We all seem to be in limbo at the moment. As far the calender is concerned it is supposedly British summer time but the reality is that nature, like us, is a little confused about what season it is. Only a short while ago leaves started appearing on the trees as the sun shone, but after only the briefest possible time it stalled like a car with a wonky choke.
For me the time between the end of the official fishing season and the start of the new one is all about tench fishing and this year is no different. I cannot deny that I am catching but I have noticed that all the fish I have seen are still very lean and are not feeling inclined to get their heads down as yet. And this was again to be the case over this bank holiday weekend as I visited two different tench dominated venues.
It was the sandpit I pulled up at on Sunday morning and the sunny weather had me thinking it was perfect for a bit of it, as this lake too shines on a sunny day. I purposely fished an intermediate depth swim under the thinking that the near overnight frost may have seen them seek deeper water and that the early rising sun warming the shallows may cause a little migration. So what better place to set a couple of traps but on route from one to the other. I mean come on, we stop for breakfast on early journeys so why wouldn't a tench.
Early on in the year I stood back and thought hard about how I have fished in the past and came to the conclusion that this year my mantra would be to keep my techniques simple and quite honestly so far it has paid me back no end. With my tench fishing I have used only one rig so far and will continue to do so as it is working very well scoring in just about all conditions. So sticking with the plan I cast two method feeders onto the central bar to await a hungry tinica.
The whole lake seemed dead as door nail until mid morning when my first run screamed off. I think all the other anglers around the lake were quite interested as heads popped out of every swim to see what monster had caused such an epic run. It was off course the obligatory mental male carting away that did it.
Later things took a totally different turn when every tufted duck on the entire lake turned up attracted by my recast feeder. The little buggers went berserk for my method mix which admittedly contains a fair few seeds.
Before long they found the other one in the clear water not far away and both alarms began sounding.
No matter where I cast them the flock followed and I knew sooner or later one would fall foul of my hook and soon enough a run came. But not from a tufty! The culprit was a second small male tench of maybe two and a half pounds. This got me thinking... A quick trip up the step bank behind revelled that the grubbing ducks had caused such a fuss on the bottom that a patch of water about three snooker tables in size was heavily coloured. The risks were worth it and back on the spot I cast.
The next belting run came from a very unhappy male tufty which I got to the string of the net before it shook my hook. but that episode scared of all of them permanently. Leaving me fishing the only coloured water on a gin clear lake.
Two aborted runs and a bumped off fish later and I finally found a better fish by way of nicely plumping female who got in on the disturbance caused by the ducks.
The fish seemed to drift off as the water settled but I was left with no doubts that all the fuss caused by the ducks rooting round for my bait was what attracted those curious fish to my swim when no one else seemed to be getting any action at all.
The next water on my weekend hit list makes the the sand pit look like a commercial fishery by comparison. A gin clear gravel pit with a smaller amount of much bigger fish that seem to hate bright days. Although we arrived in azure skies we knew that as convenient as it was to get on the bank, the lack of rain was not going to last and it didn't.
Not far round the lake as we searched out swims Andy spotted a big bream roll half way across the lake. As we stared at a patch of flat water between the ripples another porpoised, followed by another, and another. It was one of those things which instantly makes you forget the rest of the lake and we settled in adjacent swims at the bottom of the wind.
I have spoken to a friend who has been fishing this lake for a good few years and he told me that it is by no means an early performer. My last visit was well of the mark and the worst under possible combination of conditions. Frosty night, sunny day and to early in the year. But three or more weeks had passed and the lake was starting to look different, a little less stark if you will.
My simple tactics seemed perfect to try and pick of a fish here or there. Rather than banging out a load of bait. be that maggots, particle or ground bait and possibly send off any resident fish. I would again fire out a couple of strong smelling method balls laced heavily with a cornucopia of small particles. To try and get just a single fish to find it and have a browse.
It took a while and it wasn't a bream but soon enough my left hand rod sung a happy tune as a tench found the sharp end of my hook.
This is a fickle lake and any fish is a good result. So this dark male certainly was welcome. The bream never showed again and the session became one of serious endurance as the weather deteriorated.
As I said before the fish in here feed much better with a cloudy sky, so the light conditions were perfect but the wind was savage cold and the rain only added to that effect.
Now I love fishing, but upon catching the only fish of the session I foolishly knelt on the bare floor to get my picture taken and forgot that I was wearing only my combat trousers and a pair of thermal leggings. My wet knees acted like a conductor for the cold and even sheltered under my brolly out of the wind I was bloody frozen.
We waited and waited for just one more bite which never came. At one point a eastern European who fishing down the bank appeared through the bushes carrying a huge tench which he wanted Andy to get a picture of him holding. This thing was big and long and he was well chuffed which anyone would have been. But it was only when I was brushing of some grass from the fish that I saw how thin it was. In top condition it would have made 8lb+ every day. Full of spawn it would have been 9lb but right now it looked mid to upper six. My own fish although deep didn't feel too chunky either. Combine this with what my friend had said and it looks like they are only just starting to stir, where comparatively the tench on the sand pit have woken and are just beginning to feed a bit more heavily. Oh and yes the big tench did go back before anyone asked right in Andy's swim in front of us both.
By the time it got round to midday I was hunkered down with my unhooking mat wrapped round my freezing legs. I had my hood up over hat and had pulled the cords so tight that only my nose showed. I was just waiting from a call from Andy who had ventured off to another swim looking for a bite to call time on this expedition on what I can only describe a classic bank holiday Monday.
There was only one thing that was going to warm up as the cold had begun to chill right through my flesh down to the bones, and that was getting home and supping copious amount of hot tea accompanied by Jacky's home made carrot cake.