Approaching tench on a new venue. Part One…
Coarse Angling Today – Published Spring 2013
Most anglers that targeted tench last year had their worst season ever (2012), just the lack of big fish in the press proved how hard it was and it wasn’t just certain venues as all seem to be real head bangers. Why this was we will never know, but two weather factors that were different to the normal were the lack or rain during the winter and the extremely hot months of March and April. One thing I did notice was the abundance of natural food in the venues I fished, bloodworm especially, and this high concentration of food could well of been what they were preoccupied on. This spring (2013) has been the opposite with temperatures struggling to get above freezing in March and snow continuing to fall across the country, so I’m predicting much better things this year.
Catching by design has always been very important to my fishing and this season I’ve set a target of beating my personal best tench of 10lb 3oz. Although that tench was caught during a campaign for the species it fell to the opportunist tactic of float fishing in the margins using a tiny size 18 hook and double maggot on a 2.64lb hooklink! Leading up to a campaign is without a doubt the most thought provoking period as the angler has to first find a venue, before ordering bait and tying up rigs. This may sound simple but let’s take a look at each in slightly more detail.
Venue choice. Some anglers maybe fortunate to be returning to the same venue, however if like me, your looking for a change of scenery finding the perfect lake is far from easy. A double figured tench is a fish of a lifetime, a rare beast indeed, however speak to the wrong person and it will seem as these are a regular visitor to the bank on most club waters. Usually locating big fish come through word and mouth, competent carp anglers or anglers in the know, not from club officials or local tackle shops as these are often trying to sell a club membership than help you achieve your ambition. Areas such as personal safety, the cost and availability of ticket and obviously potential reward were all taken into careful consideration and having five possible venues up my sleeve, one stood out from the rest. These are some of the reasons I made my choice.
Possible rewards. This was the only lake that I personally knew held massive tench as it was a venue I spent a few nights on, many years ago targeting big eels. I have to admit it I didn’t catch any eels, but did see a tench that I estimated at 12lb come waddling past me one early morning. On two other instances I have been told of multiple catches of double figured tench in a session, sounds a bit tall, but I just can’t ignore them.
Angling pressure and venue cosmetics. Mainly fished by carp and pleasure anglers with no known specialist anglers targeting tench. The lake is a big shallow gravel pit so the water will warm up quickly and the tench likely to feed very early in the season. The venue is quiet yet the typography is like an egg box so my rusty feature finding skills will have to be fine tuned.
Other species. Mainly carp, a few big bream, tench plus the odd big eel. Other species like pike, perch, rudd, skimmers and roach are probably present.
Location. Unfortunately this was one that went against the venue as it’s around a 100mile round trip, however hopefully each session will last 48hrs, not the usual overnighter, so this won’t feel as bad and its close enough to home, to pack up if needed in an emergency.
What’s next? With the venue sorted my next job will be to find out as much as I can about the lake. My eyes are without a doubt my best sense for locating my quarry so as soon as my club ticket arrives I will be heading to the venue well before dawn so I can sit and watch the water for signs of fish. The tackle will be in the car just in case I stumble on fish, yet this day will be spent feature finding so when I find myself on the lake ready for my first proper session I have an understanding of what’s in front of me.
Bait. I keep thinking of numerous past tench articles that I have read when the angler prepares a particle mix which includes everything such as maggot, hemp, corn, pellet, wheat, casters, groundbait, you name it its in it. For the life of me I cannot see the reason to give my target such a diverse meal, knowing well and truly that tench can be as finical as any species, accepting one particular item and ignoring the rest. It’s like making the job of catching them ten times harder before you start.
I have always worked on the principle of matching my hookbait with the feed I’m going to introduce and as I’m going to be starting my tench campaign early this spring feel that if I can also match it to the natural food that’s available then I’m half way there. For this reason my main baiting approach will consist of the introduction of hemp and maggots, the hemp representing small water snails and the maggots, bloodworm. The hemp is bought in bulk from an animal feed stockist and I have been saving and freezing maggots from past sessions which will help keep the cost down. As the venue is heavily carp fished I will also keep my options open, especially in the first few sessions and knowing boilies are introduced these will be introduced to a different area with one rod fishing a 10mm Nash Monster Squid over the top. Its worth asking around when buying boilies in bulk as some tackle shops will give you a discounted rate.
Obviously I will change both rods to the preferred bait once I start catching and haven’t ruled out other approaches if neither of these produce, yet I won’t start to get worried until I start seeing fish move within the lake. If I start seeing tench in the margins I wouldn’t rule out using the ‘Ground-bait Lead’ with corn or a soft pellet on the hook as discussed in previous articles or having to resort to plastic maggots if small fish are problematic.
Rigs. Some angler’s prefer to use a semi-bolt rig for tench yet for me the helicopter-rig beats all when using maggots on the hook. It’s an absolutely fantastic, self-hooking rig that has never let me down and couple this with its anti-tangle properties will always be my first choice. The rig is simple to create and the main components are a size 16 super-specialist hook, 4 inch 6lb fluorocarbon hooklink and a 30gram maggot feeder. This rig is designed to be recast regularly and I would try my best to refresh the feeder and bait and recast every hour throughout the session. Although the helicopter rig has been tried and tested I may have to use a leader due to the typography of the lake bed as well as changing the hooklink to a braided one due to gravel bars, however I’m not going to change things until I have to.
My second rod which will be fishing a double 10mm boilie will probably take more adjusting throughout the first few sessions. Initially I will start of using a semi-bolt rig consisting of a Nash Diffusion camo leader, 2.5 inline lead, 6inch braided hooklink with a size 10 barbless hook and five bait stringer attached to this.
Baiting. Although this is something that will be fined tuned during my first few sessions, I feel that it’s a good idea to have a game plan in your head before setting out. Apart from when bream fishing I have always tried to fish for one fish at a time, carefully edging my way into each session, as this gives me a much better idea of what’s happening sub-surface and how the fish are reacting to my bait application. The first session will probably see me spodding out three or four kilos of hemp, maggots, broken and whole boilies with the helicopter rig being recast regularly to top the swim up, with the boilie rod cast far less. Obviously if I’m fortunate to catch a few fish on the first session then I can start building a picture of feeding patterns and top the swim up prior to these without disturbing it.
Part two will give you an insight into how the first few sessions progressed, the catches and the problems which had to be overcome Fishing is far more complicated than most think and getting the best out of each session is a learning curve. This is all part of the fun of fishing and the satisfying, rewarding feeling when results start to come together. My initial plans above will change, I promise you this, as each venue is different, however I will be keeping you well informed on how things transpire.