Tuesday, April 29, 2008


I should be sat by a tench lake now, but I'm not. So here's a double helping of Goldfrapp to annoy you!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

When you see a good idea - nick it!

For some time I have been struggling to find a tangle free way of rigging up a marker float. I've tried different shaped floats, bits of tube, links on the lead, all sorts. None worked with any degree of satisfaction. The other week I spotted an angler's marker rig and a little light went on in my head. I'd tried one cork ball between my big eyed swivel and the float, but not three. As well as acting as an anti tangle device this also adds a fair bit of buoyancy to the float. Trying it out on The Crow Pit it seems to work well, the float only failing to surface when the whole lot got buried in weed and not tangling once.

What the plumbing revealed was a small clear patch about twenty yards out. So that was where I kept casting a method feeder and a maggot feeder. Another maggot feeder went down the edge. It soon became apparent that the clear patch was either not all that clear, or it was smaller than I thought. So, the feeder on The Rig had it's hooklength increased to seven inches, and the size sixteen with three live maggots was swapped to a sixteen with three live maggots on the hook and a plastic caster on the hair to give a slower fall. Furthermore I added a bit of PVA foam. Now I have a problem with PVA foam. For some reason it always comes off the hook too quickly for me. So I popped it into some PVA mesh and nicked the hook in that. It worked!

I had arrived later than I hoped, starting fishing around one o'clock. Around two thirty I started to get drop backs to the maggot feeder on the clear patch. I suspected roach to be the culprits for some reason. This activity didn't last long, and I couldn't be bothered shortening the hooklink again to get a hook up. After all, I was tench fishing.

Out of the blue, at five, the method rod was away. I picked the rod up, felt the fish kick, and with the line under little tension everything went slack. For some inexplicable reason the mainline had parted. I had only recently tied on a fresh hooklength with a 10mm pineapple boilie and a piece of floating plastic corn on the hair. So I can't see it having been knot failure. But you never know.

An hour later I was stood by the rods staring vacantly over the water when I hear the thud, dink, clunk, bzzzzzz of an indicator hitting the rod, the line pinging out of the clip, the indicator hitting the rod pod and the baitrunner whirring. The caster/maggot rig was away, and it wasn't a roach. After a decent scrap on the 1lb 10oz Interceptor I had a chunky male tench in the net.

The next bite also came to this rod, an up and downer that eventually held at the top. Lifting into something it didn't feel large but could have been a small tench, until it flashed silver. There were roach out there, and this one scraped over the pound mark. The other two that managed to hang themselves, from numerous bites, were about half that size. Now I'm trying to work out how to avoid roach!No self take photos this time as something has gone awol from my tripod. Just when I'd got the bulb release sorted too...

For the first time this spring I was able to fish without the bunny suit. Even when I packed up at dark it was still mild, and the light showers hadn't proved an inconvenience, barely requiring the waterproof jacket. With a first tench from a 'new' water under my belt it had been a good day.

I had gone fishing for two reasons. One was because my plans to work Monday to Wednesday morning and fish the rest of the week had been scuppered by the late arrival of rod blanks, limiting me to the Friday only. The other was the arrival of some goodies from Sonubaits. They're not really a sponsor as such, I just happen to know someone who works there.

Not being much of a bait fiend I actually get more excited by the simple stuff than the latest 'guaranteed' fish catching gimmicky baits. That's why I was keen (as in having run out of groundbait) to try out their method mix and Hemp and Hali Crush which are just what they claim to be and full of 'bits' for the fish to browse on. Add the two together and you have something that should appeal to the tincas. I already had faith in their feed pellets when added to a method mix so some of them joined the two groundbaits in the bowl.

I was also sent some 10mm Boosted Wraps in pineapple flavour to try. These are a pretty simple birdfood boilie by the looks of things, but with a peculiar jellylike flavoured coating. It was one of these, on the method rod, that I lost the tench on. At least I know they don't actively repel fish, so they'll be getting further outings. The groundbaits certainly will.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

When the wind's in the east...

Although the forecast was for strong to gale force easterlies I had nothing to do on Thursday and no prospect of any blanks arriving on Friday so I packed my tench gear and headed south. It was hardly a thrilling sight that greeted me, and boy was it cold in the wind. I settled in next to the only other angler on the sheltered bank and took my time setting up. There had been a few tench coming out since my first visit but the cold wind seemed to have slowed things right down.

