The tench is a member of the carp family and is found in lakes, canals, ponds (including the village duck pond), meres, gravel pits, lochs and rivers. Although the species abounds in muddybottomed lakes, ponds and canals, in these waters they tend to err on the side of quantity rather than quality. Generally, gravel pits and lakes produce the larger specimens, and the bigger the water, especially if it is clear, the better.
The big Irish loughs produce many large tench, and every spring numerous specimen fish are taken from the famous Power Station reach at Lanesborough to where they migrate from Lough Ree to spawn. Canals, too, hold tench in large numbers, and the bigger specimens are mostly found in those waterways where boat traffic is not heavy. Although normally associated with stillwaters, tench are also found in rivers. Here, although tench are caught in summer, the best times are often when the water is high and coloured—even in winter.
Choice of tackle depends on local conditions and the ability of the angler. For freelining and ledgering a fairly powerful hollowglass rod of 1041 lft with a test curve of about l|lb is suggested. For float fishing, a similar rod with an extra few inches may well be desirable. Most tench waters have a fair share of weed for at least part of the summer, which, particularly if there are other submerged snags like trees, means that you cannot afford to fish too fine. In snaggy conditions you will need line of at least 5 lb b.s., or even 7 or 8 lb in really difficult spots. If you are fortunate enough to locate your tench in snag and and weedfree reservoirtype waters, you can drop to 3 lb providing you have experience of handling bigger fish. For hooks, the choice is wide, depending on the rest of your tackle and bait—anything from a single maggot or grain of sweetcorn on a No 16 up to a juicy mussel ‘foot’ on a No 2.
Other essentials are an umbrella, a large landing net, a reliable torch for night fishing, and an eyeshade or polarized sunglasses (or both) for use in bright sunshine. Accessories such as bite alarms, bite indicators, swingtips, and rod rests should be chosen by the individual.
Tench rods range from 9ft to 13ft. Each has its own application, although there is no need for an armoury of rods at the outset. Softactioned rods are preferred to rigid pokers, but some anglers prefer the opposite. One softactioned wand that weighs but a few ounces is ideal for tench fishing from a boat, while for bank fishing something much longer is needed, especially for use with a float. Whatever the length or action of the rod, it should be applied to a suitable line. The softaction rods are not likely to break a fine 2 lb b.s. Line; while heavier rods would be too hard on lines of breaking strain under 6 lb b.s.
In these days of fashionable specialist baits—high protein, magic, seed, particle, ‘secret’, cereal and others—it seems odd to suggest that a loaf of bread and a tin of worms are still effective baits for most tench fishing. But they are, because tench become wary of certain baits as the season progresses, and it often pays to change. In the early days of the season, sensiblesized hookbaits are just as likely to be taken as single maggots or casters. More big tench have been taken on small crust cubes (which, at fin square, are huge compared with a single maggot) than any other bait. Worms such as brandlings are also excellent, especially when used in advance as groundbait.
On certain waters, freshwater mussels used whole (without shells, of course) or in pieces, have probably accounted for as many big daytime tench as any other bait, while trout pellets as groundbait, and hookbaits made up of soaked brown bread and softened pellets, have proved an excellent combination in recent years, even becoming ‘standard’ baits.
Soaked maize, left until it has fermented and developed an unbearable smell, will undoubtedly attract tench into a given area. The maize itself is not the best of hookbaits, however, because it never really softens, and hooked fish tend to break away. Instead, it is better to fish a sweetcorn hookbait. Soft paste made from maize meal and allowed to ‘go ofF is also very effective when used with soaked maize.
Canned sweetcorn is particularly good for tench and carp. Maggots and casters, redworms, black slugs, snails, caddis, grubs, freshwater mussels—and innumerable other baits, natural and manufactured—are also good. Although all will take fish many of them are of little value except, perhaps, as talking points among anglers. With few exceptions most ‘oddball’ baits are less likely to produce specimen tench than the tried and tested alternatives.
