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Of tench and things - Notes from my May Diary

Posted by Shaun Harrison on 31 May 2023 |

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Here I sit in my writing cabin with the rain falling just inches away. I don’t know what it is, but the rain always puts me in the mood to get away from my desk and write. So, we are on the last day of May and I won’t be angling again until June, so why not write about another month that has flown by, I guess with all the bank holidays, I was having a lot of fun.

April had produced good fish for me, but not the numbers I would usually expect,and to be fair the start of May didn’t exactly kick in heavy either. I spent the Coronation weekend somewhere I didn’t really want to be, but it did signal 7 months alcohol free for me and that is something that made me feel as proud as any fish I may have caught. Although not a day goes by when I don’t think of alcohol, the desperate urges have finally gone. The strange thing is though that I now drink more beer (alcohol free) than I ever drank whilst being a heavy drinker. My choice was wine and spirit and only ever beer or cider when out at fishing meetings really.


My favourite alcohol free

To start with I had desperately avoided anything resembling alcohol and was supping copious amounts of Vimto, milk, tea, coffee, hot chocolate, Horlicks and lots of other things I wouldn’t usually have drunk. I had a desperate urge to drink and somehow, I convinced my body to be satisfied with those mentioned. It was only after a couple of months that I tried various alcohol-free beers and eventually found a couple I actually liked. Since then, have looked forward to these in the evening. My glass bin though looks more used now than it did when I was drinking!

Anyway, this is supposed to be about angling. The middle of May was my carp highlight of the month. I had stumbled across a fish in the edge during my lap of the pit and managed to back off without it seemingly noticing me. Returning with gear I sprayed some crumbed boilie close by which was enough to move it away whilst I positioned a hook bait. I was still setting the second rod up when the first was away and one of the bigger residents, a lovely clean looking mirror, was putting a smile on my face.


The first of 8

I thought that would be the swim messed up after that one but opted to try for a second. I had just finished setting my tarp up as rain was due. I love using a tarp rather than a bivvy where I can at this time of the year before the mozzies get too much of a problem, as I like to feel the breeze on my face and be able to stand up and stretch my legs in the dry when it’s raining.


Tarp was up

What was I saying? Oh yes, I had just finished setting up my tarp when the same rod was away again, and another terrific mirror graced my net. Two carp before I’d even managed to get my dinner on. I was a contented man.


Another animal of a fighter

I may have been a content man that first evening, but by the end of the weekend after 8 chances, I was more than made up. That is exceptional fishing on the Paradise Pit, it matched the most productive weekend I’d had there before. It really had turned out well with hardly any foot fall from visitors. Good job as the furthest out I caught was less than a rod length.


the stealthy approach on the bank and whilst playing them, kept the carp visiting

It is pointless doing a blow-by-blow account of each capture, but by concentrating on trying for one chance at a time, rather than setting out for a big hit, I had managed big hit. By the end of the weekend, I had only got through a kilo of boilie. Little traps of bait were what they seemed to be more than willing to drop down on as they passed by. I put a little more out on a different rod in seemingly very similar situation up the other margin, but that one never went once.

I had agreed to do one of my 24 hour 'Shaun Harrison Angling Experience' guiding sessions in the week which went well and I even managed to winkle a carp out for myself.


I even managed to winkle a carp out for myself.

The bait I had put together for the trip was the ever faithful Magnum White with Magnum Maple along with Mini Mixed Pellet and Microfeed with a bit of hemp juice and a tiny amount of hemp. A combination that simply works wherever I take it. I simply got bored using it over the years, but is still a main choice when I need to get some action.


It simply works everywhere

back at my syndicate, I was keen to replicate what I had done on my previous trip there but the carp were less willing to replicate what they had done. The inevitable visitors were my excuse for the fish seemingly keeping out the way and by Sunday, I knew I had to get off my bum and force feed one. I am a patient angler; many would say idle. I’m usually happy with my choices and confident the carp will slip up when they turn up, so do carry the waiting game out quite often. Why wouldn’t I? I can usually hold my head high in what I do. Similarly, when I do force myself to get off my bum and track one down, I can usually manage this too. I have saved a fair few blanks on a Sunday afternoon by packing all but the essentials away and going and hunting them out. That Sunday was to be one of those days. I thought I knew where I would find a couple and when I went to look, they were exactly where I had anticipated. A couple of minutes after lowering a bait in and spraying some boilie crumb over, there was a carp attached!


I got off my bum and hunted them down.

We all know about five minutes in the right spot, but I’m as guilty as most others for only hunting them out as a last resort.

Just around the corner I saw another opportunity and a repeat performance. Probably 15 minutes angling in all had produced so much more than 2 days in my chosen swim.

Now for something a little different from me.

Bring on the tench…

I had a rather eye opening and indeed interesting weekend this past weekend and thought I should share a little more than just the pictures I had posted on social media.

Paradise Pit

A reminder of just how close my favourite escape is

My favourite venue where I retreat to when I really want to get away from talking about angling (remember that has been my daytime job for over 40 years now) is known be a little tricky, but the carp which I usually fish for in there are far from impossible to catch, so long as you are given a little space. The fish are not particularly ‘riggy’, but they are very much angler/person aware. This is something I have found on a few relatively lightly fished venues where the fish soon learn to move away from any disturbance. It isn’t much for them to learn with only having us as their predator to avoid on most venues. Busy venues are obviously a different matter as they have few places to retreat to without still being in the firing line so live on edge all the time. The quieter venues, they spook and simply move off and chill. Well, in our terms that is what they do.

