I began fishing with my late grandfather when I was six years old. Usually, I played gilly in the earlier days but even that was a right buzz for me! Just spending precious time with my grandad was enough but the fishing was an extra bonus. We’d usually fish the Basingstoke canal or a local estate lake called Stoneham. Stoneham was what gripped me and what fuelled my passion for angling it was a glorious place to fish! It had two lakes a larger top lake which held larger sized carp and the bottom lake which was more of a mixed fishery. Both had giant trees all around them and various types of bushes. The banks were surrounded in vegetation. The lakes had pads in almost every swim. It really was a magical place to be!
My grandad was a traditionalist and always fished a float rod coupled with a centrepin. I used the same set up minus the centre pin as I couldn’t be trusted at the time. My grandad would always fish the swim next door so he could keep a close eye on me. One particular session I could remember an eruption of bubbles around my float! My grandad explained to me that it was tench behind the jacuzzi. I’d never caught a tench so I was super keen to hook one! I can remember missing several bites. At the end of the session, my grandad asked how I got on and I explained the situation and the next session he set me up on the lift method and explained in great detail on what I had to do and how I could go about catching these mythical red-eyed creatures that turned my swim into a jacuzzi!
That trip I was sat on the edge of my seat box rod in hand eagerly awaiting for that float to rise up! After a generous amount of 6mm halibut pellets were fed into the swim a short while later the bubbles began to break the surface. I attached my sweet corn hook bait and lowered the float into position. It was now down to me. The half-hour or so later the float rose out of depths and I struck into my first hard fighting tench! Luck was on my side and I landed my first ever tench! As soon as the tench graced my net my grandfather patted me on the back! I was over the moon! And overwhelmed at the age of ten id caught my first ever tench. After spending many years catching roach, Rudd & perch hooking a tench was something else and that’s what planted the tench seed!
Time to move on to pastures new After years of angling on local estate lakes catching tench around the 6lb mark, I really wanted to target some seriously big specimen tench! Each year I’d fish for various species suited to the time of year they favour the most. So springtime was set aside for the tench. As fate would have it a ticket came up which held some monster-sized tench this got me very excited indeed! A friend showed me a handful of photos of some doubles he’d caught whilst carp fishing before my first session which got the fire really burning! It was early April and the weather was still cold. This didn’t dampen my spirits as it’s always exciting to fish a new venue. I arrived late morning and due to the northeasterly winds, I didn’t see anything in the form of tench rolling etc. I had a good lead about and dropped in the deeper end of the lake. By this time it was getting on. I favoured a hard area amongst some silt situated next to some weed growth.
The spot was the size of a brolly big enough to place two rods. Due to the weather and it still being cold I was dubious on whether the tench would feed at all so I didn’t want to overdo it on the bait so I put out six spombs which consisted of red maggot and hemp. My chosen setups were to use my two trusty Drennan MK1 Bream and tench rods coupled with Shimano bait runner reels loaded with 10lb esp synchro. The venue was weedy and held large carp so I wanted to be safe than sorry! My end tackle consisted of two large Drennan maggot feeders fished helicopter style with two short three-inch hook links with size fourteen Drennan super specialist barbel hooks. My chosen hook baits were two red maggots on each. I taped each feeder up with black tape to slow down the distribution of maggot. The rods were out for a short amount of time and the left rod screamed off and I was into my first tench from the venue. It was Spritely Male which weighed around 6lb I was very happy indeed! The first fish from a new venue was always a special one!
Night soon fell and the Male was the only tench to grace my net that evening. It was a sleepless night wondering how my first session would pan out. Before long the sun began to rise and the anticipation of the morning ahead left a sickly taste in my mouth where the adrenaline began to kick in! I recast my feeders fully loaded with juicy maggots onto the spot. During the night the easterly wind dropped off and it was a lot warmer I was feeling very confident! I began to see a few tench roll close to my baited area! A short while later and the left rod tore off and I hooked into what I thought was a large carp! I was wrong!
When I eventually got the fish close to the bank the fish rolled and it was a large tench! I was in bits! I hoped and prayed that it didn’t fall off and fortunately for me, it didn’t and on my first trip I’d landed a decent tench! It went 9.8lb which at the time was a new personal best I was over the moon! A new personal best tench on my first trip! It was a happy drive home indeed! I thought the season ahead would be a lucky one! I was wrong very wrong!
Time to rethink my tactics As the days went on the temperature rose as did the water temperature with this came the eels! And there were heaps of eels! My favourite tactics when fishing for tench are maggot feeders with maggot hook baits or worm. On this venue, it was impossible the bootlace sized eels were relentless. I’m not afraid to admit this but I chucked in the towel that season and pursued crucians. All the time I targeted the crucians I had a bitter taste in my mouth about the tench venue!
Carp anglers would send me pictures of monster tench they’d caught which only rubbed salt into my wounds. The whole year I plotted in my head how I’d tackle the venue the following spring. Soon enough spring came around and I’d binned the maggot and worm approach and opted to fish boilies as the carp anglers would sometimes struggle to feed off the tench some mornings!
The venue is silty and weedy so my new approach was to fish Drennan open-end feeders helicopter style with three-inch hooklinks with size ten kurve shank hooks and my chosen hook baits were dynamite baits source 14mm hardened hook baits heavily glugged in matching liquid. I’d fish my new approach over a big bed of hemp, pellet and chopped and the whole boilie. I’d also add a generous amount of liquid worm extract. I was unsure of how this new approach would fare but time would tell. I also found regularly recasting wasn’t doing me any favours either! So I’d fish like carp anglers do also. Heavily bait up when I arrive and cast out and leave the rods out until I get a bite.
