Fishing I was really looking forward to at the start of the river season was overnight sessions on the Great Ouse after carp and tench. In recent years, carp to over 33lb have been taken and I know of at least one 9lb plus tench. For a river fish, that is monstrous. My own biggest ever river tench is a 7lb 11oz specimen taken a few years ago and my target this season was a relatively modest 8lbs. That is not such a big deal these days for a gravel pit, but it is still a rare capture in flowing water.
The obvious problem early in the season was the floods. While they might have been conducive to barbel feeding, conditions were poor for the overnighters for tench and carp we had planned. At long last, however, a couple of weeks ago we had a river at normal height and clarity for July and set up for two nights on the banks of the Great Ouse. Once again, I was fishing with my good mate Alan Lawrence, in swims about forty yards apart. I fished the first night on my own, Alan joining me the next morning. The stretch we like for this fishing is wider than average for the upper Ouse, fairly clear of bottom weed but featuring wide lily bed margins along both banks. The tench particularly colonise these lilies and we’ve found that by targeting any little bays in the cabbages we can create small hot spots. For the carp, they tend to hold off the lilies toward the deeper water and the usual approach is to put one bait hard against the cabbages under the opposite bank, but drop the other bait a few yards short.
I started to prepare my swim at around midday, baiting with around 100 15mm boilies initially, plus several Spombs full of hemp and corn. I would be fishing method feeders, with method ball packed with corn around my Stonze weight on each cast. The reason for the heavy corn contribution was because of the signal crayfish problem. Last year, after the first day catching on boilies, the crays moved in and made boilie fishing impossible. A switch to rubber corn caught a couple of tench. This year, at the slightest sign of signal interference, I would revert to popped up rubber corn on both fishing rods. My fishing tackle kit comprised a matched pair of Lite Speed 2.5lb carp rods, probably a little over gunned for tench but certainly not for a big river carp. These were matched with a pair of Dave Lane Speedrunners.
With the preparation complete, I set up my camp and made my first casts at around 4.00pm. I was unprepared for quite such an instant reaction because, only twenty minutes later, I’d already caught two tench, both just over six pounds. They gave lightening fast runs, just like carp. River tench really are an exciting quarry. The third tench was the fish I’d set my heart on. After a great battle in and out of the far bank lilies I finally had the upper hand and slid the net under a very big tench. When I confirmed 8lb 2oz I was over the moon. The rest of the evening continued in similar vein, with four more tench falling to my boilies and no apparent interference from signals. As darkness fell, however, I started to get little twitches and gently wound in to find boilies nibbled away and hair stops miraculously removed. It was time for the rubber corn and thereafter the signal problem stopped. I had one more tench before it became completely dark, a lovely 7-4 specimen, and then the bream moved in. I had five of them in the dark hours, to a little over 7lbs, but there was no sign of a carp run. The bream are interesting. Still water bream of 7lbs tend to be flaccid, anaemic creatures, but these Ouse bream really scrap and they are not slimy like their still water counterparts. I have had several Ouse bream just short of double figures, plus one specimen of 11lb 4ozs and they are very worthwhile targets. As soon as it was fully light, the tench began feeding again and I had another three, plus two more bream, before I wound in to get some breakfast in the van and then a couple of hours sleep.
Alan joined me in late morning and was as delighted as I’d been with my 8lb tench. He prepared his swim exactly as I’d prepared mine, with the exception that he started on the rubber corn from the off. In my swim, I reverted to boilies when I restarted fishing, and did catch one nice tench and two bream before the crays moved in again. By tea time I was on rubber corn on both rods, which produced three more tench before dark. Strangely, the second night was completely blank; I never had a twitch in the dark hours. Only as dawn was breaking did I get another couple of fish before it was time to go. I hadn’t seen a sign of a carp in my swim over the 48 hours but Alan did have some carp action. He landed an 8lb mirror but the main event was a big common that came adrift at the net cord at midnight. He reckoned it would have been a good twenty; what a pity he lost it. He also landed about a dozen tench and bream and all in all it had been a good opening session.
I was well pleased. With sixteen tench to 8lb 2oz and ten bream to over 7lbs I’d had a great time and I can’t wait to get back down there. I’ve had to adjust my tench sights to 9lb now; never satisfied, are we!