For someone who is a self-confessed river fanatic, it may seem strange that after a three-month break, June 16 finds me… on a lake! And it’s hardly as if opening day doesn’t hold good memories for me. After all, a year ago I sat and waited on the bank of the River Dove for midnight to roll round, and the resultant double figure barbel I caught was touted by the Angler’s Mail as possibly the first double of the season in the country. Whether it was or not, who knows, but the point I’m making is that I certainly had plenty to spur me on a year later.
Yet my plans involved tench fishing on a local lake. It also happens to be a venue that still follows the traditional close season, which is why I can only fish it now. In addition, there are some good fish in there, but I have found that the window of opportunity is a small one and that as the season develops, the better fish tail off. Hence, I have decided to make the most of what is on offer and concentrate on the lake for what will definitely be short – and hopefully a sweet – campaign.
And although I do love rivers, if I am really honest all water attracts me. And so as I made my way through the wood to the lake, I did not have a single regret that I was not joining the hordes of barbel anglers out on flowing water. The season is a long one, and there will be plenty of time to pursue barbus barbus in due course. But for now I am focused – albeit for a short time only – on tench. My first glimpse of the lake and I quickened my step, not wanting to waste a single second in getting to the swim that I had elected to fish.
The peg was free, which was not surprising as it is quite a walk, and the fact remains that the busiest pegs are the ones closest to the car park. But as a young, fit individual, the walk doesn’t bother me. Well, it’s my Journal and I can write what I like about myself! The reality was that by the time I reached the spot I was ready for a good rest! Well, it was a very hot day – that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. Anyway after I had recovered, the first thing to do was to bait the swim. Dead maggots and corn, with brown crumb as the carrier – and as I was only fishing between 2-3 lengths out, I was able to throw the balls in by hand.
The lake has lots of natural snags such as reed beds and lilies, and of course these also happen to be areas where the decent fish will be found. Hence, I fished two rods, one with a 1.5 test curve and the other 1.25, with the former being fished right up to the feature, the latter a few yards away. This meant that the slightly more powerful rod would give me the edge when hooking a fish that needed to be stopped dead in its tracks. After all, once hooked a fish will instinctively head for cover.
Allowing the bait to settle before fishing, I was intrigued to see that a small group of mallards had not only moved over the area but were also diving after the feed. Not only are mallards dabbling ducks and not known for their diving, but the water where I had baited was twelve feet deep! However I did notice, on closer inspection, that the ducks were not pure mallards but were hybrids of some sort. They certainly must have had some tufted duck in their genes I thought to myself!
Anyway, they finally moved on and I was able to fish in peace. My first take was a bizarre one. Retrieving the corn I noticed a small pike in the shallows lunge at the bait, and it duly got itself hooked. Expecting it to bite through the line at any moment, when I netted the fish I discovered that it was caught just outside the mouth. Continuing to fish on, even though the weather conditions were ideal (breezy and overcast) nevertheless things were very slow. The possibility of a blank was eliminated though when I had a lovely pull on the right rod, the one fished up to the feature. After a good battle, I eventually found myself weighing the first fish of the campaign, which took the scales to 5lb 8oz.
It seemed very slow all round, and all the other anglers had long gone when I caught the second and final fish of the session, which was just short of the 4lb mark. Not a massive fish, but very welcome all the same, particularly when the venue is a local one. And bringing my Journal right up to date and ready for publication, I returned to the lake the very next day on the Friday. It was a scorcher of a day and with hardly any wind, it was always going to be a struggle until the evening.
From 4.00 p.m. I did nothing other than sit and stare at the rod tips willing them into action. But would they oblige! However right at the death – the eleventh hour as they say – I had a take from a fish. After a lively battle I found myself netting what turned out to be the best fish of the week at 5lb 10oz. So instead of going home a blanker, I ended up with a decent enough tench. It just shows how fine the line is between ‘success’ and ‘failure’ in angling doesn’t it!
With a couple of slow sessions to kick off the campaign, things can only improve. So join with me over the next couple of weeks as I test the lake’s potential to the full. Realistically I am looking at fish in the 6lb bracket as specimens, and if I could get a few of those, I would certainly be a happy man. And if a ‘7’ put in an appearance – well that would definitely be something to write home about.
(Originally published June 2005)