With the recent mild winters, there is now considerable weed remaining over winter, giving the angler no respite at all. Fishing in weed can be really soul destroying. Imagine winding in after a blank night to find the rigs covered in weed. Were they like that all night? Couple this with the fact that fish can often be found amongst thick weed and you can see the need for overcoming this phobia.

The first question is, do you actually need to fish in the weed, or can you fish beside it? Most anglers will try to find clear spots whenever possible and will concentrate upon these. The fish though will often keep clear of these open spots. If possible, I will always try and put one rod on a clear spot. You can think of this as your confidence booster, although many will be the time that this will be the rod which receives the least action. It also makes no sense whatsoever to fish in weed that is so thick that the fish cannot be extricated from it safely.

The first rule which applies to fishing in all weedy situations is to learn to cast accurately. There is no point in spending a considerable period of time learning about the swim and then casting a bait into it willy-nilly. Secondly, it is important to control the descent of the rig through the water. This is easy to achieve, but something that I rarely see other anglers doing.

Imagine this, when the lead hits the water on a tight line, it will start to swing towards the angler as it falls. This is helped by the tension of the line on the water surface acting as a fulcrum. So, for every foot the lead sinks it may travel another foot towards the bank. This is not a problem in open water, but just imagine how much weed the rig is likely to pick up on its descent. To overcome this problem is relatively straightforward. As the lead approaches its target, move the rod so that it is parallel with the bank. As the lead touches down swing the rod towards the lead allowing the lead to take up the slack line in the process. By varying the speed that the rod is brought forward, the angle and speed of the rig's fall through the water can be altered.

The next problem that we face is that the rig is likely to snag while playing a fish. This is at least partially caused by the lead, so I will always use a lead system which can become detached from the line. When fishing with inline leads this isn't a problem. I will normally use Nash leads, but will replace the inserts with those made by Korda as these are a little bit softer and give a better fit for the swivel. Alternatively, when fishing with a pendant lead, I will use either the Korda or Hutchinson lead clip. I do find that the Korda design needs to be cut back slightly to ensure that the lead clears when using light lines, but you will need to experiment with this yourself. When using paternoster rigs I have yet to find a system of safely removing the lead from the rig, because the angle of pull is reversed. I will deal with this subject in more detail later on.

Aquatic plants come in many forms, from relatively simple multi-cellular algae to reeds and water lilies. Each of these demands a different approach. Water lilies are one of the easiest types to deal with. Although they are rather tough, the bulk of the plant is limited to the water surface. Also, because the leaves block out most of the light, few plants will be found below the pads. If you are fishing at short range then it can simply be a matter of placing the bait between the leaves. At longer range it becomes more difficult to place the baits with confidence.

Masking the hook and rig becomes essential to ensure the bait lands safely on the bottom. The easiest way of ensuring this is to encase the whole rig in a small PVA bag. When fishing through pads I tend not to use too much bait in the bag as I want it to be as dense as possible to ensure that the bait reaches the bottom. A small helping of pellets is all that I normally include. The rig will have a dumpy (to avoid damaging the bag) running lead and short hook length to give me the earliest sign of a pick-up. As soon as a fish breathes at the bait I need to know, as the battle will be won and lost in the first few seconds. On receiving a run it is a matter of playing the fish hard and getting it out of trouble as quickly as possible. As with all weed fishing, this means using powerful gear to ensure that the fish can be played hard.

That's about all for this week. Next week I will look at the methods I use for fishing amongst other types of weed.