It took a while to happen again and before it did the shoal had done several turns around the swim. But as I hoped it might, once again a second hole appeared in the smooth surface of the water and this one was followed by a vortex , a swirl and the momentary view of an unmistakable tail! It was the sight of that tail which drew me back to the bank of the lake as soon as possible and this time I was proper tooled up!
I was in no rush as I leisurely set up sitting on my bed under the trees, as what I was hunting for is largely associated with the night and I still had a few hours till dusk. It was good I wasn't rushing as it gave me time to check and recheck my rigs and knots were up to the job. The Eagle wave hooks were spine tingly sharp as I ran them over my nail, the 60lb Dacron hook link and knots stood up to being pulled as hard as I could pull them and the knot that secured my 20lb line to the swivel was so good that the line wrapped around my sleeve covered hand I swear began cutting through the material of my jumper.
I was ready to go and I'd thought about this long and hard. I knew it was a sizable catfish I'd seen hunting in the margin a few nights ago and I wanted in on that action. Seeing it surface feeding had drawn my to use a dumbbell rig to suspend a bait off the bottom. But the only cat I had ever caught from this pool came to a bottom bait and that made me think my second rig had to be on the deck. The summer rules forced me to fish a massive load of worms as my suspended bait and as it was a fishy bait that tempted that first cat, I ladled in some very heavily scented munga to help attract a night prowling moggie to my two 30mm donkey chokers that was fishing on the bottom.
It was actually hard to get to sleep as I was quite excited about the night ahead. But somehow I did manage to drift off just as dark crept in as I lay stewing in the scent of some weapons grade mozzie repellant. The night it turned out was fitful. All night I was getting liners on my bottom bait rod and I knew it would probably be a shoal of bream mopping me out and that it would only be a matter of time before one got the monster pellets into its cake hole.
I only had to get up a couple of times in the night, once to deal with a foul hooked bream that was only just maturing from silver to brown. The only other real action of the night was the single bit of interest was that my six lobworms drew. Around 2am I had a definite proper pull on that line which caused the buzzer to signal a slow take which suddenly stopped. I did check the bait only to find three of the worms severed in half which I suspect may have been done by an eel.
Considering all the disturbances from my sounder box hanging above my head I actually got quite a good nights kip. So when the sun began to rise I was up and moving around. All had been quite for the last few hours of dark but as I stood rubbing the sleep from my eyes the bottom bait rod again sounded another liner. It was that liner that caused me to look through the light summer mist towards my baited area, and what I saw changed the game in a big way!
I had thought that before getting to bed I might have a go with a float rod, but the disturbance I had made chucking in bait put me off. Now though I was scrabbling to get that float rod set up. The swim looked like it had a pot full of alkaseltzers chucked in it. There was tench fizzing all over the area and they were really getting their heads down judging by the frequency of the rising patches of bubbles. Slowly and carefully I teased the heavy lead out of the swim before also removing the second rod just in case.
With the rig set a little over depth I cast the float out into the mist and drew it back onto the fish. The float was warning me by way of a myriad of dips and sways that there was quite a few fish moving around, and it wasn't long till I got my first bite. Nothing quite wakes you up as striking into a good fish and it ripping of like a marlin in the mist. This fish really went for it in the shallow water and was fighting harder than anything else I have caught from the lake in a long time. I took it very easy on the fish playing it lightly on the clutch as it again surged off and eventually it came towards my sunken net Just as I lifted the handle hard the fish rolled and I saw a black flank. The whole fight I was convinced I had a tench on but now with me capture hidden by the folds of my oversized net I was unsure of what I had just netted.
All was explained when I pulled up the net and revealed what the mysterious black beast was. Turns out it was a tench and a big old male as well, hence the hard fight. In the water it did look black but on the mat I could see that it was actually dark green fading into black.
Several years ago I caught a similar almost black fish from another estate lake and I even heard tell of a fish from the same lake years ago that was red. This fish was a real old warrior and as well as it unusual colouring had some of the most prominent pelvic bones I've ever seen on a tench. Kneeling down holding it in the water it occurred to me that this could be the grandfather of all the tench I have been catching lately and it was real pleasure to see the old gent cruise of back into the lake and to his harem.
I'd no sooner dried my hands after releasing the first fish that I looked up to see the spot was still very obviously getting hammered by the tench. I was straight back on it like white on rice and within minutes I had an odd sliding bite which I struck and felt a fish before it was gone. That was no bother though as they seemed still in a frenzy and were undeterred by any fuss I'd just caused.
The next fish I didn't miss, but it did send probably every resident of the swim scattering. It went instantly out of the swim before turning and hammering straight through the still feeding fish. In the shallow water the result was obvious. I reckon I saw at least ten other fish bow wave off in every direction as the hooked fish barged through them. Moments later I had the smallest tench of the season in my net and half laughing I did curse her for ruining my swim or so I thought!
I decided to take a chance and introduce the little bit of ground bait I had left whilst the swim was quiet. Simply I put four more loosely squeezed balls that I knew would smash on entry onto the spot. Knowing it might be a while before anything came back in I began breaking camp so I could get home and have bath before I had to be at work. The shelter was down and the barrow was half loaded before I looked up to see tench fizz once again appearing on the outer limits of my baited area.
Judging by the individual patches of bubbles I reckoned that there was four or more fish creeping back in quite tight line. Not wanting to cast a bait right onto them I quickly dropped what I was doing and grabbed the rod again. I managed to get the bait in place before they came right onto the spot and now it was just a case of waiting and hoping one of them would pick up my hook bait from amongst the freebies.
Soon enough they slowly moved in sending hundreds of tiny bubbles up as they methodically moved across the bait. I knew something was about to happen when the float began swaying from side to side. I was so in tune to what was going on that I was all over it when the float began to rise, so much so in fact that I struck before the quill even began to fall over as the fish lifted the small weight off the bottom. There was no savage run just solid resistance and slight thumping. The fish swung out to the left banging its head like a bream before the rod took a serious bend. The fish felt big and I was sure it was a tench but the fight was laboured and heavy. The culprit took little line from the spool really and just kept swinging from one side to another banging its head. Then when it swirled towards the surface the amount of water is shifted was epic. Time and time again as I drew it closer it just dived down causing massive areas of disturbed water before it finally rolled over and big yellow mouth and red eye popped up. Good as gold it slid into the massive net I had submerged in the edge. I did that thing we all do when you get something special in the net and lifted the net to draw the fish up whilst sticking my head in it and what I saw got my heart thumping even more than it had been before.
I thought it looked big in the water, then out out of the water it seemed even bigger. It was generally a large fish across the shoulders and in length, but this was easily the fattest tench I had ever seen before and straight away I knew where this was going. I was so careful with her as she looked like one of those fish that without the neutralising effects of water supporting her she was quite uncomfortable. I worked as fast as I could to get everything done and confirmed before finally I lifted up her awkward bulk to get a few quick photos of the largest tench I have ever been lucky enough to hold and a new PB which amazingly and to my joy was caught on a lift float.