With their dark green colouring, bright red eyes and large-lipped mouths, tench are one of our most beautiful species. Sadly, many tench waters have been ruined by the introduction of carp, which are highly invasive to the feeding and reproduction cycle of our native tench.
Tench are slow growers but prolific breeders, so can populate and dominate a water quickly, particularly when they are not competing with other large species. They lay dormant throughout the winter so are only worth targeting in the spring and summer months.
Now that water temperatures are rising tench will start to wake up from their winter sleep.
As their biology would suggest, they are built for power with a large tail paddle — and are one of the hardest fighting fish you’re likely to catch.
When hooked they can tear off like a torpedo, usually hugging the bottom, so heavy gear is needed.
An ideal set-up for big tench would be a 1¼lb test curve specimen or barbel rod with fine diameter mainline of at least 8lbs breaking strain, fished with a size 14 specimen hook to a minimum 5lbs hook link.
Tench predominantly feed during low light levels so dawn and dusk are prime times for them to suddenly come on the feed.
A water can often seem devoid of tench during the day, but just as it starts to get dark they switch on.
They love features such as lily pads, where they grub around in the silt for bloodworm and crustaceans, feeling and smelling their way around, leaving a tell-tale stream of fizzing bubbles.
Fishing tight to these features will give the best results, but it can be a risky game.
They will power off as soon as hooked and often head for the nearest feature.
Ledgering with any basic free-running rig or method feeder will present a bait well on the bottom, but I prefer traditional waggler tactics with the bottom lead sat on the bed and the bait laid-on at about four inches.
This will give a lift-bite indication with the float rising before slowly drifting away. You can use a purpose-made tench waggler but many floats are suitable, including bodied wagglers, which are more stable in windy conditions or when fishing at a distance.
A simple straight reed waggler around 3BB is more than adequate for most situations.
Tench are not hook-shy so you can opt for using bigger hooks up to size 12.
The best baits are bunches of red maggots, sweetcorn, bread or lob worm.
Be generous with the feed to create a tasty carpet of bait and look out for the tell-tale bubbles as the fish move on to it.
Bream also create lots of bubbles when feeding and will swim around with tench so it’s not uncommon to catch both species with the same methods.
• Step-up your gear so you can fish tight to features such as lily pads, reeds and dense patches of weed.
• Drag or rake out your swim and bait it up the day before fishing. Tench will soon be in there, grubbing around. I prefer to rake out a swim around midday with a view to fishing from late evening on the same day.
• Use natural baits such as lob worm, swapping over to corn if you’re being plagued by perch.
• Maggots will crawl away into the weed and silt, so pile a few handfuls in initially and trickle more in to keep your swim topped up. A favourite method is to fish hair-rigged sweetcorn over a bed of coarse groundbait or dead maggots.
• Be patient. Often you can sit for hours without a bite and then catch several fish in a short space of time.
• Use a float with a yellow or fluorescent tip so you can see it as the light starts to fade at dusk — the prime feeding time.
Tight Lines, Alan Dudhill
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