Saturday morning was dull, damp and 'orrible but I managed to drag myself out of bed and get down to the Lake before 5am. Once again I was on a tight time schedule and I didn't have to spend much time making my mind up where to fish. This was due to the fact that four over night anglers were already bivvied up leaving me with little choice anyway. I ended up in a swim on the eastern bank, sitting right in the teeth of the fresh westerly wind whipping drizzle in at me. I'd not fished here before but knew from a trip I'd spent chucking a lure around that on my left was a relatively shallow slope leading away from a bed of Norfolk reeds. On the right was deeper water with the occasional patch of lily pads and here I cast the chod rig with a strawberry pop up and a PVA bag full of mixed pellets. This I topped up with five pouches of pellets, the bait kept on a fairly tight spot. On my other rod I fished a maggot feeder, filled with loads of little red wriggly things and the hook baited with fake maggots as well as the real thing. I made a line of groundbait going down the slope, consisting of the green Lake Wizard stuff topped up with lots of free offerings and goodies. My traps were set, now it was just a case of braving the elements and waiting.
I began getting pulls on the maggot feeder straight away, a procession of Rudd hooked themselves. It didn't take very long before I was becoming fed up with this but thankfully the Rudd attention soon died down. It was hard to stay comfortable in the cool, damp, dreary conditions but I was cheered to see a bit of bubbling in the vicinity of my maggot feeder rod. Maybe the Rudd had been pushed away from the area by larger fish moving in? I'd become used to seeing patches of fishy bubbling around my baits and absolutely nothing happening so was hardly on the edge of my seat as the amount of bubbling increased. Nothing was going to happen was it? No sooner had the thought entered my head than the alarm shrieked and the bobbin smacked into the butt! The strike resulted in yet another Rudd...
Half an hour later and I was fed up with the bloody things so took the drastic measure of swapping rods. The chod rig was cast on the slope in front of the reeds and the maggot feeder dropped in the deeper water to my right. The drizzle eased and the sky brightened, things got more relaxing and comfortable but fishing wise, absolutely nothing happened. Not a blip. I actually began to miss the attentions of the Rudd! As all the action had occurred to the left of the swim I decided to put both baits in this area. I managed one more Rudd before time run out and for once I wasn't unhappy to be packing up.
Now I'm used to 'not catching' Tench but this is becoming beyond a joke. All my methods and tactics have gone round in circles and I've pretty much ended up back where I began, albeit with a few refinements. I want to use what would be known as 'traditional' Tench methods as opposed to scaled down Carp tactics but it's the latter that has worked best for me in the past and its to these methods I seem to be returning. What throws me is the silt, this limits the methods I feel confident using but should I just ignore it? About 25 years ago I fished a very silty water for Carp and here I did just that, I ignored the silt and my baits frequently came back smelling of shite yet I still caught carp. However I seem to remember catch rates improved once we discovered “pop ups”. Then there's the bait. Should I continue with the pellet and groundbait approaches that have worked for me in the past or go for chucking a loads of seeds out? Maybe this is all just bollocks and I'm not catching anything because it's a deep lake and the fish just haven't woken up yet. After all, no-one else seems to be catching either. What the hell, I'm enjoying fishing a beautiful lake and despite everything loving the challenge.
Back to 'the Marsh' again, this time I had company in the shape of my son Isaac and nephew Oliver. I managed to get the boys out of their beds fairly early and by 6.15 am we were surveying the lake. The sky was clear, the sun was already shining brightly and it was getting hotter by the minute. By 0630 we were settled in fishing a swim on the north eastern side. I put two rods out for the Tench, baiting an area beneath an over hanging tree, positioning a feeder and popped up maggots at the top of the slope and a popped up boilie at the bottom. These were pretty much left to fish for themselves as I was going to be busy this morning!
The main purpose for being there was to hopefully help the boys catch a few fish and soon both were float fishing maggots in front of the marginal lily pads. It didn't take very long before both were catching Rudd, a bite a chuck with fish up to about 6ozs. I now had a full time job, unhooking fish, untangling lines and tying on new hooks as both lads developed a knack for snagging the lilies. I didn't feel I had much chance on the Tench rods but otherwise all was going well, that was until a Pike put in an appearance.
Normally I welcome the attentions of predatory fish but today this one was proving to be a pain in the back side, literally grabbing every single fish the boys attempted to land. Some they managed to get in, minus a few scales but others were engulfed and lost, hook and all as the Pike made hay. There was only one option so I rigged up a free roving float rig with a wire trace, now all we needed was a bait and hopefully the Pike would learn to avoid the area for a while. The problem now was thanks to the Pike the Rudd were now proving elusive but eventually one succumbed, was mounted on the trace and swung out into the danger zone. It didn't take long for the Pike to home in, the float buried and ploughed towards the pads. I set the hook then handed the rod to Oliver who was now playing his first ever Pike. Ollie was surprised by the strength of the fish but soon steered an immaculate looking fish of about five pounds into the net.
