The last couple of months has presented me with some challenging tench fishing and the chance to try and improve on what, at face value, appear quite simple techniques. The tench, you see, are rarely fished for, and so have grown big on a diet of natural food. In the main, this means small food items, such as chironomid larvae, small snails and freshwater shrimps. Previous attempts at fishing with large baits had proven futile, so this year I was to persevere with small, particle sized baits, more akin to the fish's natural diet. Maggots were to be my first choice, although because of cost, I would also use trout pellets and Formula Magic pellets.

Initial trials showed that the fish did not respond favourably to groundbait, so I had to get these small particles out anything up to sixty metres by a different route. This in itself is quite simple early in the season before the weed comes up, by using a large blockend feeder. The trouble was that there were a lot of tench in the area, yet they were not concentrated in any one spot, so I endeavoured to try and concentrate them where I wanted them with heavy baiting. This called for the use of a bait rocket to get large amounts of bait into the swim. When I say large, I should say that a gallon of bait per night was about par for the course, made up of four pints of maggots and the rest pellets. Considering I had upwards of thirty tench in front of me each night (and no other anglers to disturb) this wasn't an excessive amount.

Using the feeder and bait rocket combination did get me thinking though. With the huge range of feeders and rockets around I needed to make sure that I was using the right combination. Feeder choice was reasonably straightforward. Drennan oval feeders in medium and large sizes are my choice in most situations, which deliver around eighty and one hundred maggots each. Now, to begin with, I was using a large Gardner bait rocket, which delivered a pint of maggots in about ten chucks! This made baiting up really quick and easy, but I was a little concerned that I might be detracting from the feeder.

Fish are experts at locating the best feeding spots and will tend to concentrate on these spots until they are depleted. After a few hours playing about in the margins, I concluded that the 300 maggots escaping from the bait rocket would spread over not much larger an area than the hundred or so maggots deposited by the feeder. Now, if I was a tench, I would prefer the better feeding patch presented by the bait rocket than the feeder - not the desired effect I was after! The answer, as with most things in life, was quite simple. Instead of filling the bait rocket with just maggots I mixed a pint of maggots with two pints of dry bread crumbs. Now the rocket still flies straight and true because it is fully loaded, but the bread crumbs float away leaving only a hundred or so maggots with each chuck of the rocket. Obviously, baiting up takes a little longer, but now I am sure that my baiting is not detracting from my chances of catching. Of course, I can't prove that this made the slightest difference to my catches, but at least I knew that I was doing all that I could to maximise my chances of catching.