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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


11/07/2016 - Tench the Fish of Summer

Poppies on a gravel patch


Sadly I couldn’t fish on June 16th this year, where hopefully I would have found a mist shrouded water as I crept quietly to my swim full of expectations hoping to see swim with patches of pin head bubbles, and being greeted by bird song as the dawn chorus was in full swing. It was July before I got the chance to fish for tench, my friend Stuart had baited a swim for me with a pint of hemp also a handful of corn for the past three mornings. Though I associate tench a fish of summer, I well remember catching three 3lb tench on a cold Christmas Day in the 1950’s, the best at 3lb 8 ounces, there were other mild days of winter when I caught a tench or two. One of the nicest feature I’ve read on fishing for tench was by HT Sheringham titled simply A Brace of Tench, reading the feature it always takes me back to the Higham canal, where my grandfather pointed out a tench slowly moving in the weeded gin clear water, as we watched that tench in June 1944 in the peace and quiet of the English countryside. It was a different picture on the other side of the English Channel as Britain and her allies were fighting to get a strong foothold in France against the hated Germans. Thankfully we were the winners, in 1946 members of my family returned to a peaceful English countryside and their love of fishing including those lovely summer mornings tench fishing. Sadly today the canal doesn’t exist.

Looking back to my teenage years a 3lb tench was a giant a major prize, I thought of other days, some on small waters only known to a few close friends, other sessions on the Royal Military canal built in case Napoleon invaded, but Nelson put stop to that, another water was the River Beult. Stuart dropped me off as near as possible to the small acre size water, I then had to walk along a rutted twisting lane through a five bar gate then a large copse before crossing some rough pasture land full of rabbits, being a bit careful making my way through the many briars with lots of loose or coiled barbed wire, nettles, thistles with their delightful purple heads, cow parsley poppies in profusion, including two quite rare poppies, when I see the beautiful red poppies, I think of all our servicemen and woman who have given their lives so we can be free. The air was filled with bird song, blackbirds competing with each other. Ten yards away I glimpsed the yellow flag iris knowing I was getting close to the water, After 75 years of angling I’m still excited, even more so as I’m hoping to catch some tench. In my bait bag I had some hemp and corn soaked in Lone Angler Ocean Pride, some 10mm Ocean Pride dumbells I also had a couple of pounds of very fine pellets the size of a dust shot given to me by Tony Booker which hopefully would keep the fish rooting around, finally a loaf of bread. My first choice swim was at the far end of the pool close to a horse chestnut tree, fishing over the edge of some water lilies, where I had about six feet water over gravel and silty sand, ten yards further out was a bank of Canadian pondweed.

Just after arriving a light breeze ruffled the mirror smooth water, a tench about 3lbs rolled on the surface, I was like a kid at Christmas as I put together a Milwards ‘swim’master, fitting the centre pin in place I threaded the line through the guides, choosing a red tipped porcupine quill float, held in place with double rubber top and bottom, having plumbed the depth I set the float twelve inches over depth then lightly pinched on 2AA shot halfway between the float and hook a size 12 barbless with a BB six inches from the hook. Throwing in a few more grains of corn, I put the Jetboiler on for a brew, then tipped a mugful of crunchy Oat Granola with fruit and nuts into a bowl adding milk. Sitting back in my chair I enjoyed breakfast, followed by a mug of tea, two pigeons were cooing in the big oak tree on the opposite bank, another tench rolled in my swim, bubbles appeared on the surface. Breakfast over, it was time to bait my hook with a grain of corn then gently lower the bait into the patch of bubbles.

Having done so I tightened the line causing the red tipped porcupine to lay at a slanted angle, a moorhen moved across the water, in the nearby reed bed I could hear a warbler, soon a robin appeared no doubt looking for gentles, I fed it tiny pieces of bread, it would often dash off with a piece, no doubt feeding a youngster. Suddenly I heard the screech of the reel as a fish picked up the bait then bolted, it was missed I cursed for not paying attention. Baiting with another grain of corn I made a light underhand cast then tightened down to the float, then sat holding the rod. Ten minutes or so later the float dropped flat then slowly moved across the surface submerging as it did so, the strike connected with a fish, not a tench but another fish of summer the colourful rudd. Suddenly it wasn’t summer weather as the rain sheeted down but I was happy knowing the river Ribble back home would benefit from the extra water and give the salmon a chance to move upstream, I find it refreshing in fact fishing in the rain as never really bothered me.

A Good Tench

Casting well out again this time with two grains of corn, I pulled the float back into the area of bubbles then tightened down to the float, before scattering half a dozen grains of corn, more small patches of bubbles appeared, suddenly the float stood upright then dipped slightly before dropping over at an angle before slowly moving across the surface then submerging then set the hook. Soon a nice yellow coloured tench around 3lbs was in the net, grabbing the camera from my bag to take a quick pic, I found the battery flat. Casting into the same area, a fish rolled in the swim bubbles appeared, minutes later the float bobbed then slowly submerged. As it disappeared from sight I set the hook, the rod tipped bowed down to the water, I could feel the power of a good fish, for several minutes the rod was arched as I slowly gained line, the fish taking some of back, how I enjoyed the experience, soon the fish was ready for the net a nice one pushing 5lbs similar to the one pictured. In the next three hours depite an increasing strong north westerly wind I had several more tench around 3lbs also a few rudd of similar size to first fish. In a few weeks’ time I’m hoping to spend some time in the Fens hunting the rudd, then fishing the River Beult for the roach using my cane pole, should I suspect tench in my swim I will put together my Milwards ‘swim’master and centre pin reel.



All I needed for breakfast

The edge of my swim

A lovely waterside bird

A good tench

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Martin James Fishing
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