its shoulders broke the surface and immediately confirmed my thoughts. I shuffled a deep, creamy coloured mirror into the net and looked down on my prize. Considering how tough this year has been to get out fishing properly, I was chuffed to bits with the result. It turned out to be my first forty of the year and hopefully, not the last!