With few tench moving I didn't pile the bait in and concentrated on recasting the feeders to put free offerings in. It wasn't until after dark, around ten fifteen that a single bleep stirred me just as I was starting to nod off. The bobbin was dropping back on the left hand rod which had cast a method feeder, rigged with the standby of two grains of plastic corn, as far as I could heave it. When I connected it felt like the first tench of the year, and after it had tried kiting into the next swim a couple of times I got it in the net. No monster, but nice to get that first fish under the belt.

The wind showed no sign of abating and kept up all day Friday. Around tea time the angler next to me landed a tench, and just before dark I dropped a hybrid off - the bite again coming to the long-chuck method rod. Friday night continued cool, windy and fishless, as did Saturday morning. With rain forecast I packed away the gear at ten o'clock and headed home. Under the conditions I felt like I'd done reasonably well.

Most of my time was spent watching the birdlife; martins, swallows and terns swooping over the water, courting grebes, and a pair of coots building their nest. It really annoys me when people say anglers disturb wildlife. Not only did one bloke have a mole pushing up earth in his bivvy, but the coots were building their nest about thirty feet from me and I had no trouble getting closer to take a photo.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

New toys and April showers

Having bought myself three new reels recently I have been itching to try them out. I have been looking for an intermediate size baitrunner-type reel for some time. The Okuma Epix Pro 30s that I use for perching have been great. Nice and smooth with a reasonable front drag too. But they are a little small for tenching, while I find the Shimano Aeros just a tad too large and don't like the fact that the various size spools are fitted to one size of body. That was why I got myself three Daiwa Regals last spring, but they proved a bit frail in my hands. The bale arms bent just by looking at them for one thing!

After a bit of interweb surfing I settled on the Tica Sportera 3507. These have the size of spool I want with a body that is in proportion. The baitrunner lever (or Hit and Run lever as Tica call it) operates the same way as the Shimanos I'm used to - unlike the Daiwas - so eliminating confusion. Initial impressions are good, but of course new tackle means blanking, so I'll have to report back more fully later in the year!

First time out was an afternoon roach fishing session in the same area of the lake that had produced on my last couple of sessions. Result? Five hours before I got a bite, followed by a small roach and a Tommy ruffe...

Undeterred I loaded the spare spools with some heavier line and headed for The Crow Pit, which I had never set eyes on before. The day was cold and wet as I set off, but although there were showers forecast (which duly arrived), I found a sheltered little sun trap to spend a pleasant afternoon watching swallows and martins from. Crystal clear water with no features I could find, and few clear spots, I fished three rods for almost eight hours with one half hearted bite (to double maggot) for my trouble. This was more an exploratory session, as much as to actually find the place as anything, than a determined attempt to catch some tench (or bream). That's what I keep telling myself, at least.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Book Review - A Time for Tench

It's that time of year again, and if you are thinking of doing some tench fishing over the coming months and haven't read Time for Tench by Chris Turnbull then I suggest you snap up one of the few remaining copies of this excellent book.

Instructional, anecdotal and inspirational Chris has provided something for everyone. Each chapter is in two parts dealing with the topic in hand, be that bait, tactics or whatever. The first part deals with the practicalities in detail, while the second relates a tale that is relevant to that topic illustrating how what you have just read has applied in practice.

There are masses of colour photos of big tench and tenching scenes throughout which can't fail to make you to want to catch a few of these red eyed beasties, and there are Chris's own hand drawn illustrations of rigs and so forth to clearly show how things should be set up.

Without a doubt one of the best angling books I have read in a long time, and one I keep dipping into each spring - even if only to look at the pictures to remind myself what a tench looks like!

It's priced at £24.95 plus £4.00 p&p from Harnser Books at 48 Hansard Rd, Norwich, Norfolk NR3 2PX.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

The Rig

As promised here's a description of The Rig that I have been using with some success for a number of species. There are a number of variables that can be changed to suit the baits being used and fish being sought but two constants are 14lb ESP Power Gum and Drennan Grippa Stops.

I don't claim this to be an original idea, far from it, as it is in fact a variation on the helicopter roach rig described on FISHINGmagic by Andy Nellist. I wonder if Andy has ever been a carp angler? Because his rig seems overly complicated to me! Admittedly the Grippa Stops weren't around when that rig was described, and they do make the rig more streamlined.

The first thing I got rid of was the upper hook. I have a hatred of double hook rigs ever since I watched an idiot (there is no other word for him) fishing one with two hair rigged boilies for tench in thick weed at Sywell back in the dark ages. He was getting runs okay, but unsurprisingly losing more fish than he was landing (which wasn't many). Why he couldn't work out that the hook with no fish attached was the problem I haven't a clue, but I saw him retackle with the same double hook rig...

