Thursday 27 May 2010


It was Saturday evening and I just couldn't decide whether or not to fish the following morning. This gave me a perfect excuse to drag the family out for a walk around the Marsh. After a hot day it was just cool enough to be comfortable as we left the car and headed down to the lake. The first part of our walk was through woodland which in the kids imagination became a tropical rainforest full of Tigers, Snakes and Rhinos. I don't know how the kids would fare in a real rainforest as the “dangerous” stinging nettles were a real challenge to them. In their imaginations they were both Indiana Jones and battled bravely through the swamp and dense forest to emerge unscathed in the savannah, AKA “The bunny field”. Here they squealed with delight watching the multitudes of wild Rabbits scurrying for cover as they approached. The kids wanted to get closer but their heavy footfalls gave the game away no matter how hard they tried.

Meanwhile I was nipping in and out of the various swims we passed, scanning the Lake for signs of activity. This place is usually quiet but this evening it was fairly busy, the hot weather had brought a few extra people out for the night. At first glance it seemed too busy for me and I'd half decided not to bother the following morning. I nodded to the angler bivvied up in the swim I'd fished last time out but he either didn't see or pretended not too. The next swim I passed was one I haven't yet fished and looked nice, a large bed of lilies to the right and reed beds to the left. No fish showing here tonight however. We reached the far end of our walk and as the kids strived to get ever closer to the elusive bunnies I crept into another swim for a look. I passed a couple of young Carp anglers bivvied up with enough gear for an army. They ignored my greeting...or maybe I should give them the benefit of the doubt and say they couldn't hear it above the sizzling stove? Whatever, the swim next door to them looked good, opposite me was a bed of lilies which looked the part and as I stood there Madison clumsily joined me, spooking a decent sized fish which displaced a lot of water in the margins in front of us. That was enough for me, I decided to set my alarm and have a couple of hours fishing right here, in the early morning.

We retraced our steps through the bunny field and this time I decided to give the mud and nettles a miss and steer us on a more comfortable course back to the car. We passed plenty of Rabbits, to delight of the kids, along with unidentified birds singing their hearts out in the trees. However, to Isaac's disgust there were no bats putting on an aerial display, we were a little too early for that tonight.

By 5:30 the following morning I was back, in the swim next to the slumbering Carp anglers. I quickly cast a chod rig baited with a pop up strawberry boilie and a PVA bag full of pellets across to the pads. The other rod was an open end feeder fished bolt rig style, baited with pop up fake maggots and filled with the green Lake wizard groundbait. The plan with this rod was to be vigilant and cast to any bubblers showing. If any particular area showed lots of signs of fish or the unlikely event of me actually catching a Tench then I'd put a load more bait in this area. As I tackled up I hadn't seen any bubblers so cast into open water in an area I'd seen a Tench roll before. What I had seen however was Carp, lots of Carp and they were spawning.

Throughout the session Carp were crashing in the pads opposite me, rustling the reeds beside me and swimming hurriedly by in twos and threes. It was all very showy and noisy but I suppose if you only have sex once a year you might as well make a big deal about it. Most of the fish were mid doubles but I did see a couple (or was it the same one?) that were big fish. It's almost certain that it was a Carp that Madison had spooked the previous evening.

My fishing was uneventful to day the least. I left the Chod rig in place all morning and apart from the occasional blip on the alarm nothing happened. I did see the occasional patch of fizz to my right so decided to concentrate the feeder rod here with three big balls of groundbait chucked in too. At 7.30, with an hour to go I decided to set up a float rod too, fished very close in shallow water near to where the Carp were spawning. This failed to stir any fishy interest either. At a little after eight o'clock the slumbering Carp anglers beside me awoke and began swearing at each other. They were greatly excited by the amount of Carp activity around them and were dumbfounded as to why they hadn't caught anything. Not that they talked to me of course but you could have heard them in the next county.

By 8:30 it was time for me to pack up and get away as child care duties were calling. Usually I hate packing up but today I hadn't seen a sign of any Tench today, would they be scared off by the spawning Carp? Who knows. I definitely didn't relish sitting next to the two cursing, clueless Carpers any longer so getting away wasn't too much of a wrench. Another trip has passed without the elusive Tench but the fat lady ain't singing yet!

In the absence of any fish here's another picture of the Lake, nice hey?

Thursday 20 May 2010


The weekend arrived and the kids were having a sleep over at their grandmothers house giving me an all too rare opportunity to spend a night fishing the Marsh. I spent Saturday afternoon getting stuff ready; bait, gear, food, drink... and it was early evening before Shelley and I arrived at the lake. Unfortunately there were several Carp anglers already fishing and all of the swims I'd had in mind were occupied. I had a quick chat and learned that very little had been caught of late, Carp or Tench. Either that or they're all playing their cards close. I was forced to fish the same spot where I'd spent my first trip to the lake a fortnight previously. Add to that another cool forecast with a northerly wind and I wasn't confident, not at all. In fact I was almost resigned to the fact that I wouldn't catch. That didn't matter however, I needed the break from routine, I needed the fresh air & countryside and I needed to be fishing!

