Tench Fishing – How and where to catch Tench
It’s not surprising that the Tench has been voted one of anglers’ most popular fish. Here we look at how and where you catch them.
Time to spring into tench action
Spring – that glorious season when nature reawakens after its winter slumbers and many an angler dusts off their tackle before venturing out to buy yet more floats, hooks and assorted paraphernalia in anticipation of heading to their favourite swim!
Whilst many will hope this will be the year they land their biggest ever carp or finest roach, a growing number of anglers will be looking forward to watching their float bobble and dip amid a fizz of fine bubbles which shows their favourite fish is back on the feed – the tench.
April to June are best for tench fishing
It has always been accepted that high summer is the best time to catch this enigmatic fish. However, latest thinking is that the spring months from April to June are probably the most productive time as fish return to feeding following the cold and less active months of winter and put on weight before turning their attention to the far more entertaining preoccupation of breeding in mid summer. In recent years it has become noticeable that catches drop off once the fish have spawned, although they can still be caught throughout the remainder of the year.
The tench was described by Izaak Walton in ‘The Complete Angler’ as ‘The physician of fishes’ because folklore suggests that sick or injured fish are cured by rubbing themselves against the healing properties of a tench’s slime. Hence its more modern alias as ‘The Doctor Fish’.
Indeed, the tench is a mysterious fish. Its slimline, muscular green body tipped with a large tail fin is fanked with tiny scales and a coating of that remedial slime… ‘though not as much or as unpleasant as that of its companion the bream. With its small red eye and thick lipped mouth edged either side with a single barbel, the tench looks unlike any other fish.
So what is the appeal of this curious fish which has led to it becoming increasingly popular with anglers?
Tench are different from other fish
Perhaps some are becoming bored with the current preoccupation with carp at commercial coarse fisheries throughout the country and are seeking to catch something different. And the tench certainly is different. It may not be as pretty as a silvery red-finned roach, a golden coloured rudd or a stripey perch with its spiny dorsal fin, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the tench has an appeal all of its own.
Not only does the tench look different but the habitat where it lives is also often different – not clear open water but in lily and weed infested lakes where plenty of roots and stems provide rich hunting grounds for this avaricious bottom feeder.
And the difference doesn’t stop there. Once hooked , the muscular body and large fins of the handsome tench come into their own as it shows that, pound for pound, it is equal in fighting power and prowess to any carp or mighty barbel. The problem with the tench is that it just doesn’t give up.
Whilst many run-of-the-mill commercial coarse fisheries hold a number of tench, these are generally smaller fish of up to three or four pounds in weight, just enough to get the average pleasure angler interested in the species but not enough to give heart-stopping moments as they bolt for cover in the nearest bed of lily pads or bankside reeds. Perhaps these commercial stocked tench don’t grow particularly large because they are bullied in the fight for food by the bigger carp.
You need to find ’em to catch ’em
Which leads us to the problem that one of the hardest aspects of catching decent sized tench of six to 10lbs is finding waters which hold them. After all, you won’t catch fish if they’re not there in the first place.
Perhaps the most idyllic places are old estate lakes where tench have plenty of natural food, not too much competition from rival carp and have had the time and space to grow on a breed. Indeed my best ever bag of tench was an early morning forray on one such venue.
A swim among the lily pads
Overlooked by ‘the big house’ and surrounded by lily pads and weeping willows, the only way to fish was from a punt. Having rowed to the far end of the lake I anchored the punt and baited up a swim in a bay amongst the lily pads with a mix of groundbait, hemp, feeder pellets and maggots – red maggots because I had been advised by a biologist friend of mine that he believed to a tench they show up as white against the dark background of the lake bed.
Being a typical estate lake it was only four or five feet deep so was easy to fish with a waggler just a couple of rod lengths out. Within half an hour as the early morning sun began to burn off the ghostly mist those tell-tale fizzy bubbles showed the tench were there and feeding.
