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Early Season Tench

After all the preparation of the past couple of weeks, I finally got to get the rods out for my first overnight tench session at the weekend. Although the weather has been perking up in the past ten days it had still been chilly through the nights and venue selection was based on this. I know a lot of the deeper lakes I fish do not wake up too quickly, so a water with a history of early season tench was on the cards.

My fishing pal Craig Murphy had got a head start on me, venturing out on the Thursday afternoon and he reported that although the fishing wasn’t hectic, bites were coming in fits and bursts. That news was all I needed to hear and plans were made to make the trip to the midlands and hook up for his second night there late on Friday evening.

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Being the brilliantly organised fellow I am, there was not too much preparation needed and I had the car packed in no time and was on the road for 7pm excited with the prospect of latching into my first tinca of the year. The forecast for the night wasn’t too special for camping with heavy rain expected along with a biting east wind, but temperatures were to stay steady enough for the fish to hopefully get their feeding heads on. The expected rain would also give me a chance to see if the new brolly would stand up to the elements and justify my decision to banish my bivvy to the back of the shed except for some long haul sessions or family outings.

On arrival at the venue, Craig said things had been a bit quiet in the past few hours and this sometimes happens on the lake, so it at least gave me time to get the kit out and rods in. I decided to vary the approach and went with an inline maggot feeder on one rod and a large korda method feeder on the other. My method mix was made up in advance and consisted of some Pallatrax maggot and bloodworm crush bulked out with a mix of Vde’s – Beet and a crushed hemp method mix. Into this I popped some particles, micro pellets and dead red maggot and castor. Hookbaits were simple enough to start off with and I stuck with the Enterprise red maggots on one and some pop-up white corn on the other. I had a whole host of other baits with me but thought I would start with the tried and tested and if the fish were on the feed then I could try out a few different hook samples and rigs as that’s half the fun.

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I managed to get the rods out before dark and settled into my first tench session of the spring with an extra strong coffee followed by a very welcome jumbo-size kebab which was delivered to the swim. Thanks Glen you’re a legend, even though I think I got more of the kebab on my face and clothes than down my belly. The swim stayed eerily quiet for the next few hours and there wasn’t much movement or sounds from the lake, but it’s always good to catch up with mates and chew the cud whilst waiting for the first run of the evening, however it never came..

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Past experience told us that the fish were likely to come on at some stage during the night, so instead of sitting up and waiting for them, we decided to grab a few hours shut-eye and hopefully get woken at some stage to the sound of our buzzers screaming off. The Fox Supa brolly did all it was meant to do and easily took my bed chair and tackle. With the mozzi infill, it felt pretty much like being in the bivvy except I felt that bit closer to my surroundings and not cocooned away. You can buy the brolly system, but for my needs, I just don’t see the point. The mozzi mesh gives me enough protection from anything that buzzes and bites, plus they are a damn slight cheaper with Dublin Angling Centre doing them for around €45.

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I thought I had only dozed off when I heard my left hand delkim give a couple of bleeps. I checked my watch thinking it was a liner and it said 3am, so I must have been in the land of nod for a while. The next minute I got a full-blown run and was straight into my first fish of the session. I was using my Harrison 2lb tench rods which have softened up over the years and they give me the perfect balance for bullying tench from underwater nasties and yet have a nice through action curve so you can enjoy the fight from even modest sized tench. After a spirited fight a nice 4lb tinca lay in my landing net mesh just as the heavens opened and the anticipated rain started to fall.

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There is nothing better than lying in your bedchair with a stench of tench slime off you, enjoying a smoke after your first one of the year listening to the rain patter off the brolly above your head. Some people must think us anglers are mad, my wife certainly does, but until you experience it yourself, then you can’t really relate to it.

The expected rush of bites never materialised and it wasn’t until a couple of hours later when the sun was just poking its head through the misty morning that the other rod went off again and I was battling with another tench. This one was slightly larger and had decided the method mix combo was to its liking. In between these fish Craig as usual was getting his fair quota of runs and adding to his already impressive tally of tench. As the morning rain finally abetted and we managed to sit out from under our bivvies and brollies to enjoy some coffee and change round our baits and rigs.

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I had decided a few days previously that I wanted to try out some of the pastes I had, so had come up with a rig that I thought would work. With the lake having a fair bit of silt I thought it would be best to try and balance out the heavy paste somehow. The first idea was to wrap it round a pop-up boilie but I wanted to keep the paste size down to 8-10mm. So I decided on using some small wire bait coils I found in my tackle box and fix this onto the end of my hair rig. I then opened up the coil and inserted some wittled down cork ball. When I wrapped the paste round the coil, the bait wouldn’t pop up, but balance itself out and sit nicely in the upper layers of the silt. I don’t know if there is a name for this rig so we decided to call it the CP rig or critical paste rig. When tested in the margins they seemed to work, so it was just a matter of whether the tench liked the paste.

