I love tench and I love them for many reasons too. For me they are the most strangely attractive fish that swims in our waters. Dark greens to black and golden yellows are all set off by that bright red eye, which I for one cannot look at enough. Not only is it what they look like that makes me love them so much, but what they stand for. It's simple! They are the banner men of summer. Carp and bream can both be caught all year round but old tinica tinica disappears over the long cold winter. Sure a rare one gets caught in the cold but most stay hidden in slumber. I have read numerous old tales where savage winters and constant ice have destroyed entire lakes by suffocating all other fishes except tench. Their survival seems always attributed to their supposed habit of burying themselves half in silt and mud. Lying dormant until they are the only ones who remain and then the tench phase of that lakes life cycle can begin.
With the fishing season long gone I always turn at this time towards my old favourite the tench, which on a few select lakes dominate. My first foray onto another pit last time out was in my opinion a little premature, and resulted in a failure which dented my confidence momentarily.
I have a grand plan for the summer and for this grand plan to stand a chance of working, the rigs I use must be honed fine as fine can be; the venue for my summer plan takes no prisoners and any bites must be converted at all costs. So not only am I using this official off season to get in some well appreciated tench fishing but I am also getting used to these new rigs and practising fishing at range, which is another must on this new venue.
The sand pit looks great. A lot of the banks have been cleared over the winter but soon enough the brambles will be again hindering casting. The wooded bank is my destination and I knew even before I got here that the wind would be blowing right to left, coming in from the north east. The tench in this lake seem to feed well in certain areas when the wind whips up the lake, so I settle on a swim that allows me to cast right to the start of the ripple which will hopefully carry the scent of my bait across most of the lake.
I am not baiting a big patch in the hope to get a horde of ravenous tench on it. Instead I am probing fishing small patches of bait tight to my hook bait, using the theory that a group of fish may chance upon it as they saunter along the top of the bar I am cast upon.
Low and behold it works and my first run of the day starts with a single bleep before the alarm goes wild and the spool spins out of control. At distance everything feels massive for a moment but soon enough it turns into a pretty standard size female of around 3lb.
Over the years I have fished this water I have realised there are two distinct strains of fish which only differ in one way; colour! There is no size or shape difference, just colour. The dark green fish and the washed out fish. Why there should be these two different I can't fathom. I originally suspected two differing stockings, but they seem to be all ages of both strains and of both sexes. The split does seem weighted more in the favour of the dark fish, but the differing strains still remain a mystery.
Chuffed that my rig is working, I cast again back into the general area and soon after the other rod hurtles off identically to the first. A single bleep, then beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep!!!
This hookup ends badly when the fish throws the hook in my right hand margin. Perplexed I repeat the ritual to cast again. I was right to be perplexed! The next two come off as well and doubt now creeps in over these new rigs. With four runs and only one converted into a fish I rack my brain for the fault in the rig and how it's going wrong. Luckily the bites tail off and gives me enough time to think about the problem.
The penny drops when I realise that every fish has been lost as I apply side strain to stop them getting into a snag to my right. There is nothing wrong with my rig, it's when that rod goes low that they come off. Instantly I see the problem: I am using a self hooking rig with a short hook link and a barbless wide gape hook which has a shank not much longer than the point. It is almost a circle with a piece missing. When I hold the rod low it reduces the amount of hook point penetrating, so when the fish turns it can flip the hook off quite easily.
The answer is simple; keep the rod up at all costs thus keeping the hook embedded as deep as possible. This itself we all know is easier said than done as when a fish dives into something you have to try and pull it out. To stop this issue is stupidly simple. As I am fishing at range, time is on my side, so I simply steer the next fish into open water whilst its out in the lake by pulling towards the snag, which automatically sends them other way.
It works a treat and the next three fish hit the net with total confidence and everyone becomes a winner.
Although most of the fish are a little under the average size it would seem the past winter has done them no harm as every one is in perfect condition.
The last fish of the day comes as I linger as we all do on the bank. All my kit is packed away apart from both rods and the indicators on which the rest and my net which is next to them. I stand between the packed and unpacked willing a rod to go off one more time.
Just as I reach for the left hand rod to go the right one beeps then squeals...
5.9lb is a bit more like it.
This is a stolen session no doubt. With crappy weather coming in later in the weekend, Friday is designated a day of gardening. First I dig and construct two new beds at the end of the decking where a super kitsch row of privet are to separate wood from grass, before planting a neighbour-blocking pear tree to complete our mini orchard. Then I help Jacky plant a few other things before diving into the huge pile of reclaimed wood destined to become raised beds, which I hope will be done soon enough for them to be filled with earth and planted with my autumn favourites, pumpkins.
All that done and I drop the bomb. "You won't mind if I nip out for a short one would you" ........ "Thanks B. Any chance you would drop me off?......"
Turns out my lack of moaning and hard work paid off, because within the hour I was back in yesterdays spot and the same rigs sploshed in at range.
My luck at getting out was not however reflected by the weather. The wind had swung round and now a freezing wind chills me and the lake from the north west.
Luckily I did hold and release one small female back into the lake, but after that the only action seemed rather half hearted.
Saturday there was no fishing as my good friend Rob came down from the Cotswolds. Himself a keen angler he was quickly roped in to come back the next day with me to hang out and act as camera man.
I could not believe my luck, the same swim was free and I knew Keith had fished it the day before and bagged a load of fish. Three days worth of bait was enough to get me walking a bit quicker than normal to get it.
This time I had brought some red maggots just in case the tench didn't fancy the bigger boilies. Same spots, same ground bait, but two different hook baits to feel them out with and I stood and waited. Something under the water had caught my eye on my last visit. Unable to resist I got the net in hand I grubbed around until I scooped it out.
The first year I fished this lake I spotted one of these carving up the bottom as it headed off into deeper water. This ones moving days were well behind it but it was full of bloodworm and some other unknown creepy crawlies. What did amaze me, was what had caught my eye was in fact the pearlescent patch in the centre of the shell and the sheer size of it. Alive this thing must have weighed over a pound.
My first run did not take long to turn up and the ripping run and hefty bend in the rod initially indicated a possible bigger fish. Half way in I realised it was in fact one of the crazy crew.
Great big fancy black fins and an attitude to match. Yep two pound maximum of mental case male tench.
Four more followed. The first two falling to the maggot bait then as the day warmed the boilies became the winning bait. Again though the fish seemed smaller than average, but in great condition. It took time for the bites to materialise but when they did it went exactly the same way every time. Single beep then onto a screaming alarm and spinning reel, then keep the rod high and in they come. After that initial spell of doubt I now know this rig will be coming along for the summer campaign on the harder venue as it works a treat.
After Rob chipped off back into the hills, the lack of sleep from the previous night's fish-talk took its toll, and I nodded off in my chair with my hood up. I must of looked hilarious to anyone watching when the right hand rod melted off. I went from asleep to awake instantly and for what seemed like an age my feet failed to get purchase on the floor in a rather comical way. It's a pity Rob had left as I know it does make him laugh when I am not concentrating, get a run from nowhere then and end up diving at the rod in some stupid manner!