This is not only because I have never caught a really big one, but also because I am fishing for them on a rather special venue, where I can hope my dreams will be realised. A big gravel pit, with a not inconsiderable stock of tench, little fished for many years, are the reasons I drive 180 miles every couple of days to fish, why all my holidays are spent in a frantic eight week period before the weed completely engulfs the lake.

Having very few other people fishing these lakes makes the fishing even more exciting, and means that new techniques have to be developed on a trial and error basis. The trouble is, with no one to compare results with, it is very difficult to work out whether you are actually getting better or worse! Just because you are catching more fish doesn't necessarily mean your tactics are better. Perhaps the fish are feeding more confidently, or they have moved into your area? How do you work it all out on your own?

Fortunately, some of the parts of the jigsaw puzzle fall into place quite easily. The tench in this lake like to show themselves, which is a great advantage when it comes to location. Arriving as I do in the evening gives me the chance to observe the fish rolling at dusk. I can generally predict where they are likely to be now, but I still like to check. I can then set-up at leisure, so a bit of raking and baiting knowing that I will be all set to make the most of the dawn period.

Tench are also keen to follow features, of which there are not too many, so not only can you find them, but finding the spots to place your baits is not too difficult. Tench are no different from other fish in this respect. Watch for them rolling, noting as closely as possible the exact positions and then when they have finished have a good plumb around until you find the reason why.

Although I know several swims well I will always use the plumbing rod to locate the exact positions that I want to fish. I then mark the lines on the rods and also on the plumbing rod and spod rod (more about which next week). You can catch a few fish by being almost on the hotspots, but get your bait position just right, and that often means within a couple of feet, and you will catch a lot more. Some spots they will obviously use more than others and if they are willing to show you these spots it would be rude not to make the most of them!

Bars have proven a good starting point in the deeper water, although just getting it on the bar is not enough. When the weather is not so warm the points where the bars dip are often worth a try. When the sun is really high in the sky, a bait placed in very shallow water on top of the bar will pick up the odd fish when nothing else will work. Conversely, in the margins and the shallower parts of the lake the tench seem to prefer the deepest water they can find. This can mean the steepest marginal shelf, or more often, a very slight depression in the lake bed. One particular swim has a trench no more then four inches deeper than the rest of the water around it, yet the tench will consistently show and feed in this slightly deeper water. I guess they feel a little bit safer in this trench as the water around them is no more than three feet deep. Soft organic silt is also likely to collect in the trench, meaning more bloodworm, the staple diet of the tench.

Another feature worth seeking out are snags and overhanging trees. Whilst tench are not normally associated with these features, on some lakes they can be very productive. Tench generally prefer to feed under low light conditions. As the day progresses the dark water under an overhanging tree might be just the spot. I have one such spot that can produce fish right through the day, and is often more productive outside of the normal dawn and dusk periods.

So you have found your tench, located, mapped and marked the spots where they are going to feed - that's the easy bit. Next week I'll look at how to go about getting bites.