As Spring lethargically began to take it’s hold, my latest session had me in two minds. Should I try for some early season tench, or go for some late season pike? I opted to take tackle and bait with me to target either species. There are two different club lakes I fish, within a couple of miles of each other. One holds both tench and small pike, whilst the other holds pike of specimen proportions. I decided to head in the general direction of these lakes and see what conditions I found when I arrived.
I arrived at the first venue at first light and as I approached the gate, I noticed a dark figure scurrying across a field in front of me. It was a badger! One of my favourite British mammals, and one which I have seldom seen in the wild. This sighting gave my confidence an early boost and gave me feeling that the day might turn out to be a special one.
I had a good walk around the three-acre lake before I set up any tackle. It was a cold morning and it just didn’t feel right for tench fishing yet. After spooking a few fish in the margins, which I presumed to be pike, I headed back to the van to collect my lure rod. I tried everything from floating frog-imitations to sinking shad-style crankbaits, but couldn’t get as much as a follow in the early morning gloom. After an hour of fruitless lure fishing, curiosity got the better of me and I headed to the other lake to see what awaited me there.
By the time I arrived at the second lake, the day was brightening up. I first tried lures, before returning to the van to collect my bait rods and cool-box. On the walk back to the van, something caught my eye on the trunk of a bare tree. On closer inspection, I realised I was looking at a treecreeper – a bird I have wanted to see for some years, but never witnessed in the wild before. By the end of the day I’d spotted at least eight of these elusive birds, which I found quite unbelievable!
I returned my two deadbait rods and set them in very shallow water against some marginal reeds. I had to stealthily approach the reedbeds, avoiding stepping on dead twigs which littered the ground. One of my baits was presented freeline, dropped just below the rod tip, poking over the reeds. The other bait was float-legered further along the reeds. It took a little over an hour to get my first run, which I wound down to and struck quickly, only to be met with little resistance. Run missed. A further half an hour or so passed before the freelined bait was picked up. Once again I struck quickly, but failed to connect with the pike. With two missed runs I was getting a little worried that I had either found extremely finicky pike, or extremely small ones. When the freelined bait was taken again a little while later, I paid out line to the running fish for around fifteen seconds, before winding down and finally feeling the familiar head-shake of a hooked pike. Before long I had the fish, which weighed around three pounds, to the bank. Despite letting it run a little longer, the fish was still only hooked with the trailing treble. I flicked out the hook and returned the fish with minimal fuss.
By this point, the sun was very high in the sky and surprisingly warm. Consoled by the fact that I hadn’t blanked, I decided to leave the pike and have a try for a tench, back at the first lake. Upon taking a walk around the water, now bathed in sunlight, I spotted several small groups of double-figure carp cruising the surface layers, seemingly searching for food. I was supposed to be searching out the tench, but stalking big carp is always tempting! So I rigged up a rod with 5lb mainline, a small blob of floating putty and a size 8 hook; then I grabbed a tub of worms and tore the crusts from my sandwiches. Surely these carp, wallowing beneath the surface film, couldn’t resist a natural bait such as a worm? Evidently they could! Despite my best stalking efforts, with various bait presentations, I could not persuade a single fish to feed. After spending a couple of hours pursuing these very wary fish, I decided to cut my losses and try to get a tench swim going before it was too late.
Prior to my stalking escapade, I had the sense to pre-bait a couple of swims with a mixture of minced prawns, micro pellets and brown crumb. I had chosen a peg with a shallow shelf, on which I would fish the lift method, and a deep trench, where I would feeder-fish. The reason I used minced prawns is that I was testing out some new prawn imitation baits, made by Enterprise Tackle, along with the brilliant new “The Hook” by Stonze – both of which I picked up at the Go Fishing Show recently, at Birmingham NEC. More on those in a future review.
I topped up the swims with a little more loosefeed, cast out, and sat back in my chair, looking for any signs of feeding fish. The swim where I was fishing worm on the lift method was constantly being invaded by swans who could just reach the bottom. They managed to devour the majority of my loosefeed almost instantly. Some bubbles coming from the deep trench caught my eye. I increased the depth my float was set at and cast the worm out to join the imitation shrimp in the trench. I had nothing resembling a bite on either rod until the sun began to set behind me.
I was caught daydreaming when the baitrunner on my worm rod burst into action! Startled, I lifted the rod and struck into a heavy fish. The tench of a lifetime – I thought, as I brought it to the surface quickly and easily. As it neared the surface, the fish found a new lease of life! At first I thought it had been seized by a huge pike, as it careered towards the far end of the lake, taking at least 40 yards of my 5lb line. I managed to exert enough pressure upon the fish to turn its head, which prompted it to swim parallel with the far bank at tremendous speed, towards a sunken bush. I reeled as fast as I could to keep up with the fish, and managed to steer it away from the snag just in time, but the fight was far from over. Soon I was at full stretch applying maximum sidestrain, as the mystery fish tried to snag me under a tree on the next peg. Luckily I managed to ease the fish into open water, where the last few minutes of the battle took place. When a large, gasping head broke the surface, I knew my “tench” was actually a fighting fit, double-figure mirror carp. As I slid it over the net I breathed a sigh of relief.
Although chunky, the carp was by no means a monster. The fight was so much in the carp’s favour for so long that this syrprise fish can’t help but be memorable. Considering my carp fishing nowadays consists purely of a few stalking sessions and the odd opportunistic capture, I considered this fish a welcome distraction to an otherwise uneventful tench session.