June 16th is a special day in the anglers calendar and yet, the rivers always seem to be choked-up with weed on the first day of the river season. I had dreams about Barbus during the week leading up to this day, I even purchased a tin of hemp and pellets with a tentative plan to start the season as it ended, targeting barbel and chub. But, with little to no rain for weeks up here in the North, on the eve of Opening Day we decided the changed our plans (over a pint of Otter’s Claw!) to do something more traditional this summer.
Tench fishing is associated with the opening day of the coarse fishing season for good reason. In Bernards Venable’s book, ‘Mr. Crabtree Goes Fishing’, the Dad (Mr. Crabtree) teaches Peter (his son) how to catch Tinca Tinca. Ironically, our day mimicked that, with the MAC President Sir. Charles, using his years of expertise and watercraft skills to teach the young keen angling upstart (me!) a new technique ~ The Lift Method.
I’m convinced that fishing with a float is the act of mindfulness disguised as a boring sport (to those that it does not appeal). Those that do get it will understand the excitement of observing a float in still-water and today I’m using a peacock quill, handmade by The President himself. In a world suddenly full of long-range casting carp pyjama-wearing morons, fishing in this manner is the total opposite. It’s a very delicate and extremely simple (but effective) method, like much of ‘fooling fish’, there is little to gain in its over complication.
Starring at a float leaves room for the brain to drift away too, there is just enough happening to keep you focused and in the moment yet, seemingly very little action for a kind-of meditative hypnosis to occur. Imagine that your brain becomes something like a twirling-dervish. Some of my most creative moments happen during this time, in fact, I imagined a full-collection of angling t.shirts with the following slogans on the front …
1. ALL BREAM ARE GAY (FRENCH)
2. PERCH ARE NOT PUNKS
3. CARP ARE IRRATIONAL AF
4. TENCH ARE NOT DOCTORS
5. PIKE ARE DERANGED & SPOILT
6. BARBEL ARE HUMOURLESS TWATS
7. TROUT ARE SILLY BASTARDS
(please note. I am yet to decided whether to make these t.shirts, but I’m sure you will agree that they are truly wonderful!)
For the hook bait I used a single piece of (Aldi) sweetcorn, ledgered with just two SSG shots (1.6g). Ground bait is mixed into small balls and introduced onto a dinner-table sized area in the water. Not too much bait, but enough to get them sniffing around. (REMEMBER - “once you’ve put it in, you can’t take it back out”.) The float is cocked by slowly tightening your line up to the SSG shot. As fish start to sit around your banquet and proceed to dine, you witness the movements down in the mysterious depths by observing the float shake, knock and tremble. The most exciting part of the day being when the tench stumble across the dining table and you witness all sorts of micro-popping-fizzing bubbles near the float. At this moment, unless you lack soul, your heart will start racing a bit and you know it's only a matter of time!
Be patient and make this journey enjoyable enough that you're not bothered how long it lasts.
You only strike when the float rises, or floats away. Your rod is sat on two rod rests and your hand is resting over the trigger (your reel). I imagine myself as a cowboy in a quick-draw salon gun-fight to the death! (please note all fish are returned safely).
Somewhere in-between todays obsession with fishing for big-carp and "bagging-up" at commercial fisheries, these lost and simple tactics of pleasure fishing are being ignored and are becoming less and less popular with modern anglers, which to me seems a real shame because tench do put-up what can be described as a spirited fight. The sudden dart into open water and their ploddy pulls on your line put a nice bend into the rod.
All things said, it’s great sport on a light/balanced tackle and who doesn't want to spend a summers day in the sun, sat by the flowering lily pads?
Words and photography by Thom Barnett & Sir Charles Williamson