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.
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.
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..
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
Tinca Tinca – The Tenchfishers (Harper Books)
Well I am at the wrong end of the tench season to be really writing a review for this book, but if you are not keeping busy in the colder months pike fishing, then this is a great book to keep away the tinca blues till the spring. The Tenchfishers if you have not heard of them are a specialist group of like minded anglers who were first founded in 1954 but have been a proper organisation since 1967 and are all about the pursuit and love of tench.
Predominantly a specimen group of anglers, they have regions all around the UK and Ireland much like the PAC (Pike Anglers Club). They have annual fish-ins for members (usually at Horseshoe lake) and produce a couple of magazine bulletins a year which are worth the joining up fee alone.
Among their members are some of the most renowned tench anglers in the history of the sport with the likes of Len Head, Chris Turnbull, Jim Gibbinson, Bob Church and Phil Jackson having all been involved in some aspect over the years.
There have been many requests for the tenchfishers to produce a book seeing as they already had a mountain of great articles produced through their bulletins and thankfully earlier this year Tinca Tinca came to fruition. The contributors list is like a who’s who of esteemed tench anglers and the book is a mix of articles from the bulletins with an amazing array of new material written especially for the book.
The publishers, Harper Angling seem to have had a knack of producing stunning books over the years including titles like ‘Mammoth Pike’ and its recently released follow-up by Nev Fickling, ‘The Biggest Fish Of All’ by the Perchfishers and ‘Ultimate Pike’ by Dave Horton.
A common theme with books from Harper is the quality and feel of them and I think they make a real emphasis on producing good looking books. The cover design of Tinca Tinca is no different and features an underwater illustration from David Miller whilst the actual book is close on 400 pages of thick set glossy pages crammed with mouth watering pictures of the main character.
When the book arrived in the post my first port of call was to check out the Irish section in it as we all like to read things we can relate to. The chapter has contributions from Mike ‘Dingle’ Tudor, Keith Berry and Irish record holder Nick Parry along with historic facts and figures from Finbarr Quigley and Bill Brazier amongst others. As expected I wasn’t disappointed, especially reading about the dedication some of the Irish tench anglers apply to their trade. It really made me step up a gear with my own fishing this season. If you are an avid tench angler in Ireland then some of the stories will definitely wet your appetite and show you the rewards that are out there if effort is applied.
From there I found myself jumping around chapters that caught my attention and related to my own fishing. The book gave me a kid running around a sweet shop vibe, flicking from chapter to chapter instead of sitting down and reading from the start. After my higglety pigglety approach, I have now decided to give it another go from the start, like most normal minded anglers most likely have.
The book covers everything you need to know about tench and how to approach fishing for them be it on wild Irish loughs, low stock UK gravel pits, vast windswept reservoirs or intimate farm ponds. Bait is covered in as much depth as you dare and the variety of different theories are all very helpful as long as you don’t get too bogged down with it all.
Tactically wise it is very interesting reading how times have changed in tench fishing and many fads have come and gone whilst some of the basics have stayed true through the years. The expected domination of boilies in tench fishing was thought to be the way forward for many as they gained prominence in the carp world, only to for them to still play second fiddle to the humble maggot and caster.
The book does give a lot more than a scientific facts and tactical methods though and if tenchy tales and stories of monsters caught are your thing, you will be happy for sure.
I have read quite a few books related to tench fishing over the years from as far back as Fred J Taylor’s ‘Fishing For Tench’ written in 1979 to the more recent ‘Time For Tench’ by Chris Turnbull, and I have to rate this as the most comprehensive and complete book on old ‘red eye’ out there.
If you have a love for the species or even enjoy a good fishing book then I would hand on heart recommend it. The tenchfishers have not released it into shops although some have appeared on ebay at quite high prices from some entrepreneurial sellers. If you want a copy you can buy it through the tenchfishers website which I will link at the bottom and it costs £35 plus postage and packaging. It does sound a lot but this is a book that you will look back on time and time again once added to your library. I am not sure how many they have published but I suspect it is a limited amount and once gone that will probably be it.
Link to the Tenchfishers website
Link to buy ‘Tinca Tinca’
Fishing For Big Tench – Ray Webb and Barrie Rickards
Another book I picked up in the spring was Ray Webb’s and Barrie Rickard’s classic, ‘Fishing For Big Tench’. This had to be one of the best deals I have done in a while as I got a mint copy on ebay for 99p plus postage. The one I got was the revised 2nd edition and another great read. For those who don’t know, Ray Webb was the holder of the Irish record tench which weighed 7lb 13ozs and was caught at the famous Lanesborough hotwater stretch on the Shannon back in 1971.
