John Bailey: It’s time for tench again – here are the golden rules

Time for tench and carp comes around again! Picture: John Bailey

Time for tench and carp comes around again! Picture: John Bailey - Credit: Archant

Bloomin' heck, eh, how the years roll by. Perhaps, like me, you set your seasonal fishing clock by the species you pursue?

Taylor with his Cobbleacre successes Picture: John Bailey

Taylor with his Cobbleacre successes Picture: John Bailey - Credit: Archant

So, no sooner than the pike and chub rods of the winter are put to one side it is out with the carp, trout and tench gear of the springtime. With tench at least, we live in staggering times.

In my teens, I slaved unsuccessfully for a '5' and it was the mid-70s before I got one. A further three years elapsed before my '6' and during all that time a '7' was a dream and an '8' or '9' beyond my imagination, or anyone else's come to that. Now, of course, we accept such Leviathans as the norm but the question remains, why the weight change?

The most common reason given is the advent of high protein baits like boilies, but I'm not happy with that one. I know plenty of lakes where the size of tench has ballooned, but where boilies have never been used so personally I'm looking elsewhere. I think cormorants might have something to with it. The fact is that they have decimated silver fish populations on many lakes thereby leaving more natural food to be consumed by the weight oblivious tench, bless their little fat tummies.

Even more relevant I suspect are the far warmer winters we have enjoyed this century and before. Most of you over the age of 40 will remember winters that were killers, with snow on the ground for weeks at a time. Today I'm guessing tench feed 50 weeks out of the 52 so putting on the pounds is pretty inevitable. So, our beloved fatties are feasting when they should be fasting and our PBs reflect the result.

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All fascinating stuff, but I realise it is catching tench that counts. Each year at this time I start guiding tench addicts and I generally put the net under a thousand or more before autumn leaves fall. That is a heck of a lot of tincas, as the Romans would call them, so I must be doing something right. There are many things that tip the scales but I'd highlight three vital considerations to put you top of the tenching tree.

First, pre-bait if you can. I appreciate that club rules, busy waters, lack of time and money even can bang this approach on the head. However, if you see a glimmer of a possibility, try it out, I urge you. Tench love food and they love routine. If they get used to finding free goodies in a certain place day after day, they'll make sure they are there to make the most of them. Best of all, they'll tell their mates and you'll soon find you have cornered the swim market. The longer and the more often you can pile bait in, the better your fishing will become. Try Vitalin laced with the bait you intend to use and maggots, corn and boilies are all top in my book. It's not pretty or artistic, but it works if you can think of a way to pull it off.

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Second, get your line on the lake bottom. Tench hate seeing tight lines, especially cutting through their living space and they will clear right off as a result. If you are float fishing, go way over depth so you have at least a foot and a half of line on the bed. If you are feeder fishing, ensure the line to that feeder is well pinned down with lead core or even shot. A slacking line also helps.

Third, work over and over at your hook set up until you get it just right. Remember, tench do not pick most baits up between their lips. Generally, they up end close to a bed of baits and suck the items up from an inch or so away. This means that two grains of corn on a size 10 hook are too heavy to rise off the bottom and drift into the fish's mouth. They remain there rooted on the bottom whilst the oblivious tench wanders well, well away. This where lighter, smaller hooks come in and the modern, buoyant, plastic imitation baits, maggots and corn especially. In an ideal set-up, the plastics will counterbalance the weight of the hook and they'll both rise into the mouth at the slightest of sucks imaginable. Play around with your combinations in a bucket until what you are offering simply hovers in the bottom silt zone and you'll find impossible tincas are there for the taking.

Daniel Brydon and I are just so chuffed that you anglers out there are taking the Robert Shanks Awards so seriously. There have been a shoal of entrants this week, juniors again looking good. Taylor Rudkin and sister Ciah have been plundering the stocks of Cobbleacre carp and bless Bob Anderson for maintaining such a cracking fishery. Another top water guardian is Peter down at The Bridge, Lenwade. Pete helped young Joe Holmes land a belter of a crucian carp – and how difficult are they, I ask myself.

In the adult category, James Morley had a quite magnificent old-style Norfolk carp a tad under the 20lb mark but worth double that weight for its gorgeousness and its cunning. Listen if you please how James caught it: 'I had it using an orange Purebaits Concept Amino pop up fished spinner rig style on a size 4 Angling Iron Duropoint Curve hook. I also used a 35lb Thinking Anglers tungsten boom and fished at 60 yards with a handful of amino freebies.'

Blimey. Work that one out, you dry fly buffs, if you can.

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