Tench are at their best from early April through to late June, this period being narrower or wider, or the time band shifting either earlier or later in the year, according to the conditions at the time. If that period is particularly mild then the tench will begin feeding earlier and will spawn earlier, or feeding later and spawning later if it tends to be cooler during that time span.

Most important is the fact that due to there no longer being a closed period I now have the choice of when to fish for tench. Now I can fish for them according to natural and logical dictates, ie, when the fish are at their best, and not when some illogical law tells me I can. Prior to the lifting of the closed season I had no choice but to fish for tench from 16 June till sometime in July when they had spawned and gone off the idea of feeding on angler's baits. From 16 June till the end of June, the period when tench were reckoned to be easy to catch was affectionately known as "Duffer‚s Fortnight". Now, following the same logic, we have "Duffer's Two Months or More". That is, unless you're so set against the lifting of the closed season you don't fish at that time and cut your nose off to spite your face. Me, I trust myself to fish when I have the best chance of catching something, along with what is best for the fish. Is that wrong?

Tench can feed exceptionally well in May, but in a year when there is a warm early spring it is possible to catch tench in numbers all through April and May as well as June of course. Last year we had a mild spell in late March and my first tench, weighing 8lb 4oz was caught on 31 March. Following that, through most of April, if you remember, we had fierce winds and snow storms, as well as terrible floods. April was a poor month for tench last year.

Given a warm April and May, however, tench fishing can be brilliant. They will often feed ravenously, and best of all, they will often feed all day long rather than just the early morning, late evening spell. Following the lean period of winter, when they hardly, if ever, feed at all, they seem to want to make up for what they've missed. What's more they are fighting fit. No build up of spawn to slow them down, and no exceptionally hot or cold water to make them lethargic.

They hug the margins more too, for the extensive weed growth that creeps out towards the centre of most lakes hasn't yet happened, for the number of daylight hours is insufficient to encourage growth and the water is still relatively cold. When the water warms through and the daylight hours increase there will be more emergent vegetation along the margins and, later, non-emergent vegetation along the bottom in the deeper water.

In April the new green shoots emerge amongst the dead brown ones from the previous year and the food creatures that live in the bottom are reawakened as the roots of vegetation grows and new shoots push through the crust. What all this means is that in spring, from late March/early April or thereabouts, tench will be searching for food along the shallow, warmer margins where the majority of natural food can be found.

The downside is that very early on in April the water will be gin-clear and in spite of the marginal cover you need to take extra care not to be seen. Crouching low and not waving a shiny rod about too much is essential. Also, be wary of using white crumb groundbait, or any particularly brightly coloured feed, for it stands out like a sore thumb on weedless gravel and especially weedless black silt. In fact I am not too inclined to use cereal groundbaits early on when the water is clear, but rely more on loose feed. This loose feed is most often maggot, caster and sweetcorn over a bed of hemp. My aim is to provide, initially, a meagre bed of nutritional food that is continually topped up as and when necessary according to how well the tench are feeding.

Although most of the tench I catch come in the early morning and the occasional fish or two in the evening, I often go for the night, just because it is then easier to fish those two periods at each end of the day. During the dark hours I will fish two leger rods but, not unusually on the Cheshire meres, surprisingly few tench are caught at night. As soon as it is light enough the leger rods are withdrawn and the float rod comes out. Not only is float fishing deadly for tench it is also exceptionally enjoyable.

What strength of tackle you use for these spring tench depends on a number of factors. If the marginal weed is not too dense you can afford to fish a little lighter than normal. If the tench are big ones of 5lb and over then obviously you will have to fish somewhat heavier. Personally speaking I have rarely found it necessary to fish really light for tench and the lightest line I use on the reel is 6lb, tied to a 5lb hooklength. In my view, in this day of increasingly better line strength/diameter ratios, there is no necessity to fish any finer than that for tench. For really big tench in weedy water I'll use 8lb reel line and a 7lb hooklength.

Hook size is obviously according to bait size, and can vary from a 14's for maggot, caster and single grains of corn, to a size 6 for a big lobworm. Very often spring tench prefer a big bait, and lobworm over a bed of caster, maggot, corn and hemp can be deadly. But when bites are few and far between don't hesitate to change baits and bait size regularly. No matter how many times you have caught tench on a certain bait never fall into the trap of thinking they will never want anything else. I would never go tench fishing without at least two other baits besides the so-called "banker" bait for the water. And that rule of thumb applies at all times for tench, not just in the spring.

Yes, spring tench fishing can be magic. So why not extend your "duffer's fortnight" to something more like "duffer's quarter"?