We welcome all-round specialist angler Lee Chatfield, a former matchman, into the Angler's Mail blogging fold again as he reveals his inside tricks float fishing for tench.
ONE of my favourite fishing styles is float fishing for tench. I personally don’t think you can beat the Mr.Crabtree feeling of seeing pin head bubbles surrounding the red tip of your float as it dips and lifts to indicate tench feeding in your swim.
They can be easy to catch on some days and on others extremely difficult to catch even when they are fizzing in the swim.
I believe that when tench are fizzing but not feeding they are pre-occupied on naturals such as bloodworm and the fizzing is caused by fish rooting around in the silt to disturb the bloodworm for them to eat.
I have had days like this where I have pulled my hair out and ended up with only one or two tench despite the swim holding fish all day. I’ve learnt that it’s par for the course with tench and on other days I’ve had 25 decent tench on the same tactics!
Tench are one species that really like consistent weather conditions to get them to feed well. I have been fortunate to catch tench into double figures from gravel pits on bolt rig feeders but I still take great pleasure and excitement from catching tench from estate lakes on the float.
You are unlikely to catch a huge tench from estate lakes and my own float-caught estate lake tench PB is 7 lb 12 oz which is a cracking fish but made all the more special on float tackle. When fishing for gravel pit tench a 7 lb fish barely raises an eyebrow but on an estate lake this would be classed as a very big fish and this is where I feel that some of the traditions of big fish angling are lost a little.
In my opinion there is too much focus and obsession towards huge fish at the moment and sometimes it’s nice to go back to tradition occasionally and appreciate the surroundings of a beautiful lake covered in lily pads and catch decent tench.
My tench float fishing tackle
The tackle that I generally use is a through action power float rod or a 1.25 lb Avon rod in real hit and hold snaggy situations.
I generally use 6lb Hydroflo line straight through to the hook as a starting point or 8lb in really snaggy situations but this is very rare.
Hook size very much depends on the bait used with a size 16 for caster, maggot and 6mm pellet to a size 10 for bread, lobworms and double corn. I usually start on the bigger hook and big bait approach and feel my way into the session.
I will sometimes fish the traditional lift method for tench but in my experience a dotted down 3AAA float correctly shotted and set about 4 inches over depth out performs the lift method. The lift method can be useful if there is a lot of tow on the water because you can anchor the float down.
My bait and groundbait for tench on the float
I always feed groundbait with small particles in the feed everywhere that I fish for tench as they adore groundbait.
My groundbait mix is 2 parts Sonubaits Supercrush Green, 1 part Sonubaits exploding feeder and 1 part Hemp/Hali Crush mixed with molasses in the water which tench love. The mix is laced with a handful of 2mm Sonubaits S-Pellets, dead red maggots and a few casters.
The combination of dead maggot, caster, 2mm pellet and the various sizes of crushed pellet from the Hemp/Hali crush keep the tench grubbing around for hours.
I start off by feeding an initial four to six apple-sized balls of groundbait which is mixed on the dry side as most estate lakes are shallow and very silty and hard balls of groundbait will bury into the silt. I use the cloud effect to draw fish out of the pads and then loose feed red maggot, sweetcorn and 4mm Sonubaits Halibut Pellets over the top of the groundbait.
I feed a ball of groundbait the size of a golf ball after every fish or if the swim has slowed up a bit.
Top tips for this kind of tench fishing
On most estate lakes it is a case of fishing from the crack of dawn until lunchtime when bites have usually dried up whereas gravel pit tench feed all through the day. I have caught tench until 4pm in the afternoon on a few estate lakes using my tactics where people say all the action has finished by 11 o’clock!
A useful tip is to loose feed a little corn and maggots just into the lily pads surrounding the area that you are going to fish as this will stop fish that are swimming through the pads and draw them towards the baited area.
Also be prepared to experiment with hookbaits as one day tench will feed aggressively and you’ll catch on a size 10 hook with double sweetcorn, bread or luncheon meat etc. and other times they want double red maggot, caster or 6mm pellet on a size 16 hook.
Being prepared to experiment in this way has caught me a lot of fish in the past on difficult days and turned a bad session into a good one.
When I turned around a tench session for success
An example of being prepared to change was during a session for tench last year on a local small gravel pit which is only 1.5 acres but holds tench to double figures.
This session had been very slow from the start and I was joined by Tony King (Tenchfishers fame), and we were struggling for a bite on big baits including 8mm pellet, sweetcorn, luncheon meat and paste etc.
Both of our swims had constant bubbling activity which told us that the fish were clearly feeding but I realised that they did not want larger baits on the day. I learnt from my match fishing days that you cannot sit on your laurels in fishing and must be prepared to change.
On this session I quickly dropped down to an 0.15mm Preston Powerline hooklength and size 16 Drennan super specialist wide gape hook and alternated between a 6mm Sonubaits soft Krill pellet, 6mm Fishmeal soft pellet and double red maggot on the hook and it was like a completely different swim. I topped up with a ball of my usual groundbait mix (see above) after every fish and fed a little 4mm Halibut Pellet over the top.
I ended up with 12 tench up to 7 lb and eight quality roach between a pound and 1-10!
Everybody else on the lake blanked that day including Tony proving that subtle changes can make the difference between success and failure so be prepared to change and try different baits to see what the fish want on the day is the best advice that I can give you.
This situation has happened to me on numerous session`s where I have started on big baits and not caught but still ended up with 20 tench by adjusting my tactics.
Do not go with only Plan A in mind and stick to it… be prepared to experiment!!
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