Anyway, here's The Rig.

I first knot the Power Gum to a size 10 Power Swivel using a four turn Uni Knot, then add a Grippa Stop followed by a size 12 Power Swivel and the second Grippa Stop of the pair. Finally a Hiro Rollsnap is knotted to the other end of the Power Gum. The snap link can be any kind you like really as it only serves as a quick change device for removing the feeder when packing the rods away, so it doesn't clatter about when the rod is broken down rigged up with the hook placed in a rod ring, but the Rollsnaps are quite neat.

The length of the Power Gum isn't critical, but should be at least twice the length of your hooklink and no more than twelve inches. I suppose that the longer it is the more shock absorbancy there is - which would be handy with very light hooklinks. The hooklink should be no more than four inches long, it's strength and the hook size being determined by what you are fishing for. I must say that I have found that with these short hooklinks fine line is not too critical, so I rarely go below 0.11 Reflo Powerline even with a size 20 Animal.

You can either tie up your own hooklinks, with a loop to make gauging length easier and to facilitate quick changes with cold hands, or if you find small hooks fiddly to tie you can buy hooks to nylon which you can cut down to suit.

Some people might prefer to set the Grippa Stops closer to the Rollsnap so the bait lies at the side of the feeder, but even with the little bit of silicone tube over the small swivel acting as a boom I find the hook can get stuck in one of the holes in the feeder. Placing the stops so the hook lies just above the lower knot makes the rig less tangle prone and doesn't seem to affect catches.

On stillwaters you fish The Rig on a tight line with a heavy bobbin to show dropbacks, which is what the vast majority of bites are unless you are on a commercial full of daft carp! Where carp are a possibility then a baitrunner should be used and engaged, but where they are not a problem I have managed fine with a standard fixed spool reel. I've even used this on rivers using a quiver tip as bite indication and it has worked superbly.

As well as using The Rig to catch my target species I have also taken to using it to supply myself with livebaits as it requires no effort and is a pretty foolproof self hooker. Just cast out The Rig with a size 20 and a single maggot and wait for something to hang itself. A packet of hooks to nylon and a couple of Power Gum links now live in my pike box!

One word of caution. Make sure that the hooklength is always lighter than the main line, and certainly no heavier than five pounds, just as a safety measure. For use with heavier hooklengths then a safer feeder rig is this one. I have recently streamlined this rig by swapping the Run Ring for a Rollsnap, and replacing the upper bead and stop knot with a Grippa Stop. So far it seems to work.

Here comes summer

Seeing my first swallow of the year doesn't guarantee that summer is on it's way, but breaking out the overnight gear does. This first tench session of the spring was as much to check the gear out and see what didn't work as to try and catch some tench. In fact part of the plan (!) was to fish for perch. So I was sort of pleased to find the favoured early season tench swims all taken and my preferred perch area vacant.

A lobworm went out first, swiftly followed by a maggot feeder fishing two plastic casters on a variation of The Rig. Then I set about rigging up two more tench rods and making camp for the night. I could only manage the one night as I had an appointment with a customer arranged for Saturday morning. Which was handy as the forecast was for Friday night to show a drop in temperature!
Before this session I already knew that my sleeping bag was due for replacement and had picked up a new one from Aqua earlier in the week, and a couple of days later I discovered the waders I had bought this time last year were goosed. So a cheap pair were purchased when I bought my maggots en route to the lake. Apart from a dead isotope in one of my bobbins everything else seemed to be functioning well. A third rod went out with a method feeder and a 10mm pineapple pop-up on it. During darkness the worm rod would be swapped for another maggot feeder, this one an in-line job, also fishing two fake casters. Around seven as the sun was starting to sink I got a drop-back on the middle rod fishing a variation of The Rig and a nice surprise roach/rudd hybrid was landed.
By ten o'clock I was tucked up in my cosy new sleeping bag and drifting off to sleep. Although I was undisturbed by fish I slept fitfully as I usually do on the first night, or if doing just one night. Come morning and the feeders' contents were replenished and launched back out just over the weed edge. Shortly after breakfast there was a storming drop-back on the in-line feeder rod and I connected with something that had more life in it than the hybrid. I was thinking that my first, albeit small, tench of the year was on it's way to the net. After a bit of charging about under the rod tip I got a real shock when a spiny dorsal broke surface and a perch slid into the mesh. A decent one too, but covered in leeches.

