After an awful couple of weeks of mishaps and scares it was great to get the chance of an early morning session on a new water. My first hiccup was a busted knee which kept me house bound for over a week. Who thought slipping in your sitting room could cause so much damage. Top Tip – don’t wear Crocs with worn soles anywhere near a wet patch on the ground. This was followed the next week with the awful drama of seeing my daughter admitted to hospital with a meningitis scare. That was one experience I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy and something I hope I never have to go through again. Thankfully both are on the mend and this gave me a small window to get a quick session after my beloved tench.
I had been priming a new lake for a while now with some bait. Its one of those lakes that is off the beaten track and as far as I know, not been tench fished before. The information I had gathered from the landowner was that he had never heard of a tench being caught from it and had never had anyone ask to fish it. The only information I had was of some old stocking records from the 1960s that mentioned some tench had gone into the lake.
With severe rain forecast I grudgingly got out of bed a 3.45am to see the weather man had got it right for once. I was in two minds about leaving the house, but after a quick coffee I snapped myself out of it and was splashing down the back roads in the car for 4.15am with the thoughts of ‘I must be mad’.
Arriving at the lake, there seemed to be no let up with the rain, so I grabbed the wet gear and trudged the 400 or so metres through fields with all my tackle to my swim. The water levels had risen since my last prebait session, but I was able to set up in the swampy margins and settle in for what I thought would be a blank.
My first rod was to be my sleeper outfit and this was tackled up with a large method feeder to a small braided hooklink and a size 12 Pallatrax ‘hook’. The mix consisted of VDE Beet, some Maggot and Bloodworm crush and frenzied hemp feeder groundbait. Hookbaits would be alternated till I found something that they took a liking to, but was initially a large grain of enterprise pop-up corn.
I decided to fish the lift method on my float outfit and set up one of my 12-inch Robert Lancaster floats at a depth of 13 foot, with a couple of shot round the float and an SSG a couple of inches from the hook. There are still a large amount of weed in the swim and this way I would be sure the hookbait would be where I wanted it to be. Mainline was 10lb Daiwa Sensor straight through to a size 12 hook which I baited with 6 red maggots which were sprayed with Winter Almond, and a grain of semi fermented corn which had been stewing in some Honey Yucatán glug. If I hadn’t brought some croissants with me I would have probably eaten them, they smelled that good.
Whilst the wind had dropped somewhat the rain was still very heavy, making it hard to notice any signs of fish activity in my swim, but this didn’t worry me too much as the temperature was quite warm for the time of year and rain has never been a problem when targeting tench.
The first hour or so went by without so much as a bleep on my alarm or a blip on my float. I kept my feeding to a minimum with a couple of golfball sized balls of groundbait and some loose feed of pellet, corn and maggot.
I had just looked at my watch to see the time hit 7am when I looked back at my float to see a slight quiver on it. Were there fish in my swim, or were the small rudd that live there, knocking it about? I was answered a second later when the float dipped again then rose 6 inches out of the water and I hit into a fish. The rod hooped over and the fish felt very heavy and stayed deep with a slow ponderous boring run to my right where there was a bed of rushes. Piling on the pressure as hard as I dared , the fish kept going for them but just couldn’t seem to find the safe haven of the roots for itself. After what seemed like over a minute of real tug of war stuff the fish decided to try its luck in the lillies in another part of the swim. With the underwater weed growth only in its infacy for the time of year and not fully developed, the fish was smashing them up and they were popping up on the surface whilst the tench went head first through them. I knew at this stage that it was a sizeable male with a bone to pick or a big female with attitude but with faith in my tackle I really gave it as good as it was giving. It’s quite a surreal feeling sitting there in the wilderness early in the morning having a fight with a fish, and I always find that a type of calmness comes over you until you get a glimpse of your competitor then. The fight went on for a few more seconds and was quite brutal but I managed to surface her and slid her into the net first time.
