Fishing for Tench on Gravel Pits
Tench fishing on gravel pits is quite different from the tactics of estate lakes. Tench from a gravel pit in spring are a very popular species, inhabiting many of our still-waters and slower flowing rivers. In recent years the average size of tench has exploded with the specimens turning heads of yester-year barely batting an eyelid these days. At the center of the Tench, there are large, clean, food-rich gravel pits. These often large lakes provide the perfect environment for tench to thrive, often producing large specimens of glorious colors and sometimes spectacular fishing.
Tench Love Weed – Anglers Don’t!
When tench anglers first start fishing gravel pits, the first problem they encounter (myself included) is large quantities of weed. Rather than seeing it as an enemy, try to look at weed as your friend – it holds stacks of food and the tench love the cover it provides. Still, it’s not nice to fish into.
If the gravel pit is shallow, you may be able to spot clearer areas where the weed will not cause a huge problem. These areas allow baits to be presented without fouling up the rig, but at the same time, a sparse covering of weed makes the tench feel a bit more comfortable and less exposed.
If the bottom of the pit is not visible, using a marker rod or leading around are options. This is laborious work but the results are worth it – if you can get the hang of it.
The final tactic usually employed by locals for tench fishing is to rake a channel in the weed using a large weed rake. This is a good tactic if you have the weekend to your disposal as after the bombardment it can take some time for the fish to settle – but when they do fishing can be tremendous. This is particularly effective on gravel pits for tench as it stirs up the bottom, disturbing food items and coloring the water, making the tench feed with gusto.
Locate Tench on Gravel Pits
7lb 8oz PB tench from a gravel pit when fishing gravel pits, a common mistake I see anglers make is to turn up, pick a swim that looks ok, or that they have had success from before, then go on to blank. When arriving at the water, it is imperative to put yourself on the fish. Walking around the lake for half an hour before setting the fishing kit up will pay dividends – make no mistake.
Signs to look out for are:
Dark shadows cruising
Tench twitching lilies/reeds
Tail patterns in shallow water
Tiny pin-prick tench bubbles.
Beware of tiny bubbles which so many articles will have you believe are a sign of feeding fish, they are often a red herring… excuse the pun!
If you see tench activity, grab your kit and leg it with haste to that spot and get fishing!
In terms of features to look for when mapping out water for tench fishing:
Depth changes – drop-offs, shelves, bars, etc
Areas of sparse weed cover
Corner swims, especially those that catch the wind – even cold wind!
Gravel patches – particularly which are little known of by other anglers
Areas rich in natural food – silt patches that are home to bloodworm for example
All of which may contain tench at some time or another. But the best feature for locating them is seeing the tench themselves.
Timing and Weather Conditions
Traditionally tench are thought of a summer fish. My preferred time of year to target tench is spring. Once they start spawning I leave them in peace. It is difficult to provide a best time of day for tench, however dawn and dusk stick out as key times. This, however, can vary immensely from the lake to lake.
Dull days with a ripple on the water seem to be the most productive tench conditions. After thunderstorms fishing can also be berserk, providing you can avoid being struck!
Tench fishing a corner peg for tench in the wind when it comes to choosing a tench peg, I have found that the most important thing to look for is the windward bank. I would rather fish a rubbish peg with the wind in my face, than a favorite peg with the wind over my shoulder. If you can find a corner swim with a warm wind blowing into the bank, you will have almost certainly found some feeding tench!
Baits and Tactics
Hemp. I wouldn’t go tench fishing without it.
Hempseed is fantastic as an attractor for tench. I have found no other bait that draws and holds tench as well as hemp! A few pints of hemp accurately deposited via catapult or spod acts as a fantastic attractor. Some red maggots and/or casters added to this can often create very competitive feeding, especially with little and often feeding regimes. I have actually had tench take on the drop using this approach – with block-end feeders!
If two rods are permitted, I fish one on a blockend feeder (kamasan blackcap or fox jobbies being my favorite) and one rod on method feeder. A short 3inch hook-length accompanies the method feeder and a relatively longer 7-9inch hook-length with the blockend feeder.
If weed is not too much of a problem, the blockend feeder is a good tactic. However, if weed becomes a pain, using a method feeder, with the hook-bait buried in the ground-bait ball can keep the hook point from the weed. Also, using a method feeder, which is lower in density than a blockend or straight lead, helps prevent the rig burying into the weed.
If most tench anglers on the lake use a method feeder, you may well notice the blockend rod getting more bites. However, when the method is not overused, it can be absolutely devastating – tricking tench after tench after tench into the net. Red maggots are the hook bait of choice, and contents of the 2oz blockend feeder. Wrapped around the method feeder are scalded pellets of any type, which forms a lovely slick as the pellet mush breaks down.
For tench fishing at night, boilies can be effective (and indeed during the day). John Baker Frost n Flood or Mainline Maple-8 are two recommended flavors.
Rigs and Tackle
My rods of choice for fishing for tench are barbel rods in 1.5lb test curve. These 12foot tools are superb with a through action, however, if casting long distances or fishing very weedy water, 1.75lb test curve may be more appropriate. Reels are of small to medium sized bait-runner variety, loaded with 10lb line. I have been using Gardner GT80 in 10lb, however, this green line didn’t seem as effective as clear Berkley Big Game that I previously employed – getting less fish during daylight hours.
Bonus 17lb carp while tench fishing set up incorporates the carp leaders that proliferate at the moment. Alternatively, tubing can be used and can be effective particularly over weed when tench fishing, as it camouflages well among the stems of lilies or pondweed. Feeders for tench are in the form of inline Stonz weights used as a method feeder, or Kamasan Blackcap 2oz blockend feeders fished helicopter style.
For hook-lengths when feeder Fishing for Tench, I keep two different materials in my bag. Kryston Super Mantis braid is a lowish diameter coated braid I use for critically balanced rigs. Sometimes, however, I get a distinct impression that the fish can see the braid. In that case, 10lb fluorocarbon is the weapon of choice. I very rarely use hook-lengths longer than 10inches when legering for tench, which maximizes the self-hooking effect, and helps prevent them from sucking and blowing hook-baits without a twitch on the bobbins.
For bite indication, I use cheap alarms and light bobbins or swingers. I slacken the line between rod tip and feeder in an attempt to minimize line-bites which can prove both frustrating to the angler and spooky to the tench
Take a large landing net and unhooking mat for pit tench fishing, as often an amount of weed will come in with the fish, not to mention the chance of a bonus carp!
When fishing short hook-lengths with the method feeder, three fake maggots on the hair create a pop-up bait which often gets taken before the method feeder has been attacked, because they stand out so well. When using slightly longer hook-lengths with the blockend, using rubber casters in conjunction with real maggots on the hook creates a slow-sinking bait which can fool even the most finicky of tench