My first session with my new “Carpy twist” was a gamble but I didn’t have anything to lose. I fished a new area in the middle of the lake and found a spot again close to some fresh weed growth. I bailed heavily with my chosen mix. It was May and the temps had been consistently in the twenty’s for a while so I knew the tench would be active and would be game for a feed! I put out ten medium-sized spombs with my chosen bed of bait. I cast my feeders out with optimism. It was a quiet night but I knew that the majority of tench fed from first light to lunchtime anyway. I recast my feeders onto my chosen area and waited to see how my new plans would pan out.
That morning was a hectic one and I lost count on the amount of tench I’d caught! Could this be a fluke? That spring was a successful one indeed but no doubles graced my net but at last, I’d cracked the venues code! I knew it would be a matter of time before I landed my intended quarry in the form of my first double from the venue! And the following spring I upped the anti! I pre-baited a couple of areas when I could with hemp, pellet and boilie. Before a session, I’d also make sure I heavily pre-baited which meant when I wished I’d just fish the feeders and in turn try not to create a lot of disturbance.
That spring again was a successful one and I got my first double from the venue in the form of a 10.8lb specimen. Don’t you love it when a plan comes together?
When the going gets tough I often find if you really start to bang your head Against the wall on a venue it’s sometimes good to take a break and fish other venues just to take a break and clear your head! I’ve found when doing this you can some times have some red-letter days! One spring I took a break away from fishing my usual tench venue as I fancied fishing my favourite Maggot and worm approach without getting eel’ed out! I fished a gravel pit a little further from home. Using my trusty maggot feeders fished heli style with short hook links with worm hook baits over big beds of hemp and maggot I landed several big tench weighing over 8lb 9lb with the biggest going 10.3lb. Sometimes having a break can relight that fire! And potentially land you some special fish. The fish of a lifetime.
Spring 2019 was a fruitful one indeed! My shortest tench campaign to date and the most successful to date in terms of catching special tench! This particular spring I’d only managed to get out for three overnight sessions but on my third, I landed a fish I only ever dreamt of catching! I arrived in the afternoon around 5.00 pm. This trip I decided to not put out any boilies in my spomb mix! Just purely hemp and pellet. My thought process behind this would be that my boilie hook bait would stick out like a sore thumb! I did what I usually did and put out around ten spombs onto the chosen area in the afternoon. After out went my feeders.
The night was a quiet one as was first light but the weather was bang on! Warm, overcast and drizzly! My favourite tench conditions! Around 7.30 am my right rod absolutely melted off! From the off, I thought I was into one of the lakes larger carp! And if I’d of lost it I would have said to everyone that it was a carp! The fight was intense and my 2lb test curve tench rods were taking a beating indeed! The fish flat rodded me on several occasions before eventually slowing down and making its way towards my net! It engulfed the surface and I knew it was it was truly something special! When I lifted the net I struggled I then knew it could potentially be 11lb+ but when the scales spun past the 11lb mark I couldn’t believe my eyes! When it settled on 12.8lb I was even more in shock! Three years of graft every spring all for this special moment! A dream come true!
The Spring that we thought we’d never see 2020 Like everyone else due to COVID and the lockdown, all anglers didn’t think we’d get to see spring! I honestly thought I wouldn’t see a tench that spring! But good old Boris gave us anglers the “green light” and indeed that meant I could target my favourite spring green giants! What unfolded I could of never of foreseen or predicted! I fished four overnight sessions for heaps of tench! 7s 8s 9s and two doubles going 10lb and 11.4lb Just when all hope was lost anglers all around the UK graced the banks.
Favourite tench baits Depending on the venue depends what bait I’ll use. If the venue holds eels I’ll opt to use sweet corn, pellet or fishmeal boilie hook baits Such as the ever-faithful source. I’ll use open-end feeders with a fishmeal ground bait such as dynamite baits halibut pellet ground bait with a generous lashing of salmon oil for extra added attraction. My spod mix will contain dynamite baits frenzied hemp, 6mm halibut pellet and whole and chopped source boilies. With a generous amount of liquid worm extract. If the venue doesn’t hold eels then I’ll opt to fish maggot feeders with worm and maggot hook baits. I’ll fish this method over big beds of dynamite baits frenzied hemp, 6mm pellet, dead and live red maggot and chopped and the whole worm.
How I go about tackling a new venue and how I start a new campaign. I’ll walk a new venue as much as I can looking and watching and taking everything in! Your eyes are the best piece of tackle you’ll own! That and a marker rod! I’ll always lead about and write down in a notebook the number of wraps to clear areas or features. This saves you time when you actually turn up to fish. If you put in the groundwork beforehand you’ll maximise the time you can actually fish! If I can I’ll also pre bait this to will enhance your chances of catching. Tench are very nomadic so take note where you see them rolling as that’ll be where they like to feed.
My favourite features for tench are underwater. Clear areas next to weed beds. If you see plenty of tench feeding and rolling amongst the weed either rake the area or heavily pre bait it and make it fishable. You don’t need lots of time to tench fish. The first light to lunchtime is a great time to catch tench and I’ll often just fish these times. Walking lakes around this time is also a great time to spot fish and where they like To feed.
Variety is the spice of life I couldn’t think of anything worse than just fishing for one species of fish. So every year I get out my calendar and set out what time of year I’ll be targeting what species. January, February and March I’d be on the rivers if they were fishable fishing for chub, barbel and roach. And when the rivers closed in March I’d fish for still water perch until April. April, May and June id fish for crucians and tench. July, August and September I’d fish for eels and Rudd then come October onwards I’d be back on the rivers again. Varying my angling keeps everything exciting and it’s always a challenge especially when fishing new venues. Fishing for everything is what fuels my fire.