From time to time there are reports of big tench taken on unusual baits not intended for them, but there are seldom subsequent catches on the same bait. One wellknown angler once hooked an enormous tench on a piece of dead fish intended for an eel, but as he had eelfished that spot for many years previously with chunks of dead fish as hookbaits, he knew he had not discovered anything revolutionary! This fish had learnt to avoid the usual baits and, having changed its diet completely, had grown enormous. It is perhaps this change of diet that produces the odd specimen in a water where they are thought not to live.
Ledgering is a very successful method of tench fishing, especially in meres and gravel pits. The various techniques include the use of a blockend filled with maggots, a swimfeeder with bread or worms, straightforward ledgering with an Arlesey bomb or sliding link ledger, and freelining.
In deep water of 12ft and over, a sliding float is necessary. For a slider to perform properly the diameter of the bottom ring should be such that only lines of less than 6 lb b.s. Can pass through. Line strength should be 35 lb. The float should have a long antenna and the shot loading should consist of about six AAA’s and a No 1.
Importance of side strain
Tench are doughty and powerful fighters. You must prevent a hooked tench from swimming back into a tangled mass of weed, for once there you will be lucky to eventually net it. Exert side strain to keep the fish clear. This entails holding the rod low and putting opposite pressure on the fish, which will be forced to make greater efforts to escape; this time more quickly and using up more energy.
Make float changing simple
Several situations call for float fishing and it is not always possible to select the ideal rig immediately. Quick changes are necessary from time to time, so a separate float attachment kept permanently on the line is often advisable. This makes float changing simple with shotting adjusted without dismantling the whole tackle.
Rigs and tackle are not alone in accounting for success in tench fishing. As in all serious angling, locating the fish is allimportant. Many really big tench are found in weedy shallows and, during the day, their paths can be plotted by the string of bubbles they send up to the surface while feeding.
Barbel are indigenous to the swift flowing waters that run to the East Coast of England. They are common in the Thames, Yorkshire Ouse, and Derwent, as well as in the Kennet, Swale, Nidd and Wharfe. They do not naturally occur in the slow flowing lowland rivers of East Anglia and are not found in any rivers that flow to the south or west.
Once the angler hooks his first barbel he will find himself equally hooked on barbel fishing. The sheer power and strength of this stubborn fighter has to be experienced to be believed. Salmon anglers who have inadvertently taken barbel all agree that, weight for weight, there is little to choose between the two species for endurance and power.
Barbel can be caught by a variety of methods, on many baits, and at all hours.
Baits for daytime barbel
To catch these holedup, daytime fish is not easy; stealth and delicate bait presentation are needed. Small baits, such as maggots, are often best, and to present them effectively fine tackle and small hooks are needed—but a 3 lb b.s. Line and No 16 hook are of little use for heaving a 9 lb barbel from dense weed.
Bait and tackle
Barbel will also take such traditional baits as wheat, hemp, barley, maggots, silkweed, and all manner of ‘secret’ pastes concocted by the angler. When they are fastidious it is essential to use comparative tackle, hooks and light baits to tempt them. This spells out the paradox of barbel fishing. The angler has not only to locate his fish, but also to seek them with hooks and lines that are not so heavy as to scare them away, but strong enough to subdue and land a powerful fish.
Ledgering by day or night is by far the most effective method, and the beginner will be well advised to start this way. Essential tackle is an lift hollowglass rod with a testcurve of l^lb, combined with a reliable fixedspool reel holding line between 6 and 9 lb b.s., depending on conditions. A lead attached to a 6in link and a small swivel is preferable to a lead running direct on the reel line. The distance the link ledger is stopped from the hook depends on the current, the type of bait, and the amount of weed in the swim. Usually this distance will vary between 12 and 18in, but when fishing the gaps in streamer weed you may find that it needs to be doubled.
The beginner should concentrate on wellproven meaty baits such as sausage or luncheon meat. Use hook sizes between 10 and 4, depending on the size of bait. Avoid meat baits with a high fat or gristle content; the lumps can prevent the hook penetrating. The most effective method of detecting barbel bites is to hold the rod and feel for them with line held between thumb and forefinger. At the same time, watch the rod top for movements. At night a beam from a torch on to the rod tip is a major asset and it does not appear to scare fish. But it must not be flashed on and off into the water.
For the novice perhaps the most important matter is the identification of barbel bites on the ledger, for they can vary enormously.