Canal Tench – A World Away

I’m sure most coarse anglers have a strong affinity with tench. For all the ‘misty dawn’ clichés, they really are an exciting species to fish for and there aren’t many more satisfying angling experiences than slowly building a tench swim and watching those small clusters of pin-prick bubbles begin to move around the baited area.

I’ve fished many different venues for tench, but for me it’s the more natural venues, with clear water and plentiful weed growth that offer both the most authentic experience and best looking fish.

Stillwaters in their many forms, from ponds to meres and gravel pits to reservoirs, are the most prolific environments in which to find the species. Canals and, particularly, rivers are generally considered to be a world away from the type of places tench would be likely to thrive. And yet, a favourite tench fishery of my youth was the Suffolk Stour, just outside Sudbury. I had fish of over six pounds from the Stour and bags of two or three fish over a short session were common. Float fishing, either early morning or late evening, was the best tactic.

Six pounds two ounces Suffolk Stour tench
A 6lbs 2ozs Suffolk Stour tench

I’ve enjoyed reading Russell Hilton’s South West canal tench fishing exploits over the years. The rich, clear, weedy and often secluded canal venues Russ has blogged about have always reminded me of my old stomping grounds on the Stour. And in appearance, they’ve always looked a world away from the cold, sparse and featureless characteristics I’ve (wrongly) long associated with canals.

The canal, just after dawn

After inviting myself along for a canal tench trip, Russ had kindly identified a suitable looking area, raked it and introduced some bait a couple of days before we fished.

It was interesting to note Russell’s sparing, particle-based baiting approach with light scatterings of hemp and maggot forming the basis of our loosefeed. Again, this approach mirrored how I used to fish on the Stour. I always found heavily baiting for tench – particularly with groundbait – highly detrimental.

The session was hugely enjoyable and we had to work hard to finally get our reward – a brace of chunky green tench each. It took a while to coax the tench from their weedy sanctuary a few yards below our spot and bites mainly came around mid-morning as opposed to early on.

Russ had good numbers of rudd and the odd perch too, while I managed a solitary rudd of just over a pound – my best in some time and a lovely fish. But it was a very powerful five pound tench that really made my morning, and I was glad I’d opted to use a six pound line straight through to the hook as opposed to the four pound line I’d spooled on the previous evening.

5lbs Canal Tench April 2017 web

 

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Fishing For Fun in the Afternoon Sun

The sun’s warming afternoon rays had enticed the great British public out to the beach in search of some traditional Easter holiday fun. Sand and sea. Shells and ice creams. Picnics and pints.

Sunset over the beach
Sunset over the beach

Shell web

While mooching around the beach, I knew the sunshine would be having a similar effect on the local carp population.

And so, a few days later, I decided to head out to a local, shallow pool for a few hours fishing for fun in the afternoon sun.

The carp here aren’t big, in the grand scheme of things, but after a winter of roach fishing a carp getting on for double figures looks bloody huge!

Common carp web

And I had a blast, waggler fishing under the rod tip, 4lbs line to a size 16 and double maggot as bait.

Despite the warmth, it had snowed up in the valleys a couple of days previously and I wondered if this spring fed pool may be feeling the effects of that. So I opted for maggots as bait and it proved a wise move.

As well as a number of lumpy carp I had four tench, each of which had me wondering if I’d hooked one of the pool’s ultra-rare monster perch.

There was no mistaking those carp though, as they tore off on those intital thirty or forty yard runs. Great fun.

One in the net!
One in the net!
A chunky mirror carp
A chunky mirror carp
Macro shot of a stunning, heavily plated mirror carp
Macro shot of a stunning, heavily plated mirror carp

Wye roach – finding silver

Having a birthday at the arse-end of January has always been a bit shit. Christmas is but a distant memory; the weather is invariably dire; the days are short and most people are still a week off payday and skint after the festive excesses.

And yet I always seem to manage a decent birthday fishing trip on or around the 22nd Jan. A few years back I had a lovely, big Lea barbel on the day itself and I had a personal best perch at the time just a couple of years ago.

A lovely Lea barbel that I had on a memorable birthday trip a few years ago
A lovely Lea barbel that I had on a memorable birthday trip a few years ago

This year I managed to get out the day after my birthday, for a few hours on the Wye. I’d originally planned to fish purely for perch, but the tackle shop had no lobs. I thought I’d hedge my bets and try trotting maggot with a view to targeting roach and perch, hopefully.

The river was in great shape. A lovely murky green colour, up slightly, and after the freezing weather just a few days before, we were back in the early teens in terms of temperatures. The fishing was really enjoyable – far from a bite a chuck or even any really big fish – but totally absorbing; technical, methodical, interesting. I managed nine or ten really good roach, with the best two weighed at 1lbs 8ozs and 1lbs 4oz respectively. Plump, silver, unblemished fish – Wye roach really are lovely creatures. I had a solitary, small perch and one dace too.

A brace of big river Wye roach
A brace of big river Wye roach

1lbs 8oz Wye roach web

I’ve only been fishing the Wye for four years now, but by all accounts much of the river offered great roach fishing ten, fifteen or so years ago. Yet today they are quite localised with many formerly productive areas now barren of roach and other ‘silver’ fish. The Wye rightly is famous for its truly fantastic barbel fishing in beautiful locations, but this wonderful river offers all sorts of other interesting opportunities for some of our less glamorous, but perhaps more interesting species.

Winter on the Wye
Winter on the Wye

Canal Rudd – A Small Spark

It was by total chance that I found the shoal. In fact, I thought they were plump roach when I found them. But an unlikely gang of canal rudd is what has finally sparked a bit of interest in me going out fishing again.

