The great advance made this century for tench fanatics is that we are now allowed to fish for them before the traditional Sixteenth. Prior to this, for decades the very best tench fishing was actually over before the season kicked in and we could get at them. I have been guiding for tench for twenty years now, and I can honestly say I have no qualms about this. If I felt I was in any way putting them at risk I would stop at once. Yes, tench do begin to develop spawn during May, but much of this is at its peak and is shed well after June 16th itself. In fact, most years I have seen tench spawning most energetically in July, and even as late as September.
Anglers love tench. They are our quintessential English fish of the spring and summer and what I am trying to do is provide an ongoing guide to how I see tench fishing in the 2020s, built on my experience of the species over many years. I will provide a chapter every two or three days, hopefully building up to a really handy reference by the time tench are truly beginning to feed in early April. Please feel free to comment and add your ideas too… as I know you most certainly will.
#1 TENCH LOCATION
Vital, of course, and there are loads of considerations to be taken into account. First, in most parts of the country, most tench fishing today is carried out on pits: half a century ago this was not the case, and estate lakes, ponds and pools were the typical venue that Mr Crabtree would have targeted. There are many reasons for this shift, but as otters are a factor and I am not being contentious here, I’ll ask you to accept what I say and move on!
I think you have to consider size. Size matters. Some of us are primarily interested in fish of specimen size only. In Mr Crabtree’s day, that would have been fixed at four pounds. Today, the bar has to be raised to at least six pounds, perhaps even seven or eight. Again, the reasons are manifold, but I think we all accept the truth of what has happened. So, if you want “eights” then you are probably looking at pits, perhaps larger ones. If you are happy (and why not?) with fish in the three to five pound bracket, smaller ponds and pools will do you nicely. If you can find them.
Are you interested in numbers? Think whether you simply want an easy day, with half a dozen fish of moderate size, or whether you want to set out for whoppers that can be few and far between. Very occasionally, you’ll find a prolific big tench water, but don’t count on it.
Difficulty is a real issue. For many reasons I still haven’t completely fathomed, tench waters vary hugely on the Difficulty Scale. I have waters where they are easy-peasy, and others where they are well nigh impossible to catch, often despite bubbling frenetically. Try to ascertain where your possible waters lie on the Scale, and what you are happy to put up with.
How do you want to fish for your tench? Very many of you prefer to float fish and why would you not? But that might mean that are you are looking for smaller, shallower, more intimate waters. That’s certainly not always the case, but bear it in mind. If you are happy to feeder fish, or at least mix the two approaches, then large waters will hold no fear for you.
If you are coming back into the sport after a long lay-off, you might have to accept that the best tench waters are found on carp venues. This can be a hassle if you are fitting in around long-session men. Also, sadly, on some carp venues, tench are not treated with the respect they deserve and you might not like the condition you find some fish in. You might be better off looking around for less high-profile, less pressured, general club-type waters which can be a little less intense.
Think about baiting and session times. If you can prebait a swim the night before, your chances rise appreciably, but this depends on how busy a water is and how close to it you live. Remember that on the shallower waters of Crabtree’s day, tench were very much a fish of the dawn and early morning. Tench fishers returning to the modern scene find it hard to believe that pit tench very often only begin to feed around 8.00am, and the best times are often 10.00am till 1.00pm. Consider how this might fit in with your preferences.
Of course, tench, like all fish, are a post-code species. Some areas are comparatively rich in good waters, whereas in other places you are struggling to find any decent venues whatsoever. Obviously explore clubs, commercials and syndicates. I’ve known groups of friends get together and lease their own waters, often with great success. I have no doubt that the reason I have spent so much time guiding wannabe tench anglers these last ten years is because I have wonderful tench waters that they know are already pre-baited and waiting for them. I am NOT touting for business in the least, just pointing out there are all manner of ways to get your tench rod bent.
Finally, think out of the box. Rivers are not seen as natural tench waters, but some of them hold crackers. I have heard recently of super tench fishing on the marshes of Kent. Canals can be superb.
Go for it. Get cracking now. Tench time is just around the corner.