Two plastic casters on a short hooklink and a semi-fixed feeder is hardly your actual perch method of choice, but this is my fifth, and biggest at a shade over three pounds, to the method. Food for thought? I hastily cast out a worm on a more traditional running feeder rig, but it was ignored for a few hours before I swapped it for another feeder rig and two more plastic casters.

The day progressed quietly. I failed to connect with a couple of bites, one to the boilie and one to caster and that was it. At five I put the stove on to heat up a tin of Irish stew, and before it was hot enough to eat the middle rod was away. The only trouble with using 2.25lb rods for this sort of game is that size 16 hooks can easily be ripped out if you apply too much pressure, so I tend to play fish gently by backwinding. I've reverted to the rods I used the season before last, rather than continue with my 2lb Torrixes, because they seem to handle better the heavy modified Black Cap feeders and method feeders I like using . The action is less tippy but the overall power quite similar.

Anyway, the fish was netted and proved to be another hybrid, this time a personal best roach/bream of over five pounds. Some people may scorn hybrids, but a fish is a fish and a PB a PB! Sacked up while I polished off the stew it was quickly snapped and returned.

With just three hours or so of daylight left I had two more fish, both small, one a skimmer which somehow managed to remove one of my casters from the hair (I did retrieve it so no need to fret!), and the other a roach which took two red maggots that I had replaced the casters with.

Maybe no tench, but five fish, all different, (including a hoped-for perch by accident!) and one personal best made for an enjoyable 28 hours or so.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Trial and error

British Summer Time arrived on Sunday, and with it came a light wind and sunshine. Needless to say this brought the masses out and I was hard pressed to find a swim when I turned up at the lake in the afternoon. In a way this was good as it more or less forced me to fish an area that I have meant to fish in the past, and where I usually see small fish topping when it is calm.

The plan (notice how I always have a plan) was to fish two worm rods and a mini-bolt rig with a single maggot - all in conjunction with 40g Black Cap feeders. I know there are roach and perch to be caught, although not to what size they grow. So, having my perch head on the worms got priority. It only took a couple of small roach, after an hour of recasting the feeders to see one of the worm rods swapped to fish two maggots.

This was only a short session, but bites increased in frequency to the point I was expecting big things to happen as darkness approached with the day being bright. However, the opposite occurred and bites dried up altogether. I ended up with nine or ten fish, all small. Mostly roach but a skimmer, a tiny perch (maybe they are all tiny in here) and a surprise rudd. Even though it was minuscule it reminded me how pretty rudd are, not having seen one for a long time.

Wednesday came round and I decided to spend a little longer on the lake. The reason behind this session was to decide, or try to decide, which rods would be best for some 'proper' roach fishing. The Interceptor I had been using was a bit stiff in the tip, as it is for perch fishing. Yet the Avon Specialists that are so good for perching feel a bit lacking in oomph for punching the feeders out. They coped okay with no wind to contend with, but if there had been anything stronger I reckon it would have been a struggle, and they won't cope with heavier feeders either. Rummaging around I found a Chimera Specialist 1 that felt like it might be nearer the mark. It was duly rigged with 'the rig' (which I intend to devote a blog to when I get time - there's a clue in the top photo here) and stuck in the quiver.

The swim I fished on Sunday was taken, in fact the lake was almost as packed as it had been then. I set up a couple of pegs away and started casting two feeder rigs, both fishing a single maggot, using the Interceptor and the Chimera 1. The third rod fished a worm with a maggot feeder. It took a couple of hours before an indication of fishy activity, and another hour before the first small roach was landed. As before, bites increase in frequency as the afternoon wore on. This time it was roach all the way, all small, with the biggest (which might have pushed six ounces) coming to the worm rod!

I gave it until half seven before packing up as I wanted to compare the casting potential of the rods. Although the Chimera 1 does have a slightly more forgiving tip than the Interceptor (the 1lb 10oz model) the distances I achieved with an empty feeder were pretty much identical - gauged by counting the handle turns on the retrieve. For the time being the Chimeras will be my distance roach rods, despite them being a rather heavy blank. But what I really want is a 12ft version of the Avon Specialist. I reckon that would be bob on. Lengthening the tip section at the spigot end would force the butt section to be thicker, and so stiffer giving it the additional beef for casting the feeders. As the rig is a self hooker striking power at range is immaterial with fish playing capability the overarching requirement.

I also took time to play with the underwater function on my Olympus compact. I think more practice is required!