Monday 24 June 2013

Terns and Tench

In my previous angling life, some 40 years ago, there were then, many differences to modern angling.  I feel that, back then, angling was still an artform.  Today most aspects of angling have been completely mechanised, so much of modern angling is dealt with by prescription:  DVDs, TV programmes, forums, websites, standardised tackle, "can't fail" baits, good tackle off the shelf.  There are far more, and far bigger fish around now.  Big fish in the 60's and early 70's were more or less reserved for the couple of hundred successful specimen hunters.  True: the odd good fish were caught by others, but not like they are caught these days.  Anyone these day can catch, and usually does catch, excellent fish.  Anglers today are far more knowledgeable, many back then were largely clueless, experienced many blanks, and, if they fished matches, were largely cannon fodder for the few match anglers who knew what they were doing.  With all the information available these days most anglers enjoy a great deal of success by simply riding the huge wave of information and canned experience that is so easily available to them. Angling has become a science, and I sometimes feel, one that has been dumbed down to almost GCSE level. Tick the right boxes and you will catch fish. Whether that is a good thing or not is left to the reader to debate.

To take a break of over 30 years from fishing, is to return to a different planet. A changed world where little in angling has remained unmoved.  So back in those days a specimen tench, especially in the North, was designated as a fish of six pounds.    Few fish of that size were caught, and it was only after ten years of big fish hunting that I finally snared my first six pounder: a fish of 6-8. I was well pleased, but it was to be the last fish I caught for over 30 years.  I felt that, with the big tench ticked off, my list of "target" sized specimen fish was complete.  There was nothing else to do but to try and catch up with a delayed, if not destroyed, social life.   If I had one word of advice for the modern young carp angler in his bivvy, it would be to ease off, to cut down on the fanaticism, to enjoy other aspects of life.  I suspect many young carp anglers do not know that there are women out there, somewhere.

I still feel that a six pound tench is a huge fish, my mind having being conditioned by fish that had grown to such sizes naturally, rather than being force fed by daily bait feeding by anglers.  So, mixed in with a number of blanks this year, have come quite a number of good tench. And, in a four week period, that old record of 6-8, which remained by personal best until a year ago, has been beaten no less than
eight times, with half of those eight fish being over 7 pounds.   A result that in the 60's would have been major angling news.  Nowadays it is taken with a pinch of salt.  I have been told by other anglers that my fish, taken this season, are better than my old fish,  but what they are effectively saying is that the fish from long ago have now been devalued.    The reverse is actually the case,  and that 6-8, and the big "fives" that I caught back then, remain in my mind as more significant captures.   I had to work far harder for them, and had to do it all myself...without the internet etc.  To appreciate that statement fully, you would probably have had to have been around the big fish scene 40 years ago.  There was no-one then, nearby, who could have offered any useful advice, for no-one I knew ever fished for tench, never mind for tench of any real  size.  Big fish have undoubtedly become far, far easier to catch than they were of old.  In 1970, to have aimed at catching a six pound tench, you would, in doing so, have branded yourself a "specimen hunter".  Today, whilst seeking fish of six and seven pounds I just view myself as a tench angler, or perhaps more accurately, an angler fishing for tench.

That is not to say I have not enjoyed catching these new bigger fish.  I have, and could certainly have had a fair few more of similar sizes had I spent the extra time on the bank.  Any tench is a gorgeous creature, a real fish shape, and a scrapper.    I feel privileged just to see one on the bank, and then love to see it swim off again.  None too pleased to see one male tench though.  It had been a relatively fine day, some light showers, and this continued into darkness.  Continued until the huge flash of lightning immediately above me, followed a second or so later by a huge thunderclap.  The rain, a minute later became torrential.  Tench are, it would seem, unfazed by thunder, and this hard fighting male bit a few seconds after the heavy rain started.  I got very substantially drenched.

Of course, it was not all about the fishing.  There were birds to be watched as well.  I had a couple of terns plying their way across the water for much of the time. I was unable to get any decent photos of them and the photograph is one I took last year, and I think it is a common tern.  I can never decide whether this bird was flying gracefully or in an ungainly manner.  With every flap of its wings the body would go up and down: most odd.   The terns the other day flew rather differently, they seemed to have faster wing beats, and the body was more stable in flight.  They repeated spiralled down to take minuscule items from the water surface.  I don't know if the birds this year and last year were of the same species.   I have a suspicion that they were different...only a suspicion, mind you. Not good enough yet with my ID of terns. 

Blurred Oystercatcher

A couple of oyster catchers also flashed up and down the lake, frequently landing on an island.  Too fast to photograph effectively, so apologies for the blurred bird,   but I do wonder if they occasionally nest inland?

Reed Bunting

 Two other species that I have not often come across before provided more entertainment.  Reed buntings and reed warblers.  Noisy little birds the warblers. Incessant chirruping. Both birds perching on wobbly reed stalks for much of the time.

Reed Warbler, singing, or perhaps warbling.

I am fairly sure that both species in the reeds were male, because both were singing. The warbler certainly had a nest in the reeds, for it occasionally disappeared into the reedbed, always at the same spot. I did not want to go any closer, for fear of disturbing the nest.  To do so would have meant my wading through the reeds.


  1. I agree wholeheartedly about tench fishing. Years ago a 'five' was considered the big fish, a 'six' almost unthinkable, but nowadays such fish are commonplace, taken not by stealth and art but by mechanised rote and it has to be a 'nine' before anyone sits up and takes notice.

    There's something utterly dull about taking tench that way. Effective, yes! Not exactly thrilling though...

  2. Yes indeed, and yet I still hear conversations, particularly amongst carp anglers, in which one, in all seriousness, claims he is a better angler because he has had bigger fish from a certain lake than his mate. If I were to catch that "nine" that you mention, it would in no way make me a better angler than if I had instead caught a "seven" or a "six" instead from the same swim. There is a certain amount of luck of the draw in these things, and these days it weighs heavier than skill.