Tuesday 1 May 2018

Tench Through the Ages

I wonder how many anglers read this blog? Few, I suspect. Very few. So fishing posts like this one are a bit self-indulgent really, a kind of online diary that I can browse at some future date, smiling at the ups and downs of this or that venture...

Tench then. Well, the campaign continues. I was too busy with work to get involved last week, but Rob managed to get off the starting blocks with two modest fish of around 4lb apiece. This was well away from where most anglers head for tench, which makes it feel like we're ploughing our own furrow; always a satisfying thing. This week I joined him though, in the same area, and yesterday evening managed a couple myself.

A pristine male fish of 4lb exactly. Just behind my right shoulder you can see the Exe Estuary. Right of shot is the canal. It is hard to imagine a more delightful spot to go fishing. Despite the beautiful evening sunshine it was very cold!
Another male, slightly bigger at 4lb 10oz. It is said that the potential size of the biggest female tench in a water is double that of the biggest male. If that is true, our hope that we might better our tench personal bests of 8lb-odd is a realistic one.

Rob managed a couple of bream yesterday, but no tench. However, this afternoon he WhatsApp'd me a few phone camera self-takes. Here's one...

The bigger of two fish Rob caught this afternoon. At 6lb 2oz this is his best of the campaign thus far.

We're up to nine tench between us now, with two six-pounders. And they've all been super-looking fish. Still early days really though, and we both feel like we've only scratched the surface in terms of getting to know the venue and how to extract its inhabitants.

Yesterday afternoon it was really windy, and many small rafts of floating (and semi-floating) weed were drifting down the canal, constantly wiping out our carefully-positioned rods. In the end we resorted to back-leads [I must include an angling glossary one day...] but before we did that I decided to take a long walk to note interesting spots for future carpy intentions. I can honestly say I covered every inch of the canal from the Double Locks to Turf and back. At least a six-mile walk, it took me four very pleasant hours. En route I photographed an Orange Tip and Comma with my phone, and must have walked (unknowingly) within fairly close proximity of a Black-winged Stilt that was frequenting Exminster Marshes for the day. Ironically I was wearing bins, but the best birds I managed were my first Swifts of the year. The only other fisherman was on the far bank at the Lime Kilns, but was gone by the time I got round there myself. Hammered, the place is not! I didn't see any birders either, but I expect they were all over on the marshes!

Comma, and (above) Orange Tip. Not bad for a phone camera. I can remember one of my work colleagues getting a mobile with a camera in it about 15 years ago. How we laughed at the stupid, primitive thing. That'll never catch on, we thought...

Finally then, the reason for the title of this post. Shuffling through my old photos the other day I realised that tench are a constant feature in angling-related pics. So here is a collage of more than 45 years-worth...

Clockwise, from top left:
  • Probably 1971 or '72. Barn Hill Pond, Wembley. I'm not sure, but this might be my first tench ever.
  • 1974-ish. Hemingford Grey pits, which used to be under LAA control (London Anglers Assoc)
  • 1978. Langham Pond, Runneymede. Now a SSSI with no fishing. Back then, the perfect place for a so-called student to idle away some pleasant hours.
  • 1979 or '80. Springwell Lake, Rickmansworth. Another ex-LAA water.
  • 1988-ish. Bury Lake, Rickmansworth. Returning a nice 6lb+ fish early in the morning. There was no fishing allowed on Bury Lake. I was poaching.
  • Early '90s. A small and incongruous tench from a tiny tributary of the River Kennet known as Fisherman's Brook. This overgrown trickle that you can easily jump across is still on the LAA ticket and very much not the place you might expect to catch a tench!
  • Late '90s. A hefty lump from North Troy gravel pit in the Colne Valley. In the late '70s/early '80s North Troy was controlled by Long Life Angling Club and was one of the best tench waters in the land, arguably second only to Wilstone Res. It was still very good when I fished there in the 1990s, and produced 8lb+ fish for both Rob and me.
  • 6lb 10oz, the Exeter Ship Canal, 2018. Bringing it up to date.
  • In the middle: what happens when both rods go off at the same time. North Troy, late '90s.

And before I go, one for Dyl...

Former British tench record-holder Tony Chester bent into a nice fish. Lester Strudwick waits with the net. This is the car park bank at Wilstone Res, early '80s. Tench Mecca. This is one of the 'hot' areas, hence the proliferation of Brolli-camps, rustic predecessor of the myriad bivvies available today. I hope everyone got on okay, because they are all pretty close to one another!


  1. Gav, that Fisherman's Brook Tench remains one of the biggest surprises I've had in angling.

    It was in 1994 and we'd spent most of the day casting blind over the top of vegetation to where we thought the water might be; it was that over grown.

    The species involved were nearly always Chub.
    I'd jammed a Brown Trout earlier and when I heard your, 'Hello, what's this?', I was a bit puzzled as I thought we'd all species covered.

    A Tench!

    Seemed about as likely as a Gold fish considering the location.

    Landing the fish that day was a challenge in itself.

    1. I remember having to wear long sleeves despite the warm weather, simply because the little horseflies were so voracious. Nasty things.

      I could imagine that stream fishing well in the winter, with the main river in flood perhaps, and all the vegetation died down. It was a jungle!

  2. Gav,
    That final photo is a real gem! Brolly camps set up at intervals around 10 yards apart, and never a cross word. The other thing that is now but a memory, is the presence of large keep nets for the fish we took, no retention slings or sacks (well maybe towards the end of the decade?) back then - we knew no different. It was Lester who started us pike fishing in Scotland, with tales of his exploits around The Endrick, on Lomond. Tony Chester was the tidiest angler I've ever come across, the inside of his bivvy was like a show home and he got up looking smarter than I could have done if I were going to a wedding! Happy days, thanks for sharing that image - Dyl