It’s been an odd one, this summer. There’s nothing specific I can really point too that made me feel quite so indifferent about going fishing. Even when I had the odd chance to get out I simply couldn’t be bothered with the whole process.

And one evening, after some rain, I prepared the gear, psyched myself up and went out. I knew I’d catch barbel and I did. And while I was there, in the moment, I enjoyed the process and the fish and the session – but I didn’t even look at the pictures until weeks after. However, with the arrival of Autumn, the dipping temperatures and shorter days, my enthusiasm feels sharpened and refreshed.

A nice early Autumn barbel from the Wye
A nice early Autumn barbel from the Wye

One warm, early autumn afternoon we took the boys over to the canal to enjoy the sunshine, a picnic and mooch around the Gloucestershire edgelands.

The edgelands...
The edgelands…

My local canal is an interesting, neglected and slightly unusual place. I’ve never seen any fish of note here. The odd tiny roach and mini jack pike. It suffered a bad pollution a few years back and much of it is thick with weed and algae.

A couple of lads were trying for pike, without luck, and had resorted to catapulting maggots anywhere but the water. They assured me there were pike, roach and perch in the canal.
As the sun began to dip, we made our way back to the car. My youngest wanted to look at a boat tied up close to the bank.

We went over and that’s when I spotted a decent shoal of plump and deep bodied sliver fish. I can’t deny I thought they were roach. But there were a few decent ones in amongst the sprats. And one fish, sat deeper than the others really did look a fish worth catching – maybe not 2lbs but, perhaps, not far off…

As I sat watching Match of the Day later that night, while my eyes were watching some infernal 0-0 it was that shoal of fish that were on my mind. How big was the biggest I saw? Were bigger fish were lurking under the boats? Would a bread or maggot approach work? Were they roach or, perhaps, were they rudd?

The next morning I arrived at dawn with a float rod, reel, net and a few bits and bobs and a loaf.

Just after dawn on the canal.
Just after dawn on the canal.

I decided to fish a small waggler close in – one of my favourite methods. 3lbs line direct to a size 16 and a pinch of flake.
I baited with some mash and set-up, excitedly.

Bites soon came, but they were frustrating. The float was dancing around but trying to hit the wonky, wavy and frankly weird bites was proving tricky. I shallowed up a touch and soon enough I hooked into a deep bodied silver fish that thumped satisfyingly in the deep, green water.

The depth of it suggested rudd – but on closer inspection looked like a bream hybrid of some sort. I think it may be a silver bream x rudd hybrid? I’d love to hear what people think.

Sliver bream x rudd hybrid?
Sliver bream x rudd hybrid?

Having that fish extracted from the shoal spooked them a touch and the bites slowed. I tried a mere fleck of flake and the next bite was just a touch more positive. A sparkling rudd this time of 1lbs exactly was the result. I was enjoying this. All too soon the dog walkers arrived and the boats started chugging but not before I’d added a couple more rudd of a similar stamp.

A lovely canal rudd of one pound.
A lovely canal rudd of one pound.

I returned a week later, but on a much cooler, overcast morning. The bites were quick to arrive but even more frustrating this time. Just as I was thinking about trying something different – perhaps a pellet or corn – I hooked a beautiful roach. Then another before another decent rudd made an appearance.

The bites tailed right off. I had a few old maggots with me, so tried a couple. A feisty, darting fish was hooked on the drop – a rare canal trout! And I added two small canal dace as well as more small roach before the sunshine arrived and the canal reverted back to appearing lifeless…

A canal trout!
A canal trout!

So, while these fishes will never set the world alight, they have at least sparked some real interest in me.

Autumn perch

They may be at their heaviest right at the very beginning of spring, but come the autumn, I can’t resist fishing for perch.

Autumn leaves
Autumn leaves

Dropping something wriggly, suspended beneath a bulbous float, into deep, slack water, preferably close to cover, is the only way to fish for them in my eyes – real boys own stuff.

A river perch lair
A river perch lair

I had a succession of stunning perch last week from both the river and a local pool. While the river is low, they make for a far more enthusiastic target than the chub and barbel.

A perfect Wye perch
A perfect Wye perch
A decent river perch from a deep pool
A decent river perch from a deep pool
A chunky pond perch
A chunky pond perch

Something special

Part of the magic of fishing is that you never quite know when something a bit special is going to turn up…
A proper lump of a tench - no wonder I look a bit shellshocked!
A proper lump of a tench – no wonder I look a bit shellshocked!
I had this brute on a spur-of-the-moment early morning session. Float fished corn next to some pads. Thought it was a carp until I saw a big green back in the clear water! 8lbs 1oz – a new PB by some margin. Awesome!

Ending the season at brilliant Britford

I finished the season with a trip to the wonderful Britford fishery on the Hampshire Avon last week. Accompanied by my old mate Rob, we spent a couple of days trotting likely looking spots in the hope a few bites. Rob was really after his first grayling and though we didn’t find any sadly, we did manage minnows, dace, chub, pike, salmon parr, sea, rainbow and brown trout and a solitary, special roach. The cold nights, gin clear water and bright sunshine made things tricky, but the chub certainly obliged and hooking those bruisers at range on light float gear was great fun.

Rob trotting the river
Rob trotting the river
... and the end result - a nice Avon chub
… and the end result – a nice Avon chub
A fin-perfect Hampshire Avon roach at 1lbs 14ozs
A fin-perfect Hampshire Avon roach at 1lbs 14ozs
The sun sets on another season
The sun sets on another season