It was interesting reading John Bailey's thoughts about this season's tench fishing in the Angler's Mail the other week.
He was basically saying how dire the fishing had been for the species.. and I think I'd add to that, and say for most species? Saying that, I think the rivers have been in better form lately than stillwaters... how have you guys found it?
John then ran through some of the unseasonal statistics for earlier this year, with some months being the wettest, or the coldest, for quite a while... and as most of us who've been on the bank regularly, don't we know just how unsettled it's been out there!
Am I looking for excuses... no, but it has been bloomin' frustrating! Gary and me can catch fish, and I know we've picked a hard water or two for this years tench/carp campaign, but boy we've struggled.
With regular trips to our chosen lake in Bedfordshire, and even swapping for a couple of sessions on another club water close by, hasn't helped us much. Well Gary did hook one reasonable cat, but as he steered into the net, his hooklink snapped, only for the net to get caught in weed and me not able to lift it as the cat turned tail and made its escape... sorry mate!
But that's how it's been going, and when we got out the following week, it was just as crazy.
Heading for this same lake again, with thoughts of getting amongst the cats again, it was only as we got to the end of the road near the lake that we could see the place was rammed!
Now one of the main reasons Gary and myself pick these waters is obviously for the fish, but also for the solitude, with just one or two other anglers usually sharing the water, as after a hard week at work, we want a venue with some peace and quiet.
So, we didn't really have a choice, it was back to our original lake. And even then, on arrival we realised that they'd closed off one side of it for other activities, so we were forced along the bank where we'd tried before, and not had much luck, and it was also quite heavily weeded.
Oh well, thinking our options were becoming limited, we picked a double swim, might as well have a social, put the world to rights, and get the kettle working overtime.
The gear is unpacked, the rods broken out. Gary sets up the marker rod and has a cast, then another, and another, 'Do you know what, there's no weed, it's clear out there!'
'Hmmm, looks like we could be bream fishing then?' is my reply. Gary positions the marker at a reasonable distance, in the centre of the swim, and it's not long after that we lay down a loose bed of pellet with the catapults. The plan is for us to fish a couple of rods each, on either side of the marker, with hope that the bream will graze across this patch of gravel/silt in front of us.
We don't stop there, as it's a four rod limit here, and as I'd brought a large carton of lobworms, originally for the cats, we both chuck out a bunch of worm into the margins, as this water must have eels in it, as the river Ouse runs round the back of the venue.
As evening sets in our hunch is soon proved right, as there's a tug on Gary's worm rod, that carries on with intermittent beeps, and an indicator that bobs up and down, he holds the rod until he's sure there's a visitor, then strikes.
A dogged fight ensues, but Gary's in charge, and we soon have this one in the net. It's nearly dark now, and after weighing we sack our lengthy friend for a mornings photo call. The eel goes 4lb 3ozs.
I'm then on ghillying duty through the night as one of Gary's pellet rods seems to attract most of the fish in the area... or so it feels at the time!!!
Around 11pm his alarm gives a short burst of activity, and he's in again, a short fight and we're looking in the net at a fair size 'slab'. The scales register 11lb 9ozs... and his net is well slimed!
Within a couple of hours it's a repeat story, on the same rod, only as Gary steers bream number two towards the net it slips the hook, and all we're left with is an excuse to make some more tea!
During all this time the other rods are giving out the occasional beep, and the odd liner, but only one rod is doing the business, and in the early hours it's off once more, with this run producing a reasonable tench of 6lb 4ozs.
The kettle is working hard this trip, and as we glug down a warming cuppa, I'm joking that after an eel, a bream, then a tench, all he needs now is a carp... Gary smiles, and mutters that we're just coming into the best time for carp. I then mention that if catches a blooming carp next, he's going in after it! And then head for my bag, laughing.
The carp doesn't appear, but there's one more fish to be had. Our worm rods have been getting little taps and knocks all morning, and we put this down to small stuff nipping at the worm tails, and after one big tug Gary pulls in to find his worms well chewed. Fed up with the constant little beeps, he decides to try a couple of maggots on the hook, and plops it back in to the same spot.
It lasts about half an hour, before ripping off, and soon another tench is laying on the mat.
There's only one thing to do, and as the old saying goes, 'If you can't beat them, join them', I put out my own maggot rod... it sits there for the rest of the morning... and I don't get a touch, oh, how I love fishing!
At least we caught two of the targeted species we went for... even if they did both come out to Gary's rods!
Talking about John Bailey at the start of this story, I was lucky enough to get an invite to a filming session for the Fishing in the footsteps of Mr Crabtree series, which I'll be writing about soon, so keep an eye out for it.