An Irish Anglers World

Time for Tench

A favourite angling book of mine is FISHING DAYS by Geoffrey Bucknall. Published in 1966, within its covers the author reminisces on his early angling exploits, from boyhood growing up in the Weald of Kent fishing roach ponds as the Battle of Britain raged overhead to in his young adult years learning to cast a fly on the great reservoirs of Chew and Blagdon. Filled with anecdotes, characters, and historical references, the narrative both quirky and vivid transports the reader on a piscatorial journey to a distant time and place where life and fishing was both simpler and more innocent.

A four pound six ounce tench for Gary Robinson.

Chapter five extols the virtues of tench fishing with G.B describing the fish as a lusty fighter affectionately dubbed “Tinca” by anglers, which frequents still waters, canals, and river backwaters where it prefers to reside in shallow margins close to weed beds. Tench, Bucknall writes, hibernate in winter only appearing when the weather warms up in early summer, like nothing better than to grub around in the shallows fanning silty mud with their fins to extract tasty morsels, and most importantly to anglers on being hooked put their head down making a beeline for the nearest bunch of lily pads.

Relatively new to coarse fishing and never having caught a tench, research through the dark days of last winter had yours truly formulating a plan that weather permitting would put a tench on the bank before the last day of May, I missed the deadline by twenty four hours. At approximately 10.00am on June 1st 2013 a double knock resulted in a positive contact with good old Tinca tinca and true to form the startled fish ran straight towards the nearest lily pads, text book stuff.

Landing a tench from a small water.

Rolling back the clock a few hours an 03.30am alarm call had Gary Robinson and I bleary eyed in the kitchen quaffing strong coffee before a 04.00am departure. Car packed the evening before we made our first casts at 05.30am as mist wafted across our chosen mirror calm water. Chilly, made so by a crisp westerly breeze, Gary and I having decided to feeder fish laid down a bed of particle mix at sixty second intervals, extending the time between casts after about ten minutes.

Fishing a double red maggot/single sweetcorn hook combination, three hours in other than a heron and a clutch of moorhens our fishing spot could have been classed “devoid of life” such was the lack of action. Then coming up to 09.00 am Gary’s quiver tip gave a definite bump. “Did you touch your rod Gary”, No Ash I didn’t. Two pairs of eyes now trained on the curved tip, taught line connecting to some point thirty meters out. Bump, bump, slack line, in an instant rod in hand Gary leans back while reeling hard, 12 foot of carbon arches over as the unseen fish exits stage left. “That has to be a tench Gary”, feels like it Ash and a good one too.

Releasing old tinca to fight another day.

Swimming parallel with the weedy margins after a minute or two Gary works the fish towards his landing net. Now visible and definitely a tench the green backed red eyed beauty slips over the lip to rest in the meshes before gently being unhooked. Cue handshakes and a surge of optimism, if there’s one there’s more. An hour later yours truly’s rod tip began to dance, lifting a surge of power transfers to the rod butt as Tinca number two swam up through the gears. Geoffrey Bucknall’s forty seven year old description of tench behaviour became life in that moment, strength and power G.B. had it on the money.

Olive green, deep set with strong shoulders, a wide rubbery mouth, a paddle like tail, and its trade mark red eye the tench really is a handsome fellow. Extracting the hook I was surprised at how warm the fish was and also the number of black line marks on its flank. Gary and I came to the conclusion that they most likely were the result of residing within the thick banks of reeds which lined the small water we were fishing. A local man I talked to later mentioned how he had observed large greeny black fish barrelling into the reeds on more than one occasion, maybe its where the tench hibernate.

The famous red eye of a tench.

I digress, having caught and released my first tench an hour later I doubled my tally, happy days. Packing up shortly afterwards Gary and I were well pleased with our foray to a new water, a target had been set and it was achieved at the first attempt. Straight forward feeder fishing had done the job utilising a 15 gram cage feeder with a meter tail to a size 12 kamazan. Tench were the only species caught although small rudd showed their presence occasionally surfacing possibly sucking down flies.

To prove that it wasn’t a flash in the pan a return trip was made to the venue a few days later. Following the same procedure after an hour bites began to register with first a tench then a succession of small perch attracted to my maggot/sweetcorn combination. After a couple of hours perching and with no more tench appearing I decided to up sticks happy with my lot. Over two visits the primary target of landing a tench had been achieved on each occasion with two extra species rudd and perch to half a pound announcing their presence also.

A brace of plump Irish tench.

As an angler it’s always great to pit yourself against a new species on strange waters and achieve a result. Feeder fishing obviously suits the venue; float fishing is the next step. Are there specimen size fish present, again talking to the locals it would appear so, time and the summer will tell.

All in all May 2013 was a productive month coarse fishing wise for this angler, trips to the Barrow producing quality bream, hybrids, roach, and dace. A bonus this year was the number of large trout hooked one of which I witnessed, caught by a shad fisher, going four pound. Shad numbers though were way down on previous years with most anglers putting a lot of time in just to catch a couple if that.

However after two successful trips in search of old Tinca still water fishing has captured this  anglers imagination and certainly over the next couple of months the venue described above will be given another couple of visits to see not only do the rudd and perch reach a respectable size but that a specimen tench is indeed resident.

More or less forty years ago Geoffrey Bucknall’s FISHING DAYS came into my possession and as I write it sits atop a pile of books on my desk, dust cover long gone, read and re-read a thousand times the book has a timeless quality. For pig iron I looked up a second hand angling book wholesaler and was surprised to see that you can still obtain a copy for the price of £75.00 sterling, now there’s an investment. To me though the book is priceless not only for the wonderful stories within but for the links to a fishing life beyond its pages encouraged and nurtured by Geoffrey Bucknall’s witty anecdotes over a span of forty years……….

See also: Tinca Time.

Ashley Hayden © April 2015