We are pretty much halfway through this Tench Timetable guide of mine, and I really hope it is building up to something useful. I have dedicated myself to tench between April and September for many years now, and I truly think I know how to achieve results. Hopefully for you lot too.
Looking at tackle is not easy, because it really is subjective. I can say this swim or this bait works because I have definitive proof and experience that is the case. Tackle is not as cut and dried. What I can do is write what works for me, so here goes. I’ll be looking at fishing for tench with float, feeder and method feeder with modern(ish) gear. I’ll also mention vintage tackle as an aside when I come to it. I do this here because I do get many clients who want to fish for tench in the old manner. Tench do attract nostalgia to them and rightly so. The lily pond. The fizz of breaking bubbles. The rising sun and the lifting mists. Grandfather’s quill float stirring, lying flat, dipping, and disappearing into the growing gold of the East. Three pounds or ten does not matter. It is the experience that is the thing.
I use exclusively Hardy Marksman models that are now 10-15 years old. I like a 13 or 14 foot rod, and I find the Hardys give me delicacy with power. I am very aware of the Drennan Acolyte range, which are a joy to hold. All I would say is that I have seen a number break (though Drennan seem excellent at replacing them) and that, for me, they lack a bit of spine. If you are the vintage way inclined, I know built-cane rods dating from goodness knows when do a good job, because I used them as a kid. Again, I’d go for something with power and perhaps 12 feet long in cane. I’m going to mention John Stephenson at Thomas Turner, because he knows about this gear inside out, and a contact with him would serve you well.
Equally with reels. For my money, you cannot beat a centrepin reel when it comes to fishing close(ish) in with a float. This is not claptrap. I do believe that the marriage of a float rod and a pin is a happy one, and allows complete control once you have mastered the technique, which is far from hard, and gets increasingly accomplished the more tench you engage with. It is a wonderful experience this, and I think you do yourself a disservice if you ignore it. John will advise if you want to go vintage and, truly, a good pin seventy years old will perform as well as a new one. However, there are modern pins to suit every pocket and Gary Mills, as we all know, makes beauties and he is not the only one.
For what it is worth, I use a Piscario Titanium pin because I was given one. I have to report it is a workhorse of a reel. It has no bells or whistles, but it performs year in, year out, without any sign of wear whatsoever. I did love my Hardy Conquests and fished with those for around eight years, but they did begin to wobble and line could always get behind the drum. (Or perhaps that was bad angling, I’m prepared to admit.) I’m wary of saying what I use personally, lest I’m accused of profiteering. I do so because many people like to know, and I am being totally honest about what I think.
I generally go for 6lb BS mono. I will go heavier or lighter but rarely. I have a whole variety of wagglers taking anything from a couple of SSGs to a single number 6. I’ll say more about this in the future but I like to go as light with my float as conditions and distances allow. That is a golden rule. Plastic floats. Hand-made jobs. Ancient quills. All work. It is down to your preference.
Once again, I go to my selection of ten year old Hardy Marksman Avons pretty much always. I like all of them. If I have favourites they might be the 11 foot Specialist models and the 12 foot rod that I like for bigger fish in tough conditions. I would NOT go vintage for this job because it can be brutal, but I am aware there are lots of rods out there to do the work.
Personally, I wouldn’t want to see or use a carp rod, but there are a number of 11 foot (or thereabouts) Avon-style rods of around 1.5 pounds test curve out there. I wouldn’t stress about this, and many rods that aren’t quite right do a job. For example, I still see John Wilson Avons brought out of the bag. They are too soft and underpowered in my book, but they do a job so who cares? I have a couple of ancient North Western quiver tip rods that I love. They are 12 feet long, soft again but with surprising power. Simon Clark had a mid-thirty mirror last year that came along by mistake, and the rod did well, albeit with a bit of moaning and groaning.
These rods I use in conjunction with method feeders, where I am not expecting quite the savagery of bite I frequently experience with a blockend feeder. Method and blockend feeders do me for everything tench-related, but I do carry a variety of sizes.
Reels are obviously NOT pins as I can’t do the Wallis thing well, certainly not accounting myself able to flick a feeder seventy yards. I’ll simply say that I prefer bait-runner style reels for this work as bites can be more like carp runs – and quite often are. One point is this: I see no point in using big reels if you are casting a maximum of seventy or eighty yards, even though I step up line strengths, usually to 10lb BS. Smaller reels are nicer to work with, and if you have the option I’d go for 3000/4000 size reels every time.
BITS & BOBS
Buzzers etc? Yes, I do use a buzzer set-up but more and more, I’m happy to prop the rod on a single rest and watch the tip. You’re never in doubt when a tench has committed, and the simplicity of the single rest encourages you to move if you think necessary. Anyway, I like to be constantly active rather than slouched in a chair (which I rarely use) so this suits me.
A bag with feeders, floats, hooks, forceps, plastic baits, scales, weigh slings, and that is truly about it, apart from a bucket of bait. Travelling much lighter than most folks once again allows me to walk further, and up sticks faster and with less fuss.