Lifting her ashore, I looked down to see her for the first time and was immediately gobsmacked at her frame and I instantly knew it was another fish which could be over the 7lb mark. She didn’t look fat and full like the lady from last year, and didn’t have her looks either, but had a real presence about her.
In all my hast early that morning, I had left my scales in the car, so I decided to sack her in the deep margins for a while so I could get myself together and have a cigarette. I baited up the float rod and cast it back out and sat back with a smile on my face. At the start of the season, I had promised myself to not get too ambitious and to enjoy whatever fish came along, all the while, fishing spots where I thought I could catch some good-sized tench. I suppose it’s all you can do really, work hard to put the odds in your favour. If I didn’t catch any monsters, I was still on the bank enjoying the fresh air and not stuck on the couch with a bandy knee or seeing my daughter hooked up to a machine in the hospital.
A few minutes passed and I was not really concentrating on my float and was in a bit of a bubble when the tip rose again right out of the water. I struck and felt a heavy resistance and again it felt very strong. This one was not so interested in the bullrushes and just kept deep, most likely thinking to herself she didn’t need the assistance from her weedy friends to outwit me. She charged around the swim for a few minutes and seemed to uproot whatever lilies where left in the vicinity. I finally managed to get her up to the surface and she swirled, saw the net, then charged off again and I knew it was another good one. My tackle stood up to whatever she could throw at me and I didn’t have any worries on that front. After another few moments I managed to scoop her into the net at the second time of asking.
Looking down at her, she looked to have a larger girth on her than the last one and was in fin perfect condition. Her frame wasn’t that of the first one but still looked a very good fish that I thought would be an upper six at least.
I quickly unhooked her and got her into another sack which I had packed instead of a keepnet and got myself off to the car to retrieve the Avon scales. It was only as I was walking up through the marshy fields that I noticed the rain had stopped and the sun was poking through the clouds. What a morning this was turning out to be.
Getting back to the swim, I decided to weigh the smaller of the fish first so I could get a feeling for what the larger one might go. I zeroed the sling and popped her into it and the dial went round past 6lb and quivered between 6lb7oz and 6lb8ozs. After a bit of flapping around it settled on 6lb7ozs. A fine fish for Irish waters and I was delighted. So what would the next one go ? I made sure the first one was secured back in the sack and got the bigger one out. It was certainly a larger fish and also had a bit of old damage to her fins which had healed well but she had certainly been in the wars at some stage. I put her in the sling and she was very well-behaved. The scales went round past the 7lb mark and onto 7lb8ozs dead. Wow, I had done it again, I thought to myself, another 7lber. I decided to get some snaps done straight away as I didn’t want to mess them about even though I was potentially missing out on the prime feeding time.
Looking at the bigger fish, she certainly had room to grow more and put on some extra weight over the next six to seven weeks, but how much ? Then I had the dilemma going through my head of whether I would be happy catching her again at a larger weight ? Would it not be nice to catch a different fish that could be bigger or smaller. I suppose if I continued to fish the same lake, the chances are that I could come across her again, but then again I may not. Specifically going out to fish for her later in the year at a heavier weight is not something I think I would really enjoy. I think it takes the magic away of wild fishing in Irish waters where the fish have never seen a hook before and the unknown is what makes it so special.
After the palava of trying to get some respectable self takes whilst not being able to bend my knee and slipping on my bum on the practice run, I finally got some done which I thought would be good enough for the photo album and blog. I got the fish back to the water and watched as they skulked back off to the weedbeds none the worse for their endeavours.
After all that excitement I felt slightly drained, but got myself back into the chair to see if I could nab another fish before I had to leave. It stayed quiet for another hour and just as I was about to call it a day, the float bobbed again, rose and sailed away. I hit it and felt something good at the other end, but before I could settle into another battle, it was gone. Maybe I had used all my luck for this trip so I cut my losses and settled on a score of 2-1 in my favour. It had turned out to be a very productive morning and I really enjoyed my encounter with that right pair of tincas.