All-rounder Julian Chidgey shows how to use a simple two-pronged attack to bank big summer tench from the margins
Standing beside the lake at dawn, it was difficult not to marvel at the sight of two large tench feeding just inches from the bank, sending up clouds of mud as they twisted and turned on their heads in the search for food. The weather was forecast to be sunny and hot and, knowing how the species loves to exploit the natural food larder created by warm, weedy margins, I was looking forward to pitting my wits against these fish at close quarters.
Traditionally, my home county of Devon is not the happiest of hunting grounds for specimen anglers, but in recent years a number of excellent fisheries have sprung up which offer increasingly rich pickings for big-fish hunters.
Emperor Lakes, at Loddiswell in South Devon, is one such place and, along with huge carp and catfish, big tench running into double figures are on the menu for visiting anglers.
My plan for the day was to use both float and feeder tactics to target them from what is probably the best feature in any lake – the margins.
The float comes first
For the first part of the session, before the sun had risen too high in the sky, I intended to fish using a sensitive float rig. I rigged up a 14ft float rod with a small 0.4g pole float, but with so many reeds and lillies fringing the margins, I chose not to use a hooklink, opting instead to fish my 6lb reel line straight through a size 14 barbless hook.
After plumbing the depth and finding 3ft of water right beside the bank, I placed a small bulk of shot at two-thirds depth, with two No.10 ‘dropper’ shot below that. Having lightly primed the swim with a couple of handfuls of maggots, casters and corn, I baited the hook with a bunch of red maggots, a simple bait that no tench can resist.
Lowering the bait into position I watched the float settle as the rig fell through the water column. Within seconds it began twitching and shaking, before dipping slowly away as the first of a succession of small roach took the bait and was swung to hand.
Avoiding the ‘nuisance’ fish
It was clear that a more selective bait was required if I was to get through to the tench. The hook was duly hidden inside two grains of corn and the new offering was lowered into the water. Little happened for the next hour, but finally the float slid away and a firm strike was met with the type of dogged resistance that could only come from a tench!
I piled on the side-strain to keep the fish out of the roots as angry swirls boiled on the water’s surface. Soon, a long green flank broke the surface as the first tench of the day was landed. At 6lb, it was a great start, so I topped up the swim with loosefeed, checked the hookpoint, rebaited and cast once again. While many species are spooked by disturbance, tench are quite different, and will often investigate such things, and sure enough the float slowly sunk from view 20 minutes later. A fish of similar size was soon landed after another great tussle on the float rod.
In summer, carp and tench spend a lot of time in the margins.
The far margin beckons
By now it was mid-morning and the sun had risen high enough to send the temperature soaring. With action from the near-margin dying off, my eyes were drawn to the far bank, which was equally blessed with marginal cover but now had the advantage of being shaded from the sun. Being too far to reach with my float, I set up a second outfit comprising a 1.5lb test curve rod and a reel carrying 8lb line. On to this I threaded a small Method feeder below a foot of tungsten rig tubing to keep the line pinned down. The rig terminated in a four-inch hooklength and two grains of artificial corn.
For the Method mix I took a bag of 4mm pellets, mixed them with a little lake water and left them to soften slightly. I simply put my hookbait in the mould, followed by a handful of the now slightly tacky pellets, and then pressed down to complete the package.
I gently lobbed the rig towards the far bank, a foot from the marginal cover, and put the rod on a bite alarm. Taking in the sun, I sat back to concentrate on the float, so when the alarm screamed into life 15 minutes later I was caught on the hop.
As soon as I picked up the rod it arched over as what was clearly another tench made a mad dash along the far margin, making the line ping off submerged lily stems in the process and sending my heart into my mouth. Thankfully, the run was short-lived, and another cracking tench, this time a slim-bodied male fish, was soon lying in the landing net.
1. Hair-rig one or two grains of rubber corn on a short hooklink. Wide-gape hooks work well.
2. Dampen your pellets with lake water and leave for 10 mins. Once tacky put them in a mould.
3. Take the Method feeder and press it down firmly into the plastic mould full of pellets.
4. Release the feeder from the mould. The bait should be just visible. It's ready to cast out.
Finish with a flourish
As the sun reached its highest point in the sky, unsurprisingly the action died completely, but I was confident that as the light levels and humidity began to fall later in the day that there would be a chance of further fish. Sure enough, as the shadows lengthened, the margin float began to show signs of tench returning to the vicinity, with the odd bleep from my bite alarm telling me the same was happening over on the far margin. By the time I was thinking of calling it a day and heading for home, the tally of tench had doubled to six – making for a superb day’s sport.
But as I broke down the float rod and slid the sections into the holdall, the lake had one further treat in store for me. A series of sharp bleeps from the alarm signalled a drop-back bite, and as soon as I picked up the rod I could tell I was connected to the best fish of the day. I was relieved when it rolled into the net and, lifting the fine fish onto the unhooking mat, I was surprised by the depth of the perfectly-conditioned female tench. At just an ounce shy of 7lb it wrapped up a fantastic summer session on a stunning lake.
Tench may be a species most people associate with springtime, but they will feed hard until the end of autumn and can be caught using the most simple of float and feeder tactics that anybody can master.
Fish with Julian
Julian Chidgey offers guided fishing adventures for various species at lots of venues across the country. Check out julianchidgey.blogspot.com for full details of the services offered.