Tag: tench

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

Feeding frenzy

Another coarse fishing lesson got underway with a run of roach on the whips:

Roach on the whip

We did the usual rod and reel exercises, followed by a spell of waggler fishing. This brought the catch rate down compared to the whips, but gave my customers plenty of opportunity to practice casting, retrieving and general tackle control.

They had booked in for a six hour session, so we had time to break for lunch, during which I rigged up a method swimfeeder:

Method feeder

Lunch over and it was time to fish. It took about five minutes to get the first catch on the feeder, a beautiful tench:


After that, there was a bit of a feeding frenzy. Every cast brought either a fish or a bite:

Playing a fish

We had six bream, like this one:

Bream caught during a fishing lesson

Also a chunky carp. The larger fish were all coming to the method feeder, but the waggler rig continued to find roach. Taking turns meant that both anglers had a busy and varied afternoon.

Tactical changes pay off

Back to Picks Cottage Fishery for the first time since February. Started fishing on the Float Pond where it was slow going. I hooked a small carp on swimfeeder and worm but it came off. Apart from that I had just two missed bites.

The margins of the pond were mostly free of weed but with new lily pads emerging below. They will eventually cover the surface. A movement underwater caught my eye – it turned out to be a newt coming up to the surface (for air presumably) before diving quickly back down to the bottom. They were doing this every few minutes and I managed to catch one in my net for a closer look:


In the afternoon I moved to the Match Lake. I was pretty hungry by now, not having brought enough food with me, so a bar of chocolate and cup of tea from Jamie in the shop went down well. With energy levels restored, I got going again with a swimfeeder out to my right and waggler float and maggots close in to my left.

It didn’t take long to get my first fish, a small rudd on maggots. After a few minutes of loose feeding, with the occasional ball of groundbait, they were coming thick and fast. The problem was they were taking the bait straight away every time, so any larger fish present would not get a look in.

Amongst my maggots were some casters (maggot chrysalids or pupae). They have a reputation for selecting larger fish and I felt also that their darker colour would make them less obvious to the rudd. I decided to try them, also moving shot down the line to sink the bait more quickly, and fishing overdepth so the casters would be firmly on the bottom. My picture shows casters on the hook with maggots alongside for comparison:


With my new approach, the immediate bites stopped and I had a chance to sit quietly and take in my surroundings. The trees and banks were starting to green up and there was a lot of birdsong including what sounded like a sedge warbler. It was quite warm now with the sun dropping behind me.

My float finally moved and I swung in a 3oz roach. A minor improvement on what had gone before. Back in with casters and the waiting resumed. I was sorting out another bit of tackle when out of the corner of my eye I saw my float rod bending. Picking it up, there was a powerful surge from the other end and a major scrap ensued.

With the light gear I had to be careful and take my time. After some lively runs whatever it was calmed down a bit. I crouched low in the corner of the swim so my shadow would not spook it, and managed to persuade it over the net. A decent tench of 4lb 8oz, my first of the season: