Back on track with the tench (tench article)

Following a couple of sessions that yielded just one tench each, I was keen to step up the action. It wasn’t that bites were at a minimum, in fact on each of the trips in question I lost another two fish due to hook pulls. By analysing the situation, I decided to use size 8 hooks instead of the size 10 I have been using so far. A simple move, but one that did the trick, as in the three sessions outlined in this article, I only had one fish lost due to a hook pull.

In my first trip, conditions looked good – a warm day, breezy and overcast. I set up late afternoon, and was very confident that I would avoid a one-fish-per-session rut that I was in danger of falling into. My confidence was to be confirmed as I ended the day with five fish, which weighed in at 4-11-8, 4-9-0, 4-5-0, 3-9-0 and 2-10-8.

As the accompanying photograph of the best fish shows, I was fishing in one of my old Wolves shirts! As you can see, it’s hardly camouflage gear! However, I was fishing a peg that didn’t call for subtle colours that blend the angler in with the background. I certainly do choose the clothes that I wear each session very carefully, but I think we need to be careful that we don’t get carried away.

If I’m fishing a small intimate river such as the Staffordshire Mease in daylight, I will wear a combination of green clothes. I will also literally be found crawling on my hands and knees along the riverbank, to avoid spooking the fish which are just feet away. However, fishing a big gravel pit at 80 metres or more in fifteen foot of water at night, doesn’t call for the same approach to what we wear.

I am certainly not being critical here, so don’t misunderstand me, but I do raise the question as to how much is to do with fashion, and how much is actually necessary. Take for example camouflage sleeping bags and pillows! Are they really necessary! And as for camouflage notebooks, flasks, binoculars and mugs, I think that we have to ask ourselves the question – are we the real mugs? It seems that if you buy something that is camouflaged, you pay an extra 10 or 20% for the privilege.

Anyway, back to the tenching! One of the most encouraging signs for a tench angler is to witness lots of bubbles in their swim. The fish create these as they feed on the bottom. However, as we only know too well, feeding fish, of whatever species, don’t always equate with lots of fish on the bank. Many times our initial excitement can lead to frustration – all the bubbles in our baited area, and yet our float/quiver tip/hanger remains perfectly still!

Certainly on this lake, my swim sometimes resembles a witch’s cauldron! Yet most times, the potential isn’t realised. The lake however, contains a lot of natural foodstuffs. Checking the mouths of the fish I do catch, it’s obvious that they are often pre-occupied with bloodworm instead of my corn. There are also swan mussels in the lake, and I actually hooked and landed one! Fully-grown they are up to nine inches in length.

On the second session, the conditions were as the first. I’ve been setting up late afternoon, giving me about four or five hours up to darkness. There is a strict no-night fishing rule on the lake, and whilst on some venues it’s possible for anglers to ‘bend’ the rules a little, this isn’t one of them. So not wishing to be the one that gets the club thrown off the water, I’ve been on my best behaviour!

Some of the bites I’ve been getting have been real beauties, with the rod itself being pulled out of the rest! Don’t you just love those takes! I guess that’s one of the attractions of angling, not knowing when the next bite will come. It’s that sense of anticipation that fuels us as fishermen.

On this trip all the three fish I caught came quite early on, with a 2-15-0 and a 4-8-0 being topped by my ninth ‘five’ of the campaign, a fish that weighed in at 5-9-0. Actually, I had been thinking that very moment, prior to the bite, that I had caught seven fish since my last five! Maybe I should start thinking the same about ‘sixes’ and ‘sevens’? But of course, as we know in angling, although our mental approach is very important, you cannot actually use mind-power to get fish to take the bait!

I’ve been sticking with corn as hook bait throughout this current tench campaign. It’s certainly as a good a bait as any, and above all, it’s cheap (29p a tin from Safeway), easy to obtain (Safeway is five minutes walk from home), and has the minimum of preparation involved (even I can open a can!). I did try maggots in the first session, way back in mid-June when the lake opened its doors to anglers, but was plagued by small fish, which ended with lots of sucked skins.

However, even using corn hasn’t totally eliminated the small fish, and I’ve still had those times when I wish that a pike would pass through the swim and scatter the hordes of small roach that immediately descend on my bait as soon as it hits bottom. With the dozens of sucked grains of corn and fruitless strikes with nothing on the end, I have however, also landed seven roach to date.

The ones I have caught have been up to eight ounces in weight. Certainly very nice looking fish, but on tench gear, hardly putting a bend in the rod. Every time I catch one, I remind myself that I really do need to give some time to a proper Severn winter roach campaign. The only problem is that I need to live to be the age of Methuselah in the Bible (969 years old when he died) to do everything I want to do in angling.

The final session saw me land just the one tench, a fish that looked a ‘5’ but was in fact a few ounces short at 4-12-0. Tench, along with eels and bream, share the common denominator of being what we might term ‘slimy’ fish. We do need to recognise that the slime is important to the fish and therefore, as indeed with all fish, we need to hold them with wet hands, and to ensure our unhooking mats and weighing bags are suitably wetted before use.

I ended with roach moving into the swim, and an endless cycle of re-baiting and re-casting. Still, with nine fish landed this week in three sessions (my average has been three fish per trip) it was indeed good to get ‘Back on track with the tench’. Pity my football wasn’t so productive. I have just driven all the way down to Yeovil with my daughter, to watch Wolves get beat 2-1 in a pre-season friendly! Maybe I should have gone fishing instead?

(Article number 4 originally published August 2003. If you like it why not share? Thanks)