Concentric circles emanate from the tip of my float as it dips momentarily. Not enough to strike at yet, so I give it a little more time.
Below the surface a tench brushes against my mainline as it turns toward a piece of yellow sweetcorn. With it’s pectoral fins, the tench steadies itself and in the blink of an eye, gills flare. From the bank I see my float vanish and I strike into a heavy fish.
The tench surges to the depths, my tackle takes the strain but there is no ratchet to be heard here. I’m not fishing with a centrepin. Instead, luminous elastic streams from the end of a pole. I hang on as the angry tench wishes it’d resisted that tasty looking morsel.
So why am I using a pole, why not a waggler or the lift method? Its all about versatility.
So what gear do you need to catch tench on the pole? In reality you probably already own most of it. Anything that you use for carp fishing on commercials will be well suited to catching tench.
Make no mistake; these natural water fish fight hard. Couple that with the features you might sometimes be fishing to; lily beds, Canadian pond weed and in some cases tree roots, you must have the utmost confidence in the pole you are using. Especially so when you are piling on pressure to stop a fish boring hard into a thick weed bed.
Margin poles are a great choice. For a start you don’t usually need to fish very far out so the length is not an issue. One offering seven or eight metres range will be more than sufficient. Margin poles are also much more durable than higher grade poles. They are also a lot cheaper.
For elastic I use both hollow and solid varieties, both for very different situations. I generally use the hollow elastics when fishing into open water or away from any visible snags. When fishing to underwater features, on shelves or bars. Here, I can use lighter hooklengths and smaller hooks. The hollow elastic will give me a little extra ‘give’ and cushion the powerful runs of the tench, reducing hook pulls considerably.
I use the solid elastic when there are significant snags or thick weed beds present, usually mid to late summer, and I am fishing close to them. The lack of stretch suits the hit and hold style which, coupled with the use of stronger lines and bigger hooks, allows you to apply surprising amount of pressure to stop fish reaching hazards.
In terms of end tackle, for 98% of the pole fishing I do for tench, a line of around 6.5lb (0.17mm) breaking strain is my first choice. I’ll use this when targeting fish up to around 7lb. I always use a hooklength of a lesser breaking strain, so typically around 5.5lb (0.15mm).
I use hooklengths for two reasons. The first one being fish safety. If I do become tethered in an unseen snag or I hook a larger than intended fish, should the situation arise where I get snapped, the chances are I will only lose the hooklength thus leaving the fish trailing just the hook, which it will soon get rid of.
The second benefit is that it allows me to scale down to lines that I think are much too light to use on a running line. Especially low diameter high tech lines. Maybe as low as 2lb (0.09mm) in snag free swims. Tench are notorious for being fickle creatures and can give crucians a run for their money in the ‘infuriatingly difficult to catch’ stakes. Obliging one day and shy biting for the other six. This ability to scale down, but still land fish, is obviously a great thing to have.
Hook size and pattern is, as in every other aspect of angling, dictated by bait size. Apart from maybe when fishing in thick weed, when I wouldn’t go any lower than a strong size 12 hook. For open water fishing I usually start on a size 18 medium guage hook with a wide gape. Any pellet hook would be perfect. On this I can fish pellet, corn and even sections of worm.
If I wanted to use a smaller bait 4mm pellet or cut down sweetcorn then I would have no problem in reducing this to a size 20, again in a medium gauge. Small hooks that are taken in a positive manner go in and stay in. I’d rather hook a confidently feeding fish on a small hook than one that is toying with the bait on a bigger hook.
Bait for this type of fishing is also very simple on the waters I fish. It’s fair to say pellets have changed the way we fish for most species. Roach, bream and tench, they have all been affected by the pulling power and the nutritional properties of the pellet. In my tench fishing there will always be a pellet of some description. Be that simply in my feed, on the hook or ground down to form a groundbait. The reason they have taken such a high place in my bait choice is that you don have to feed many to attract fish into your swim. With less bait, particularly small particles, there is less chance of the fish becoming preoccupied.
Swims like a Jacuzzi are, in my experience, no good for catching fish. They can have you tearing your hair out trying to distinguish line bites from real ones. Foul hooked fish are a sure thing. No, I would much rather feed a small amount of pungent bait and present one or two focal baits for the fish to home in on, be that a larger pellet, sweetcorn or worm. I very rarely use maggot and caster when fishing for tench on the pole nowadays. In my opinion there is simply no need to.
The obvious drawback to using a pole is the range you are limited to. I don’t see this as a bad thing though and I don’t let it worry me at all. Tench are great lovers of exploring marginal shelves, weed and lily beds. Reed stems and overhanging tree’s are also favourite haunts and most, if not all of these, can be found very close in.
As long as there is sufficient depth by which I mean anything over three feet, I am confident of finding tench. I think tench like to have a little water over their heads and in my experience, a deeper swim nearly always out fishes a shallower one. So lets say we’ve found a swim. How would I approach it?
Imagine we are in a swim and around six metres out there is a shelf which drops from three to five feet. I would choose to fish around halfway down the shelf. The base of the shelf will collect too much sediment; dead leaves and rotting matter I want to avoid. By fishing up the shelf our bait will be presented in an ideal location for feeding tench. They won’t have to upright themselves in order to take the bait.
Plumb up to fish two inches over depth and hold the rig in place. Feed a small amount of pellets at the top of the shelf. They will trickle down slowly or be moved around by any undertow. If no bites were forthcoming my next tactic would be searching the swim. A little to the left of the baited area or to the right. Sometimes I’ve found tench will hold off the free offerings and a bait presented to the extremes of this, will soon see the float diving under.
If searching the swim doesn’t work and you have an idea there are fish present, a few pin prick bubbles or similar, now is the time to start altering the rig.
Is there any undertow? If so, allow the rig to move with it. Let the bait trundle though. Often a tench will snatch at a bait that is behaving like this. They do this because its behaving more like the free offerings, which are also moving in the tow.
Its a case of trial and error, gaining experience and learning from it. Each water will be different, and each session on that water the fish will want a bait presented in a different way. Herein lies the beauty of using the pole. The speed at which you can adapt your presentation to find out what the fish want. As with any branch of fishing, it is always good to have options. Using the pole gives you the freedom to adjust depth, bait, hook size and hooklength diameter until it starts producing.
Sometimes fishing a few more inches over depth or pinning a bait hard to the bottom will work. Other times, even giving your bait a twitch can induce a bite from a curious tench.
Pole rigs drop lightly into the water, meaning much less disturbance while you carry out your experimentation.
If you were trying to do the same with a waggler set up, you would be causing more noise and movement, which is surely going to alert the tench to your presence.
Fishing for and playing tench on the pole is terrific fun. They are truly a joy to catch. Why not have a go yourself and put some of the ideas you have just read into practice You might just have a great time and land some quality fish in the process.