The alarm clock shrieked at me just before 5am and after punching it I lay back thinking “What the F...?'" I had a choice; switch it off, roll over and pretend it never happened; or get up, boil the kettle and head off to the Marsh for a short session before duty calls. Of course I chose the latter. There was a car in the car park when I pulled up and the law of sod continued to play its part as the owner was bivvied up in the swim I fancied, the one where I'd seen a Tench roll last week. No good worrying about that, the one to the right looked nice, a small lily fringed bay to my right, overhanging trees opposite and as I stood there a few bubbles broke the surface a few yards out in front. That'll do for me. The morning was overcast with drizzle and a light wind from the north, the lake was flat calm.
I tackled up quickly and dropped the maggot feeder across the bay on the edge of the lilies. I then baited this with about ten pouches of mixed pellets before tackling up a float rod. This was set to fish a piece of plastic corn in nine feet of water just in front of the lilies. I baited this with five palm sized balls of fishmeal groundbait laced with crushed hemp and corn. Actually there was a bit of a plan behind this. The other anglers I'd seen fishing the lake so far were all targeting Carp so I figured the 'old fashioned' approach of balling out a bit of groundbait might be different from the norm. A few years ago I'd done reasonably well for Tench on a gravel pit when precisely the opposite approach had worked; everyone else was struggling fishing feeders and groundbait while I was catching Tench on boilies fished with bags of pellets.
I must have woken the slumbering Carp angler as he wandered over for a quick chat. He was actually a likeable young fella but had caught nothing and seen very little. It was him that noticed some bubbles fizzing a few rod lengths beyond my float, this was a good sign and for the first time this spring I felt confident I had a Tench or two feeding in front of me. But in my haste to set up had I baited up too close to the edge? I was pondering this when the feeder rod signalled a twitchy take with the bobbin dancing and the rod tip thumping. I thought I'd missed the bite but no, a small Rudd sparkled on the end of my line. Fifteen minutes later the same rod was away again and this time the strike met with slightly more resistance, caused by a nice conditioned Perch of about half a pound. Throughout this time all the bubbling activity was away from the areas I'd baited up which I found confusing because surely the Tench are supposed to be in the weedbeds around the edge? Haven't they read the right fishing books?
Should I wait and hope the fish will find my feed or should I change plan? I decided on the latter course of action and after a quick plumb reset the float a foot deeper and put a couple of balls of groundbait further out in open water. For the next couple of hours patches of bubbles continued to fizz to the surface, I'm convinced they were caused by feeding fish and none of them were near either of my originally baited areas. There's a lesson learnt, in future I may well tackle up and get a bait in the water quickly, especially on a short session but I'll have a good look before I put any groundbait in! The feeder rod had gone quiet so I decided to move this into the area where the bubbles were showing, this time slightly further out than where the float was fishing. I wasn't here to catch Rudd or Perch anyway.
For an hour I sat watching patches of bubbles regularly fizz up in the area my baits now fished, some literally on top of my float. Anticipation turned to frustration as by eight o'clock the bubbles had all but ceased and apart from a couple of slight dips on the float I hadn't had a take. During the period of activity I'd also seen Tench roll and bubble in an area across the bay close to an overhanging tree. Half past eight was my enforced packing up time which was just as well as I doubt I could have hung on to last night's curry for much longer. No fish but plenty to think about. When I next fish this swim I have a good idea of two areas to put my baits, where fish were showing today. However I must keep an open mind, maybe when the weather warms up the Tench will be happy to come in closer and feed in shallower water? Ah fishing, it's bloody addictive!
So addictive in fact, I repeated the early morning routine the following day. This time I was so keen I was up before the alarm and at the lake a little bit earlier than before, opening the car door on another dull, damp day to hear a cuckoo in full cry. I had the lake to myself so had no hesitation in dropping into the same swim again. Having made a mental note of where the fish had been fizzing the previous morning I swung the maggot feeder into open water to the left and fished the float rig a bit further out in open water. I decided to bait this with fake maggots instead of corn, just to try something different. This latter had been changed slightly to include a much lighter float and hopefully a more sensitive set up. I only had a couple of hours before I'd be needed elsewhere but I'd much rather spend the time here than in bed.
By 5.20am I had two rods out and was sitting back with a cup of tea hoping there would be as much tench activity as I'd seen the previous morning. Over the next couple of hours there was the occasional patch of fizz but nothing like as much as before. The float dipped a few times but each time my strike connected the result was an anti climax. Once again I started off with a Roach then followed this with a succession of Rudd, why does this happen? After a while I got fed up with these so reverted back to using corn as bait. At around 7am a Tench rolled by the same overhanging tree as yesterday. I quickly tackled up the third rod and cast this across with a small pop up boilie and a bag of pellets. The cast landed perfectly and I was quite impressed with myself as I'm totally out of practice for this type of fishing.
Most of the fizzing and rolling this morning occurred near to the feeder rod. The rig was bothering me as I felt I should have picked up a fish. Every time I wound the maggot feeder in it was still half full of maggots and stinking of silt. I guessed it was embedding itself into the lake bed and not allowing the maggots to escape. Being a quick thinker it took me a couple of hours to switch to an open end feeder filled with maggot laced groundbait, which discharged it's contents without problem and left me feeling a lot more confident, yet still fish less. All too soon my time was up and I began a slow packing up of the tackle. Once again I'd had fish in front of me but had failed to catch. I could say I didn't have enough time but that would be kidding myself. Frustrating but fun. Something isn't right with the way I'm fishing at the moment, time for a re-think, it's only a matter of time before I get it right. 4-0 to the Tench, I'm battered but far from beaten. Actually I'm loving it!