The book has a array of stories relating back to their angling trips to Ireland in the 60’s and 70’s when they spent long months fishing for tench around the inner lakes of Lough Ree and various other noted tench hotspots you may be familiar with. It was written before the explosion of mega tench in the UK, and a time when Ireland was a mecca for big fish enthusiasts and a 5lb fish was a real brute of a creature.
Some of the tactics and tackle maybe dated, but this book is so much more than that, it is a journey back in time to when specimen tench fishing was just dawning. Although this book was published in 1976, there a few copies knocking about if you have a search on the web and shouldn’t break the bank should you fancy a look.
If there is one fish that really gets the hackles on my back stirring then it is the Tench. Since I caught my first one aged 7 years old, I have had a love affair which is still as strong today as it ever was. The first time I caught one, it was the shear terror I felt from their awesome power on my little 11ft glass fibre match rod that first got my attention. I was used to catching roach, perch, rudd and maybe the odd skimmer on the canal where I was learning my trade. On this session the pin prick bubbles appeared in my swim, my float dipped, I struck and all hell broke lose. As I tried my best to tame the beast, white with shock, my father watched by with a smile on his face loving my horror as it uprooted lillies and took line as I wildly back wound my trusty Mitchell 300.
When I eventually got it into my landing net and saw the beauty of its smooth scaleless-like body and amusingly small barbules I knew this was the fish for me. Although it was probably no more than 3lb it had faught harder than anything I had ever hooked.
30 years on and having caught most species that swim in Ireland, it is still the Tench that enters my mind as I lie in bed at night having fishy dreams. Over the years I have caught literally thousands of them and as much as I like a busy session on the water bagging up, I much prefer sitting it out in the hope that when my float or alarm beeps the next time that it is the tench of my dreams.
At the start of the year my target was to pursue some of the bigger tench that swim our waters. In Ireland, 6lb is the benchmark for a specimen, and a 7lb fish is a damn good fish whereas the record stands at 8lb 2oz or so. So 7lb was the target for the year and although there are quite a few waters that hold such fish, they are not all that common to catch, partly due to the small amount of angling pressure they receive in ratio to the amount of water available here in Ireland and also the fact that at times they can become intolerantly moody.
My approach over the years has been to do overnighters at waters as often as possible in the peak times of year to hopefully put the odds in my favour. The reason for doing overnight sessions is due to big fish waters being that bit further from my home to just pop up for evening or morning sessions. The waters I would approach would either be ones I have done well on in the past, others that have a history of bigger fish or in more recent years ones I have done some background research and have a hunch with.
My aim this year was to scrap the scatterball approach of hitting various big fish waters and to concentrate on maybe 2 waters and work them for the season. My feeling is that a lot more waters hold 7lb tench than we think and if you stick at your chosen waters, keep them fed and work hard at them, the rewards are there. From talking to some of the better anglers out there who target big tench, this is definitely their prefered approach.
My season started well and my first proper session with a fishing buddy saw us bag a whopping 200lb plus bag of early season tench. Although the lake in question has done some good fish in the past, all the fish seemed to be quite light as they had only woken up from their winter slumber and we didnt get any much bigger than 5lb. However it certainly blew the winter cobwebs away and was the perfect start to the tench season.
From there we headed on to another new water earmarked for the season and we planned to just stick it out come what may. Although fishing was a lot slower due to it having a much lower stock density, the hope of latching onto a bigger fish made it all the more enjoyable. Fishing was hot and cold but I got to find out a lot more about the lake and its moods. Factors like what winds they preffered, their feeding times, baits and successful rigs all made the jigsaw come together. Then just when you thought you had a handle on them and things were coming together, you would blank for the next couple of sessions. The joys of tench fishing.
One thing I found about the water was that I was having next to no joy on my ledger tactics and in that I mean the rods on alarms with either a maggot or method feeder or even small pva bags of castor with a couple of fakes on the hair. All my fish were coming to float tactics.
This didn’t put me off though as I do prefer to fish the float as much as possible and the lake although solid with weed was enjoyable to fish with this way. Silver fish would keep me occupied for the most time but you knew when you were in the witching hour when they buggered off and things went quiet. The next bite would invariably be a tench and that would be the way for an hour before it got too dark at night or too bright in the morning.
The float tactics could not have been simpler with a crude set-up designed to land any fish hooked instead of delicate presentation for more bites. I used good old 8lb Daiwa Sensor mainline straight through to a size 12 Drennan wide gape hook with a bodied waggler set with 4AAA.
As I said previously, the fishing was not hectic but a couple of fish in a session was the norm and the average size was a very respectable 4-5lb. I was even getting quite a few 5lb males which boded well that the water might hold some better females.
