Brighter days and fishing lessons learned

The odd northerly wind aside, things are feeling a lot brighter this week. As usual, late winter has been a topsy turvy affair, messily stapled to early spring. The daffodils are out and some tench are even being caught, but you can still end up with frostbitten knuckles.

With all the chaos of the world right now, the escapism of fishing is more welcome than ever it must be said. Although in my case, the last week has been a bit of a battle. There I was, enjoying coaching again and enjoying some decent match and pleasure fishing in the sunshine. Then, suddenly, I had two or three days of murderously sore throat and fever. I also had some weird and very lucid dreams, one of which involved Boris Johnson and sweetcorn. Goodness knows where the hell that stemmed from, but I am now on the mend and no longer in Narnia, thankfully. So, where do we start this month?

Match fishing and early tench on Tiverton Canal

match fishing DEvon tiverton

I can’t believe we’re already four matches into the league with Tiverton and District Angling Club. Whether or not you like to compete, there have been some interesting catches to be had. The tench, especially, can be hit and miss this time of year, but have shown quite well. And with a bigger than usual showing at recent fixtures, we’ve been using the Greenway stretch twice in as many weekends.

tench fishing Devon lessons

Now, recent matches have been inconsistent for yours truly. I had a truly abysmal outing on the Taunton to Bridgwater Canal, not managing so much as a pound of tiny silver bream and bits from round two. The following week, I had an end peg (number two at Greenway), however, and managed to bundle four pounds-ish of silvers plus a rogue jack pike into the net for some decent points. But where were those blooming tench?

Yesterday, I hoped I would finally have my answer, with a feature-packed peg 7. Now, it’s fair to say the most consistent tench pegs are the “bay” area- with some huge recent nets of 10KG+ and that’s in match conditions! The nice thing about the club having permanently numbered pegs is that if you’re a pleasure angler you can go right to the spot the most recent catches came from (anywhere from 19 to 24 lately).

Back at the last contest and my peg at 7, while well away from the likely winning pegs, looked good for a bonus fish or two. It’s easy to just go plunging in for a bigger fish, especially with a decent far bank feature or two, but the best policy is usually to feed for the tench and leave them well alone for at least an hour. This way, you have more chance to get them settled, rather than getting a quick wallop and then spooking the rest. The same principle goes for pleasure fishing.

What I didn’t expect, therefore, was a bonus fish so early in the match, fishing a tiny 2mm bit of bread off the bottom, right down the middle. I had a lovely solid bite among the tiny dips from “blade roach” and suddenly the light elastic went AWOL. It was hairy going to put it mildly, and it seemed to sense that it had a good chance to smash me up. What a start, a 4lbs bream in the net and I hadn’t even tried the tench lines.

The rest of the match was tense, however, as I just couldn’t get the far bank lines going. Well, I say that, but fishing just off the cover as the bottom shelved away, I had around eight very welcome perch and a couple of rudd to add another pound or so. But with two other anglers latching into tench, it was now anyone’s section.

I needn’t have been too worried in the end. By topping up every half hour or so with smaller balls of chop-laced groundbait, I kept the swim going and eventually the marauding perch gave way to something better. For the record, I like quite a heavy groundbait for tench, usually a bit of VDE Supercup mixed with just a hint of Worm Fishmeal and crushed hemp, which I bulk out a bit with molehill soil. Nice and dark, with plenty to hold a browsing fish.

It was a match for sticking to the plan and holding out, because the swim only produced well after the half way mark.  On about three hours, I had two tench in two put-ins (phew, I almost typed ‘Putin there’, a vile excuse for a man I would place lower than a dendraboena).

Both of my tench fish fell to worm and caster cocktail, a great choice for tench. Alas, after that, I just couldn’t find another, but was confident I would be in with a shout of the section, if not top 5 overall.

It was super tight at the weigh-in. League leader Dave Pulman had managed four tench on the next peg- but with my big bream and extra perch, it was incredibly close. I was pipped to section second and 5th overall by just 80g in the end! Never mind, it had been a really enjoyable match and 9/10 league points would let me climb the table to a respectable 7th overall, with all to play for.

Coarse and carp fishing lessons in Devon and Somerset

Away from the match scene and my Angling Times stuff at the minute, it’s also been great to provide some great fishing sessions to guests here in the South West. I use all kinds of venues to coach these days, but Goodiford Mill tends to be excellent for variety and consistency.

learn to fish Devon

The Silver Lake in particular, has some genuine surprises and is absolutely perfect for float fishing. It looked a real picture on my last session. Quite literally, as one of my guests, Marisa, decided to do some painting while son Noah and brother Cobus tried pole and waggler tactics for a mixed catch.

We couldn’t find any tench on the day, but the bream and roach were superbly obliging. I’d taken a real smorgasbord of bait, including worm and corn, but we never really needed to look beyond maggots for lots of bites.

The pole worked best of all, with Cobus and Noah catching well thanks to taking on board some key lessons. One was to plumb the depth with care and only have the merest bit of float tip showing. The other was to keep trickling in loose feed. Not by the kilo, but half a dozen maggots every single put in with the odd nugget of groundbait.

All things are relative in fishing, and while we had several bream that needed the net, arguably the fish of the day was a cracking gudgeon! Even in small hands, some of these fish are titanic at around the two-ounce mark. Excellent work- and who doesn’t love a gudgeon??

Coarse fishing lessons Devon

In other guided trips, I have also started to offer guided carp fishing lessons in Devon. This is not perhaps the main string in my bow (in terms of demand, fly fishing is the main event) but something I enjoy a lot with the tuition. I can show you how to set up bolt rigs, alarms and the rest, but I also definitely like to keep an open mind with carp, whether that’s stalking with a float rod or even casting a fly at them.

On an eventful trip to Hatchlands Fishery, near Totnes, James Breedon certainly got his string well pulled by the carp present. His ultimate plan is to take British carp fishing tactics to America, where he’s based. Hopefully, following our day out, he now does so with plenty of confidence and practice at doing all the basics like baiting up, casting accurately and fish care. Nice work!

Carp fishing lessons in Devon Somerset

Check out my guiding page for all kinds of fishing experience days and angling lessons! With over 30 years of experience in Devon and Somerset, I can deliver great variety, from beginners’ coarse and carp fishing sessions, to fly fishing tuition.

Until next time, tight lines and do look out for me in the Angling Times each week. Coming up, I’ve got some fascinating articles on everything from fish behaviour to Brexit impacts, not to mention my regular “Last Cast” column.

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