Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Canal Tench & Bream — Foul Play

After the weekend's debacles down the Avon, the following Monday chasing elusive tench on a fickle canal seemed a better prospect than thrashing a mardy river on its bones. The session proved touchy. The weather was broken overcast, and breezy, but for a change this wind felt to be an improving one. The kind of wind that blows an angler good things.

As I mentioned before. Wind acts upon canals in strange ways. On a route running generally East to West a canal might turn due South and North. Therefore wind will be blowing straight down portions of it no matter where the wind comes from. Other parts will be flat calm with wind coming across. Some areas will be scum traps where buoyant rubbish is pushed and held by opposing movements. Logs, cans, tarps & turds, dead sheep & rats, domestic cats, you name it.

Today the wind is a warm South-westerly and blowing obliquely across the long straight between the M6 bend and Bridge 11. Calm at the head and ruffled at the foot. You'd not think there much of a force acting upon it but there's transverse waves of some amplitude travelling backwards at ten yard intervals which are the surface signs of undertow — the subsurface current set up by water pushed one way having nowhere to go but backwards when it encounters a force that won't give. In this case it's not a solid bank, but a great weight of liquid that is not moving anywhere because it is trapped by forces coming from somewhere along the line northwards. 

It's choppy at my peg because it's aligned directly along the wind direction, but the water is not towing so it's easy to fish regardless. However invigorating I feel this wind might be, it's not going to culminate in a feeding frenzy just yet. Later this evening I reckon. Maybe tomorrow morning. For now bites are regularly spaced at twenty-five minute intervals. And it's all about bream...

The first is no improvement on my previous challenge best, but the second is. At 3lb 7oz it is one of the canal's elders. They really don't run much larger than four-pound hereabouts. A five-pounder is the  ancient specimen that I have never seen. Pleased with gaining a notch up the canal leader-board, I then turn full attention toward tench. They are possible here in daylight, but are hard work. 

There's a boat through every ten to twenty minutes, but worse, there's a gaggle of mallards chasing every damn scrap thrown in. Each time I cast they shoot across to investigate. Every time I put in mash they scoot over and peck up the floating debris. Trouble is, one of the buggers has learned to dive for ground-bait. No pre-baiting here then...

After another fruitless half-hour and the third or fourth near miss with this intelligent, errant foul, I pack up, head home, and go out on my afternoon round.

Returning that evening, calm has fallen upon the waters. It is pleasantly warm and I know I'll catch straight off the bat without the aid of ground-bait. I toss some in anyhow. Plenty, actually. Foul play is elsewhere. Sure enough there's an immediate procession of bream. But no tench. Tench are what I really need right now having already caught bream respectable enough for my purposes. They'll keep and no doubt improve because there's no avoiding them the year round. But I'm buggered in my plan if I can't manage a decent canal tench before end of summer...

Dusk arrives and night falls. When I cannot see the float well enough I retire it. A local acquaintance, Joe, turns up on his bike, pulls a tinny from his backpack, cracks it open, and we talk about fishing. I decide to put a feeder full of ground-bait laced with plenty of corn to one of our shared (but shared and secret) hotspots and the hook baited with a single grain. Around and about, and after dark, tench and sometimes carp are almost guaranteed to fall given weather heading in the right direction. And I really do believe that tonight, it is...

The crucial bite takes just ten minutes to secure. The rod is my roach rod and the tackle light roach ledger. At first it seems to be another bream because it does breamy things like plod and splash, but suddenly this bream wakes up to its predicament and becomes a certain tench. Then I'm in trouble. Luckily, it's surely not a cock, despite the powerful surges, because males hug the bottom like a neodymium magnet to sheet steel where this fish chooses its battleground mid-water.

And that's a very good thing to my mind. Hens do tend to weigh more, and are somewhat less tricky!

After five minutes or so I have her beaten and net her. We both guess three pounds, more or less. I get the four-pound Salters from the bag but they bottom out. Get out the 11 pound set when we're amazed to have the needle plunge to four and a half pounds, jiggle, and then settle at seven ounces past the mark.

How deceptively small fish can look by the LED torch light of an iPhone... 

But the weight is agreed upon. Now I can sleep on my canal tench laurels knowing canal carp and silver bream are next on the agenda. And they will both be adversaries that may take just a little longer in the doing...

If indeed, they're do-able! 

The sweet smell of tench, and success!


  1. Nice one Jeff, a rare beast indeed, bet you're well chuffed. Where I fish for river carp ( you know where ) must contain Tench I reakon, deep, pedestrian pace and lilies, going to give it a go in the couple of weeks. I've not targeted them in ages not sure why such a special fish.

    1. Yes I am. Mick. Proving tricky this year. Don't seem to be shoaled up as they were a few years ago so it's picking off loners, I'm afraid. In daylight my tip is fish open areas (without shading trees) with reeds/lilies along the far bank or overhanging brambles and cast as tight to them as you can. Marinas and their entrances are different prospects. After dark they'll come into open water more, that's true, but in daylight all my captures of tench have come very close to the far bank where they patrol.

  2. Wow.....a canal Tench, never had one before and what a cracker indeed, glad to see your catching !

  3. Glad to see you catching to, James. A lot of catching! And there's a lot of catching up for me to do, but I'll get there. Making up for two lost months is spurring me on. Really enjoying it.

  4. A grand tench Jeff. Two months have passed and not a sign of one on the Lancaster canal. Good to see you're back on the bank.

    1. Thanks, Mark. They'll come. Have you fished the stretch I mentioned yet?