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One rod got the strawberry paste and the other coil was wrapped in the pungent smelling crave. 20 minutes passed and I was just thinking about the breakdown times of the pastes when the crave rod ripped off and I winkled out another fine early season tench. None of the fish were going to break records but were super fish to catch in the 3-5lb bracket. After not getting any joy on the strawberry paste, I switched over to the scopex flavour and this resulted in another couple of fish for me. Craig had a mess around with some of the flavours and managed a fish or two on the crave. I have had some great results fishing some homemade paste on the float last year and although it might not be my first choice bait, it is always nice to have something in your armoury to switch to when things aren’t happening and also have a method which you know will at least work.

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The morning continued with a few more fish but as always happens the session comes to a halt way before you want it to. I am a devil for ‘one last cast syndrome’ however the little one at home had to be at a birthday party so with her relying on me I had to call it a day. The beauty of not having the cumbersome bivvy with me was the relative ease the whole packing up process took and I had my minimal amount of gear back in the car in no time at all. My final tally for the session was a respectable ten tench with Craig having more than double that for his couple of nights on the bank. So with a successful first session under the belt it looks like the tench season is under way but with other species on the feed at the moment too, its decision time on what to go for next. Not a bad dilemma to have I must say. Till next time…

Wet Wet Wet

Well what a grueling winter we are having weather wise. The rain has not stopped here in Sligo for it seems an eternity but I have to spare a thought for those in some other areas of the country who seem to have been hit a lot worse with major flooding and damage done to property and businesses.

Although the weather has been atrocious here, it has only really affected me on the fishing side of things luckily with rivers looking like something out of Charlie And The Chocolate Factory and lakes doubling in size in some cases. I have never really been too worried about arctic conditions when winter fishing as I luckily don’t feel the cold too much but this extra water has really slowed the pike down considerably on the few venues I can actually get near. I have made it out twice in the past fortnight and it has been very slow going. The deadbaits have not been touched at all and I have had to turn to doing some lure fishing to pick up the odd fish here and there.

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My first trip was to a backwater on the Shannon and I planned to mix the fishing up a bit with one rod out for pike whilst doing some feeder fishing for some perch. My hope was that the perch would like the shelter of the backwater and would probably be quite happy to follow the bait fish there whilst in turn the pike would not be too far behind. The theory was good but the conditions just wouldn’t allow for proper fishing with 60-70mph winds causing mayhem all around me. I had just purchased a Fox Supa Brolly as I felt it would be useful for the winter pike sessions plus be handy for the overnighters I would start in spring. If nothing else was gleaned from the session, at least I got to test the brolly out in some serious conditions and it held up admirably thank god. It fits nicely into my quiver and will be a godsend for my tench fishing as I really am sick of dragging the bivvy out for short sessions. I didn’t bother going for the overwrap or choose the  brolly system as I don’t think they were necessary, but have got a mozzi panel for it to get away from the biting midges we get here in Ireland on certain waters when the weather warms up that can really be a pain the arse.

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I managed another short afternoon session at the weekend and decided to head to a local enough lake that usually produces a fish or two for me when the going is tough. On arrival I was met by high water levels and a muddy bankside, but not so bad that I couldn’t set up and get the rods into a suitable area. I decided to mix it up a bit with deadbaits both popped up and on the bottom and chopped and changed with a variety of baits. After a fruitless couple of hours I changed my set up to a drifter float, as the wind was coming from behind me and I could get the bait into some fishy looking areas. This along with some sink and draw with a smelt didn’t even get a sniff. The sight of my second otter this winter was a bit of a surprise. It spent the afternoon working the lake in search of its lunch and was soon joined by a cormorant who seemed to be faring better on the hunting front, popping up with small roach and rudd every few minutes. Knowing that there were some decent perch in the lake I decided to give the rubber jigs ago before darkness fell but to my dismay I had left my lure boxes back at the house…. clutz.

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Rooting through my ruck bag I did find an unopened lure still in its box under all the unnecessary clutter I had brought with me. It was another of the lures I had won in a competition early last year with the fishingtackleireland.com crew but had not had a chance to use yet. On having a look at it, I remembered I had seen it before in one of Dermot Ogle’s excellent posts on his Lureguide.net blog. He seemed to really rate it and the guy knows his stuff, so I made up a wire trace and put the Iron Claw – Phanto Glide through its paces.

