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The ultimate guide to fishing in silt
Why you should target the soft areas over rock-hard gravel…

With the majority of carp anglers favouring fishing over harder lakebeds such as gravel and clay, you might be asking: what are the advantages of fishing over silt instead? It maybe a lot harder to get the presentation correct with a softer bottom and admittedly it is a lot harder to dictate which silt is good to fish over and which is bad, but there are far more advantages as to why you should fish silt over gravel.

Firstly, with the majority of anglers popping up their marker floats at the first sign of gravel, these areas are fished day-in, day-out and become very pressured and the carp can often avoid them as they associate them with danger. With fewer anglers fishing in the silt, this means less get caught there so they feed with greater confidence.

All waters contain a good head of natural food and silt is where the carp are most likely to find it compared to a clean, rock-hard gravel spot. If you choose your silty location carefully due to its condition, then you can often guess as to where the most natural food is. And where there is natural food, there is always carp!

One of the most commonly found natural foods in silt is bloodworm. Bloodworm beds can count for a lot of a carp’s diet and if you can pinpoint these areas and get a hookbait there, then you will often get action from that spot as this is a place that they naturally and regularly feed.

The truths about silt

Is all this folklore really true?

One thing that all anglers need to take into account is that all silt isn’t quite as it seems. The silt particles are incredibly lightweight and when the fish are feeding and moving they can often waft around and get disturbed incredibly easily. Never think that because your lead doesn’t seem to penetrate into a ‘glassy’ (we’ll talk about this term in a moment) silt area that there is no depth to the silt as this is totally false; all silt is a lot deeper than we expect it to be.

With the underwater tests (Below The Surface) carried out in CARPology, what anglers think is clean gravel is actually covered in a light layer of silt and/or weed. According to Rob Hughes – CARPology’s diver – more often than not, the so-called ‘clean’ gravel will actually have a layer of silt. So, if you’re in any doubt as to its depth, make sure that you lengthen your hooklink to be extra sure that your hookbait presentation is perfect.

Finding silt

How to pinpoint the best silty areas

Like with any other lakebed, there is never just one type out there. There is never just one type of weed; it’s never just clean gravel with no bottom debris; and there is never any one type and consistency of silt. Carp will readily feed in the correct type of silt but if you choose the wrong type you will often find that the fish will avoid it and won’t actually feed on it.

Some silts can be very smelly and pungent with lots of leaf litter laying around, whereas others can appear ‘glassy’ and ‘smooth’ when located with a marker rod and it can often come across far more odourless that its leafy neighbour. Locating these ‘glassy’ areas is the key to catching consistently in silt, as these are the far cleaner areas and the spots that are far more likely to hold any natural food. Here’s what to look for when using a marker…

Bad silt
When using the marker it is very easy to differentiate between more and less pleasant types of silt. When pulling your marker back over bad silt you will often find that it appears ‘sticky’ as the lead is penetrating into the leafy and smelly lakebed. The stickier the lead appears to be, the deeper the silt often is. When you have retrieved your marker from these areas you will often find that your lead has picked up black leaf litter from the lakebed. Upon examination of this you will often find that it has a very pungent and unpleasant smell. These are the areas you need to try and avoid and keep looking until you can find some cleaner silt.

Good silt
When locating the good silt, it is rather easier to tell the difference between this and the smellier stuff. When you pull the marker back across the better silt you will often find that it is far less sticky and instead your lead will often glide upon it like glass with very little resistance. This shows that this area is cleaner and the silt is slightly less deep. When retrieving your lead and marker, you should find that there is a considerably less amount of leaf litter and sometimes there will be none at all. When looking at any debris you do retrieve from these areas, you will often find that is smells a lot nicer and you can often pick-up small insects such as bloodworm. These are the areas you want to fish to as they hold natural food.

Spotting feeding carp amongst silt

The telltale signs to look out for...

Bubblers/rising debris: When fish are feeding in silt this often releases gasses that are trapped below and these will rise to the surface and often give the location of a feeding carp away. Also, when there is any debris and leaf litter around, these can often get dragged to the surface along with other silt particles.

Discoloured water: In shallower and clearer water you can often see it looking a lot dirtier and darker. This is because the light silt particles have been disturbed and kicked up into the water column.

Head and shouldering: Fish that are feeding deeply in silt often get large amounts of silt trapped in their gill rakers. In order to get rid of this, you will often see carp ‘head and shouldering’ above the water before going back down onto the spot to feed some more.

Baiting over silt

Because some baits work better than others

Baiting over a softer lakebed has to be done slightly differently in order to maximise your chances of a bite. Whereas it’s fine to fish round baits over a hard lakebed, with a soft bottom you’ll often find that the majority of these baits will sink into the silt. There are many different baits that you can use and there are lots of different ways that you can use said baits to ensure they are laying on top of the silt, giving you the best baiting situation possible.

