On the trail of the Tinca (tench article)

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Warm summer evenings, where you can wear t-shirts and shorts and still be over-dressed as far as the heat is concerned. Where the cold of the previous winter is but a distant memory. What does that mean to you? Time to get out the barbecue? A chance to catch up on some gardening? Perhaps take a stroll in the local park?

Well, of course, all of those things are viable options in my book, apart from the gardening that is! But a warm summer’s evening really means one thing to me – it’s time to go fishing! And what better way to while away a few hours, than pursuing a nice tench or two?

And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing since the start of the current season. I tend to fish in campaigns and focus on a particular venue or venues, and this summer I am fishing a local estate lake with the intention of doing battle with the tench that inhabit its waters. I began the campaign on June 16, although I must add that was nothing to do with me being a traditionalist; it was simply that the lake operates the old close season!

Fishing wise I tend to be slow starter, and true to form I blanked on opening day. Although actually, that’s not strictly true I suppose. I did catch a tiny perch when I dropped my baited hook in the margins whilst sorting out the line that had twisted on one of the rod rings!

But from session number two things began to pick up as I had a couple of tench, the best 5-11-8 and the second one a couple of pounds smaller at 3-12-8. This is one of the attractions of the lake as far as I’m concerned, as there is a good average size of fish to be caught. I have had bigger tench, but I’ve had to travel to southern gravel pits and spend a few nights at the water’s edge. So the possibility of catching some nice fish on my doorstep (well, not literally, but I’m sure you get my point) is certainly very welcome.

I have been averaging exactly three fish per session so far, with twenty-seven tench landed in nine sessions. Only two of those fish have been under 3lb, and then only by a couple of ounces. Six fish have been in the 3lb+ bracket; eleven in the 4lb+ category and seven fish have been over 5lb. The best tench so far just cleared the 6lb mark by one ounce. However, several of the 5’s have been pushing 6lb and I’m very hopeful that by the end of August I will have extended the upper weight, as I’m sure there are better fish in there just waiting to be caught.

I know that double figure tench crop up fairly regularly in the angling press, but we must never fall into the trap of thinking that anything less is not worth catching. Above all, it’s not just the weight itself that we have to take into consideration. Factors such as the average size of fish in the venue we are fishing, for example. If there aren’t any doubles in there, it doesn’t matter how good we are as anglers. How much time we put into fishing the water will be irrelevant. The truth is if they aren’t there in the first place, we can’t catch them!

An interesting statistic concerning my current tench campaign relates to the times at which the fish have been caught. In the five hour-long time categories i.e. 5.00 pm+, 6.00 pm+ etc, the numbers of fish caught in each bracket have been: 7,6,5,5,4 In practice it means that I haven’t been waiting until the sun sets before the fish have come on the feed. If anything, I’ve had more fish with the sun still shining bright in the sky as opposed to later on when you would normally expect tench to come on the feed.

I’ve had tench with the first cast and with the last one! There are certain venues that I fish for particular species, whereby no matter how hard you try to prove otherwise, the fact remains that the fish always feed at a certain time of the day. One river venue comes to mind that I have pike fished many times. I’ve fished right through the day but all the fish I have ever caught have all been in the same three hour bracket.

On my current tench campaign, I’m fishing corn as hook bait. I know bait can be expensive, but at 29p a tin from Safeway, I don’t think I’m going to break the bank! In terms of groundbait I’m using a pint of dead maggots, a handful of corn and brown crumb with a cup of fishmeal as the carrier. As soon as I arrive at the swim, the first task is to mix up the groundbait and deposit it in the chosen area.

Then it’s time to set up and cast out. I did begin the campaign fishing 6lb mainline to 5lb hook length. But on the second session I lost a number of fish that immediately went into a natural feature. (The lake has lily pads in some sections and lots of reed beds along the one bank, plus several overhanging trees). The strength of line I was fishing was simply inadequate. I thought it over and from the third trip onwards I upped the line to 8lb on the reel and 7lb 6oz hook length. Although I have lost fish since, it is true to say that this has done the trick.

As anglers we must never be afraid to step up in terms of line strength. We may get fewer bites, but at least we stand more chance of landing the fish. I would sooner have three bites and three fish, as opposed to seven takes and maybe only the one fish netted. And of course, it’s not just about us, fish welfare is important. Although the fight is very much part of the thrill of angling, our aim in reality is to land the fish in a reasonable time.

Fishing too light means that we can’t always do that. Of course there will always be times when we catch something that we weren’t fishing for. How many time have we hooked a barbel whilst chub fishing? But I’m referring to the deliberate targeting of a species in a situation whereby our tackle is not up to it.

As you will see from the accompanying photographs with this article, the estate lake I’m currently fishing is very picturesque. There are wooded hills around and plenty of wildlife. On one of the sessions a buzzard was circling just behind me and on another a grass snake made its way under my rods, literally at my feet. I know it’s an old, well-worn cliché, but angling is certainly far more than catching fish.

I intend to fish the venue until the end of August, when I will be moving the focus of my attentions to other species. But in the meantime I’m very happy to be catching some nice, hard fighting tench. Certainly beats a stroll in the park or a barbecue any day. And it’s definitely preferable to gardening…

(Article 1 originally published July 2003. If you like it, why not share? Thanks)