After lugging the gear round it was time to get everything ready for the night. I daren't set Shelley up with the whip too soon as that would invariably mean I would be constantly unhooking fish and wouldn't be able to set anything else up. I quickly tackled up my own two rods; an open ended feeder/bolt rig, baited with maggots both fake and real was swung beneath an overhanging tree. Groundbait was a green concoction made by 'Lake Wizard' to which I'd added crushed Hemp, maggots and corn. I also chucked a few balls of groundbait in a line at right angles to the bank. This line ended at the bottom of the marginal slope and it was here that my second bait was placed. A chod rig baited with a popped up strawberry boilie and a PVA bag of mixed pellets was dropped into position. My line of groundbait (incidentally a Rod Hutchinson idea from “The Carp strikes back” published in the mid eighties) was topped up with about a kilo of mixed pellets and I was fishing.

Looks the part

I couldn't avoid setting the whip up any longer and before very long Shelley was happily hoisting in a procession of Rudd. These were swung right into my chops to be unhooked and returned while Shelley giggled. In between I managed to set the bivvy up and get everything sorted out for the night. At one point Shelley dropped a Rudd back in the water while she waited for me to unhook it, only to jump and shriek as a Pike nailed it to save me the job. Shelley gave up fishing when it became difficult to see the float, I recast and re-baited both rods around 10pm then sat back in my chair with a glass of wine. As it grew dark the sky came alive with bats, I can't ever remember seeing so many whizzing through the air. They seemed to head straight for us then veer away at the last second. Nature is pretty mind blowing at times. The temperature fell quickly and all too soon the only comfortable place to be was tucked up in the bivvy.

For over twenty years the only night fishing I have done have been in the flat, largely tree-less landscape of the Fenlands. I cannot remember the last time, or indeed if I've ever fished a lake in a wood before. Therefore the volume of the dawn chorus came as a bit of a surprise to me! Here the trees are very thick, very tall and very old. A perfect habitat for a variety of songbirds and wildfowl all of which gave a high volume performance which roused me at around 4:30 am. I staggered out of the bivvy, answered the call then recast and rebaited both rods and topped up the groundbait after a fishless night. A mist hung above the water as the sun brightened making a beautiful scene before me. However there were no Tench rolling and no signs of life in front of me so I decided to retire to the bivvy once more and rest my eyes a little longer.

By 7am the sun shone brightly and I was up and at 'em once again. I'd had a couple of liners during the dawn period, one on each rod, but no proper takes. Fresh baits again, kettle on then I sat back with a brew and tried to wake up. I looked around the lake and noticed all the Carpers seemed to be packing up. I sneaked a few Rudd out on the whip and caught a couple more, slightly bigger ones on the feeder rod but despite the occasional patch of bubbles the Tench weren't playing. It's disconcerting as I'm sure fish are responsible for the fizz but they never seem to hang around my baited areas for long. Soon Shelley woke up, we enjoyed breakfast and the early morning sun before starting to slowly tidy away the gear. While doing so I had a proper take on the feeder rod at long last. I dropped what I was doing and for the first time this spring I bent into a fish that pulled back. Surely this was my first Tench of the year?.............It's very rare that I'm disappointed to see a Pike on the end of my line but...I could see a nice sized Rudd in the fishes' mouth and when this was shaken out somehow my hook remained attached to the Pike. I was determined to land the bloody thing and duly christened my new landing net (courtesy of DLST, see link at the side) despite it biting off the feeder link and eventually trashing the hooklength as I unhooked it. Although it was vividly marked the Pike was a tatty looking specimen of about two pounds that looked like it had strayed too close to a big sister at spawning time.

And that was that. Another trip passed, relaxing in lovely surroundings but I still hadn't banked a Tench. My title of 'the worlds worst Tench angler' remains intact but fishing really IS great and it's only a matter of time............

Monday 10 May 2010

Lots of F's

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!

Thursday 6 May 2010

Sods Law

At long last I had some free time and so Shelley and I made our way down to the Marsh to spend an afternoon by the water. Typically sods law had already intervened, the first day in ages I'd been able to fish was the coldest in absolutely weeks. With my track record of (not) catching Tench it's hard to feel confident at the best of times but this sudden, drastic drop in temperature along with a biting easterly wind done little to inspire me for my first visit to a new water. What the hell, lets do it anyway, at the very least I'll learn a bit more about the place. We had a wander around before choosing a swim. I didn't see signs of anything that looked remotely like a Tench so eventually settled for a spot on the east bank that would accommodate the two of us comfortably, gave me a good view of the whole lake and importantly, was out of the worst of the bitter wind.

For once I opted for comfort and set the new bivvy up before anything else. The rain was easing but it was still cold and 'orrible so staying warm(ish) and dry was a priority today. I set a Whip up for Shelley, put a little cloudy groundbait laced with red maggots out then proceeded to begin tackling up my own gear. This was to turn out to be a very slow process as I was constantly having to stop to unhook yet another fish for Shelley. She began by catching two Roach then the Rudd moved in and it was virtually a bite a chuck.

