At Napton reservoir there are those who fish for carp, those who fish for tench and then there are those who pretend to fish for tench but are really hoping for something much rarer. I think the reason that those of us who pretend to fish for tench but are really after something else persist with this ruse is simple; we would be categorized as mental by others or even think ourselves mad if we admitted we were after crucian carp.
Napton is rife with tench no matter what anyone says; literally at times you would think the bottom was paved green. Once a friend of mine, Pete, said he fished 24hrs for them and literally caught something stupid like over a hundred fish. Conversely the crucian numbers in Napton could probably be counted on a single human's fingers and toes, which in a water of its size makes them the proverbial needle in a haystack. They are the ghosts of the lake as far as I am concerned and quite often their presence seems more rumour than truth. Over the years I've heard whispers on the bank that there is little more than fifteen of them in residence and no one seems to know when or if they were stocked. I even spoke to a chap well in his sixties who said he used to catch them when he first fished the lake as a young man. Things like this seem to indicate that this small group of crucians could be very old and if what I have read is true they are quite capable of living this long. How old they are aside, catching one of these ghosts takes time. Keith off of Warks Avon is quoted as saying it took him over forty years to catch one and look what it did to him...
...Considering how lucky he is catching target fish then that means we normal lucked folk are in for a long wait!
It had started as any normal Napton session would; arriving very early, struggling to get a level seat position and the wind blowing in my face. This time Andy had joined me and was set up down the bank. I actually ended up back in the swim I'd fished the week before with the ripple coming onto my own bank and even though the conditions were due to deteriorate throughout the morning, the fish it seemed were on the feed.
The tench were having it and my score with the hard fighting red eyed demons of this lake was soon settled. By fishing my usual fine tackle over a bed of Bait-Tech super G ground bait laced with casters and corn, the float soon lifted. I don't know whether I'd forgotten how hard tench in general fight or whether these particular fish are a just hard fighters, but every one hooked certainly tested the gear to its limits and more in a few cases. Disappointingly the first fish I landed had some very severe damage to its mouth from either being tethered to a rig or being mistreated by some heartless angler who consider them trash fish. Either way the matter of how the tench are being treated by certain types of anglers fishing the lake will be raised next time I see an official from the new controlling club.
Although the rain came in soaking me to the bone, the tench sport just got better and better through the morning and fish of all sizes were continuously moving into the swim and rolling all around the area of the lake we were fishing. Some were old warriors and others, like this one, looked perfect as if they had never been caught before. Seeing these younger, cleaner examples seems to indicate new fish are coming through and the future of the Napton tench fishing looks good.
Somewhere in the rain the session changed in a big way when Andy breathlessly shrieked he had a crucian on. I shit you not, from down the bank I could see a grown man shaking as he repeatedly said "Please don't come off." When that net lifted around that bar of gold you'd have thought that Andy had just scored the winning try for England at the Rugby World Cup. I don't think I have ever seen him so happy with a capture and I have to say I was over the moon for him as it was the most stunning old creature I have ever laid eyes on.
It wasn't his biggest ever crucian but I think it was possibly the best he'd ever caught, and why shouldn't it be when he's been trying for ten years to catch one of these Napton Ghosts. All I can say it well done mate, you deserve it.
Really that should have been the perfect way to end this post, but I could not not include this string of shots I took of Andy releasing the fish back into the clear water, as it is simply the best group of photos I have ever taken, and what is shocking is that I used my camera phone to get them!
Off she goes.