"Hyperactive Tenching "
by Tim Ridge
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Tench fishing involves a lot of inactivity for some people. Modern bolt-rigs, bite alarms, bivvies and bed chairs have enabled us to catch fish without really putting much in the way of effort in. I’m not knocking it, many people go fishing to relax and if that is your thing then far be it for me to criticise you.
If on the other hand you prefer to actively do something to improve your results I am here to tell you that it isn’t imperative for you to adopt the ‘sit there until you bore em out’ approach.
Over the last two or three seasons I have made a number of large catches of tench (& bream). When people talk to me about these catches they assume that I have found some special bait or magic potion or that I am just a lucky sod.
I don’t think that there is much luck involved in successful tench fishing at all.
My philosophy is not to hope I catch but to make damn well sure that I catch. I do this in several ways but ‘bloody hard work’ sort of sums it up.
Being consistently lucky!
1. Do your homework
I put a lot of thought into my fishing and I would say that realising the potential of the water is of primary importance initially. Lesson number one is to find out about the water for your-self! On numerous occasions I have been misinformed. At Hollowell for instance, I had been told that I was only fishing for small groups of nomadic tench (the normal reservoir tench conception) so I fished accordingly! During those first few trips something didn’t quite add up! The number of fish that I saw rolling didn’t tally with the idea that the reservoir was fairly sparsely inhabited.
I changed my approach accordingly and in my next few trips I caught fifty-odd tench!
Actually locating the tench is rarely much of a puzzle. It is time consuming (sometimes especially so) but by putting all your initial efforts into looking for rolling and bubbling fish you will be saving an awful lot of frustration later on. I’ve met characters in the past who simply haven’t been willing to spend any time doing this, preferring to base their swim choice on what they learn with the plumbing rod or waiting for the latest ‘going swim’ to be vacant. Sure these anglers have a good session once in a while but they are not as consistent as those who keep their eyes open.
Often tench are most vulnerable to capture in quite localised spots of perhaps a few feet in diameter. It is quite common for tench to show regularly in areas as large as a hundred square yards yet within that area there will be one or perhaps two spots where the tench can be especially easy to catch.
These areas are commonly quite different to the surrounding area with regards bottom composition. I could speculate that the feeding activity of the tench causes this but it’s a bit ‘chicken and egg’ if you can see my point.
This is where the plumbing rod is indispensable.
It is true that you will probably catch odd fish by presenting your baits close by these spots but you can’t beat the results achieved by presenting your baits with pin-point accuracy. It is important to remember that not all such spots are productive and this is the reason for locating the tench visually before getting the plumbing rod out.
It is vital to learn as much as possible about the environment in which the fish live. If I ever left my plumbing rod at home I’m afraid I’d go back for it no matter how far I had travelled. .
The lakes underwater detail is likely to have an influence regarding what measures will make the tench more catchable. In shallow water (for instance) the light is likely to penetrate to the bottom and if there’s a lot of light then the tench will easily be able to see an anglers terminal tackle! The lake-bed composition and contours are important because they dictate the best choice regarding tactics; when deciding which hook-link material, lead/feeder attachment or line management systems for instance.
Very rarely do I finish a session using the same terminal tackle that I started with but you do need a starting point and extensive plumbing provides this.
2. Practice on a variety of venues
So how do I know roughly what techniques will work where? The simple answer is experience. I’ve fished a lot of very easy waters for an awful lot of very average sized tench and there have been occasions when the lack of big fish on my doorstep has caused immense frustration but if I’m truthful, now I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Waters like Emberton, Pebley reservoir, Oakhill, Frensham Great pond, Pugneys country park, Wintersett Reservoir and countless small insignificant ponds may not provide very large fish but they do provide a far greater insight into tench behaviour than some remote semi-fishless specimen water. I know a lot of anglers who have mastered one particular style. There is absolutely no doubt that they are very good at what they do. But what about those occasions/venues when that particular style is not the best choice? Tench react to angling pressure in different ways. They learn to pick up baits without hooking themselves and they learn that our terminal tackle is a hazard. No one single-minded tactic could possibly work on every occasion.
Singularly, experience of one venue teaches you a little. Collectively, the experience of fishing a lot of waters provides a giant compendium of information that can be drawn on at any convenient time.
3. Be active on the bank
I approach my tench fishing in a similar way to many match anglers. It is true that I have half a dozen proven tactics up my sleeve but if they haven’t produced after a short while I’ll tweak this, alter that a little or even change tactics altogether. I don’t even consider that the tench aren’t feeding because it is a fact that I believe they usually are!
