IFD: Well known Dublin angler Alan Walsh has been enjoying his tench fishing on the canals this Spring, proving you don’t have to travel too far from home to enjoy some excellent fishing. Here Alan gives his advice.
Tench along with Perch and Rudd are my favourite canal species and I fish canals all year round. Pike, Perch and Roach from October to March and Tench, Rudd, Bream and Hybrids the rest of the year. Although I have caught Tench in every month of the year, April to the end of June is the best time for them. They can come on the feed during a mild spell in Winter but it is hard to target them, usually catching them whilst fishing for Perch! At this time of the year, they will be held up in weedy, silty areas out of the wind and open to any available sunlight. The best times to target Tench are first light and late evening.
April 1st is a date I usually target Tench for the first time and as long as it’s not too cold I usually catch. Shallow, weedy, silty areas are the target swims this early in the season and I find the deeper stretches can be up to a month or more behind fishing-wise and spawning-wise.
Assuming the fish are in the locality I will only ground bait very sparsely, a couple of small balls of black lake or sensas brune canal being my favourite choices. Add some maggots, castors and feed some hemp (not too much) over the top. I’ll only loose feed after that, unless catching plenty, you might have to top up another couple of balls. On the hook I would usually use three red maggots on a 16 or 14 wide gape drennan or kamassan hook, or a worm on a size 12.
Early in the season Tench will take large baits like worms or a large bunch of maggots with gusto but as we advance into Summer and the natural larder in the canal fills up they get a lot harder to catch. You will have to scale down to a 16 hook and two maggots or castors at most, though a worm always stands a chance of being devoured. Sweet corn and bread can also be good.
Preparing your swim
First thing to do is to obviously find an area with Tench, when you do you will need to rake yourself a small swim. Make sure you don’t overdo it, you only need a couple of square yards to present your bait and fish comfortably. If you make it too big, the Tench will be wary of it and won’t settle.
Once you have your swim raked, introduce a small ball of ground bait and some loose offerings (hemp maggot castors and chopped worm). Don’t put in too much and spread the bait around the swim and even small amounts in surrounding weeds. This will keep fish routing around and ensure that it is not too easy for them. They are much more likely to pick up your bait if they are moving around rather than slowly sieving through a heap of food. With Tench, less is always best. Just keep loose feeding to fish as you catch them. I recently had 22 Tench in a 5-hour session in the Grand Canal and all I used bait-wise was half kilo of black lake, a quarter pint of maggots, half pint of castors, and a hundred grams of hemp. It is wise not to put too much hemp in and make sure you spread it about. Tench have a habit of inhaling hemp and blowing it back out, spreading around your swim, and then doing the same thing again and again with the same seeds. This causes a lot of fizzing in your swim and can be very frustrating.
I don’t pole fish myself, despite its obvious advantages (much easier presentation). I use a drennan 12ft 1.25lb test curve float rod and 2500 or 3000 exage reel. Any similar rod or reel would do the job. Line-wise, I wouldn’t go any lighter than 6lb stroft or gamagatzu mono, or similar quality line. If there is a weakness in your setup, a good Tench will find it! Tench aren’t usually line shy but you can use a good fluro carbon hooklength if you want. I usually use drennan or Kamassan wide gape hooks, size 16-10, depending on bait choice.
My favourite float choice would be a drennan drift beater or a straight crystal waggler fished lift bite style with the bottom shot about 3 inches from the hook. If fish are fizzing and you are struggling to get a bite, change this distance from 3 inches to anything up to a foot or try coming about 2 inches off the bottom. One other thing, always fish to the edges of the swim, tight to the reeds or lilies as brushing against the line can spook fish. This will happen quite regularly if you float is sitting in the middle of the swim. When fishing castor, I tend to fish a more delicate presentation on the drop at dead depth and with regular feeding of castor over the top have even caught Tench up in the water and in weed and on top of weed! On occasion when Tench are very active it is best to use a heavy bottom shot, an AAA or even swan shot close to your hook. This will stop the fish from blowing the bait out of the way while feeding which causes them twitches, dips, and rises of the float and no positive hitable bite.
As I have said, early morning and late evening are the best times for catching Tench, but sometimes on a warm humid, overcast day with high pressure they will feed all day long. Thankfully Tench are making a comeback in good numbers on many stretches of the canal and you can expect to catch them to 4lb or more, though I have caught them over the 6lb specimen weight in both the Royal and Grand Canal over the last few years. So get out and enjoy some great fishing on these wonderful waterways and wildlife corridors! Tight lines!