Martin Bowler goes in search of a late summer tench - and catches in style!
The season slips away so fast, and with it time in the company of tench
IT SEEMS only yesterday, with blossom hanging heavy from every bough, that I made my first cast of the year in search of tincas. Bites came thick and fast, and my faithful float rod was constantly bent.
That wonderful spell in the fishing calendar is now just a memory, and before we can enjoy it again there’s a long, dark winter ahead.
This is why I needed one last chance to say goodbye to the fish synonymous with summer – the tench.
PREBAITING GIVES CONFIDENCE
A pre-dawn start and a rendezvous with friend Steve Rowley no longer involved missing as much sleep as it did in May, and we met up in the car park clear-eyed and excited at what the day might hold.
For the past two mornings Steve had laced the margins with pellets and maggots to draw in the gravel pit’s fish population, so we walked confidently up the track all ready to do battle.
Our arrival at the waterside was timed perfectly to coincide with the first purple brush strokes of dawn. For a while we stood on the high bank, watching and waiting for a sign of our quarry. That came with the slap of a paintbrush tail and then, before the ripples could subside, the back of a tench broke surface. It was time to get the gear out!
Early-season tench feed with gusto and give wonderful bites on the lift method. This wouldn’t be the case today – experience had
taught us that bites would be much more timid, and our tackle needed to be refined accordingly. Mine was a 13ft Acolyte Plus rod and an FD reel spooled with robust 5lb Specimen Plus line.
STRIKING A BALANCE
A balance needed to be struck between finesse – to get a bite – and strength, because the weed was still dense and ready to offer refuge.
To present a hookbait just kissing bottom, Steve and I selected large crystal wagglers with adjustable day-glow tips. Being able to change the colour of these might seem an irrelevance but otherwise, on large waters, the wrong choice can make a float very difficult to see.
I locked my float between No1 shot with the bulk weight at three-quarters depth and three groups of No6 droppers below that.
For my hook-length there was no better choice than a size 18 Super Spade to 4lb line. Now came the most important part of our preparation, a job that should never be rushed – plumbing up.
A ‘that-will-do’ attitude isn’t good enough, because only the hook needs to touch bottom. Otherwise tench will root through a swim, sending up plumes of bubbles without ever registering a bite on the float. The hookbait can be sucked in half-a-dozen times and you’ll be none the wiser. That’s why Steve and I spent five minutes getting our rigs positioned just right.
I made an overhead cast, feathering the flight of the float so it landed well away from the hook, then buried the rod-tip and sank the line while
drawing the waggler back into the prebaited zone.
We didn’t need to introduce a lot of bait – only enough to draw the attention of the tench – so in went four pouchfuls of red maggots and the same of pellets coated in Sticky’s Pure Hemp Oil.
Attractive as this is, the real reason for glugging the pellets was to create a slick that would rise to the surface when grubbing tench disturbed the lakebed.
I could then judge if my float arrangement was working or if it needed fine-tuning.
With chest waders on we stood in the margins, flanked by reeds.
The early cloud cover just added to the atmosphere as we hovered over the rods, willing our double maggot hookbaits to be sucked up. These were stolen moments in a race against time, and aware of this I tried more than ever to enjoy the moment of anticipation.
FIRST FISH TO STEVE
Steve was first to break the spell, his rod silhouetted against a moody sky as a tench bent the carbon down to the first spigot. We’d made a start but here, as on most gravel pits, the best time for an autumn tench would be after the sun had been up for a couple of hours.
A bubble here and there and a slick of hemp oil on the surface told me what I needed to know long before my waggler sank away. I wanted to end the season with a good fish, and there was no doubt once my hook took hold that I was connected to one.
The problem now was landing it. I coaxed the fat, emerald-green tench past a bed of Canadian pondweed threatening to snag the line. Now the fish charged off, but the clutch took care of that, although there was yet more weed to negotiate.
I kept the fish moving until my patient fishing mate slipped the landing net into the margins.
One final tail slap and a near-8lb tench was mine – the perfect way to say goodbye to summer.
Steve Rowley does the honours with the net.
Steve was first into a tench. What a fine fish!
A satisfying bend as another tench is hooked.