Saturday, 24 May 2014

Canal Tench — Dustbin Lids & Farthing Kites

Location: Coventry Canal. Subject: tench. Swim: particular. Arrival time: critical.

Four O'clock in the afternoon is a little too late in the day to be certain of securing it and so I thought we'd probably not get the right peg because it is the most desired swim on any canal round these parts. Either side of it you'd think the cut was entirely fish-less the way some local anglers behave about it but we did get it and set up in it. About half an hour after we'd settled down a couple of well-known middle aged lads, bikes strapped up with tackle and hung down with bait buckets arrive for their pre-planned canal carp overnighter.

Round the corner, no doubt, they were brimming with optimism, laughing and smiling as they discussed the night ahead and how best to go about it, but now on the home straight and with us two interlopers in plain view — they approach — flying faces like a pair of farthing kites!

We're fishing, of course, right where they'd planned to be...

You'd think they'd either have gone home and forgot about it or more likely set up nearby and fished till our planned departure some time after dark, but no. They plonk down dejectedly on the bench to our left and do nothing. It'll be a quarter of a day before we'll move but they're going to sit and grumble and glower at us till that long distant moment arrives.

"Jeff, when you've finished fiddling with that fag come over here and feel my rod' Says Martin, "It's throbbing!"

Sure enough, stroking my hand along his stiff, sleek, black length, it is...

"That'll be your electric magnetism, mate". Says I.

My circle hook experiment continues. As before, one rod fishes a traditional J hook, the other a circle pattern. Both are baited with corn and both use the same helicopter rig with six-inch hook-lengths. What would the canal tench make of the difference, if and when they turned up?

I thought my first run (and what a belter it was)! should confirm things but picking the rod up and winding down to the fish it was clearly not a tench but a bream. However, at the net it looked for a brief second like a very big roach — and I do wish it had been because it went 2lb 6oz on the scales. A hybrid but a very nicely proportioned one more roach in appearance than bream.

As with the roach caught the previous session, once again the circle hook hold was perfect with the fish hooked squarely through the lower lip and as before, dead centrally. This fish's mouth was very much like a pure roach's mouth, in fact. And that was duly noted as — and later turned out be — significant.

All the tench I'd caught at Lemington Lakes (see previous post) were hooked the very same way. However, all the bass I have ever caught on circle hooks (and once I began using them it quickly became a running total of many hundreds) were all hooked in the scissors and remarkably all were hooked in the lower left hand side of the jaw but never the right and the result was the same whether ledgering or trotting a float down a creek. That has to be because bass snatch up food items and just like J Edgar Hoover, they never turn left.

Tench, roach and hybrids, and probably all bottom grazers, clearly don't do that. They'll pick up the bait with their heads down, rise up in the water, and straighten up. Also, unlike bass or perch, pike and zander too, all of whom have generally similar jaw arrangements, such fish are not predators and don't have pronounced 'scissors'.

I wondered, though, if the circle pattern would snare the inevitable by-catch of all my canal sessions to date — bream — a fish with an extensible tube for a mouth...

The answer seemed to be, no, they wouldn't, because Martin was landing one after the other while my circle line to his immediate right was twitching away, the bobbin jumping about every now and then, but without true runs developing. I thought it must be bream taking the corn but the hook failing to prick. I was pretty certain it had nothing to do with tench what with Martin hauling bream after bream just yards away.

Then at last, the right hander fishing the J hook sprang to life and a fish was on, but then it was off again. In a fraction of a second it was lost but not before sending up a large vortex wherein Martin spied a big orange tail. A carp. The hook-link had snapped clean off near the swivel. An unfelt wind knot or a nick in the line had lost me a good fish.

I changed the rods over, the J hook now fishing amongst the bream. Certain I'd have a bream in ten minutes, I was proved right and my theory that circle hooks will not easily catch them possibly gaining credence.

Imagine that, you, you died-in-the-wool tunnel-visionary carp fanatic, you. If circles will catch tench reliably (and I intend to prove it) then they will certainly catch your species reliably too, but even better than that. If they won't also catch bream, in fact make it almost impossible for them to hook themselves, well, then we have just about the most perfect hook for the long-winded job of laying carefully planned traps for the chosen few but avoiding the attentions of the unchosen many, do we not?

