So far this spring, my fishing for tench has been singularly unsuccessful, although a succession of hard fighting carp wherever I choose to fish has certainly prevented me from getting bored! But I again had tench at the top of the agenda as I headed well before dawn for Carp Society water Horseshoe Lake in Gloucestershire. I didn’t get down there last season, but enjoyed some great tench action in 2009 with plenty of tench to over 9lbs. The target this year, as it is every year, is a double figure specimen. I’ve only had three doubles in my big fish career, all on the same day in July 1998. I’m overdue another one!
For my first session of 36 hours, I decided to set up in the swim I had my best catch from two years ago, swim number 9 on Winter Bay, known as Choppy’s. Just after dawn, it was lovely, bright and calm and I spent the best part of an hour with my marker rod establishing the areas of lightest bottom weed. Everywhere I cast there was some silkweed and a little clumpy Canadian pond weed, but I eventually found an area where I only retrieved tiny strands on the marker lead. This was at about thirty yards, a perfect range for tenching and simple for accurate baiting with my Spomb.
The feed consisted of a bucket of hemp, containing three pints each of casters and dead red maggots, together with a tin of sweetcorn and a tub of Strawberry Squabs, a medium soft hooker pellet with the consistency of Dolly Mixtures. These are about the same size as corn grains and have caught plenty of tench and bream since their introduction last season. In the daylight hours, the plan was to fish two feeder rods containing live red maggots, with one hook baited with maggots, the other casters. In deference to the light but annoying bottom weed, I decided to use rubber maggots and casters, using the buoyant varieties from Enterprise. Having these hair rigged on short hairs to size 14s ensured that they remained visible above the bottom weed. To ensure that they remained weed free while awaiting bites, I was careful to avoid drawing back the terminal rig after casting by taking in the surplus line very gingerly. For the after dark fishing, which I have never found very productive for tench, I changed to size 10s baited with hair rigged pop up Squab and buoyant rubber corn respectively. This, I felt, would give me a chance with either bream or carp while awaiting daybreak, when I would switch back to my maggots and casters.
The daylight hours were totally uneventful, with the increasingly strong headwind making it feel very unspringlike. This was despite accurately baiting regularly with two Spombs of mixed feed every couple of hours and recasting my feeders at least every half hour. As darkness approached with a still stubbornly dry landing net, I switched to the night attack. Perhaps the bream or carp would be more co-operative. I soon had my answer. At just after 11.00pm, my left hand alarm was screeching as something departed the scene in haste. What a scrap ensued on my relatively light tench feeder rod, from what was obviously a carp with attitude. That fish did just not want to give up; this was made much worse by the fact that it had charged through the other line on its first run. By the time I eventually landed it, after a good fifteen minutes, I had a bird’s nest of monumental proportions. I wouldn’t be fishing again for well over an hour, sorting that mess out. As it was, I had a cracking common in the net, short, fat and pristine. Although it only weighed 15lbs I was really pleased; at least I hadn’t blanked on my first Horseshoe sortie. At 3.00am there was a repeat performance from another common carp just 10 ounces bigger than the first, a much darker, leaner fish. This one had been wolfing the Squabs, judging by the residue in the net.
As dawn broke, I switched straight back to my maggot feeders for the prime target, big tench. I only had until about 3.00pm to fish this second day so had to make the most of the hours I had left. Slowly the morning wore on, again with no interest from tench whatever. Soon, it was 1.30pm and I was looking at another tench blank. And then, in fifteen minutes, I had two fish, both males of just over 6lbs apiece. Again no monsters, but at least I’d had a result.
At 3.00pm I reluctantly packed up and after saying goodbye to Dave at the Carp Society lodge, I set off for home. My last words to Dave were prophetic. He had a look at my new van before I left and I uttered the immortal words, “It’s great to have a reliable vehicle at last”.
I choked on those words half way home. I was just entering Moreton in the Marsh and had thought for a few miles that the van sounded a bit noisier than it should. There was a sudden ear splitting bang from the engine that gave me a real fright and then I lost the power steering. Somehow managing to wrestle the thing onto a side road, I quickly turned the engine off as clouds of smoke poured from under the bonnet. It was now about 4.30pm, rush hour was just starting, and it took the AA over an hour to get to me. When they did, my worst fears were realised. The tension pulley holding the fan belt in place had exploded, twisted itself out of shape, together with one of the other pulleys, and ripped the fan belt into what looked like shredded spaghetti. The fan belt igniting had caused the smoke cloud. Obviously, there was no way that was going to be fixed on the side of the road and I then had another two hour wait for a flat back AA recovery vehicle to load the van and transport it and me home. I arrived home at just after 10.00pm.
At the time of writing, I’ve just returned from a very welcome holiday in Tenerife and while I was there a close friend, who is a top mechanic, has put the van back together for me. The last year has been somewhat trying on the fishing vehicle front, to say the least!