Tench a big favourite of mine

ANGLING by Mike Winter: One of the first big fish I caught as a 10-year-old was a tench of 3lbs, quite by accident on float fished breadpaste.

ANGLING: One of the first big fish I caught as a 10-year-old was a tench of 3lbs, quite by accident on float fished breadpaste. The tench has been one of my favourite fish ever since.

To date, I've caught hundreds of them up to nearly 7lbs, up to 80lbs of them at a time on freelined or floatfished baits.

I'm not particularly interested in spending time in pursuit of a 'monster' tench approaching or into double figures. I'm quite happy catching them between 4 and 6lbs and, perhaps, one day a really big one will turn up. The baits I've used successfully for tench are breadflake, lobworms, pellet paste and, in more recent times, cockles.

It is matter of trying out a variety of baits until the best one is found. On one water I fish, a good lump of fluffy breadflake is the most successful bait, on two others it is a walnut-sized lump of pellet paste.

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However, both of these can be demolished very quickly by any small fish present. Lobworms are a good bait on some waters, too, provided they do not contain perch, or worse, shoals of small perch. Even a four-inch will attempt to swallow a lobworm, as will small pike.

To avoid these nuisances, we decided to use fresh cockles for bait after trying them successfully for carp. That was about two years ago.

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Since then, fresh cockles seem to be more difficult to obtain and have come more expensive. However, I buy what I can and keep them in the freezer along with some clams in their shells that I haven't tried yet.

In spite of the trouble in getting fresh cockles, I find it well worthwhile because tench love them.

I took some to the lake recently just for an evening's fishing. When I arrived, I threw half a dozen cockles into a spot between two large lily beds. Here the depth is about 3ft before it drops down to 6ft just beyond the lilies.

Then I set up my tackle. A 10ft Avon rod with a pound test curve, 8 lb line on a 41/2 inch centre pin reel.

A small quill float set at 8ft from a size 6 eyed hook 'Palomar' knotted direct to the line with a small sausage of plasticine moulded on the line 18 inches from the hook which I baited with two cockles.

First cast I hooked one of the big carp in the lake but my tackle was underpowered for such a fish and it smashed me up in the lilies. But at least it stirred my swim up which would, I hoped, attract the tench.

Having retackled, some "needle bubbles", typical of tench, began to show in the swim.

I ended up with seven tench in four hours, including four over 5lbs, the smallest about four pounds and the biggest just over 51/2 lbs.

Mission accomplished!

by Mike Winter

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