We'll see...

Departing when it was clear that tench would not show we left the peg open to the farthing kites.

I have it on reliable account they caught now't besides dustbin lids...


  1. Jeff,
    How do you fish in the no fishing area with no bother from the Feds!? I'd like to fish ' Hatt's Top Secret Area 51' but it is a no fishing area as the multiple signs down the towpath clearly identify - do you have special dispensation? a secret code phrase for the inspectors or local residents - one not ending in!? - perhaps a day ticket from a shady government department in MI6?

  2. Yeah, I do have a secret code word. It's 'ello mate, how you going'. Works for me...

    A couple of years ago now and fishing the very same swim I had two British Waterways officials take pictures of myself with a near five-pound zander. They then watched as I returned it. That's two very minor misdemeanours, returning zander and fishing in a clearly delineated 'no fishing zone', ignored by the canal bobbies and all because of the power of banter.

    Round these parts pretty much all the best fishing takes place beneath pylons. Sixty feet up they are no danger to an angler armed with a twelve foot rod.

    A sixteen metre pole in the rain though...

  3. Interesting Jeff, as ever. I too, have been having some hook trouble. I don't seem to be having any trouble HOOKING tench with a "J" pattern, no problems at all ( unlike with grayling which are a pain regardless of hook, something to do with their upper jaw being constructed of titanium/concrete alloy). My problem is again keeping the fish on, once hooked. But I don't remember ever having this problem in the past, just during the last eighteen months. Tench NEVER used to drop off the hook, and I am still unable to figure out why it is happening now. Intriguing that you somewhat mysteriously suggest that circle hooks become less effective for larger tench. I'll have to mull that one over, especially as I seem to be hitting some excellent fish of late. For the moment I am putting it down as mere "bad luck", that I have lost a few tench in this way, most quite some time into the fight.
    The pylon tale is also of interest. It has always seemed to me that, unless you put something conductive nearer to the lines than the length of those insulator stacks, there could be no danger. And those stacks are how long: 6 or 8 feet maybe? 8 feet is therefore enough to insulate the cables from the pylons, with some engineering margin for error too. Does anyone, EVER hold a 16 metre pole vertically? I don't pole fish myself so am unable to comment.
    And, as a real Northerner, even I know that swim. Choosing to fish the C.C. for zander one day a year or so ago, using nothing but Google Earth as a guide to the canal, I drooped just the other side of the bridge there. I think the drooped was a little Freudian slip there, but I did have a bad day's fishing.

    1. The art of using circle hooks, JAYZS, is in understanding the relationship between lip thickness and gape between shank and point. In a nutshell, if the lip is too thick for the gape then they just bounce off it and will never find a hold but just right gape for thickness they just can't fail to. This is no problem with the thin lipped fish — predators — unless they exceed a certain size. Let's put it this way. A five pound tench has lips as thick as a twenty pound pike...

      You have to run trials of your own to see why this is so. Lemongton Lakes I had nothing to lose against huge numbers of small and the results were astonishing. Using a size six I caught and banked very single one, however, I knew because the lock was so tight that larger fish would never be hooked on that size and a size 4 necessary

  4. "Old friends, old friends sat on a canal bench like book ends, the news paper blows through the grass, on the round toes, of the disgruntled anglers". With apologies to Simon and Garfunkel.

    About six years or so ago a mate and I were fishing St. Pats one Saturday in July. I was fishing the boat house swim, a mate was fishing the borough marsh. An angler came along around 10.30 and asked my mate how long he was going to be fishing, when he replied "Till noon" the other angler said "Oh that's good I'll wait" and sat ten yards behind him and set his tackle up. I kid you not, now the Pats can get very busy, but on this day their were lots of swims free. We all have our most treasured swims, but to do that, well utter madness.

    As regard the pylons, the Dalston beat on the Kennet below the pylons was and maybe still is a great swim. My local river has pylons bang on "Perch Bend", a must fish swim for good Perch. I wonder why this is ? Magnetic fields ? Who knows but the areas by pylons do seem to be productive.