Friday, 3 June 2011

Canal Tench - Seeking Silver - More Fin Than Fish

Lee Fletcher came over to my local silver bream emporium yesterday evening to see if he could wangle one out for himself as they have seemed a quite safe bet this season with no less than... wait for it... steady in the ranks... eight, yes that's eight whole silvers banked since end of April. Whooo - eight - who'd have ever thought that? I personally have had only six as two of the total fell to the Northern rod, Mike Duddy, also on a visit - of course I hoped that Lee would fare the same as Mike and catch a pounder too.

The method was float fished breadflake fished up the far shelf over a light bed of feed consisting of nothing more advanced than a couple of slices of unadulterated white bread mashed in canal water - simple, old school, effective. Lee elected to fish the one peg all evening but I intended to bait two pegs fifty yards apart and fish them alternately every hour and by doing so locate a shoal of silvers with any luck.

Lee had a bite first chuck. I was standing there watching and as the float settled itself after the cast, it buried and he struck into what turned out to be a good roach of thirteen ounces ~

I had to wait a little longer for my first indications but I had perfect faith that they would come at around the half hour mark, perhaps a little longer. Sure enough, about that time the float dodged to one side and lifted slightly as a fish brushed past the line in the very shallow water. The trick now was not to strike at anything other than an obvious indication of a fish having moved away with the bait as I have found that by striking at line bites the culprit will spook. The right movement of the float came inevitably, a slight lift and then a clear angled movement to the left, the strike meeting with what was clearly a bream of one species or the other but who got off the hook soon after.

After a few casts more into an apparently deserted swim, I re-baited the area with mashed bread and went along to try my luck in the second swim I'd baited earlier. Here the float cocked and settled and then bobbed and settled a second time. A line bite. A second cast to get the bait a little closer to the brambles clinched the desired true bite but the strike met not with the splashy resistance of a bream as expected but with the powerhouse thrust and thud of what was clearly a tench. It took a while to tire it as you'd expect with a tench especially a male as this one was and not a heavy fish either, just a couple of pounds or so but really, it was more fin than fish!

Look at the size of those paddles ~

Note the swollen vent - spawning is nigh

As before I re-baited the swim after making a few unsuccessful casts for any further shoal members and then returned to swim A. Here I experienced liners as before but the expected clear bite did not come, so after giving swim B enough time to recover from the disturbance and fresh fish to get their heads down for a chomp on the mash, three quarters of an hour or so I thought enough, I returned there.

The bait wasn't in more than a few minutes before it slowly disappeared from view and another tench charged off around the swim in a maddened rage. Another male and about the same size as the first or a little larger, now two tench from the canal in a week is good going, I once had two on consecutive sessions, evening and the very next morning but two within the hour is unheard of round here and so I felt especially made up about them regardless of their relatively diminutive size compared to the tench that I and the fellow blogger challenge contestants have been catching lately.

Who cares?

Pounds and points aren't everything...

The sun disappeared over the horizon, darkness fell and I was sure that the bream would now turn on to feed. I went back to swim A and immediately had liners and a little later a series of small dips on the float that I put down to roach. Eventually these turned into a more positive indication and a fish, certainly a bream, was hooked only to come off after a few seconds just as the first had. I cast again and had a second fish that came unproblematically to the net.

I really thought for a time that it was a silver bream, however on inspection it seemed somehow off even though it looked bright silver in Lee's headlamp. In daylight the confusion would not have cropped up as skimmers scales are always a much duller silver than the bright chrome-like scales of a silver bream, however at night, and this was the first time I'd ever tried to ID a suspect in complete darkness and by the light of headlamps, I was stumped, so I took some mat pictures knowing that a cursory exam on the computer would clear things up in seconds. Secretly I hoped that it would turn out to be a bream x silver bream hybrid as I'm sure they must exist out there.

A second example came to the net soon after and the swim fell dead once more so I repeated the hourly ritual and moved back to swim B where, unsurprisingly now, I got firstly liners and then hooked a strong fighting fish that I really thought would be a third tench but who gave up the ghost after twenty or thirty seconds of struggle and then came in like the fish it really was after all - a chunky three pound bream.

This was the last fish of the night and I was quite chuffed with the way my swim hopping plan had worked out but Lee, despite trying everything under the setting sun in his chosen peg hadn't had much luck at all after that very early roach and had to go home sans silver.

My next move is to bait a much longer series of swims with mash and then visit each for one fish only or no fish in ten minutes before a move is called. Believe me, on this canal anything you can do that puts five fish on the bank for just under ten pounds weight in four hours work is worth pushing as far as it will go.

Before leaving I performed a rough scale count on the larger of the two suspect fish and they were conclusively immature bronze bream with a count of 54 as opposed to a sub 48 score for a true silver bream. On the computer it was as plain as the nose on my face, but in the field, even with a little bit of experience of them under my belt now it's abundantly clear that I am still not au fait with every aspect of this curious species.

Lee was never half convinced. He was right!


  1. Awesome tench! Love the colors. They have almost the same coloring as smallmouth.

  2. Matt, you'd love tench so much. If there's one fish that America had to import as a sport fish then it has to be this plucky orange eyed beauty. They sleep all winter, wake in early spring, go on a binge in April and May, eat just about anything remotely edible, fight till the bitter end and contest every inch of line.

    It can't match a salmon's terrifying speed, a trout's aerial display or a carp's shocking rush of weight but they just never throw in the towel and then on the bank they are twisting every which way...

    And then suddenly as you pick them up for a trophy shot they are as good as gold and calmly pose for the camera.

  3. Got to agree with you on the Tench front Jeff, although I do curse them occasionally when my line gets gunked up with their slime!

    Very impressive to pluck a couple from that stretch so quickly. It's also partly reassuring to see someone else (Lee) struggle on the very peg I blanked off last week in my own quest for silver!

  4. Cheers jeff, it was a nice evening session despite only the one fish for me.

  5. Well according to my records they did a vanishing act around this time last year, but then again it may just have been that I did a vanishing act and went after crucians at Parkers Pool !

  6. I still reckon a pint of hemp every day in the same spot for a month would attract most things for half a mile in either direction.

    When you settled down to fish it I'm certain you would have a good day.