Tench: Bait, Tackle and Fishing Methods
There are three hook-baits which are consistently successful lures for tench; these are worms, maggots, and bread. Tench can be taken with other baits at times, but when they cannot be tempted with one or other of these three, prospects of sport are very poor indeed.
Tench have a liking for worms of all kinds but, when circumstances permit its use, the most effective worm bait of all is a large, active lobworm. That is a bait big enough to appeal to the largest tench, and too big to interest unwanted small fish. It has the disadvantage, though, of being also attractive to eels and where these prove troublesome a bread hook-bait is the only solution.
On some waters where bread is used extensively as, tench develop a taste for it and take it in preference to any other bait. For fishing over a clean bottom, bread can be used in the form of paste, kneaded from the crumb of the loaf, but if the bed is muddy or weed-covered a cube of bread crust is preferable, being more buoyant and less likely to become obscured in the mud or bottom weed.
Maggots are a hook-bait well worth trying when tench cannot be tempted with either worm or bread. When tench are rooting in the bottom mud, feeding in earnest on bloodworms and other small larvae, they seem to become preoccupied with this natural food. At such times large baits are often ignored, but a small bait such as a maggot or the tiniest of redworms may prove effective.
To fish for tench with fine tackle is to risk the frequent loss of hooked fish. The tench is a powerful fish and its favourite escape manoeuvre when hooked is to head for the nearest weed-bed. Even if it is only of average size, fine tackle will not stop it and once it reaches its goal it is as good as lost. With reasonably substantial tackle it is still not too easy to coax a weeded tench into open water again.
In any case, there is little to be gained from using very fine tackle for, unlike most species, tench do not seem to be unduly deterred by a line that is plainly visible. Its small eyes suggest that it is not very keen-sighted, and in its natural weedy habitat a line is not likely to be too conspicuous. A practical line for tench fishing is one having aof between 2-3 kg (4-6 lb) depending on the extent of the weed hazard and the size of fish expected.
Lines of up to 3 kg (61b) b.s. Call for a rod with a test curve of about 450 g (1 lb). A 3 or 3.3 m (10 or 11 foot) Avon-type rod will serve in most cases, but a longer rod is often an advantage when fishing over rush fringes or marginal weed beds. Lightness is not of great importance as tench fishing does not call for frequent casting, and for most of the time the rod is supported in rests.
In most cases any good centre-pin reel will suffice, for most tench fishing is done at fairly short range, but acan be an asset when fishing at longer range from a boat, or around islands of weed some way out from the bank. The fixed-spool reel usually has the advantage, too, of an extra spool, which enables one to use alternative line-strengths.
Hooks need not be large. The tench’s mouth is fairly tough and a small hook will hold quite well once it has penetrated. A selection ranging from No. 8 down to No. 14 will meet most tench-fishing requirements. Eyed or spade-ended hooks can be used, tied directly to the reel-line, but hooks whipped or tied on to separate hook-lengths are often more convenient. In the poor light which so often prevails at the most favourable tench-fishing times, attaching a looped hook-length is much easier than knotting a small hook to the reel-line.
Tench fishing is essentially still-water fishing and there is no need forthat will support a heavy string of lead shot. The sole purpose of is to act as a bite-indicator, and the smallest float that can be comfortably seen will suffice. All that is needed for short-range fishing is a small porcupine quill or, if it is more visible in the circumstances, a 10 cm (4 ins) length of white peacock quill. A slightly larger quill may be necessary when fishing in poor light or at longer range.
If large catches of tench are expected, some preliminary preparation is usually necessary. Gaps and open patches in marginal weed-growth are always favourable tench-fishing pitches and it usually pays to clear such a patch if none exists rather than fish the open water. A makeshift weed-drag can be made by festooning barbed wire around a piece of old iron bar or tube, but a couple of rake-heads bound back to back make a handier and more portable device. Tied to a strong rope, the drag is thrown out and drawn ashore repeatedly until a sufficiently large patch is reasonably free from weed.
Some anglers are convinced that this weed clearance actually attracts tench by disturbing the bottom mud in which they find much of their natural food. This may appear so at times, but when possible it is better to do the dragging well in advance of the actual fishing time. It is a big advantage too, if quantities of ground-bait can be thrown in at regular intervals to encourage the tench to venture out and feed in the cleared area.