After that the day was an anti-climax. The sun rose higher, the temperature soared and the Rudd never returned in any kind of numbers. I kept catapulting a few chum mixers out to see if I could interest any Carp but apart from one small fish that stuck its head out, nothing doing. We kept going with a couple of fry ups but by early afternoon we were all hot and tired so decided to call it a day.
The following morning I was back again, I had the place to myself so after a quick look around settled into what has become my favourite swim on the lake, I always feel confident here despite never actually catching anything. By 5.45 I was float fishing sweetcorn in the margins and had an open end feeder baited with fake corn and maggots at the bottom of the shelf. I trickled in groundbait, pellets, corn and maggots, little and often throughout the morning. It was a dull muggy morning and with bubbles popping up in the swim I felt confident.
By 6.30am my swim was a mass of bubbles, not the classic Tench fish but big patches of bubbles breaking out here and there. They may have been caused by Carp but I was convinced they were being made by fish of some description. Today was going to be the day! The float dipped but I hesitated, it just didn't look or feel right and I didn't want to spook the fish. The float settled again, had I missed my chance? I kept recasting the feeder rod but after ninety minutes without a touch I rang the changes and switched to a maggot clip and a big wriggling mass of the things popped up, irresistible? An easterly breeze sprang up rippling the surface and the sun poked through the clouds every now and then. At 7.40 I had a “proper” bite on the float and struck into thin air, bugger!
As time passed still great clouds of bubbles broke out around the swim, fish were definitely about so why wasn't I catching? I switched the feeder rod for a pop up boilie, scattering a few free offerings around, would this do the trick? Every now and then bubbles would break out right beside my float or above the boilie rod. I began getting tentative dips and lifts on the float but struck at very few, each time connecting with sweet FA. It's ironic, the float would move and I would tense, ready for the inevitable sail away bite that never came. The second I relaxed again another slight dip on the float. The trouble is I just can't concentrate, I'd never make a matchman. My gaze keeps wandering, there's just too much to look at. This reminded me of something that I've always known. I'm hopeless at float fishing! Still fish moved about the swim and still I failed to register any positive bites. This was a situation I knew only too well when I used to do a lot of Carp fishing, I'd have fish in my swim but just couldn't catch them! Highly frustrating but in this case, strangely addictive.
By 11.30 I was tired and hungry and the fish activity had decreased markedly so I packed up. I had a totally free day so resolved to return in the evening. Before doing so I spread about a kilo of pellets around the swim and retreated pondering how to tackle the bloody fish later!
The biggest obstacle when you've baited a swim up is the possibility that someone else will set up in your place so on returning I breathed a big sigh of relief when I found the car park empty. I began carrying my gear down the path and noticed a rabbit carcass I'd seen earlier had moved. Strange...scavengers? At the bottom of the path I found a push bike and saw two teenagers, the only anglers on the lake sitting in my baited swim. Bugger!! I half heartedly set up in the swim next door while I waited for them to bugger off. Two hours later at 7 o'clock with storm clouds gathering they departed with a smile and a “good luck” and I was able to move in, getting settled just before the heavens opened.
I fished two rods while it was raining, a pop up boilie and PVA bag was cast across the bay to an overhanging tree and the feeder rod was dropped close in on top of the baited area. When the rain finally stopped I put a float rod out too and sat back enjoying the solitude as the light faded. There was a bit of bubbling going on but much less activity than the morning. At 8.30 a Carp angler I'd met before arrived and after a quick chat started setting up nearby. After about fifteen minutes I heard a cry for help and wandered over to see him with a bent rod, he was into a fish already! After a few minutes I happily netted a cracking Common of twenty one pounds for him. He was delighted and I just found it hilarious, fishing is great! As the light faded I packed up and left him to it, I was down but not out.
Like a glutton for punishment I returned the following evening for a couple of hours with Shelley for company. This time I decided to just chuck a couple of rods out and leave them to fish for themselves. Once again the pop up boilie and PVA bag combination was cast across to the tree and on the other rod I fished another boilie close in. groundbait consisted of a few free boilies and on the close rod a few handfuls of mixed pellets. Then we sat back chatting, dodging showers and enjoying the tranquillity of the beautiful lake. For some reason I felt confident that tonight I was going to catch something.
At 8.30 pm it happened, the alarm on the rod cast to the tree signalled a steady take and I bent into a fish. It wasn't huge, definitely not a Carp so surely it had to be a Tench? It came in much easier than I expected so obviously not a big fish but that didn't matter! I caught a flash of green in the dull light and prepared the net. I drew it to the surface....another bloody Pike!!! I just laughed out loud and to add insult to injury it bit through the hooklength just short of the net.
An hour later we were in the car, both still giggling about my lack of luck. I have plenty to think about and will be back soon for another go. Bloody Tench!