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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


05/06/2017 - A Great Two Days Fishing

Young Emmet being told thew finer aspects of angling

This feature has been written by my friend Mark Hewer on taking his school friend fishing after his friend had a twenty year break from angling


Nothing sets my pulse racing quite like setting foot on the banks of a mist shrouded lake at the crack of dawn on a warm spring morning. The still of the dawn air and the calming sound of the cooing of wood pigeons from the canopy of trees above help steady my nerves as I cast my gaze across the tranquil water of a mature Oxfordshire gravel pit. My inner peace is short lived though as an inky black shape gently breaks the surface of the gin clear water and disappears back to the depths, an ever increasing circle of ripples the only remanence of its fleeting appearance. To many people angling is a about relaxing and escaping from the rigours of the home and office and I too find my solace amongst the bank side vegetation of both still and flowing water. However, I must confess to often finding myself slightly on edge whenever I cast a line into the water. I think that this sense of anticipation of what might (or might not) be about to happen is what continues to captivate me and draws me from the comfort of my home to be by the waterside and at this time of year there is no fish quite like the tench to get the adrenaline pulsing through my veins.

My early morning forays in search of these red eyed monsters are usually a solitary affair. Luckily I'm well adapt at keeping my own company whilst fishing but this spring it has been an enjoyable change to have my oldest friend joining me on the bank after a twenty year absence from the sport. Reminiscing back to cycling to a small lake with rods tied to the crossbars of our bicycles on school summer holiday mornings to catch tench which, at the time, seemed absolutely huge to us drew Dave back into angling and spring tench fishing was the only place to start. Much has changed in Dave's twenty year absence; wagglers and quiver tips have been replaced with bite alarms and bolt rigs and bread and corn have been eclipsed by red maggot and fishmeal groundbait. Adopting this more modern approach allowed us to fish more sociably and was a good way of easing Dave back into the swing of things. A return to more traditional methods of float fishing with corn and worms is planned for the coming weeks but for the time being the aim was to catch Dave his fist tench in two decades and allow him to relearn the art of casting and preparing a swim. There is also something very exciting about the explosive nature of this style of fishing as, often out of the blue, the rod tip slams round and the baitrunner starts screaming.

Some things however hadn't changed despite the passing of the years. The child like excitement for what might fall for our carefully laid traps, which meant that the hours passed far too quickly for our liking, was just like it had been all those years ago. It's also fair to say that the maturity of the conversation hadn't improved despite our advance in years. In anticipation for Dave's return to angling I had prepared a couple of swims with a weed rake, an essential tool for any tench angler, and regular fishing of these spots would help keep these small gravel areas amongst the rapidly ascending weed clear. The chosen areas were close together, one of which had been extremely productive in previous years for me and I suggested that Dave fished that area confident that it wouldn't take him long to reacquaint himself with his favourite species.

I would fish the swim next door which I had not previously tried but gave me a good vibe that it would produce. It's fair to say that the first two sessions didn't go quite according to plan. Morning one saw lots of bubbling in Dave's swim and several line bites indicated on his alarms as the tench perused his baited areas yet, despite the anticipation of the quiet of the morning being rudely interrupted by a screaming run, Dave's hookbaits sadly remained untouched. There appeared to be less activity in my swim with no visible signs of fish in the area yet the peace was twice shattered as two tench fell victim to my maggot feeder rig. The first a great fish of exactly 6lb, the second an immaculate specimen and, at 8lb 2oz, one of the biggest I had caught from the lake.

Two days later we were back. Given the action in the swim I fished a couple of days earlier I suggested that Dave try there but, to his credit, he decided that he wanted to continue in the swim that he fished on the previous session and once again it wasn't long before there were signs of fish in front of him. I too was enjoying activity in my swim and managed three fish in the morning of 4lb 4oz, 6lb 2oz and 6lb 3oz. Usually I would be over the moon with that result from this water but I must confess that I more hoping to see Dave catch. Typically Dave's moment came as I was answering a call of nature but by the time I had rushed to swim to perform my duty with the net the fish had slipped the hook. I'm not sure who was more gutted, me or Dave! A very long wait to the following weekend followed... a long time to dwell on that lost fish.

After what seemed like the longest week ever Saturday morning finally arrived and despite arriving at the lake at 4am the anticipation of the morning meant that neither of us were adversely affected by the early alarm call. It was back to the same swims and was business as usually with feeding bubbles and line bites in both swims within 30 minutes of casting out. My rod was first to go again and, after a typical spirited scrap from a small male tench, I was off the mark. Hoping for a similar start for Dave I went next door to see how was was faring. I found him teetering on the edge of his chair as he watched a large patch of bubbles fizzing away over his baited area. Several small lifts of the bobbin followed before a few moments of inactivity (which felt like a lifetime) had convinced us that the fish had departed the swim then, in true tench fashion, the bobbin smashed into the rod blank and the spool went spinning into overdrive. Shortly after the tench of two decades was in the net. The scales settled at 4lb, not only Dave's first tench in twenty years but a satisfying PB too.

The early morning activity soon dwindled away as the cloudless sky saw the morning sun begin to beat intensely down on the crystalline water of the pit and just as we thought our best chances had passed for the day my rod was away again. Sadly it was my turn to bring in an bare hook as the fish had bolted into a large weed bed before I could react. The loss of that fish was soon forgotten though as I received a visit from my wife and eight month old son, Emmett. We sat and watched the sun rise higher in clear blue sky, the damsel flies dance across the surface film and the friendly robin helping himself to the maggots from my bait box before it was time to leave. As we walked back to the car park I promised Emmett that I wouldn't leave it twenty years for me to take him him to catch his first tench; I hope that we'll get to spend many days on the bank together.



Mark Hewer returning a good tench

David with a tench after a break of two decades

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Martin James Fishing
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