You see, on some waters tench can become incredibly easy to catch, whilst on others they can really make you tear your hair out. There are a few factors which tend to give rise to easy tench fishing. A good head of fish is obviously important, but not always enough to make them feed on anglers baits. Relatively poor waters are much easier than the hugely fertile gravel pits, but such waters rarely produce the double figure tench I crave. Finally, competition with carp can make a big difference. Whether it is competition for food per se which makes tench easier to catch, or just the huge amounts of boilies chucked into carp lakes, I am not sure, but they are certainly easier to catch in lakes with a good head of carp.

Most of the water that I fish falls into the 'difficult' category. Despite often having lots of fish in the swim they can still prove incredibly frustrating to catch. I am sure that a lot of the reason for this comes down to food availability. Tench have quite a narrow band of prey which they take. Most commonly they will feed heavily on bloodworm, a little on freshwater shrimps and occasionally upon snails and mussels. The closest you can get to fishing with a natural bait for these timid tench is with the humble maggot and redworm. These are second to none in my experience and, unless eels make their use difficult, I will always use these baits on at least one rod and often I am quite happy with just these and nothing else.

If you are using these small baits then you must have some way to introduce them to the swim, which can often be some distance from the bank. You could use a big feeder, but I prefer to borrow a couple of methods from the carp angler. Firstly, I will often use a spod to introduce tight patches of maggots in the swim. By clipping up and casting at a marker float you can keep the bait as tight or loose as you want. Obviously, as the maggots sink you get some spread, but this is much more accurate than just about anything else.

Apart from a couple of weeks in the Spring, feeders are a big no-no as they will snag in the weed and you will lose a lot of tench. Instead, I use a bomb attached via a weak link and put the whole rig in a PVA bag. This I fill with maggots and trout pellets. The bag has the dual benefit of giving the same effect as the feeder, without the risk of snagging, and also stops the hook from becoming snagged on any stray bits of weed. I much prefer the knitted style of PVA to the solid bags for this type of fishing, not only can you give the bag a good shake, removing most of the maize flour, but these bags sink much more easily than solid ones which tend to hold a small amount of air.

I have written about the rigs I use for my tench fishing in the past, but a quick recap won't go amiss. For ninety percent of my tench fishing I ledger. This is not only because I am a lousy float angler, but because I believe it is often a more efficient method. When fishing at range it is the only alternative. Even in the margins, I prefer to be able to watch the water, looking for signs of fish, than staring at a float. I can also fish several swims in a morning without needing to plumb the depth, or mess about setting a float, which might disturb feeding fish.

You don't need a lot of terminal tackle for tenching. I use 8lb main line, 6-8lb flourocarbon hook lengths and Drennan super specialist hooks in sizes from 10 to 18. Add a few weights from ? ounce to 2 ounces and that is about it! My standard approach is to use a paternoster with a 2 foot tail and 3 inch hook length for maximum bite registration.

This works well when the fish are feeding, but when they are cruising around during the day I often swap to a more blatant presentation. This consists of the same 3 inch hook length, but fished helicopter style tight to the a lead of at least 1 ounce. The hook-bait is popped up by putting a tiny sliver of foam on the hook between the maggots. This rig has brought me a lot of bonus fish during the middle of the day when conventional rigs have failed. This is also a great rig to use in conjunction with the PVA bags to really make it stand out on the lake bed.

The final rig that I use, for fishing down the margins, is a semi-fixed bolt rig. A 6-12 inch hook length, with the bomb straight on the line and a backstop tied from powergum a couple of inches back is a good starting point. Not traditional tenching I grant you, but believe me all these rigs work and might be just the ticket for your own crafty red eyed monsters.