Mid summer and I reach this point of the season having caught precisely fuck all of note. This should come as no surprise because it happens every year without fail. This could be because I’m totally useless at fishing for most species and there is certainly plenty of evidence to support this theory. It could be down to other priorities resulting in fishing lots of short sessions instead of pitching up for a day and a night which is what I really enjoy doing. Finally I do tend to pick waters that most sane people would walk away from.
Many years ago I heard a quote that stuck with me, (google has attributed these words to an American, Edward Ringwood Hewitt,) “Anglers do, indeed often pass through three stages in their fishing lives: the time when they want to catch all the fish that they can; the time when they strive to catch the largest fish; the time when they study to catch the most difficult fish, caring more for the sport than the fish.” At the time I heard this I was in the process of passing from the first stage to the second but couldn’t ever imagine I’d move on to the third. Now I realise I’ve been in stage three for about a decade.
So now I have a couple of waters at my disposal, both within a reasonable distance of home and both tick all the boxes required by this very fussy angler. Of most interest to me at this time of year is Tench and both of these waters hold small numbers of Tench that grow to an impressive size. Both waters hold fish that could shatter my current PB, however pursuing these fish borders on masochism.
The smaller of these two waters I’ve named “The Valley” and though I say smaller it’s still 18 acres and due to its nature seems much bigger. The water is shallow, weedy and full of silver fish which will demolish most Tench baits before they even reach the bottom so I’m pretty much forced to fish boilies to have any kind of a chance. Happily this approach also gives me a chance of catching Carp, there are a small number of these fish and the ones I’ve seen look quite big. What’s more, as far as I know these fish don’t have names.
This lake has lots of inaccessible places and in the clearer areas fish spotting has proved difficult most of the time. As time has gone on I’ve managed to identify a few areas which look likely to hold a fish or two. I feel my best chance here is to fish when I have a bit of time on my hands, bait up a couple of spots then sit back and wait. This approach nearly saw me crack the place at the first attempt but my luck didn’t hold… In the handful of sessions since I don’t think I’ve even been close. One last thing about the Valley, you can ignore the weather forecast because this place has it’s own weather which never matches what the BBC predict.
On my most recent visit I picked a swim which I thought looked the part and indeed had recent history of turning up a Tench. I put three tempting baits into areas that felt right, put a little feed out then sat back. The night was quiet but the morning was breath-taking, exciting but ultimately frustrating. In short I had Tench rolling and fizzing in my swim but I couldn’t get anything other than liners. Initially I stuck to pop ups, 10mm boilies and fake corn but eventually cracked and tried maggots and corn but caught only silvers, even with fake baits they just kept getting battered. Eventually a 15mm pop up was away and I thought “At last!” It was the biggest fish of the trip indeed but an 8oz Roach wasn’t what I expected. I packed up in the early afternoon and as I stared into the water wondering how I had managed to blank, I noticed movement. There swimming in the water at my feet was a Tench, what else? It was a very small Tench and looked like it had recently survived an encounter with a Pike but at that moment I’d have done anything to have caught it.
The other water is the one where I occasionally fluke a few decent Roach. This place is completely different, far bigger and much deeper it’s on a totally different scale. However large parts of the water can be ruled out due to depth alone so in many ways, finding likely looking Tench swims has been easier. Being there when the Tench are around is another matter. There is a good head of all species in this water but they can be highly nomadic. Here I can mostly use traditional Tench methods and baits as there are no nuisance fish that I would be disappointed to catch. At the moment I’m mostly fishing regular short sessions which probably isn’t the best approach but it means I’m covering a lot of ground and building up a picture of the water. I’ve fished this place, on and off, since 1987 and in all this time I have never, ever caught a Tench.
A few days ago I was back at the big water on bright breezy evening. Even though I’m short on time I always like to have a quick walk around here and after ruling out a swim I’d never fished before I selected one that I had. This one has a nice little bar stretching out from the margin, dropping away into water a foot or so deeper on either side. I lowered two baits in, baited with pellets and corn then sat back with a brew. As I gazed at the water there appeared to be bubbles streaming up, on any other water I’d be sure that was Tench fizzing, hang on a minute… A few minutes later an alarm sounded, a jittery stuttery take but definitely not a liner. I picked the rod up, the tip thumped over and then it was gone and all I retrieved a clump of weed. The bubbling fizzled out after that.
I don’t know who first started using military metaphors to describe fishing but at one time it would have been unique, clever and actually pretty effective. Nowadays it has become so cliché that most probably don’t even know what they are actually saying when they look through their armouries and plan their campaigns. I always like to think of my fishing obsessions as journeys and at the moment I have two running parallel. These trips are well underway so I can no longer use “just starting out” as an excuse for not getting into any meaningful fish. I’ll just keep going and I have the advantage of pure bloody mindedness on my side. I will get there because I won’t give up and when I reach the destination, hopefully I’ll stay awhile.