A little over a year has passed since I found myself in the right place at the right time and fished exactly the right way to realise a dream and bag myself a quartet of Napton's rarest residents. I can recall the memory of that day perfectly in my mind, from the moment I saw the first golden flank roll close to my float and through the frustration of catching tench when I knew the crucians were so close by, then ultimately the panicky joy of netting that first one. Now though I have had a year to ruminate over that day and weirdly, although I should be satisfied by catching four ancient fish in one go, I actually find myself even more eager to catch more.
Frankly, although outwardly it might seem to even the most informed passerby that I looked as if I were fishing for tench at Napton, the reality is that if I have a float rod out I am always fishing for crucians. You see I believe that unlike the few accidental captures that occur through the year, most possible captures are missed by the shear ridiculous shyness of their bite combined with normally difficult conditions. Because of this I opt to use a sensitive method combined with a selection of identical floats in various sizes. By doing this I believe I can cope with the testing conditions that you can experience at Napton whilst still registering the slightest of bites and thus am satisfied that I will see even the tiniest of bites.
Being able to see their bites aside the reality of actually trying to catch a crucian, or should I say one of the tiny group of old crucians from Napton, falls simply into a category that could be entitled with any of the following; obsession, preoccupation, mania, addiction. Its madness really as it simply is like looking for a needle in a hay stack and Napton is one huge haystack. Now although this is the first time I have written of it this year, the fact is that I can't even recall how many times in the last few weeks I've made that trip across the county and back. What I do know is now when I walk out our front door and JB asks me where I am going and I reply Napton she says "again" and the chap in our local petrol station seems to like me more than ever and greets me with a big smile and a, "back so soon", every time I go in to top up.
Without going to much into to my current obsession, it began on the 16th when the tench were feeling fruity and all I caught was a hundred weight of perch averaging eight ounces and one old carp, which happens to be the first of its type that I have hooked and tamed on my light gear in Napton.
God, if it weren't for the fact that I love catching tench I would be in a bad place right now. Literally I have caught loads of them in every conceivable shape, sex and temperament. I've had them close in and far out. I've caught them when they were biting so shy that the float only rose half a centimeter out of the water and when they were having it so much the float shot up like a rocket.
I've tried to be practical and pragmatic about this, targeting three key swims and more specifically a key area in each of those swims for them, but in absolute honesty I have not seen hide nor hair of a crucian in a sea of tench. I have seen a few eye opening things being up there so much; like a massive fully scaled mirror carp which swam right under my feet, what I think may have been a sterlet swimming around in the clear water and some very nice rudd and roach to boot. The latter of which were the first on the scene when I made the change to bread hook baits a few nights ago.
Other species aside, the tench keep coming and now that their nuptials seem to be done with, they have stepped up a gear of the feeding stakes. The case in point being one of the three swims I am targeting is in some very clear water and is festooned with weed which myself and another chap have been diligently clearing out with weed rakes. Its a perfect ambush spot for a late evening crucian just as dark creeps in. But the tench are so into feeding that they will come right into the clear spot only a few feet from the bank at any time of the day and let me tell you, playing even the smallest tench in a pool-table sized gap in the thick weed is a nightmare.
The one thing I can say for the tench is that I do finally seem to be seeing a few better examples appearing after a spring full of sub five pounders.
It almost sounds like am being ungrateful for catching all these beautiful fish and in a way I suppose I am, as none of them are the ghosts of Napton that I seek. But then again if I am going commit to trying to catch another one of the deep bodied golden treasures then I'd rather the in between time is filled with lovely tench which are after all one of my favourite species, and catching them on the float whilst whiling away my time is so much more rewarding than being parked behind buzzers waiting for runs.
Although other summer targets need some attention and if I want to achieve those targets I know I will have to drag myself away from the bank of this epic water and this insane quest. But I don't think I will be totally abandoning this venture any time soon and as I got a sniff of a lead on a possible target area where they may have been spotted very recently and it's certainly worth following up.