A brace of tench in difficult conditions
Left to right: A coltsfoot in bloom…..the biggest tench of the session….sunrise over the gravel pit….the second fish just before dawn…common field speedwell
It was a beautiful sunny day as I made my way in the car to the gravel pit to continue my pursuit of big tench. For the first time in ages the trio of signs that the weather really had turned were evident: sunglasses on: window wound down: heater turned right round to cold. Yes, the summer was here. Well, not quite as the nights are still chilly. But we can’t have it all ways and so the daytime temperatures of mid doubles were very welcome indeed. It’s going a bit too far to suggest that I would be hoping for tench of the same size, but with my best from the venue hitting just short of a double, it’s realistic to say that there’s a good chance of landing a big one – or two.
But like most gravel pits, it’s a hard venue and doesn’t surrender its inhabitants easily. In fact if I get one fish per night I am happy with that, and particularly so as the average size of the fish is very good. The recent cold spell had set the water temperature back, and so the 9.9C rising to 10.0C on arrival was pretty much as I expected really. Once the marker float was out I began the task of catapulting balls of brown crumb and sweetcorn to the area where I intended to fish. I use the crumb not only as a carrier but also I like the idea of lots of particles of bread on the bottom of the lake helping to keep the feeding fish in the area.
Then the bivvy went up and finally I cast the rods out and settled back to wait for the onset of dusk. With such a clear and bright sky and no wind at all to ruffle the surface I wasn’t as hopeful as I often am that a daytime tench would put in an appearance. And so it was, and I spent the afternoon reading a Famous Five book – Five go to camp. I’ve been getting into this fine Enid Blyton collection in recent years and I don’t care if they are children’s books as I am thoroughly enjoying them. And the one I got through in this session must surely appeal to all anglers that bivvy up for the long-stay. I can remember the thrill of camping as a kid, and there’s no difference now except that there is a means to the end.
However, for as much as my confidence level was sky-high, the first night was totally fish-less. The only action came at 6.00-something in the morning when I opened my eyes to find a woman messing around by my open bivvy door. As soon as she saw me she was off. In the next few seconds as I woke properly, I thought to myself that I must have been dreaming. So to find the answer to that one, I quickly pulled myself out of the sleeping bag and strained my head outside to see the woman walking off rather quickly. How strange! The only consolation was that she didn’t come back the second night!
The day after that was another long and sunny one. I spent the time sleeping, reading and nature watching. On the bird front I saw my first swallows of the year. The warm weather had brought out the butterflies as well, with several peacocks flitting backwards and forwards. Nature is still behind though and the trees are more like the middle of March in terms of foliage development rather than pushing on in April. But the longer days are drawing everything into life slowly and there are now lots of wild flowers beginning to bloom.
In the hedgerow behind me I discovered a clump of Common field speedwell and in my swim itself there were a couple of flowering Coltsfoot. Both were not around last year and so it’s always nice to discover something new has taken root. The chiffchaffs are quite numerous now but I didn’t hear any sedge warblers. For those who perhaps only know a little about birds, you could be forgiven for thinking that nightingales have invaded, as they will sing right through the night. It’s a great sound to go to sleep to, as you doze off in an expectant mood waiting for the alarms to come alive. But just as there were no warblers on night two, neither were there any fish. I was very surprised to find myself packing away the next morning without so much as a rise and fall on the hanger. But that’s life – that’s fishing!
I was back though, and a sucker for punishment, it was again a two-night session that I embarked upon. The water temperature was slightly up from the previous session and the days were nice and sunny. However the nights were very chilly, even to the point that we had ground frosts. With the wind being a breezy NE I knew that it was going to be a tough session. I was back in the same swim and fishing identical to the last time. And the time before that, so if you want to find out more about rigs and other such details then check out the article from a few weeks back. Apart from the weather there were several similarities, even down to the reading of another Famous Five book!
One difference though – and the one that really counts – is that I didn’t blank this time. I caught a couple of tench and the first one in particular was a decent enough fish, coming at 1.45am. Not that the average carp angler would be happy being woken at that time by a tench, whatever size it was, but as it was my chosen species I was over the moon. The saying ‘one man’s meat is another man’s poison’ is no more true than in the world of angling. Back to bed and tucked up in my sleeping bag, I was up a few hours later at 4.15 playing another fish, this one being smaller.
Thinking I was into a very good session, it was all downhill from there as that was it. The second night was much colder, and the frost was sharper and with tench being a spring species at best, fishing for them in winter-like conditions is hardly the best time to be on the bank. I added a new bird species for the year though during the day as a pair of gadwall fed in shallow water at the other end of the pool. I really struggled to make them out with my cheap fishing binoculars. When I’m out birding proper I have a pair of Swarovski but they stay at home for fishing trips. They wouldn’t last five minutes. I didn’t need binoculars though for the brown rat that boldly came around my bivvy while it was still light. I can’t stand rats!
Video number 17 on list
(Originally published April 2010)