One of the enjoyable things about fishing this water was that although I didn’t see much fizzing, they would put on quite a performance of rolling just as feeding time approached . With this activity you could see them at quite close quarters as they nosed out of the water and porpoised before flicking their tails to power down the depths, in doing so showing their approximate size. At first they all looked a decent size but after a few nights of watching this ritual every so often you would catch a glimpse of some much bigger ones and you knew as long as you kept plugging away, you were in with a chance as the were definitely in the area.
As the season progressed the target fish was still eluding me and my main worry was that the weather was changing with a settled high pressure and prolonged heat wave kicking in causing the fish to start showing signs of getting ready to spawn. On maybe my 8th or 9th visit to the lake I was hearing fishing splashing in the weedbeds and I was sure they were getting down to it. That session a 6lb 8oz fish was caught and it was a long lean fish that I couldn’t be sure had spawned or not. This was not too worrying as if they had and fish of that weight were there then surely a 7lb spawned out fish was possible.
The next overnighter went much the way of the previous sessions and I managed 3 fish that evening to 5lb 10oz, however they were all good stocky fish that didnt look like they had recently been getting down and dirty. That night also saw me lose a good fish which might have been landed if I had not been so hard with it. Obviously I didn’t want to lose them to the weed but I felt I was giving it just a bit to much welly.
The following morning I was up at 3.50am and sat and watched the lake for 20 minutes with a coffee as the sun started to peak over the horizon. Things looked good for a fish or two with some good tench rolling over the baited area. I cast my float out at 4am and although fish were showing we couldn’t buy a bite from either a tench or a silver. I was using a variety of baits on the hook from my usual cocktail of corn and caster, to worm, pellet, red maggots and even bread. By 7am it was starting to heat up and I thought my chance had gone for this session however I said I would not move until I got at least one bite.
My chance came half an hour later when my float baited with a favourite combo of 3 castor and 3 red maggots slid away out of the blue and I struck into what was obviously a decent tench. Remembering my mistake the night before I was a little more gentle with the fish and apart from one or two runs towards the rush beds I was in control of the fight. Into the net she went and at first I thought it might scrape 6lb, however my mate Craig said I was off my rocker and it was a proper lump. It wasn’t until I lifted her from the water that I noticed the frame and weight of it. Surely this wasn’t it.
Craig said will we get her on the scales straight away and I agreed still rambling on about it being a mid 6lber, however he was slagging me saying I was well off and it was well over 7lb. We put her into a bag and onto his calibrated scales that were zeroed and it went down to 7lb 10ozs. I had done it and by quite a bit.
Over the moon was not the word and only after cradling her in my hands for the pictures did I realise the actual size of her and how lucky I was to have landed such a fish. Her bulk was immense but in proportion to her body with her not being overweight from spawn. The fact that it was only 8 or 9 ounces under the long running record only dawned on me whilst sitting down with a celebratery cigeratte and a coffee ten minutes later. I was literally grinning like a cat for the next few days.
Having read Keith Berry’s insperational article in the Tenchfishers book about catching his impossible tench of 8lb9ozs after setting several targets for himself over the years, I think that have to set my target now towards an 8lb tench no matter how hard it will be. Whether I will ever see let alone catch an Irish 8lb fish is another matter as they are as rare as hens teeth. I know a few people who have achieved it over the years and although it will be difficult, you are always in with a chance if you are fishing a water that contains them. As the saying goes, you can only catch whats in front of you and if you are not on a water that holds fish of this size then no matter how hard you fish you are never going to achieve your goal. So I will continue to fish the lake in the hope that I have not caught the biggest one in there but still savour every moment on the bank no matter how big the tench are I catch.
One thing I don’t want to do is get blinkered and devalue smaller fish along the way and forget the reason I first fell in love with them in all those years ago.
For the rest of the season I will still be doing some sessions for tench but I also aim to try and get myself a double figure bream and a wily carp or two from one of the relatively unfshed waters I have on my doorstep before the pike season rolls in.
Until next time, tight lines.
What strange weather for fishing as a whole we have experienced so far this year. It started off in glorious sunshine and warmer than usual weather in March, then April and May really were significantly a lot colder and wetter than usual. I had a carefully planned itinerary for the year targeting various species and waters, but that all went out the window as my planned attack had to be rethought.
My first port of call was for the bream, but as March was so warm I feared they might spawn early. However the cold weather of April put the blinkers on that, and I saw a window of opportunity for May to do a serious pre-baiting session and hopefully nab a couple of big ones before they did the deed on a massive wild Irish Lough.