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First cast and I had a delicate take which let go almost immediately. Having not lure fished for a while I got my head back into it and told myself to strike at the next bit of interest. A couple of casts later and I got another opportunity and this time made no mistake hooking up to a feisty wee pike. Although it was under 10lb, it was more than welcome and gave a good account of its self on the light gear. With darkness nearing I decided to cover another bit of water with the lure which I noticed had a number of ball bearings in its body. Was this what was rousing the pike to have a snack ? After another few casts I got a take right at the margin and it was a much better fish but as quick as you like it let go and sunk back to the depths. I gave her a number of casts in the same area but she seemed put off by my presence. Once bitten, twice shy.

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Walking back to my gear I gave the lure a couple of casts along the way and did manage one more jack of about 8lbs  which felt like he was on steroids. I reckoned if I had got the lure out earlier I could have had a few more fish on the bank and it gave me something to ponder. How many fish have I missed out on whilst sitting behind my deadbait rods enjoying a coffee and catching up on some books when I could have been working harder for the fish. I do not do much lure fishing for pike apart from early in the season and maybe a bit in the spring. I seemed to have got myself into a rut of fishing with baits in the depths of winter as it has always been the way I had structured my pike season. Of course a lure angler is severely restricted when he fishes from the bank but quite a few of the waters I fish have some good depths close to the shore with quite a lot of bank space for lure fishing so there really is no excuse. It’s something I will definitely be doing more of in the coming weeks before I finish up my piking.

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Next weekend sees the National Angling Show taking place in Dublin at the Swords exhibition centre. I will hopefully be heading up for the event as it will be nice to catch up with a few fishing pals and also see what the show has to offer as I haven’t been to it since 2007. The same day sees the Irish Specimen Awards taking place too and I am due to collect an award for a tench I caught this year. I haven’t claimed a specimen for donkeys years as the whole process of getting scales certified and calibrated along with filling in all the paperwork never really interested me. However I have been fishing with my mate Craig Murphy who has the scales done and is a dab hand at going after specimens of a wide variety of species and as he was with me the day I caught the tench he said I should enter it in. It will be nice to get out for the day at the event and see some fellow fishermen and trade tales of fish caught and lost. A special congratulations must go out to Jason Dingle who broke the roach/bream hybrid record with a fine fish of 7.44lb which was caught in May of last year at the famous Monalty Lough in Monaghan.

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I received some tasty products from Pallatrax in the post this week and can’t wait for the weather to warm to try them out. I had asked Simon at head office to send on some of their pastes as I had quite a bit of success last year using some homemades ones for the tench and they got me some bonus fish when everything else failed. I had always associated paste with fishing at commercials or using it to boost my carp baits, but was really impressed with the way tench took my homemade concoctions when float fishing last summer. On one evening I had not had a touch on my usual maggot and castor hookbait and switching to a fishy pellet based mix I had made and landed four nice fish in the last hours of light. Since then I always carry some in my bait bag when going after the tench and it has proved to be succesful on a number of lakes that I am sure have never seen paste or pellets in any great numbers before.

I got a nice variety of flavours to try including the very aromatic ‘Crave’, and the ‘Jungle’ which has a nice nutty biscuit twang to it. The ‘Winter Almond’ flavour has been really producing this winter in the UK for carp and it is another which I think the tench might have a liking for whilst some old faithfuls like Scopex, Strawberry and Pineapple should also work a treat. The texture is such that it will definitely stay on the hook well enough to fish the margins and I have also made up some coil rigs to try on the feeder rods which should be interesting. Before the tench do walk up from their slumber though I hope to hit the Lough in Cork for some early season carping and I will certainly incorporate the them on one of my bottom baits.

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On a final note, I sent Korum a mail last week asking if they sold the locking nuts for the accessory chair attachments separately as I couldn’t find any online. I had lost a few on my travels last year somewhere along the line which rendered my attachments useless. I had tried with some bolts I got in the local hardware store but they didn’t work out. They asked my for my address and said they would send some of free of charge. The post man arrived to the door this morning with a pair of them in a jiffy bag which has saved me having to go out and buy new attachments for the chair. Big thumbs up to whoever it was in the Korum office who sorted that out for me. Cheers…

As I am writing this the forecast snow has just started and the temperatures have really dropped in the last 24 hours. This might slow the fishing down even further but as long as the rain stays away I don’t mind too much at all. I think we just need a week or two of dry weather and this could improve prospects no end.  At least my wee girl Pippa is happy at the sight of it arriving..

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