Feeding they certainly were. Between then and just before noon I took over 70 fish – all tench between four and 7lbs – from the same bay before they suddenly stopped feeding. It was probably a good thing they did. Shortly afterwards the heavens opened and the punt started to fill with water. I decided it was time to head back to the jetty and soon realised that as the punt filled with rain the rowing became harder and the punt became slower and slower. Although I made it back safe but soaked, I had already resolved that should the punt start to sink it would be wise to remove my wellington boots to ease my swim to the shore!
An afternoon soiree with a view
The following year I felt the urge for a return visit, only to be told by the bailiff that fishing was no longer allowed on the lake. It seems her ladyship was holding an afternoon soiree for a select group of friends and notable ladies from the nearby village when one of her guests, admiring the view, enquired as to what ‘that man’ was doing standing up in a boat. Unfortunately, instead of rowing out of view of the big house, ‘that man’ was relieving himself over the side of the punt. Thanks to him some of the best tench fishing in the area was instantly forbidden.
What tackle do you need to catch Dr Tench?
Although a good number of double figure tench are regularly caught by specimen carp anglers with multiple rods using boilies, for the average angler after mid-sized fish, modern carping techniques and baits are like taking a sledge hammer to crack a walnut. Indeed, it is a shame that some of these big carp boys regard a 10lb-plus tench as a ‘nuisance’ fish when many a tench angler would gladly sell his wife or partner into slavery for such a specimen!
Tench fishing rods
One of the advantages of tench fishing is that you don’t need to spend a fortune on tackle. Most decent 12ft or 13ft rods with a 1.5lb to 1.75lb test curve are ideal for the job of catching decent sized fish. I regularly use a 12ft ‘long distance’ tench and bream rod although my preference tends to be my 12ft barbel rod which has a stiffer action but comes in useful when I have to play one of those ‘nuisance’ double figure carp!
Which reel should I choose for tench fishing?
Much the same goes for reels which are suitable for tench fishing. You don’t need to go for a specimen carp or bulkier Big Pit reel capable of holding several hundred yards of 20lb line. Most of the time you won’t be fishing at distance unless you are on a large lake as the majority of your time will be spent fishing a few rod lengths out. Most mid-sized reels are suitable particularly those in the 3000 or 4000 range.
If you’re buying new, Shimano, Daiwa or the lesser known but excellent Okuma have a range of suitable reels costing up to £50, although picking one with a baitrunner facility helps if you like to set your rod on a couple of rests between bites.
Line and hooks for tench fishing
When it comes to line and hooks, for most pleasure fishing for tench a 5lb or 6lb breaking strain line is more than adequate although if after heavier fish you may want to take a spool of 8lb line. Hook sizes depend very much on the size of bait you are using. Tench have fairly big mouths so Size 14 hooks are great for singe or double sweetcorn or two or three maggots although Size 12 and Size 10 hooks come in useful for bigger baits like pieces of luncheon meat, three pieces of sweetcorn, four or five maggots and pinched on bread flake.
How to catch tench
Perhaps the most romantic and productive way of catching tench is by fishing a waggler or quill whilst a swimfeeder packed with groundbait and free offerings is good for fishing further out.
Because tench are predominantly bottom feeders, spending much of their time grubbing through the mud and silt on the bottom of a lake looking for larvae, snails, worms and invertibrates, it follows that you bait needs to be either fished on the bottom or an inch or so off it. This makes plumbing the depth of your swim important.
Attach a plumb or shot heavy enough to sink your float next to your hook and adjust the float until it sits nicely without sinking or lying flat on the surface. When fishing a waggler, after you have found the depth and removed the plumb, move your float three or four inches up the line and place enough weights immediately beneath the float to set it at the height you like. Having done this, attach a shot those three or four inches from the hook so that it sits on the bottom of the lake without sinking the float. The idea is that when a fish takes in your bait it lifts the shot off the bottom and causes the float to sink, although most times the float will go under as the fish moves off to find another mouthful.
The other technique, often used by traditionalists who like to fish a centrepin reel, is to use a quill or waggler but to put a shot heavy enough to sink it a few inches from the hook. They then adjust the depth until the float lies flat on the surface showing that the weight is just on the bottom. As the fish lifts the bait it also lifts the weight, causing the float to cock and then slide under the surface as the fish moves away. Romantic or what?
If you plan to fish any distance which makes float fishing difficult or impractical, a swimfeeder, cage feeder, open ended feeder or method feeder will get you out to the fish.
Tench can make the water fizz
One of the excitements of tench fishing is that often when they are feeding they send up a mass of fine bubbles, at times making the water fizz.
Unfortunately however, just because you have bubbles and fish feeding in your swim it doesn’t mean you can catch them. It is widely believed that this is because tench sometimes become so preoccupied with certain foods such as bloodworm that they ignore everything else including your sweetcorn or maggots. If nothing else, this behaviour increases the sense of anticipation – hope springs eternal!
If you are new to a water these bubbles can give an indication of where the tench are feeding, so it is worth putting in some time before you start fishing to exercise a bit of watercraft. If the lake you are fishing is not too large, take a walk round the banks and see if you can spot any bubbles whilst on bigger waters it is worth talking to other anglers to see if thery know of any hot spots for tench.
As a general rule, having decided on your swim it is worth putting out some samples of hookbait and other free offerings to give the fish time to find your chosen spot whilst you are tackling up. As a rule of thumb it is often a good idea to prepare two swims so you can switch between one and the other if the going is slow.
What are the best baits to catch tench?
Nearly all natural baits work well for tench as well as sweetcorn, pellets, luncheon meat and bread. This means it is worth taking a selection of the above so you can experiment and find which the fish like most.
When fishing maggots it is worth baiting the swim with dead maggots as they are less likely to burrow into the muddy lake bottom, although live maggots on the hook give them plenty of ‘wiggle appeal’.
Although it is thought that tench don’t generally eat hemp, when mixed in with any groundbait or free offerings it acts as an attractant and can hold fish in a chosen swim.
As with all other fishing, if you are not catching, be prepared to move swim and, if you are, be ready to turn a hooked fish away from any nearby lily pads, tree branches or other underwater snags as soon as you hook a fish for they are sure to make a bolt for the nearest place of sanctuary.
A great resource for further information about fishing for tench can be found on the The Tench Fishers website at www.tenchfishers.com where further information on rigs, fishing pits and float fishing amongst many other things can be found.
10 good venues for catching tench
Sywell Country Park
Northamptonshire NN6 0QX
Tel: 0300 126 5935
At 67 acres, Sywell Reservoir is recognised as one of the leading tench fisheries in the country with specimens to over 12lbs having been caught and the average size of tench being around the 7lb mark. Fishing is available on day, half-day and 24-hour tickets at very reasonable prices. There are good fishing spots all around the reservoir including the popular dam wall. Both surfaced and mown paths provide easy access to swims. Weed growth can be prolific later in the season so early season is best for lighter line fishing.
Coombe Abbey Park Lake
Coventry CV3 2AB
Tel: 02476 453720
Once acclaimed as one of the country’s leading big bream waters, Coombe Pool now concentrates on providing pleasure and specimen angling for day and season ticket anglers on what is still one of the UK’s most stunning specimen fisheries with tench which run to 9lbs. Fish towards the reeds at the far end of the lake from the Abbey – now a hotel – where the water is shallower. There is a car park near pegs.
One rod day ticket is £6 whilst a ‘Specimen’ ticket for up to three rods is £8 and a season ticket is £130
Hertfordshire HP23 4LH
Tel: 01582 841985
Mention Tring Reservoirs to many anglers and their minds turn to specimen tench, bream, perch, roach and catfish; legendary specimen hunters from Richard Walker to Alan Wilson and modern day big-fish men such as Andy Nellist. With tench to over 14lbs there are many less threatening fish. For mid-sized fish head for Marsworth Reservoirs and fish close to the bank on float with traditional tench baits like sweetcorn.
Day tickets are £6 for one rod, £10 for two with day-only season tickets and day and night season tickets available.
Lake John Fishery
2 The Nightingales
Waltham Abbey EN9 2BJ
Tel: 07958 938153
With plenty of tench in the 2lb to 4lbs range and some up to 6lbs, the shallower swims on Pegs 18 and 19 at Lake John Fishery are worth a visit. Local angler ‘Nick the Tench’ is renowned locally for freelining Tiger Prawns and sweetcorn and catching more than 20 fish a visit, although more traditional techniques work well!
Day tickets are £10 per rod (maximum two rods) with concessionary tickets at £7 for up to two rods.
Oxfordshire OX44 7JE
Tel: 01844 278150
A great all round fishery with on-site tackle shop just off the M40 motorway, Milton Pools has tench in all its waters but for the bigger fish up to 8lbs head for Specimen Pool. Whilst a selection of baits work well, sweetcorn is a good all-round bait. Fish heavier on Specimen Pool because there are some good carp in there as well. Fishing is from 7.30am until 6.30pm.
Day tickets are £10 for one rod and £15 for two with 24-hour tickets available at £25.
For many years, Napton reservoir has been renowned for its tench fishing and is also home to some lovely crucian carp, bream, roach and carp. Although fishing is available only to members of the Leamington AC, with an annual membership fee available on-line for just £20 its hardly going to break the bank to fish as many times as you want. Members pay an additional £3 daily charge to the bailiff with guest tickets available in advance.
near Hardwick village
Tel: 07885 327708
Although it has a reputation as one of the best day-ticket carp fisheries in the UK, Linear Lakes is also renowned for its tench fishing. Head to Oxlease Lake, Hardwick Lake and Smiths Pool, Brazenose 1 or the smaller but idyllic Hunts Corner Pond to pay on the bank whilst advance booking on-line is required to fish Manor Farm and Hunts Corner Lake. The bailiffs are happy to give up-to-the-minute advice on how to get the most out of your session.
Day tickets are £8 for one rod, £16 for two with 24-hour tickets available at £12 for one rod and £26 for two rods.
Tel: 01483 428885
Run by the Godalming Angling Society, Marsh Lane’s three-and-a-half acre Harris Lake and similar sized Richardson Lake both hold large heads of tench as well as some beautiful crucian carp. Harris Lake is said to hold tench to 10lbs with Richardson to 9lbs. Suitable for disabled anglers, day tickets cost £8 for one rod or £12 for two with concessionary rates of £5 one rod and £7 for two. Those who love this venue may consider taking out membership of the Society which costs £165 for adults and £105 for OAPs and entitles members to night fish.
Manor Farm Lakes
Tel: 01767 601138
There’s some great tench fishing on this seven lake complex with anglers recommended to head to the 16-acre Booneys Lake where there are tench to 12lbs or the four acre Carp Lake where they run to 10lbs. All traditional tench baits work well on both waters although sweetcorn may give you the edge on Booneys. Because the Carp Lake fish are used to boilies, these also work well there as well.
Day tickets for both waters are £15 for one or two rods with £13 for concessions whilst night tickets are available at £30 and £28.
Gleaves Hill Road
Lancaster LA2 9DG
Tel: 01524 792093
Despite being only 1.5 acres in size, Wyreside’s River Lake holds an estimated 500 tench with some that go to over 10lbs as well as bream to 11lbs and carp to 15lbs. It is the original water of the six lakes on the Wyreside site. In addition to the fishing, the venue offers a campsite with a full range of facilities and glamping pods. All traditional tench baits work well and there are no hotspots so you stand a good chance of catching wherever you fish on this water.
River Lake day tickets cost £9.50 for one rod or £13 for two. 24-hour tickets are £15 and £23.