Stick it out or Search?
As with virtually any species on our canals, you can be as patient or as mobile as you like in pursuit of tench. You can try and attract the fish to you; or you can track them down. If you are confident of their whereabouts, the sit and wait approach has its merits. Even if you are not bang on the money, patrolling tench could arrive sooner or later. What does seem clear is that different spots vary greatly for tench. In some areas they seem to settle routinely, perhaps because these places offer the richest feeding; other spots just see the occasional ‘passenger and rarely produce a good bag. The moral is simple: whether through a local tip-off or simple trial and error, seek out those consistent holding areas on your local canal and you will rarely be disappointed.
Regents Canal Fishing Photo Gallery
If you are new to a water, or just have itchy feet, the roving approach is more suitable. With a minimum of tackle and polarising glasses, you are free to roam in search of showing fish and likely spots. On murky canals this is harder work, but you can easily put a little bed of bait into three or four locations and hop between them to see if the fish are there. You may not necessarily see the fish themselves, but trails of little bubbles, swirling tail patterns or patches of disturbed silt are a giveaway. Again, small particles are ideal – two or three good handfuls of hemp, with a few hookbait samples mixed in will keep the tench busy for quite a while.
Where stalking tench gets feverishly exciting is on those quiet, seldom-used canals with abundant weed and clear water. Baits like bread and corn are ideal for shallow venues because you can immediately see if the free bait you’ve been throwing in has been eaten. In clear water, an offering that stands out against the bottom is ideal and I’ve even caught tench on artificial flies on a couple of the clearer canals near my home in the West Country. My favourites are large nymphs that are easily spotted and stand out against the bottom. It is fascinating, if sometimes frustrating, sport.
The methods, baits and surroundings are therefore varied for the tench angler. I can’t ever remember catching a vast specimen on any canal. The only conclusion this leads me to is the total inadequacy of pounds and ounces to define fishing pleasure, because the humpbacked, strong and richly coloured tench of rural canals are the most beautiful I have ever sunk a net under, bar none.
Trails of small bubbles are the classic giveaway that tench are present.
A beautifully-conditioned mirror and a knackered but very happy angler.