The tench record back then was 9-1. An unimaginably large fish. The record was subsequently raised to 12 or so pounds by Alan Wilson. And the record is much larger still now. Alan had been a sort of apprentice to myself , John Watson, and Chris Keelager for some years, with myself and Chris guiding him, maybe even forcing him into the big fish lark, initially via tench, and then by carp and bream. A great guy Alan, the most patient angler I ever met. He could occupy a swim more solidly than anyone else I knew, and it was pleasing to hear of his subsequent successes, and so sad to hear he had passed away, in his bivvy at Tring. I miss him, even more than the breakfasts he used to cook for us in his old grey Austin Van. Unfortunately by stopping fishing myself, I regrettably lost contact, and so I missed seeing most of his angling successes, and I still do not know exactly how well he did. But everyone seems now to know of him.
So, to this year, and the tench. I have been surprised how easily the tench have fallen to my rod, and by their sizes. A good half of the fish have been over 5 pounds with no less than four topping six. Not quite had a seven but it can be nothing other than a matter of time. For they are, even with conventional baits, present in such numbers and sizes as to make modern tench angling so very much easier. So much time spent years ago to catch a six pounder, something that seems almost trivial today. But unlike many modern anglers I have retained that appreciation of a good fish, and I still measure them in old money. So many anglers only fish for big fish these days, (as did I way back when), but maturity now allows me to enjoy any day by the water, fishless or not, and regardless of the size or species of fish that take my bait. Being on the bank, watching the kingfishers flash past is enough. And when joined by the cheeky chaffinches or a robin, who can resist throwing them the odd maggot? Even very shy birds can be persuaded by the angler's bait, and I was very pleased to tempt this magpie close enough for a good photograph. Hard to get within 15 yards of most magpies normally. This chap came to within a foot of me. Intelligent birds. I once saw one bury something white by poking it into a lawn, It then plucked blades of grass to cover and hide its prize from other birds.
A fish a little under 6 pounds, but just look at the sheer beauty that is a tench.
This fish, a female gave a really good account of itself, suggesting that its portly profile is down to muscle, rather than spawn. Indeed I was informed that the tench had spawned two or three weeks earlier. The tench: everything that a fish should be, and more.
But I have had problems this season. Too many mistakes made. And the first was on hook choice. I lost two good tench trying to stop them reaching the lily pads. Hook size 14, baited with maggots, and forged, yet I had a couple straighten out, before abandoning them to the next grayling trip. So I upgraded to a much larger hook size, of a pattern that I normally use, without problems, for barbel. More problems: missed bites, and hook pulls, lilies and braid. A good dozen more fish that should have graced my net. I don't understand the hook pulls yet, hooks are far sharper these days, and should cope with baits similar to those I used to use. Even hair rigged bunches of maggots have resulted in a couple of hook pulls. I lost one very good fish, which to judge by the speed and power of its runs must have been a carp. But after the hook pull, the foot or so of slime coating the end tackle confirmed that yet another tench had slipped the hook. I am back now on smaller hooks, still forged, but far stronger. The jury is still out on these new hooks. I briefly toyed with braid, but being old school I have difficulty not striking at a legered bite, and so snapped a couple of times on the strike. Braid now abandoned for short range tench angling. Lilies remain an occasion barrier to landing fish too, but the number of fish lost to them can be minimized. So to summarize: fair success despite the disasters. But my memories, or those I can recall, suggest that the lips of the tench were so rubbery, that we never lost any fish once hooked. Has my memory wilted? Perhaps we also used to lose a fair few fish back then?
I'll get it right soon, and will no doubt be in touch with several more tinca over the next few weeks, before other species start to compete for my time.
The ease with which tench are caught by anglers these days has a down side. I never used to see a tench with damage to its mouth. About one in four of the fish I have caught this year have visible damage. May I appeal to anglers to take far greater care when unhooking their quarry. Please!