A magnificent tench day out in conditions you’d rather forget

–John Bailey holds a freezing water tench flanked by friends Simon and John.

–John Bailey holds a freezing water tench flanked by friends Simon and John. - Credit: Archant

You just never know in this fishing life, do you?

The Saturday just gone you will almost certainly remember if you were out fishing. We are pushing on towards late April and yet temperatures got down as low as five degrees early in the afternoon when there was also a scattering of snow up and down the Wensum Valley. The wind was from the north and we know that in East Anglia, this is not good. True, there were periods of bleak, brief sunshine, but the whole scene was more reminiscent of a January pike trip than a mid-spring tench jaunt.

At 10 in the morning, I looked around and my fishing companions were more suitably attired for pike than for tincas. We were so rugged up that we made Shackleton and Scott look as though they were dressed for a Mediterranean holiday. The wind was in our faces, my hands were white with cold and we doubted our collective sanity. Then, around half past the hour, far out in the waves, a big tench rolled. It's a sign, one of the friends said. We must fish on.

We did, and you know I'm going to say that we were glad we did so. Yes, we caught tench. Not a huge lot, admittedly, but five or six with one or two lost and a couple of bites missed simply through paralysis of cold. At one stage, I was playing a six-pounder in the full force of the wind. The fish ran off 40 yards of line and I found myself in the midst of some sort of surreal piscatorial dream. The wind was howling and my eyes ran with streaming cold salty water. How we got that fish in, I'll never know. It was only six pounds – I say only in this tench-inflated weight age – but it was like the most glorious personal best.

In the end, we all caught and if there is one lesson to this, it is that you never know and that you've really got to be there. I also tend to think that we fished pretty well, too. I think a key when conditions are dire is your baiting programme. When I think this one through, the key to all fishing conditions is your baiting programme, I guess, but when the going is rock hard, there is an even bigger imperative to get it spot on.

I think we did right in sprinkling our adjoining swims frequently, but sparsely, simply drizzling in particle baits throughout the eight hours. Hemp, mini-pellets, maggots, corn, anything that didn't make much of a splash seemed to pull the tench onto the feed. We didn't stop. We kept at it. Dogged perseverance seemed to win the day and some impossible tench were the result.

Did it help that we also used the floats? I think it did. If we'd been legering, the chances are that we would have just hunkered down, battled for warmth and let the rods fish themselves. If you are float fishing, you can't do that. You are continually challenged, continually working, always in touch with what is going on.

Most Read

Those tench tell something of a story. As you'd expect, for this time of the year, I found them very thin. It's been a ragged sort of winter and a poor sort of spring and I guess there is not much natural food about for them. That's a bit of a nature detective story, but there is more. One or two of them bore the scars of relatively recent cormorant slashes. Others displayed well-healed tail fins shredded by old otter attacks, possibly from years back. Most of them had wounds here and there and as they were a mahogany black in colour, too, I felt we were dealing with really old warriors.

There are days in an angling career that you never forget. Perhaps you've experienced overwhelming, dizzyingly exciting successes. Perhaps everything goes wrong and you laugh at your Chuckle Brother hamfistedness later in the pub. This, though, is a day I guess none of us present will ever forget. The blinding lights when the sun broke through, the winter weather in springtime and above all, these fabulous, plucky tench battling away to give us one of the sessions of our lives made for a precious day to long remember.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter