From tench to trout, rudd to perch, an angler’s skill set is something special

The Norfolk tench in all its glory held by John Bailey and admired by Tim Reynolds. Picture: John Ba

The Norfolk tench in all its glory held by John Bailey and admired by Tim Reynolds. Picture: John Bailey - Credit: Archant

Just yesterday, I was fishing for tench with a new-found friend, talking about fishing, of course, but also the election, history and classical Greece, something I used to teach.

He was gracious enough to call me a polymath! Now, whilst I like to be described as, 'a person of great learning in several fields' I didn't really think it applicable. Then, later in the day, I really was shocked. Shocked to the core. It turned out that two of my great Norfolk trout fishing friends had never, ever caught a tench. Both men are of mature age, angling authors and presenters, highly intelligent and I feel privileged to know them. This all seems to make their tench omissions even more hard to bear.

Aren't tench as Norfolk as poppies, bitterns and the Canaries? What have my pals been doing all these decades? How can we explain to non-angling believers the endless skills that fishing demands if our finest are oblivious to most of them?

We sometimes criticise carpers and match men for being simple-minded and blinkered to other angling delights. But we are all culpable, I see now. Me included, of course. How about putting together a tick list, eh? How good are we all at my roughly drawn-up pantheon of angling's high arts?

In honour of my fly fishing mates, I'll begin on the game front. There is dry fly fishing, upstream nymphing, Czech nymphing, French leader fishing, dapping, lure stripping, buzzer presentation, popper fishing, saltwater approaches, fly recognition, fly tying – and they are all just for starters.


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If you are a carp man, you need to master high casting accuracy at range, bait science, rig intricacies, fishing on the top, fishing in mid water, fishing on the bottom, lake topography, fish movements, fish behaviour and fish body language. You have to know how to play a massive fish and then look after it when it's on the bank.

On the match scene, there is pole fishing, float fishing, feeder fishing, feeding patterns and endless speed techniques that you have to perfect. And I know that this is not even the half of it.

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As a sea angler, you've got to punch heavy gear out from a shingle beach into the teeth of a winter gale. You've got to know your bait, your rigs, your tides and the make-up of the sea bed. You are happy spinning for bass, fly fishing for mullet and even digging your own lugworms.

A predator angler will know the intricacies of spoons, spinners and plugs. There will be trolling to consider, drop-shotting, sink and draw and any amount of rubber creations to breathe life into. Then there is dead baiting, drifter float fishing, even sensitive live baiting to consider.

In my world, there is waggler fishing, stick float fishing, free-lining, touch legering, trotting, pre-baiting, stalking, end rig considerations, surface fishing, centrepins and goodness knows what else to get spot-on.

Let's look at the vast array of fish we have to catch here in East Anglia. There are bass, mullet, flatfish, tope, codling, whiting, skate, dogfish and the rest that I'm sadly ignorant of. There are brown trout, rainbow trout, sea trout and perhaps a few grayling still. How about mirror carp, common carp, crucian carp, bronze bream, silver bream, roach, rudd, perch, pike, zander, eels, chub, barbel, dace, and even gudgeon?

And, of course, tench. No wonder it is said that whoever gets bored of the vast spectre of skills that fishing encompasses, is bored of life itself. I'm pledged to take one of these two pals tench fishing before the summer is out and I'll guarantee that I will have him hooked.

It's June 16 in 48 hours time and I'm excited as a kid at Christmas that the rivers will be opening up to us. I've got a whole raft of things on my agenda.

There is some great upper river wild brown trout fly fishing that I've got my beady eye upon. The idea of catching a wild, Wensum six-pound plus fish thrills me to bits. There is mention that I might be taken out on a boat along the Fens, hunting out some great, golden, saucer-sized rudd. There are some big Broadland perch available to me now, again taken from the rivers and again stalked by boat. I have seen some whopping chub the last couple of weeks, grazing in a slightly coloured river. They look well catchable to me. Then, there are some roach I spotted about 10 days ago and they are still there, two feet down, feeding cautiously over a gravel bottom. I might just be able to tempt them if I trickle in casters and perhaps use a caddis grub on the hook.

Wow, what a world of delights awaits us all. But first, my two big mates, go catch yourself your first ever tench!

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