If the hook-bait is bread, the ground-bait can be waste bread, dried in the oven and ground up in a coarse mincer. If worms or maggots are on the hook a quantity of chopped worms or small maggots should be included in the basic bread ground-bait. A proportion of mud or wet sand mixed with the ground-bait will ensure that it sinks quickly to the bottom in the desired area.
For tench a sensitive float-fishing method should be used whenever possible, so that any slight interference with the bait can be detected. Sometimes tench will take a bait boldly and make off with it in no uncertain manner, but very often they are cautious in the extreme, sucking in and blowing out the bait repeatedly, without moving away with it. A sensitive float is needed to indicate bites such as these.
In still water, laying-on is an effective way of presenting a bait on the bottom. The float should be a porcupine quill or piece of peacock quill just large enough to be comfortably visible. A single lead shot, just heavy enough to cock the float, should be fixed about 45 cm (18 ins) from the hook. The distance between shot and float is set at slightly less than the depth of the water, so that the shot is supported by the float and only the baited hook lies on the bottom. The advantage with this method is that a taking fish can pick up the bait without feeling the weight of the lead shot; the snag is that the float gives no positive indication of a bite until the fish moves away with the bait.
A more sensitive arrangement when tench are feeding cautiously is the shot-, often referred to nowadays as the ‘lift’ method. The terminal tackle used is the same; a small quill float and a single shot just heavy enough to cock it. With the ‘lift’ method, however, the shot is placed quite close to the hook, about 5 cm (2 ins) away, sometimes only 2.5 cm (1 in), and it is usual to attach the float by its bottom end only. The tackle is fished with both the baited hook and the shot lying on the bottom. The distance from float to shot must be carefully adjusted so that the float is just cocked when the shot is on the bottom. Because of the need for precise adjustment of the float for depth, the method can be used only when the water is reasonably calm.
With this arrangement the float registers the slightest interference with the bait. When a tench picks up the bait it also picks up the shot, and the float, relieved of its weight, rises and falls flat on the surface. A swift strike when the float is rising will often hook a tench before it has a chance to eject the bait. Often this ‘lift’ technique is the only method likely to succeed.
Float-fishing methods are not practicable, of course, in the dark; nor is a float very convenient when there is a strong wind which blows it about and drags the bait along the bottom in an unnatural way. In conditions such as these, however, tench seem to bite more decisively and the float is not so important. Instead, a running leger can be used; that is, a running leger weight loose on the hook-length, with a smallsqueezed on about 30 cm (12 ins) from the hook to act as a stop for the leger weight. The running-weight should not be too heavy; just heavy enough to anchor the bait in the desired spot.
In the absence of the float some other form of bite-indicating device should be used for tench, for they are usually quick to discard a bait if they feel the pull of the rod top. The oldbite-indicator is quite effective when the tench are biting boldly. After the bait has been put out, a loop of line is drawn from between the reel and the first rod ring. A knob of bread paste or a ball of silver paper is squeezed on to this loop to act as an indicator, which will move in response to any slight pull on the line. Much handier, however, are the electric bite indicator and the swing tip, two useful devices which are superseding the old dough bobbin.
Although tench are almost wholly bottom-feeders there are times when they can be caught at the surface. In lakes and ponds where bread is used extensively as bait a certain amount of discarded bread drifts into the marginal shallows. At dusk, when most anglers have departed and all is quiet, carp and tench will often move right inshore, scavenging around the fringes of the pool in search of these pieces of floating bread. These margin feeders can sometimes be taken with a floating bread bait fished under the rod top.
The rod is set up in rests and the bread-baited hook is lowered so that the bread floats on the surface beneath the rod top. 30 cm (1 ft) or so of line must be drawn from between the reel and the first rod ring, so that a taking fish will not feel immediate resistance when it sucks down the bait.
Thiswill sometimes take a few tench when all other methods fail, but conditions must be right. The water must be still, or the floating bread will drag unnaturally on the surface. Also, the angler must be inconspicuous. There must be no disturbance of any kind to drive the tench away from the shallows.
The probable maximum weight to which tench grow is a matter for conjecture. On the Continent tench of up to 7.75 kg (17 lb) are said to have been bred in fish-ponds, but as these were artificially bred this cannot be regarded as natural growth. It is almost certain, though, that even under natural conditions tench grow larger than this.
Rod-caught tench of over 3 kg (6 lb) however, are exceptional. From most waters a tench of 2 kg (4 lb) is regarded as a specimen and fish of over 2.5 kg (5 lb) are especially noteworthy.