This month Iíll try and show they are extremely unpredictable as I tell the story of four different waters where the tench may as well have been a different species in each.

Littleton Lake

The gravel pit in question is well over 100 acres but the tench are mainly caught less than 10 yards out. This is often the case with tench, they seem to like the margins especially in relatively featureless lakes and gravel pits. Littleton Lake is no exception and the logical place to start when presented with a relative inland sea is the margin.

I knew a little about the water, not a lot but one swim was known by the locals as the ĎTench Swimí so this seemed a good bet to start with. Upon arriving at the water a couple of weeks into the season I was delighted to find no one else present along the bank where the swim was located. From the high bank I could clearly see how the weed was already beginning to grow up and knew that come mid summer the fishing would be very difficult.

I had a cast about and quickly found two suitable features within 10 yards of the bank. To the right there was a small gravel hump with a nice channel between it and the extreme margin shelf. To the right there was a small weed free channel in front of a reed bed. I used sweet corn on both rods with size 10 hooks and 5lb mono hooklinks to 6lb mainline with quarter ounce Arsley bombs.

After casting out with three pieces of corn on each, I catapulted half a large tin of corn around each hookbait and sat back as evening grew on. An hour later the rod cast in front of the weedbed burst into life and a quick strike met with a nice resistance. I was surprised to get action so quickly but there was no doubt that this was a reasonable tench. The battle was all close in as the tench charged up and down the deep margin. Finally the pressure told and it was ready to be netted, as it reached the surface I could see that it was a fat fish well over 6lb, in the net it looked even bigger. It was a lovely female tench still a little in spawn but it spun the scales round to 6lb 15oz. I could not believe that already I had achieved my target of a 6lb 8oz tench from the water with my first cast. I admired the fish for a while before reluctantly slipping it back - very happy!

However my expectations of a few more good tench fell flat, as that was the only fish of the overnight session. I returned several times over the next couple of months and caught several more tench with the biggest a fine spawn-free female tench of 7lb 7oz in late July.

What I noticed as the summer went on was the different behaviour of the tench to bait and baited areas. On sunny days I was able to watch the tench in the crystal clear water as they patrolled up and down the margins and their changed reaction as they came across an area baited with sweetcorn. The tench appeared to very mobile but would not swim aimlessly but seemed to have a 100 yard or so stretch of bank to patrol turning out to deeper water when they reached the end of this. They did not appear to feed on natural food during this patrol but when they came across a clear area baited with sweetcorn they wasted no time in investigating it.

What was amazing however was that they would not settle down to feed but would just pick up a kernel or two before swimming off fast, always rolling heavily on the surface of the water near the bait. They would then settle down to feed on the sweetcorn. The next bit was even more amazing; out of nowhere a couple of other tench would appear and would start feeding well straight away. Were the tench signalling to his mates that they had found food? It seems maybe they were.

As the summer went on, the tench became more cautious of the baited areas and would often approach them carefully before feeding for only brief periods, often on kernels that were near the edge of the baited area. This was to be expected I guess and soon it was only possible to get a take on a bait cast to the edge of the baited area. Also they began to avoid the channel between the hump and bank completely but I could see they were swimming over the hump itself, I cashed in on this and picked up a couple of bonus fish by fishing just a hook bait on the shallowest part of the gravel hump, including my biggest male tench of that summer, a fish of 6lb 3oz.

I learnt to recognise the different kind of rolling the tench carried out. The porpoising type of rolling that is so common seemed to be undertaken by tench that were merely working their way along their patrol route. I never saw a tench feed anywhere near where they carried out this porpoising type of action. However, when I saw a tench splash heavily and somewhat untidily on the surface I knew then that they were feeding tench, This was the type of rolling they did when they had found a baited area and were asking their mates to join in the feast. Often I would receive a bite within five minutes of seeing a tench carry out this action over my baits; it all became very exciting.

Two last points, 90% of my tench were caught between 2pm and 10pm with only a couple coming at dawn or in the middle of the night. I could see no reason for this as it was totally different to other waters I have tench fished before and since. The last observation was not such a happy one. Many hundreds of small carp were introduced into the water that year. By August they were spread all over the lake and were competing with the tench for food, to the detriment of the tench. I observed tench being bodily forced away from baited areas by the more aggressive carp. The tench fishing suffered on the lake for the next 10 years and only in the last few years have the tench begun to recover. A lesson if you have a good tench water, do not introduce small carp in large numbers.

Next week Iíll look at another gravel pit where I fished for tench where their behaviour was completely different.

Have fun!