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Silt Fishing Explained - Text Only
Luke Vallory gives an in-depth explanation to how he adjusts his lead set-up, rigs and bait choice depending on the type of silt he is fishing.
Silt is a build up of leaf and or soil sediment over a number of years. Even if the lake has a clay bottom, there will be a layer of silt sitting over it. Some lakes differ to others, with some being extremely silty. These are often shallow, sheltered lakes that have a murky tint in coloration to them.
Others, such as gravel pits will have a build up of silt at the back of bars, around large weedbeds or even under snags or bushes. The reason why silt is perhaps more favourable than other areas of the lake is the amount of natural food it holds, but it can offer some presentational head aches when it comes to how to set up to fish effectively over it.
Quite often after finding a silty area that I am looking for, I will reel in Bloodworm. Now carp will naturally harvest any area that is producing plenty of bloodworm and will be back regularly for more. Fish feel a lot safer feeding in the silt, burying their heads right into it searching out every bit of food they can.
I would always prefer to fish in the firmer silt as opposed to the really soft stuff, but I will explain how I combat each type as we move on. Firstly, to locate the type of silt that I will be fishing over, I attach a 2-3oz lead to some braided mainline. Then I make the cast, trapping the line just before the lead hits the water, lifting the rod up and feeling the lead go down through the water. Once it lands on the bottom, I will have a good idea as to how soft it is. The harder the thud, the firmer the silt will be.
Some lakes that you fish, you will find that the lead hits the bottom before you even have a chance to feel it go down. This will mean the lake is very shallow and perhaps quite silty. If the bottom does feel soft, lift the rod tip in the air and feel if the lead lifts up off the bottom easily. If it takes a bit of effort to actually get the lead up and moving this is certainly a softer area. If it is really soft, it will actually feel like you are snagged in some weed.
Sometimes it is worth carrying a selection of various lead sizes with you. A 1oz lead will inevitably fall through the water much slower than say a 4oz lead would. If you are struggling to feel it down, change the lead around and see if it helps. For an actual fishing situation, I always try and use the largest lead that I can get away with. However, if the silt is really thick, I will use as lighter lead as I can get away with.
Once I have found the area or spot I want to fish, I will attach an old rig and cast that on to the area. Give it a little pull and reel it in. This will give you a good indication of what debris may be sitting on the bottom. If it comes back clean, you may be able to get away with a bottom bait. However, if the rig hooks on to some dead leaves or even twigs, a pop-up will certainly be more effective.
Sometimes there is no option but to fish the soft silt, or you may have seen the fish feeding there, which is certainly not out of the norm. The way I would approach this situation is totally different to the way I would fish in the firmer silt.
The first thing to consider is the lead system and how it is going to sit when it lands in the soft bottom. Personally, I believe the helicopter rig is absolutely perfect for this. The lead can plug into the silt and the rig will be above this, before settling down slowly. I mentioned slowly and that is a key part to any rig fishing in the silt.
I am sure that if you cast a straight bottom bait in the thickest, blackest silt, you may still get a bite, after all, that is their environment and they will eventually find it. However, just to keep my mind at ease, I like to fish a slow sinking pop-up over the top of it. A heavy bottom bait has a chance of burying in the silt and be out of sight.
Whether it be on a chod rig or a hinged stiff rig, both suit this type of fishing perfectly and will always sit above the silt. One thing I always do with a helicopter set up and especially one used in conjunction with a chod rig, is use a shocker sleeve as a buffer. This has reduced the amount of hook pulls that can happen with the chod rig.
I tend to fish a brighter pop-up, mainly to stand out from the natural, dark lakebed. I always carry both Signatures and my favoured The Krill pink and whites. I always like to have an option of both a fruity and fishy pop-up, as some lakes respond better to one or the other.
A white pop-up will stand out brilliantly over such a dark bottom. It may seem too obvious and the fish will be able to work out which is the hook bait, but for whatever reason it’s such an effective way of fishing and has certainly done me well in the past.
If I was to fish something like a hinged rig, I do lengthen my hook link. This will ensure that no matter how deep the silt is my bait will remain on top of it. I also use a fairly supple hooklink to allow it to appear more natural on the bottom. A stiff hook link has a small chance of sitting upright out the silt and it may become obvious to the fish.
The nature of these types of rigs will dictate my baiting to be slightly different than if I was fishing a harder bottom or a particular spot. I tend to fish boilies and spread them around too, making the fish move around for each bit of bait as opposed to being fixated on one spot.
With my boilies I like to use a mixture of sizes and even chop a few up, which will leave the baits sitting on different levels of the silt. A half bait will flutter down and gently nestle on top of the higher layers of the silt. As opposed to a larger say 20mm bait going straight down to the bottom due to it being much heavier.
I like to give my boilies a bit of a kick too with some liquid. The fish wont be feeding on sight for the freebies, they will have to use their senses to pick up the smells and tastes in the water. I like to add something like the Pure Krill liquid or L-Zero 30-T to the boilies, which will let off loads of fishy attraction and entice the fish to dig around looking for each bait.
If the spot was much firmer, giving a harder ‘donk’ on the rod tip when I landed the lead, I would know that this is my preferred firmer silt. In this instance I would use a leadclip set up. This is my preferred set up as I think the rig works much better, offering a much more effective bolt rig presentation.