Squashed boilies: If you are fishing at close- to medium-range then you can try squashing your baits before introducing them into the swim. Take your thumb and forefinger and apply a small amount of pressure until the bait appears to be flatter with a larger surface area.

Chopped boilies: Chopping boilies into pieces not only allows you to dictate the sizes and shapes of the baits you have laying around on the lakebed but it also increases the attraction released by the boilies as the firm outer skin has been broken. They lay lovely on top of silt, too.

Pellets: Because pellets aren’t a round bait - nor are they heavy - these also flutter down onto the lakebed very slowly. Try using smaller micro-sized pellets, as they will breakdown quickly and leave no food in the swim for the fish but a high amount of oil and attraction.

Particles: All particles are small, light and incredibly attractive to carp. The other great thing about fishing with particles is that they will keep the carp feeding and routing around for a longer period of time as there are many more food items for them to hoover up.

Dead maggots: There is always a place to use live maggots and silt is one of the places where you are best off not using them. To kill your maggots, place them into the freezer and this will then stop them from crawling off into the silty bottom.

How to stop your bait smelling

Thanks to Dynamite's Liquid Attractants

Regardless of the type of silt, they all have one thing in common: they have a tendency to smell and when your free bait is left laying in it for a prolonged period of time, that smell can slowly start to draw into the bait making them incredibly unattractive and unappealing to the fish. There are very few ways of getting around this problem but one of the best is to soak your boilies in a high-attract liquid glug. This will slowly leak off into the water and will stop the baits taking in the smell of the silt. The liquid should also stop the lighter coloured baits from staining and tinting from the dark colour of the silt.

To do it, simply grab a bottle of Dynamite Liquid Attractant (The Source version is amazing!) and a freezer bag. Place your boilies into the freezer bag, add a good helping of the liquid, inflate the bag with air, twist the open and give it a good shake to ensure all the boilies are covered. Leave them to soak, ideally for 12hrs, shaking the bag every 2hrs.

Let's talk rigs

So you’ve found the nice silt, you’ve prepared your baits up, you’ve got your boilies glugging and now it’s time to look at the rigs and components that you will need.

Unlike a hard lakebed where your lead and presentation will be sitting nicely on top of it, your lead and potentially your hooklink can often sink a considerable distance into the silt leaving many presentations useless. Getting your lead set-up and lead size correct can be the difference between blanking and having a red-letter day.

In terms of hookbaits, both pop-ups and bottom baits can be used in this situation and it is totally down to personal choice as to which one you use. If you find that there is a lot of bottom debris laying around the spot then you would be better to fish a pop-up hookbait in order to keep your presentation and hook free of any fouling up. If the silt appears clean and you have seen any traces of natural food (bloodworm for example) then it can prove far more effective using a bottom bait as this is presented exactly where the other food is.

Hookbaits: Critically balancing your hookbait can be incredibly effective as it will flutter down onto the lakebed a lot slower than a standard bottom bait and this of course means you’ll have better presentation.This means it will stay clear of the silt and it will also fly back into the carp’s mouth a lot easier than a standard bottom bait.

Leads: The lead choice is also another extremely important aspect of your rig with fishing in the ‘soft stuff’. Try to use the lightest lead that you can get away with as this will penetrate into the silt a lot less. Two popular and highly effective shapes are the dumpy pear and the zip-lead style. Try to avoid in-line leads at all costs as these will pull the hooklink into the silt.

Lead systems: Many lead systems (in-line and lead clips) are not suited to fishing on a silty lakebed because as the lead penetrates into the bottom the hooklink can often follow it. One system that is perfectly suited is the helicopter set-up, as this allows the hooklink to slide up the leader to the top bead out of the way of the soft bottom.

Hooklinks: Most hooklinks will suit this style of fishing apart from really stiff monos, as they have a tendency to stick up if the lead penetrated into the lakebed. A softish coated hooklink material such as Solar’s Easy Strip Hooklink is perfect, as is a braided version – Gardner’s Trickster being a fine candidate.

So to summarise:

Here are the key elements you need to remember when targeting the silt areas on your lake…

1 Although the bottom may feel quite hard, nine-times-out-of-time they’ll be a layer of silt on top.

2 There are different types of silt and you want to be targeting the ‘glassy’ type. Ignore the ‘sticky’ stuff.

3 Large, heavy, round boilies will sink into the silt, so try using lighter baits.

4 Glugging your freebies will help prevent them taking on the smell of the silt.

5 Rigs: never use an in-line set-up and opt for the lightest lead you can get away with. Ideally you want to increase your hooklink length by at least two-inches.

6 It’s often a good idea to use a balanced hookbait to help it settle on top of the silt.

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