Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Starting a New Campaign

I think it's fair to say that coarse angling today is very different to the hobby I so loved as a boy. There are heaps more fisheries now. Lakes and ponds stuffed with silver fish and small carp are legion, and available to all for the price of a day-ticket; a netful is virtually guaranteed. Many species are far more widespread than they used to be, and grow much, much bigger. The fishing tackle industry has morphed into a monster that will provide you with absolutely any item you could ever imagine needing. And I would never have guessed that there would one day be a similarly vast empire dedicated to the supply of bait. In my youth it was basically maggots, bread, worms, hemp, cheese and luncheon meat; in 2018 the array available is ridiculous.

So, if one's idea of improvement involves various aspects of  'more' and 'bigger', then I would imagine the modern coarse angling scene looks a good deal better when compared to what it was four or five decades ago. For me though, fishing is not solely about 'more' and 'bigger'. Big fish - and more of them - is nice, but at least as important are surroundings, a degree of mystery, a tricky challenge, stuff like that...

Less than 18 months ago I wrote a post entitled A First Love Rekindled, and mentioned my intention to try the Exeter Canal for pike and carp with my son Rob. At the time I'd never caught a twenty-pound pike. Just a few weeks later I landed only my second pike of the campaign; it weighed 24lb 14oz! This winter also, I managed a twenty-plus, and Rob caught two! Unqualified success! The carp have proved much more difficult though. Much! In fact I have yet to catch any, and Rob has only managed the one...

March 2017 - 24lb 8oz

Compared to some of the locals we are very much part-timers, but even they struggle to get among the carp sometimes. One of the regulars managed carp to 32 pounds last year, but had gone eight months without any at all! Anyway, neither of us fancied another spring and summer of frustration, so decided that this year we would target the Exeter Canal tench instead.

Tench-wise, both of us have a similar personal best. Rob's is 8lb 2oz, and although I can't remember exactly what mine is, it's about the same. Now, a canal tench of 8lb+ is pretty huge, but from what we can ascertain, the Exeter Canal does contain such fish. Quite how big they go is still a mystery though. Which is good. I like a bit of mystery.

So, Monday afternoon we headed west...

The forecast was appalling. Lots of rain. I arrived first, and by about 17:30 had picked a swim, found a relatively weed-free area and baited up. I fished two rods, one with maggots, the other with sweetcorn. Rob was about 50 yards up the bank from me, and got his rods out before darkness fell. Then the rain started. It's a nice, cosy feeling, all warm and dry in a bivvy as the raindrops rattle down, but I wouldn't have minded being roused from my slumbers by a noisy bite alarm. It didn't happen though. Not until about 06:30. Beep-beep-beee-e-e-e-e-e-p!!! It was light by this time, and I frantically pulled on my crocs and hurried to the rods...and fell flat on my backside in the mud! The fish was still on though, and after a good scrap I landed a lovely tench of 4lb 10oz. I was chuffed to bits. The first outing of a new campaign and already we were off the mark. Brilliant! I packed up about 19:00 yesterday, adding two more tench in the meantime. Here's the biggest...

6lb 10oz of gorgeous Exeter Canal tench

This is the biggest tench I've caught for probably 20 years or more, and is an absolute beauty. Long and muscular, with very little gut on it, I would imagine this fish has the potential to carry a lot more weight, and I reckon the possibility of Rob and me catching a new personal best from this venue is very real. Unfortunately Rob didn't get among the tench this time, but at least between us we've made a start on the learning curve.

And learning curve it is. We have no idea what is going to be the best area to fish, the best bait, the best time of day, etc, etc. Apart from a few snippets of gen gleaned from the carp anglers and one or two pleasure fisherman, we are fishing blind. We have yet to meet anyone who specifically targets the tench.

Three fish so far then: 4lb 10oz, 6lb 10oz and 4lb 1oz (a current average of around 5lb 2oz) all caught during the daytime, with two falling to maggots and one to corn. It's highly satisfying to actually catch what you're fishing for, and I could not have asked for a better start to this new campaign. I'm quite excited about it!


  1. Are you Dylan Wrathall in disguise?

    1. There are some similarities, Steve, I grant you, but Dylan is unique.

  2. Excellent start to the campaign Gav. A lovely looking fish. To think that back in the day, a six pounder was considered a fish of a lifetime. Come to think of it, it's been so long since I caught a tench, any that I do catch will qualify as such. Good luck, and Rob too.

    1. Thanks Ric. I'm still in mild shock at such instant success. I must admit, that six-pounder looked impressively large, and a few more of that stamp will do nicely!