Anyway, when left alone I can usually catch these carp as demonstrated earlier in this blog. When people are walking around and visiting, it becomes a little trickier. Now this venue has other naturally stocked species in it which will have found their way in from the various floods it has been subjected to over the years. I have caught double figure bream there, but there appears to be very few of them as one with an orange dot on its gill accounts for most of the bream captures, although I have had a couple of others too.

The tench is a strange one. The first few years I fished the place I only saw a couple of mediocre ones whilst drifting around in the boat. It was several years later before I actually caught one. Now we all know that tench usually slip up to carp tactics. In the past couple of years, I have been catching them a little more frequently, but only ever one during a weekend session which still led me to believe there were very few there. They are of a good average size though for these parts, most being 7’s or 8’s with 9lb fish being caught and a double reported too. The largest I had actually caught there myself and weighed was hovering on 9lb.

Now with starting to catch them more frequently as well as other anglers catching odd ones too, it seemed to me that there were possibly more than we had at first thought.

Roll on to the last bank holiday of the month. It would be rude not to spend a bank holiday on the bank. So, in bright sunshine I headed my Land Rover in the direction of the Paradise Pit. I had been weather watching all week as I do and had an area of the pit very much in mind which I felt would come good for the carp on the Sunday and Monday. Being an extended weekend, I was prepared to wait for them to arrive and get things ready well in advance so that they would be entering an area with bait already in place and all setting up disturbances etc well out the way.

Although the carp move a lot on the pit and cover a lot of ground, I wasn’t so sure the tench did. So, I felt it the perfect time whilst awaiting the carp to set a rod up where I have seen tench before and have a go for a tench. I have spent a lot of time fishing for other species over the years. Barbel, catfish, chub, eels, grayling, perch, pike, trout, salmon and so on have seen me concentrate a lot of time toward and that is not mentioning the sea species too which I have had mini obsessions with too. Strangely enough though, I had not deliberately targeted tench since childhood. Not because I don’t like tench, but more a case of I simply didn’t seem to have many of interest within a reasonable distance from home to start to learn a little more about them and hone my approach. Don’t get me wrong, I have caught loads over the years and some pretty decent ones to, albeit accidental captures whilst targeting carp. There have been waters where I have had to change my approach to avoid tench, so I have a few things up my sleeve that I know tench really like. One thing that has been really noticeable is that they don’t slip up anywhere near as easily on a lot of carp rigs when compared to carp. I feel a lot of this is down to them being relatively slow when feeding, not dashing off for the next mouthful and when they hit a semi fixed lead, they don’t have the same momentum and body mass of a carp to start to drive what is often a large hook home.

I think I catch quite a few tench, because I use relatively small hooks with no added bits on the hook, unlike most carp anglers who seem obsessed on making the clutter around their hook bait as obvious as they can. No wonder most must put a pop up on to catch a carp.

Apart from the terminal presentation, I know that tench have huge preferences for some food items we introduce and others which they very much seem less inclined to eat. In fact, it was only when I started to use the Rock Pool Rahja on this water that I actually started to catch tench anyway.

So, that was the hook baits sorted if I was going to have a go. 15 mm Rock Pool Rahja chewed up a little to release the inner goodness quicker without needing glugs and soaks and the like.

Free baits would be the same, chewed up broken bits of boilie along with crumbed boilie and mini pellet with mixed Microfeed. The Microfeed is a part of my baiting at this time of the year regardless. I used it originally in the 90’s whilst fishing a pit in Leicestershire to simulate spawn. It was something which worked from the off and has been part of my armoury since The carp would become real difficult to catch after the bream had spawned and thinking they were probably simply getting preoccupied on spawn, I tried to replicate spawn as best I could but taking the trout angling attitude of getting the size right but exaggerating the colour. As I said, it worked from the off and has been part of my spring and early summer tactics for carp ever since. I have caught so many tench whilst using the Microfeed, that it had to be included here.


They really liked what I offered

So, with a couple of carp rods out just in case a resident fish was around, I set about sorting a rod for tench. I couldn’t risk dropping line breaking strains down as I was just as likely to hook a carp and needed the diameter to offer abrasion resistance, but I did make a point of using soft rods, small hooks etc.

The first bite soon came and a tench of just under 9lb was in the landing net. Not a fat fish at all, certainly not carrying spawn, so it had me wondering if they have already spawned and what that one may have weighed a couple of weeks before. I must admit I was absolutely over the moon to have swung things toward a tench and that was what I’d tempted. It had scrapped hard as well, forcing me to give line on several occasions.


A rather pleasing start

I was even happier just a short while later when another of 8.04 slipped up. The first time I had caught two tench in a session here.


The next wasn't far behind

When the 5th tench slipped up, I felt I had got something right and seemed as though I had the starting grounds for a few of these if I so wish to continue trying for them. I’m not sure really what I would tweak other than perhaps putting a second rod out for them.


This 7lb tench lowered the average weight down a little, but was still very welcome and probably previously un-caught


I could get into this tenching lark

So, May, ends and once again the rods have been flexed often enough to keep me interested. I wonder what June 2023 has in store for me?

Best wishes as always.

Shaun Harrison

About the Author: Shaun Harrison

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Quest Baits boss Shaun Harrison has put over 40 years of experience into developing his range of carp baits ” This bait range is the culmination of the bait knowledge I’ve gained throughout my carp fishing career, a journey which started in the 1970’s. It has truly been a long and winding road – frustrating at times, fascinating and rewarding at others….. Our range you’ll only find proven baits, the ones I use myself 

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