When you are not catching fish, the blame usually lies with your own inability to catch them. Face this and your catches will improve I promise.
I have a friend, Simon who would freely admit to being the laziest angler in the world. The pressures of home life and family ensure that Simon often goes fishing to get a good-nights kip! He once described chub as ‘Damned inconsiderate’ because they rarely hook themselves on bolt-rigs. If you are of a similar mind to Simon then don’t expect to catch lots of tench because I don’t believe it is possible to do so whilst asleep on your bedchair. I very rarely use more than two rods for tench because my style of tenching is so active that the use of more rods would be exhausting!
If I’m not recasting then I’m baiting up or retackling (or landing fish). All this amounts to a lot of hard work but it really is worth the effort.
Rigs and tactics
Modern bolt type rigs play a primary role in my tench-fishing and for this I make no excuses. A self-hooking rig can ensure the fish is hooked before it even thinks about spitting the bait out. If Bolt-rigs have a weakness it is that they rarely let you know when they aren’t working in the desired way! The mode in which I use bolt rigs is to assume they aren’t working until my indicators start moving on a regular basis. This way sooner or later I usually find a combination that is working.
Float fishing also plays a role. I don’t think it is the ideal method for putting huge numbers of tench on the bank because a line drawing vertically up to the surface is not suited to fishing swims where dozens of tench are mulling around. However, when it is scratching time, when you just have to accept that a large catch is not on the cards the float rod often comes out to play. The float plays quite an important role in my learning process because it teaches things that cannot be learnt sitting by matching ledger rods.
Interpreting the various tiny movements on the float is fun and informative.
I’m not going to describe all my rigs etc. I don’t think copying them would necessarily add anything to your own fishing. What I will do is advise you to examine every single component that you use and think why you are using it. If you can’t think of a valid reason or after examination, find it doesn’t work in the way you had envisaged then dispense with it. Check how your rig behaves underwater and try to make it as inconspicuous as the situation demands. Tench rigs are always a matter of compromise. We need a hook, a hooklink, a lead and a mainline in order to facilitate hooking and landing the fish and in certain situations an obvious ‘in their face’ rig can work well. Most of the time however it will pay to use components that are as discrete as is possible. When you’ve cast out try to envisage everything beyond the rod tip. Think about how everything is laying underwater and then consider how you could improve matters. Follow it up even if it is just a hunch. I’ve had multiple catches as a consequence of making the most minute of alterations to my terminal tackle. Things like changing from one hook pattern to a different one of the same size can make a definite difference to the hooking potential of your rigs.
I have definitive rules with regards the combinations of rig components I use. For instance I generally use hooks with out-turned eyes in conjunction with mono hook-links and hooks with in-turned eyes with braided hook-links. Experience has taught me that these are the best combinations. Which one of these combinations is the right one on any given day or venue is far less certain and may well be a matter of trial and error.
With regards feeding try to consider what is happening under the surface. The old adage you can put it in but you can’t take it out again holds true. 99.9% of the time it is better to feed relatively small amounts of bait on a regular basis rather that filling the lake in with an initial bombardment of feed. When considering what bait items to use think factual rather than faddy unproven theories and salesmanship. There used to be a saying that floats catch more anglers than fish. I think the same saying could be applied to fancy baits these days! Although it is sensible to feed regularly it doesn’t necessarily follow that you have to use huge quantities of solid feed items. A regular feeder load of well-sieved ground-bait can serve to kick start intense action without over feeding if only a small number of tench are present.
Get busy at home.
Before a session prepare as much of your tackle and bait as you can. I always prepare a quantity of ground-bait so that I don’t need to do it on the bank. My plumbing rod is permanently set up in my holdall and I like to make sure that I have a variety of pre-tied hook-links pinned to rig boards. I make a list of jobs that need doing before a session and an itinerary of tackle that I know I’ll need. Before each session this is all checked and completed so that once I’m on the bank I can concentrate on the job in hand.
Purchase any items that will enable you to become more organised. For instance a slow cooker has enabled me to stew particles whilst I’m hard at work. Buying ground bait and particles in bulk bags restricts the necessity for the dreaded Friday night tackle shop dash.
Now I’ve no doubt that some of you simply don’t want to go to the extremes I have discussed. That’s fine but at least be aware that such things can make a big difference.
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