Ferris Meadow Lake
The gravel pit in question is around 15 acres and I knew of its existence but I knew nothing about the fish it contained. I finally heard it was going to be opened for angling in mid May. With only a month to go before the season I was reluctant to change the plans I had already made for the season ahead. However I agreed to go and have a look at the water with a mate.
The lake looked a fairly new pit to me but this was because it had been well managed with no sizeable trees being allowed to grow as it was at one time used for sailing. Now the banks were grass and young alders were growing round most of the lake. The water level was low which meant that a 10 foot margin of mud had been exposed. The water was clear and extensive weed growth was visible.
I was not that impressed until we came to a small bay, there in the edge were swimming four tench, but what tench they were, all long and broad, easily all over 7lb. Further around we found three more of similar size. Then at the far end where the Thames is only separated from the lake by a causeway we found three common carp, not huge fish but probably 20lbers. My mind was made up and the cheque was in the post that very day.
My first trip to the lake was on the second day of the season. No night fishing was allowed so I arrived at dawn to find half a dozen cars there. A stiff north-westerly wind was blowing and all the anglers were fishing in the sheltered end of the lake. I too settled for an area in sheltered water near an island. I baited up with groundbait and fished small swimfeeders with corn and maggot. As the sun came up I could see tench in the abundant weed but they were not feeding and I had not seen anyone else catch anything. I persevered for a few more hours changing baits and ideas with no success.
Around 10:30 I wound in and went to explore, on my way I chatted to a couple of others and found that apparently a 7lb 3oz tench and an 8lb bream had been caught the previous day. I walked up to the windy end of the lake and as I stood looking at the ruffled surface a tench rolled heavily 10 yards out, then it did it again, moments later two came out together, I needed to see no more. I went back to my swim, packed up and moved, saying nothing to anyone. Back at the area the tench rolled, as I was preparing to cast, a tench rolled again. The feeder hit the same spot seconds later.
I had trouble getting the feeder accurately in one spot due to the wind but I did not have much groundbait left so I changed to a simple link leger using three bits of corn as bait. An hour later I finally received a bite and connected with a fish. The tench stood its ground but under constant pressure it kited to the right towards a small bay. I pulled the rod round so sidestrain would stop it. Just in time, it did and the tench came back along the margin towards me. I clearly saw it as it swam past me, the bait hanging from its mouth. It was an enormous tench certainly well over 8lb probably 9lb, its width more like a small carp. Suddenly without warning it turned and powered off out into the lake through the thick Canadian Pondweed, then it was gone, the 4lb hooklink had snapped.
I was not best pleased but instead sat thinking about how I could put that fish, or one of its mates on the bank. I did not have the right baits or gear with me that was for sure so I spent the next hour just leading around looking for something. Finally I found a very clear area just beyond the marginal weed where the bottom dropped off before levelling out again further out. This was where the tench had rolled when I first had seen them. I made a mental note of the area and packed up again, not speaking to anyone.
Two days later I was back, this time with lots of groundbait and a gallon of maggots. The wind was still the same, no one was up that end of the lake so I was confident. I spent an hour baiting up the clear area I had found and around 8am cast out with light link legers with size 12 hooks baited with three maggots. I had upped the hooklinks to 5lb.
Nothing happened and I saw no tench for the next two hours so I was beginning to think I had overdone it but finally a tench rolled over the area and a few minutes later I received a confident take. The tench fought well and was soon charging up and down the margin. No problem this time, I netted it easily. It was a lovely fish, a female slightly in spawn weighing 6lb 14oz.
I was well pleased with that result. I quickly recast and introduced some more feed. An hour later I had a repeat but this time the tench was a full 1lb larger. The mate who put me on the water was fishing further around and when he saw the second tench hit the net he came over. I explained what I was doing and invited him to move round to just to the left of me. Without me finishing the sentence he had gone to get his gear.
It was afternoon by now and I doubted we would get any more but around 1pm we both had takes almost simultaneously. After good fights we landed both; his a 7lb 7oz tench and mine a 6lb 11oz fish. The best was yet to come though, as an hour later I received yet again a confident take. This tench felt bigger and followed the same route as the big tench I had lost the session before. It kited right towards the small bay. Again I held on, managing to turn it and it ran towards me along the margin. I saw it in the edge and indeed it was a big fish. The net was behind me where I had left it from the previous fish. When I saw this tench I panicked a bit and urged my mate to pass the net quick. He started to muck about and refused but when the tench charged down the margin across my other line and my demand for the net became less polite he relented. Fortunately all went well and I netted the tench.
It was huge in the net and on the bank we both looked on in awe, we tried guessing the weight but we could merely say around 8lb. The tiny hook was well down its throat so it was feeding confidently. Once the hook was removed we put it on the scales. They sped past 8lb and finally settled just short of 9lb, 8lb 13oz! I was lost for words. After photographing and putting it back I half heartedly recast and half hour later my friend took another tench of 7lb exactly. After this capture though I packed up and walked slowly back to the car in a daze.
I never went back to fish there again but many big tench were caught by others over the next couple of months before it all slowed down. The water had much publicity and finally the Tenchfishers wrestled the rights for it away from the club. Sixteen years later the water still produces the occasional big tench I hear but they have suffered over the years and are now tatty fish, a shadow of their former glory.