The early part of the Spring I spent guiding other anglers to some great tench fishing with more than half catching personal bests and one angler landed an unbelievable tench of 11lb 11oz. By mid-May, I was raring to do some fishing for myself on a large gravel pit mainly fished by carp anglers. During this time I only cast a line a couple of times whilst waiting for anglers to arrive and unbelievably two bites produced a male tench of 7lb 6oz and a cracking female of 10lb 5oz!

My first trip was an exploratory one and I made a schoolboy error of not taking a weed rake. Most of the spots within casting distance of the bank were covered in a candyfloss-like weed that makes presenting small baits for tench nigh on impossible. I had to make do by using my landing net and though not ideal it allowed me to clear a gravel patch sufficiently to fish. The first day was fruitless, but a move to another area and more clearing weed resulted in a few tench including a couple over 8lb.

My next trip coincided with some warm weather and I felt confident from the moment I raked a gravel hump clear of weed and could see nice clean gravel.  I baited the spot with my normal tench menu of mixed Sonubaits 2mm pellets (S pellets, F1, Krill and Bloodworm), Sonubaits hemp and a few red maggots and chopped worms. The following day I landed a number of nice tench but the big ones were absent. I baited regularly and over the session started catching more and more tench as they homed in on the baited area.

At 6 pm on the second evening I hooked a fish on rubber maggots that immediately felt bigger, and so it proved when a big fish came over the net. I thought it might be a double but it fell an ounce short at 9lb 15oz.

All my fish were coming on my tried and tested method of heli-rigs with Xpert Power Mono hooklengths and Size 10 Korum Xpert Specimen hooks. Why change something that works and is reliable? The presence of a lot of rudd meant I was using rubber maggots more than worms as bait as the rudd were destroying a worm kebab hook bait within seconds of casting in on some occasions. The only change I made to my tackle was changing my faithful 1.75lb Xpert rods for 2.2lb Xpert’s and increasing the main line to 12lb Feeder Line to combat the weed, that was getting thicker by the day!

The following morning amid a good feeding spell, I again hooked a fish that felt bigger than average and after a battle that saw her get weeded a number of times, I netted what was clearly a double. On the scales, she went 11lb 6oz and was a stunning looking fish. I ended the week with over 40 tench so was raring to get back for more.

The following trip saw a recapture of the fish I’d caught at 9-15 at 10lb 6oz – I’m not a fan of recaptures but if you are going to recapture fish I’m all for them going over the magical 10lb barrier. As before I was catching tench in good numbers but gale force winds made casting and feeding a challenge. For four days the wind barely dropped and on the occasions when it did I took advantage of feeding more bait knowing the undertow would be less and more of the bait would end up on the gravel hump I was casting to.

One morning it was almost calm at first light and I took advantage to bait heavily with 2 bags of 2mm pellets and 4 tins of hemp. I thought the disturbance might put the fish off for a while but within 10 minutes I had a bite. The fish came into the heavily weeded margins like a small tench, but then started fighting hard. I could see it was a long fish was just debating whether to stay on the bank or wade out over the shallow water in front of me when I saw that it was a bream. Decision made – I grabbed the net and jumped in to wade out 10 yards to the top of the shelf. Within seconds I had the fish under my rod tip but unlike most bream, this one was a fighter and it shot away from the net 3 times before I could eventually net it. In the early morning sunshine, the scales looked like armour and the stunning fish weighed 15lb 13oz. Another couple of tench followed before a second bream took a fancy to rubber maggots and at 14lb 3oz made a brace of exactly 30lb. What a brilliant way to end the session.

My final trip saw me in a different swim and after catching some small tench a little voice in my head was saying, “go and fish the gravel hump, the bream might be there again”. Sometimes a hunch produces a good result but on this occasion it produced an undisturbed night’s sleep! Within an hour of dawn I knew I’d made the wrong decision but undertook to try and correct it by moving swim immediately. By 7am I was set up in the swim I’d started in. I was finding the feeder on the heli-rig was catching the weed, so I started to use in-line Grub Feeders. This proved to be a good move as I found the streamlined shape caught up in the weed far less. Fish came steadily through the day with best of 9lb 4oz and 9lb 6oz amongst an incredible haul of 33 fish.

As I normally do when tench fishing I wound in at night. Next morning I put more bait out and within half an hour had my second 9lb 15oz tench of the year. That proved to be my last tench of the Spring 2017 campaign as it soon became clear the tench had moved away. I suspect given the hot weather they were going to spawn so I packed early and came home to celebrate a successful campaign with a few beers.