Off the Lead with Nick Burrage

NICK BURRAGE extols the virtues of fishing a bait popped up off the lead and how it can improve your chances when fishing for feeding carp in deep silt.


We’ve all had this situation – fish are fizzing up like a Jacuzzi in a deep-silt area and we sit there willing the rod fished hard on the lake bed to ramp off. The bobbins remain motionless and we normally chalk it off as a loss. Fishing a chod rig that sits above the silt can work, but often the chance can go and the fizzing ebb away with nothing to show for our keen watercraft.

I have fished many silty meres over the years and I have had plenty of time to formulate a plan when fish are feeding in the deep silt.

It all stems from years ago when we used to fish long hook links and microwave boilies to create a pop-up. You would cast out a pop-up until the bait took on water and slowly sank. We caught fish both instantly and after several hours when the bait had long sank, suggesting that it would work in two ways. Over the years there are situations where I reverted to this ‘off the lead’ method, and when the situation dictates it can be a real winner.


Nick alters the length of his rig based on the height of the
weed in the area; this ensures the hook bait sits proud of 
the weed.


Nick Burrage – Shropshire carper Nick is a technical angler
who has been carp fishing for years and has some interesting
methods that he uses to catch in tricky angling situations


I first started using it when fishing for carp patrolling in the silkweed or silt. I am a big advocate of fishing where the fish are feeding, rather than looking for a gleaming feeding spot nearby. Having watched fish feed over weed and deep silt I was able to gauge how this off-the-lead approach would work where many other rigs would fail to get me a bite. On one occasion I decided to cast out my off-the-lead setup in the hope that it would get me a bite. Fish were sending up plumes of bubbles in long tracks and it was clear that there was more than one carp feeding, which always improves your chances.

Nick steams a curve into the top two inches of the rig before
he casts it out



Through experience fishing silty meres in Shropshire, when fishing for carp that are rooting around in the silt they are up to their gills. A chod-rig-style presentation sits above where they are feeding and a bottom bait would get buried too easily. This is when my long-link pop-up comes into its own. I am trying to target the fish that are swimming through the cloud of silt that has been generated from feeding. The carp will be picking small items of natural food out of the cloud. It’s like the carp equivalent of a natural sloppy spod mix. The fish will also let their guard down when feeding in this way because they aren’t used to a hook bait being positioned in this manner.

When fishing in weed the rig also came into its own. Where many anglers would try to find a clear spot near the fish, I would cast this rig out right among it. I began to follow a specific process to ensure that my rig would be presented as best as possible. Firstly, I would cast out with an old rig and measure the weed stems to gauge the rough length that my hook link should be. Then, depending on the type of weed, I would decide whether I wanted to present a pop-up off the lead or fish a wafter hook bait. A wafter has to sink super-slow so that it settles on the first piece of weed it hits. It will sit like a bauble on a Christmas tree, prime for a pick-up.

A buoyant pop-up is ideal for this rig but Nick has had success using slow-sinking wafters
over weed


Unlike if I were fishing a zig rig, the shorter hook links allow me to use heavier-duty gear, namely fluorocarbon hook links and size 6 hooks. This drastically improved my hooked-to-landed-fish ratio and allowed me to fish safely in weed, something you couldn’t do with an 8lb hook link on a zig rig.

The rig couldn’t be simple either. A 10-turn knotless knot to a size 6 chod hook is at the business end. I like to use the soft fluorocarbon rather than the stiff filament-style hook link. This allows you to fish with a wafter hook bait and let the rig lie across the silkweed much nicer, improving its presentation. A simple D rig with a micro ring swivel completes the rig. As an addition, I like to put a slight curve in the top three inches of the hook link. This helps the rig turn when taken in by a fish and really improves the hooking potential of the rig.

Lead setup is down to personal preference but I have found that a lead clip works well for its ability to dump the lead should it come into contact with and obstacles. This also means that the lead can sink into silt or weed and still allow the hook link to fully extend, unlike, say, an inline lead, that would plug in swivel first, pulling the link further into the silt.

Soft fluorocarbon and a size 6 hook, the ideal combo for this rig.


I have caught carp from the UK on local meres along with successful trips to France where the fishing was tricky, to say the least, and it has performed brilliantly. I always strive to improve my results and this rig has easily achieved this.



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