My plans seemed to be going well at first, 2 weeks of hard graft with a fishing pal, which saw a lot of miles put on the clock and a small mountain of bait distributed to the said water. Every third day we would boat out 30-40kg of various goodies, from flaked maize and ewe nuts, to catering cans of corn and prepared bird-food or as the uk carpers call it parti-mix, plus the usuals like dead maggots, pellets and wheat.
This was distributed in an area the size of a tennis court where I know the bream congregate before spawning. Things looked good as bream were seen rolling in the evenings in our chosen spots as we piled yet more bait in, which showed us we weren’t wasting our time, or so I thought.
We planned a 2 night trip over a weekend, as I cant just up sticks and leave with kids and work commitments. Sods law saw the hottest 3 days of the year and the hundreds if not thousands of bream went into giggidy giggidy mode and wouldn’t look at a bait no matter what treat we had prepared for them
We did observe them from a boat as they courted each other right underneath us oblivious to our presence, but there wasn’t a hope they were going to be caught, so we cut our losses and let them have an early night.
I did have a cast for them the following week for a couple of hours, and had a few hybrids and a very welcome 2lb9oz perch, but the bream had moved off out of the area, most likely to a nearby river to clean themselves after spawning. Surprisingly, I had never caught a roach or hybrid in this water up until 3 years ago. It was bream after bream. The make up of the lakes biodiversity is obviously now changing since the roach introduction 8 to 10 years ago and they have made their mark, but hopefully the bream which do grow large there will still be available to anglers in years to come.
After all the massive pre-baiting sessions, I decided to head for the Tench which are my favourite of all the warm weather species. I did some trips to local lakes and did bag up on loads of fun sized tench but it’s the bigger ones I have been after over the years and some the richer less populated lakes of Leitrim were on my list of targets this year.
Although the tench are one of the most frustrating fish known to man, there is something special camping up on a lakeside and getting up at 4am to watch nature wake up and see the mist or more recently rain on the water as the tell tail signs of tench feeding by the fizzing bubbles they produce as they scour the lake bed in search of their breakfast.
This can also be the most nervous of times too, as bubbles get closer to your float then head in a different direction and it’s a mind game of stick or twist as whether to follow them or keep your nerve. The latter usual works better for me if I feed properly and have my float set up right.
I usually couple the float rod with a ledger rod on the alarms to give me the best opportunity. On the sleeper rod I usually use a method feeder or a black cap maggot feeder with short hooklinks and either fake corn or fake castor hair-rigged for self hooking. On some of the weedier water I fish this also helps with presentation and sometimes helps with hooking as the buoyancy of the rubber bait and the weight of the hook make it more natural than plain old baited hooks, and less conspicuous on wary fish, and the bait is in their mouths before they now what to do with it.
A few spods of chosen bait are put over the area I fish as opposed to the hundreds I would use for bream if we didn’t have the use of a boat. I like to use castor, pellets, dead reds and hemp for my tench although I never leave home without the trusty can of sweetcorn.
Some people really like to pile the bait in for tench, but on some lakes I find this can put them off and I like to fish for a bite at a time when they are finicky. No doubt both methods work, but if the tench are not in large numbers I try and sit on my hands and keep the bait bowl as far away as possible and just give them enough attraction and food for one to slip up. But as always all lakes differ and tench never read the rule book.
Again the rain has dictated the spots I could fish as a lot of lakes are flooded and unfishable, so some homework and guidance from some good people has seen me get onto a couple of waters to get some action from the tincas. I haven’t broken any records but have had some very respectable fish and would you believe it some bream when I wasn’t fishing for them. Ah well, beggars can’t be choosers.
As some of my fishing trips see me galavanting around on my lonesome, the dilemma of taking pictures for this article arose. Now I know there are experts in the field of self taking pictures but I am only scratching the surface this year with it. This coupled with the fact that I have a digital camera that only allows me a ten second delay when using the timer saw me in some funny moments. However I have managed to get a couple of pictures that just about did the job.
I use a screw in adapter that goes into the base of my camera, then screws into a bank stick, and all for the princely sum of a couple of euro. Next is to get yourself into the frame as best you can and to choose your background, (which is vitally important for all those secret squirrel specimen hunters).
I take a pic of me holding a pretend fish which a lot of the times is very optimistic looking on my part, then mark your spot with further banksticks so you know where you are meant to be for the all important money shot.
Anyway I was out this morning and put this into practise and as you can see, the fake fish is a lot bigger than the real thing, but I was happy with the framing and picture. No doubt there are photo boffs reading this and laughing, but for a cheap simple set-up, it does the trick.
And no I am not including the several outcuts of me juggling a bream at 6.30am for your amusement, they are getting sent to ‘You’ve been framed’.