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

Angling Times (UK) - - WELCOME -

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.


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.


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.


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.

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