Fishing in weed

Weed in lakes is a mixed blessing. One the one hand, it provides a perfect natural larder, offers cover for the fish and as a result can often making location easier. However it makes presentation of your hook bait harder, and playing/landing fish much more difficult. 1) Where to fish
The usual advice is to get the marker rod out and cast around to find clear spots. This is fine in fairly thin weed but can be really frustrating if the weed is thicker. It’s also not that reliable as the marker might be in the clear, but just a foot to either side you could be landing in weed. Another method which I really like is to just put a lead on the rod you will be fishing with. Cast it to the area you are interested in and pull it back until you are happy that you are in a viable area. Clip it up, and make a note of the exact direction by finding a spot on the horizon as a marker. Then wind in, and have a practice cast to check where you are landing is ok. If so, wind in again, tie a rig on etc, and cast to the spot. Sometimes you will not find any clear spots, but provided the weed is not too thick it doesn’t mean you cannot fish in the area. Fish are quite capable of finding baits in weed, so it’s still worth fishing, but  you might need to re-think your rigs a bit.
2) How to fish
The obvious first hint, is to make sure you use adequate tackle to move the fish through the weed when hooked. Start by making sure your rig system is safe. I use the standard lead clip system, but only just push on the tail rubber. I also use the smallest lead I can get away with. I want the lead to come off on a take, so the fish will come up in the water as soon as I strike. Make your bait as buoyant as possible as it enters the water so that it drops slowly to the lakebed and rests on top of any weed. Three good ways of doing this are to put some dissolvable foam around your hook, use a pop-up, or put a small PVA bag containing a combination of boilie bits and mixers on the hook. I also like to use a longer hook-length than I do for open water fishing, anything up to 12 inches(30 cms), and use baits on the larger size, say 18mm or 20mm.
One final hint, when I’m fishing in weed is one of the few times I am a fan of diving wild fowl. There will be times when the nagging doubts will creep in… is your bait in the clear? Can the fish find it? If the birds can find it, so can the fish. So if a coot, moorhen etc. dives and attempts to get you bait, don’t curse and wind in, say thank you and leave it, a big carp might be next! 
Finally, forget the free spool facility. You do not want the fish to get up a head of steam as it bolts for freedom. You want a clutch setting that makes it hard for the fish to travel any distance, without you loosing your rod. Have a short drop on your bobbin, and try to hit a take ASAP. 3) How to play a hooked fish
Once a fish is hooked the trick is to keep it moving. Keep the rod high, and do not ease off. If the fish gets it’s head down, your chances of landing it are severely reduced. It might not look like it at the time, but a fish crashing around on the surface, is less likely to come off, than one you loose contact with in thick weed.
One of the key mistakes is to pump a fish as you would in open water. The change in pressure gives the fish a chance to go deep and the problems build up. If I have the option, I’ll walk backwards rather than lift and lower to wind in. Some fish will make it into the weed, but all is not lost. It’s amazing how often fish will swim out, if given the time. Put the rod on the rest, open the bail arm and give it time. If it works and the fish starts to move off, let the fish take a bit of line, then close the bail arm, wind up the slack, and put on a lot of pressure.
Once you’ve played a few fish in weed, you get a feel for it. You know what your gear can take, and you know when to push it to the limit. There will be times when despite your best effort, the fish will get the better of you, but that’s fishing.
One final point … It is likely that you will have wound the line on the spool under maximum pressure, so before re-casting to your chosen spot, have a cast past where you are fishing so you can ease the spool pressure, and check the line lay etc.
Some time ago Jules wrote an article called, if I remember right, “Don’t fear the Weed”. It’s a perfect summary for what I am saying. Weed can make your fishing harder, but if you learn to cope with it, it can also be your friend.
Good luck with your weed fishing.