Well what a start to my new guiding venture the spring of 2017 has been! I’ll run through the highlights to give you an idea of how it’s gone, suffice to say it’s exceeded any expectation, and then update you on my own fishing.
My first guiding trip was with Paul in mid-March. He wanted to brush up on a few things so that he could apply what he learnt through the rest of the spring. I fully expected to struggle but Paul was not bothered – he wanted to learn more than to catch. I think he learnt a lot but the mild westerly wind woke the tench up and he also caught plenty. In total he had 16 tench and broke his PB three times, the largest being a lean fish of 8-15, a very big fish for March!
The first person to contact me about a guided session was Rob. I visited him on a hard gravel pit in Kent. Rob didn’t catch anything – in his words “I didn’t expect to” but the lasting memory of this trip were his words as I was leaving. “That’s the best birthday present I’ve ever had” wasn’t something I heard when working for the Environment Agency and confirmed to me more than anything else I’d made the right move to leave. Whilst Rob blanked on our day he goes down as my star pupil as he kept calling me over the following weeks to update me with his catches that included five double figure tench to 11-9 including a brace of 11lbers. Top work from one of the nicest people I’ve had the pleasure of fishing with.
On another trip to Kent I guided two members of The Tenchfishers. The plan was for them to arrive at breakfast time so I arranged to choose a swim the night before. I decided I would fish one rod over each swim to see if there were any tench about. My luck was in as in the evening I had a 7lb 6oz male and then just as they arrived and I was about to wind in I had a screaming run that took all three of us by surprise. The resultant 10lb 5oz tench was a source of both pleasure and embarrassment! Luckily Eddie and Hugh got in on the act shortly after by catching PBs, Eddie’s being a stunning fish of 11lb 11oz. I don’t think I’ll better that on a guided session!
Back on Linear I had a great trip on Smiths with Malc. He broke his bream PB twice on the first morning, landed a few tench and shortly after I left bagged a 2lb + roach. More importantly he learned a lot and has since caught some really big fish from his local waters.
I also guided on a local lake with Chris. He has fished for barbel almost exclusively for many years and wanted to learn some still water skills. His casting was definitely in need of improving but by going back to basics we got to the point he could cast a feeder where he wanted – most of the time! As a bonus he landed some lovely perch including one just under 2lb that was a PB for him.
At the start of May I spent 4 days on Manor with three customers. Despite a savage East wind the fish fed well and all three landed PBs amidst a total of 42 fish. Steve D had a brace of 8-15’s, James had a 9-3 and Steve K had a 9-5. The week taught me one thing – three sessions back-to-back is too much as I was well and truly worn out.
By mid-May I was raring to do some fishing for myself on a large gravel pit mainly fished by carp anglers. My first trip was an exploratory one and I made a schoolboy error of not taking a weed rake. Most of the spots within casting distance of the bank were covered in a candyfloss-like weed that makes presenting small baits for tench nigh on impossible. I had to make do using my landing net and though not ideal it allowed me to clear a gravel patch sufficiently to fish. The first day was fruitless but a move to another area and more weed clearing resulted in a few tench including a couple over 8lb.
My next trip coincided with some warm weather and I felt confident from the moment I raked a gravel hump clear of weed and could see nice clean gravel. I baited the spot with my normal tench menu of mixed Sonubaits 2mm pellets (S pellets, F1, Krill and Bloodworm), Sonubaits hemp and a few red maggots and chopped worms. The following day I landed a number of nice tench but the big ones were absent. I baited regularly and over the session started catching more and more tench as they homed in on the baited area.
At 6pm on the second evening I hooked a fish on rubber maggots that immediately felt bigger and so it proved when a big fish came over the net. I thought it might be a double but it fell an ounce short at 9lb 15oz.
All my fish were coming on my tried and tested method of heli-rigs with Xpert Power mono hook lengths and Size 10 Korum Xpert Specimen hooks. Why change something that works and is reliable? The presence of a lot of rudd meant I was using rubber maggots more than worms as bait as the rudd were destroying a worm kebab hook bait within seconds of casting on some occasions. The only change I made to my tackle was changing my faithful 1.75lb Xpert rods for 2.2lb Xperts and increasing the mainline to 12lb to combat the weed that was getting thicker by the day.
The following morning amid a good feeding spell I again hooked a fish that felt bigger than average and after a battle that saw her get weeded a number of times I netted what was clearly a double. On the scales she went 11lb 6oz and was a stunning looking fish. I ended the week with 42 tench so was raring to get back for more.
The following trip saw a recapture of the fish I’d caught at 9-15 at 10lb 6oz – I’m not fan of recaptures but if you are going to recapture fish I’m all for them going over the magical 10lb barrier. As before I was catching tench in good numbers but gale force winds made casting and feeding challenging. For four days the wind barely dropped and on the occasions when it did I took advantage of feeding more bait knowing the undertow would be less and more of the bait would end up on the gravel hump I was casting to.
One morning it was almost calm at first light and I took advantage to bait heavily with 2 bags of 2mm pellets and 4 tins of hemp. I thought the disturbance might put the fish off for a while but within 10 minutes I had a bite. The fish came in to the heavily weeded margins like a small tench but then started fighting hard. I could see it was a long fish and was just debating whether to stay on the bank or wade out over the shallow water in front of me when I saw that it was a bream as its tail came out of the water. Decision made – I grabbed the net and jumped in to wade out the 10 yards to the top of the shelf, as I didn’t want to have to bring it over the shallow water directly in front of me. Within seconds I had the fish under my rod tip but unlike most bream this one was a fighter and it shot away from the net 3 times before I could eventually net it. In the early morning sunshine the scales looked like armour and the stunning fish weighed 15lb 13oz. Another couple of tench followed before a second bream took a fancy to rubber maggots and at 14lb 3oz made a brace of exactly 30lb. What a brilliant way to top the session.
My final trip saw me in a different swim and after catching some small tench a little voice in my head was saying, “go and fish the gravel hump, the bream might be there again”. Sometimes a hunch produces a good result but on this occasion it produced an undisturbed night’s sleep! Within an hour of dawn I knew I’d made the wrong decision but undertook to try and correct it by moving swim immediately. By 7am I was set up in the swim I’d started in. I was finding the feeder on the heli-rig was catching the weed so early in the day started using in-line grub feeders which proved a good move as I found the streamlined shape caught up in the weed far less. Fish came steadily through the day with best of 9lb 4oz and 9lb 6oz amongst an incredible haul of 33 fish.
As I normally do when tench fishing I wound in at night. Next morning I put more bait out and within half an hour had my second 9lb 15oz tench of the year. That proved to be my last tench of the Spring 2017 campaign as it soon became clear the tench had moved away. I suspect given the hot weather they were going to spawn so I packed early and came home to celebrate a successful campaign with a few beers.