That Elusive Double-Figure Tench
Mr Wriggles bait company boss Dave Dowding with an exciting story about how he almost, but not quite, realised his lifelong ambition to catch a double-figure tench
The sound of a full blooded run had one eye open in an instant; with the huge weedy areas in the swim it was vital to be straight on the rods. No time for the boots. I lifted the rod and there it was, that familiar thud, thud, thud. Another tench.
But this one felt different, this one wasn't giving an inch, in fact it was gaining line even on the beefed up tackle you had to use to ensure you stood a chance of landing your fish. By now I was fully focused on what I was doing. As I managed to turn its head from the mass of weed at the head of my swim, it gave an indignant judder of the rod tip and tore to the left, heading for more sanctuary in the weed. By now the rod was starting to go into it's full arc as my quarry once again gained the upper hand.
A multitude of things were going through my head: Was this really a tench? Would my hooklength cope if it made it to the weedbeds? Why do my feet feel wet? As I leaned harder into the rod in an effort to turn its head I answered my questions. Tench? Of course it's a tench and a bloody big one at that! Hooklength? Well, the old Ashima fluoro has never let you down before. Wet Feet? You haven't got any shoes on and you're standing in the pile of weed you dragged out earlier, you prat!
I managed to turn its head again, only for it to shoot off for another weedbed. Then the movement stopped. Had it beaten me? I leaned a little more into the rod to feel for contact. The judder through the rod tip told me I was still in with a chance and it was coming through. I'd made it, the fish was on the move into what little open water I had in the swim.
After what seemed an age of constant winning and then losing line under the cloudless 3/4 moonlit sky I had it close to the margins. The battle wasn't over by any means, there was one last weedbed that went the whole width of the swim. I had to make sure that I drew it over this and not allow the fish to get down into it as the line was already carrying enough extra baggage from the previous two weedbeds.
It was whilst I was completing this final task that I had my first look at my adversary. Even though it was wearing a head dress of maybe a couple of pounds of weed, giving it a strong Noddy Holder appearance, in the bright moonlight I could still see it from its gills to the mighty paddle of a tail that had given me such a fight. My god, what a fish! Easily a new PB and as this already stood at 9lb 4oz I knew this should easily beat that and maybe even in the realms of double figures.
It was obviously a wise old warrior and right to the end seized any opportunity given to make its escape. With a smash of its tail and a roll it was down into the dense weedbed that was between it and the net.
With all the extra drag the weed already on the line created, plus the pure power of the fish it proved too much for the hooklength and it parted at the eye.
I was quite literally stunned, I laid the rod up against the Brotel and didn't really know what to do next.
As I had a smoke and a cuppa it dawned on me that it was 2.15am and totally silent, no one else on the lake would realise the epic tussle that had just gone on, and even if I told them would they even believe me, or would it just be dismissed as just another 'one that got away' story? I also realised in my solitude and pondering that I had come so close to ending my search of nearly thirty years to finally land a double figure tench. Something that the tench masters gone by, such as my good friend Len Head, could only have dreamed of. With so many waters introducing large numbers of carp today I can't help thinking we are spoilt when targeting bream and tench, as they just adapt to the same feeding habits of the carp and with the often huge amounts of baits used today they grow to enormous size. Just check how the records for these have jumped in recent years.
Anyway, where was I? I couldn't settle for more than a moment so I had another cuppa and while I drank it I soaked up the nigh time tranquillity these small waters offer that many non-anglers will never enjoy or even know exists. What are they missing? I then went into hyper mode as it would be light shortly. I sat in the warm night air making up some more bait sticks ready for the early morning assault.
Later in the morning someone stopped for a chat and asked, "had anything?"
"I lost a cracking tench earlier this morning," I replied.
"Oh right, there's not been a lot happening then, good luck". And off he strolled. If only he knew!
It was already a special session as I was privileged earlier in the day to net a stunning tench for my good friend Tony that equalled his PB at 10lb 8oz. It was even better that all our tench had come to a new prototype bait we have been testing, but it could have been so much more special...if only..
"Thank you for allowing me a glimpse of you and for a fight that will remain in my memory for many years to come. I raise my hat to you tonight and a glass tomorrow, I may curse you a few times as well but not with any malice, and maybe we will meet again sometime......" I thought, as I drove back home.
The above account may sound too poetic to be true but as my love of tench goes back many years to my early teens I can assure you that mere words cannot do justice to the buzz I got from this session. Yes, I'm disappointed that I didn't get the fish to the net but I can go home feeling that I have reached another milestone in my angling life. I now know that I have the right approach, confidence, bait and ability and I can come and do it all again with the greatest pleasure.
In fact we are all set to go back again this weekend and if we can get the same swims again...... just watch this space...
And by the way, the comments of the guy I mentioned above are by far in the minority. This is a true tench water that contains some good carp, there are many skilled and dedicated tench anglers who fish the water and anyone who mentions to them that they nearly landed a double, their faces light up with the same excitement as the person who hooked it.