Hampstead carp and tench

There was a moment of drama during the recent school tuition day on Hampstead Heath, when one of the pupils connected with a large fish which eventually broke away. The general consensus was that it was probably a tench – one of my favourite species.

A few days later I came back at daybreak to try and catch one. It was warm, overcast and still:

Highgate boating pond

Nothing happened for a couple of hours, except that twice I saw large tench roll silently right over my bait. They have a way of smoothly breaking the surface with barely a ripple. As you can imagine this kept me in a state of tense expectation, but my float remained motionless.

In a shallow corner of the lake not far away, I could see signs of life – boils and splashes at the surface. I crept in quietly with my gear and after checking the depth, cast in with a piece of bread set to fish on the bottom. As a couple more fish showed I could see that they were carp, but I was still hopeful of a tench.

The float shot under and the rod started bending round before I could pick it up. When I did, there was a massive surge of power. I was only using a 4lb hook length so I had to just let it run at first. It took a few minutes to get it in the net, with the help of a mate who had turned up to fish just before – a 21lb carp:

Hampstead carp

A few days later I gave it another go. It was a misty morning:

Misty lake

I was standing there in the half light deciding where to fish, when a tench rolled right in front of me. That made my mind up for me, and I placed my bait in the exact spot where the tench had been.

An hour later, the float lifted and twitched before disappearing. A tench of 6lb 9oz was responsible – a handsome fish with its olive scales and bluish-black fins:

Hampstead tench

Soon after that, the rising sun started to burn off the mist and light up the far bank of the lake. Eventually its rays crept round to my corner, and I was glad of their warmth after the chill of the early morning.

Early morning sun on the lake