Fast Show star has a shared love for tench – and values

John Bailey with a big pit tench... looking at the tail even fish here are not immune from otter att

John Bailey with a big pit tench... looking at the tail even fish here are not immune from otter attack. Picture: John Bailey - Credit: Archant

I'm involved in an intriguing and entertaining email relationship with Paul Whitehouse, of The Fast Show fame for starters.

I'm happy to report that in real life he is as nice and generous and even funnier than on the TV. What's more, fishing fans will be relieved to know that he is a true and a good angler, unlike some other celebs who like to pretend to be so.

Paul has many loves in the fishing world, but evidently tench are right up there amongst his favourites. A lot of our correspondence has been about lily pads, bobbing floats, bubbles and the Ghost of Crabtree. That's where the problem lies.

Paul is squeamish about fishing for tench before June 16, brought up as he was in an age when you just didn't do that sort of underhand thing. I guess Mr Whitehouse stopped short of smoking a pipe and wearing tweeds, but he certainly needs to be convinced that it is right and proper in the modern age to cast a tench float before mid-June.

I ran this past another great friend, Ian Harding, who lives in the west of the county. He bounced back this five point argument to put to Paul.

Ian wrote:

1: I'm not getting any younger and I'm only here once.

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2: I don't fish enough as it is.

3: Once the clocks change and the weather warms up, my tench hand gets very twitchy and I need to be by the water. I go trouting as much as possible to quell the urge.

4: I only fish for tench on waters that are open all year round legally – that is lakes but not all of them are available to fish by any means.

5: To preserve the wonder of the 16th, I only fish that day in lakes or rivers that have a closed season. I can still do the recces, pre-baiting, tackle sorting, bait prep and planning. All the anticipation of a 10-year-old kid is still there, every year.

I suppose I could add myself that everything has changed this century within and without fishing. However, we're talking about tench and when Paul, Ian and I started our careers, most of what we did was on shallow estate lakes where a lot of tench did actually spawn around May and into June.

Tenching is not like that these days. We now fish deeper, colder gravel pits where tench sometimes only spawn spasmodically and then even in July or August. In a bizarre way, if you don't fish these pits in April and May you are probably missing out on the majority of the sport.

Of course, I miss the glory of the Sixteenth on the hallowed estate lakes of my youth, but our pits are matured, the tench are huge and a misty May morning is not a bad time to be alive and fishing on them. I'm a less is more kind of guy, but for once size does matter. The three-pounders of my youth have been replaced by the nine-pounders of today and they are gobsmacking.

In part, of course, otters have changed this delicate balance, but that's the way it is. I guess otters find it easier to hunt in water five feet deep than in water 15 feet deep. I regret this but it is rather why I now live in the Wensum Valley than close to the North Norfolk coast. Tenching today is a postcode sort of thing.

Talking of otters, I would like to commend a new book just out, 'The Otter's Tale' by Simon Cooper and published by William Collins. It's a cracking read, though I'm rather annoyed by it. Simon Cooper is another friend and alumni of UEA many years ago. The trouble is he knows more about otters than I do and I found that both disturbing and annoying.

Even worse than that, he's evidently a far better writer, too. Who needs friends like that?

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