Back to my own fishing. I laid a carpet of mixed pellets, 2 to 6mm in a variety of flavours and types, in nine feet of water under an overhanging branch to my left. I'd spent some time pondering what rig to use but after chatting to a proper Carp angler (ie. One with a brain, not a chav), earlier in the week I'd come to a decision. I was concerned about silt so took his advice and used the oddly named “Chod” rig, with a 35g feeder on the end and a 3” hooklength with a size 10 hook. Bait was two plastic floating maggots sandwiching two of the real things. This was under-armed to the baited spot and I was fishing! On the second rod I float fished a piece of plastic corn beneath the rod tip with a couple of handfuls of real corn and a bit of groundbait. Lovely, all I needed was a fish. Shelley was having no such problem and was thoroughly enjoying swinging a procession of Rudd to me so I could unhook, return them and re-bait for her. After a while we were visited by a pair of Carp anglers. They were clad entirely in real tree camo but I had no trouble seeing them. They were friendly enough but when I said I was after Tench looked at me like I had two heads. Apparently someone they knew had caught one of “about ten pounds” recently. Obviously this fish wasn't as interesting as the twenty pound Carp that inhabit the lake....

A classic float in the lilies photo, shame it was bloody freezing.

It was great to be fishing again and great to be sitting and soaking up a bit of East Anglian countryside. I saw my first Swallows, and Martins of the spring, heard my first Cuckoo but as time passed I had yet to see sign of my first Tench. Then things started to look up, the Lilies in front of me shook as something large and unseen swum through them. Beyond the overhanging tree I was casting too the odd patch of bubbles began to appear and I began to get the odd line bite on the feeder rod. I decided to clip a back lead on as if there was a fish about I definitely didn't want it spooked. Shortly after this I struck at a twitchy “take” but hit thin air. I was sure it wasn't a liner so topped the swim up with more pellets and recast. I'd hardly sat down again when that rod started singing again and this time I set the hook into something solid and fishy. There was a good weight on the line and the swim boiled yet the fish left the bottom easily. I caught a flash of green amidst another swirl, the fish felt heavy but it looked like it was coming to the net all too easily. Then there was another large, deep boil and all went slack. Well slack-ish, I retrieved a Rudd of about 6 ounces that was nicely chewed up yet still alive. The Rudd must have hooked itself only to be taken by a decent Pike, kind of ironic considering my last Pike session in March!
Yes, another rainbow pic.

After that even the liners dried up and the swim seemed dead. I set up a third rod with a bolt rig baited with plastic corn and a PVA bag of pellets. This was chucked into open water, more in hope than expectation. The afternoon turned to evening and it got colder still but we were kept going by hot tea and bacon sarnies. Shelley gave up catching fish on the whip when her total reached fifty, I caught a few myself but can't get interested in this type of fishing unless I need bait. As dusk approached the temperature fell quickly and as much as I'd enjoyed fishing again I was cold and uncomfortable and I'd had enough. Before leaving I popped into a couple of other swims for a look, checking out whether or not I could cast to various weed beds for future reference. I could hardly believe my eyes when a good sized Tench rolled in front of me, in open water of about nine feet deep. Talk about rubbing it in....

Most of the following day was spent decorating, tidying and mowing but in the evening the jobs were done and my girls were settled. All night and all day I'd been haunted by the sight of that rolling Tench and it had become too much for me. The gear was still in the car so Isaac and I headed off down to the Marsh for a couple of hours. There was a couple of cars parked up and the swim where I'd seen the fish roll was occupied by a Carper, my run of luck continues... I considered heading home again but my lad wanted to catch some fish so we headed off to the spot I'd fished the previous day. I told myself that the bait I'd put in the day before might have drawn some fish in.

That's my boy...

Isaac was soon fishing with the whip. His first fish was a Roach and this was followed by Rudd after Rudd. Exactly the same thing had happened to Shelley the day before. Her first two fish were Roach then all the rest were Rudd. Very strange, I guess the Rudd moving in on the little groundbait I put in must push the Roach away?? I put the float rod out again then took my time changing the set ups on the other two. I wasn't entirely happy with the feeder rig as to me it seemed over complicated for fishing at short range. I switched this to a paternoster set up with a short hooklength and put this back under the overhanging tree once again. By this time sods law saw the Carper in the swim I'd wanted pack up and leave. I considered moving but by the time I'd done this it would have been virtually time to leave. Instead I put a dreaded “Chod” rig on, baited with two grains of plastic corn with a PVA bag of pellets. I felt this would be a better option for fishing the open water with deeper silt. I gave this a big cast this towards the area I'd seen the Tench roll and although I can't be sure how close it landed I was pleased with the result. Isaac got bored of catching Rudd and was getting cold but I cajoled and encouraged him. We lasted till the light was fading by which time we'd both had enough.

So far it's 2-0 to the Tench but I'm a stubborn git and this only makes me more bloody minded and determined to catch a few. I've got the bug again, it's a nice place to fish and I'm enjoying myself in the peaceful surroundings. Looking forward to my next crack at those bloody Tench!