Fishing along the edges of weed beds from a boat can produce great fishing. But boat placement is imperative. It usually involves the use of two anchors, one at the bow and one at the stern to hold the boat in the best position for casting.
Anchoring a boat at one of the corners where a channel cuts into the weed is a prime spot. This allows the angler to cast up the channel and retrieve along the edge of the weed, and casts can be made along the face of the weed bed in deeper water.
Using a floating fly-line or bubble-float when spin-fishing, cast out along the edge and retrieve a nymph very slowly. The idea is to pull the nymph along, parallel to the bottom without lifting it up in the water column.
Try a Bloodworm - again fished off a floating line or under a bubble-float, but this time pull the worm up towards the surface, and then pause to let it sink, and repeat.
Nymphs and snail patterns that are fished in the surface film or just under it work well at certain times of the year. A sign that trout are feeding this way is usually the sight and sound of a trout sipping down prey from the surface. Use the longest leader you can handle, coat the leader with line floatant to about half a metre from the fly, cast out and retrieve at a snail’s pace, pausing the retrieve often.
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On long weed beds around headlands or in bays or inlets, drive the boat deep into the weed so the stern is parallel to the outer edge of the visible weed. If you are worried about getting weed around the prop throw the anchor deep into the weed and pull the boat in.
Then if 12 o'clock is straight out from the stern use a fan-casting system. Cast parallel to the weed bank to 9 o'clock, then 10 o'clock, through the clock face to 3 o'clock and repeat.
I reckon float tubes were invented to fish the edges of weed beds. Quietly finning along on a calm day is one of fishing’s most pleasurable times.
My first introduction to float tubing was on Lake Otamangakau. It was a magic experience – fish were working all round me and I even managed to catch a few. Toward the end of the day I learned a new trick.
It was getting near time to go, so I decided to slowly meander my way back to my car by slowly finning along the edge of the weed. I left my nymph out in the water, trolling along behind me, (well actually in front of me, I was going backwards), when a good trout monstered the nymph. Towed me quite a long way before I netted and released it. (As an aside – if you invest in a float tube – invest in a long handled net – and a 44 gallon drum of insect repellent!)
Twice more on the way back, I hooked up. Great idea for the terminally indolent like me.
Fishing weed beds from the shore can be very profitable, just as it can be when fishing from a boat. But you may have to be prepared to move about to find fish, and more importantly, to find areas where you can fish.
The easiest weed beds to fish are those along areas where the lake bed drops sharply, as this means the weed beds are usually narrow, and therefore easier to cast over. Other good areas, from the point of view of the shore-bound fishermen are those weed beds that are regularly intersected by channels.
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Using a floating fly-line, or a bubble-float when spinning, cast over the weed bed at the shallowest angle possible so you can retrieve the fly as parallel as possible to the outside edge of the weed.
Quick Tip – Weed Whacking
One of the more frustrating things about fishing in or near weed is the fact that you hook up on the stuff so often. Instead of pulling hard on the line in a steady pull that only seems to accumulate more weed, try this.
Grab hold of the line near the stripper guide (that is the guide nearest the reel, Bruce) and with the rod held at arm’s length pointing at the hook, and the hand holding the line as near as possible to the rod, pull back very sharply on the line. Very often this will cut off the weed, leaving the hook weed-free.
Be prepared for some action. It is amazing how often the fly or lure gets hit just after this weed-whacking manoeuvre. It may be that the movement in the weed attracts trout.
If fly-fishing use a big indicator or, where legal, a cork on-line float such as ‘Little Corky’. The key is to keep the end of the fly-line as vertical as possible above the fly, so that a slow retrieve will keep the fly moving parallel to the bottom or moving up and down as near to vertical as possible.
An alternative to this – when fish are feeding near or on the surface – is to use a big dry fly with a small unweighted nymph hung off the bend of the hook.
If fish are feeding on the surface a dry fly can produce good fish. Don’t be afraid to drop the fly on the edge of the weed, even resting on the weed itself. If there is a visible fish about, often just pulling the fly off a piece of weed into a patch of clear water will provoke a strike.
Channels formed by streams or other run-off entering the lake often form breaks in the weed banks. The bottom contours, gutters and the like, can form areas of deeper water where weed will not grow. These channels through the weed beds can provide the easiest fishing option for shore-bound fishermen.
If you can get into a position where casting out nymphs or baitfish flies along the edges of the weed and slowly retrieving them is an option you should produce fish. So can dry flies dropped near the weed, and retrieved with a 'twitch and let sit' pattern.
If the bottom of the channel is clean enough a [Booby fly] is very effective.
Very often there is an area of clear mud or sand between the land-side of the weed bed and dry land. This clear strip may be only a metre or so wide, but it can just as easily be many metres wide.
Trout regularly patrol this clear water, picking off the various nymphs and bugs that crawl or swim to dry land to change, and the small baitfish that often feed there on wind-blown plankton. The methods for fishing these beach areas are covered [here].
Grip and Kill
The way a trout is held when taking a photo, (aka 'Grip and grin'), can easily turn into 'grip and kill' if the fish is not handled carefully and correctly.
The area above the pectoral fins, (the fins just behind and below the gills) contains the fish's heart and other organs; too much pressure applied to this area can lead to the fish's death.
For the full story on releasing fish with best chance of survival:
The Dance of the Desparates
One thing my Guide friends moan about their clients is what happens immediately a fish is hooked.
You can see this time and time again, on the water or in videos.
The fish is hooked and immediately the angler raises arm, hand and rod to point vertically above his or her head.
Now what? There is going to be trouble right here in river city!