Hooked on Tench

The author expectant in the early morning mist. Hooked on Tench.
The author expectant in the early morning mist. Hooked on Tench.

Hooked on Tench

By Piscator

As October approaches, many anglers look forward to the glorious first, when the leash of the closed season is removed and they are free once more to indulge their passion for angling. Set loose upon their favourite waters, again they pursue the wily browns and impetuous rainbows with the fly rod, nymphs and dry fly, with spinner, lure and bait. For years this has been the set pattern and will continue to be so for the majority of New Zealand anglers, yet for a growing band of anglers, October heralds hopes, dreams and plans of a different nature. In Hooked on Tench we’ll take a look at a different style of fishing.

I refer to the increasing numbers of coarse fish anglers who are discovering, rediscovering and continuing to enjoy the pleasures of angling for our less esteemed varieties of acclimatised fish.

Fish such as Perch, Tench, Carp and the much-maligned Rudd. For the coarse fisherman or woman, October with its increasing temperatures turns his/her thoughts to deep-bodied, golden olive tench.

Visions of mist-shrouded waters in placid, dawn tranquillity or warm, summer evening twilight, spring to mind. A red-tipped quill floating alongside lily pads, bubbles rising around it, betraying the feeding fish below.

Watching the red-tipped quill float, waiting, and hoping, it will disappear beneath the surface. Hooked on Tench.
Watching the red-tipped quill float, waiting, and hoping, it will disappear beneath the surface.

The whole scene, trees and sky, reflected faithfully in the mirror-like surface of the water, until the float dips, breaking the spell, and the angler who has been sitting quietly in restful concentration, is galvanised into excited anticipation and as the float slides away under the surface, lifts the rod to the weight of a powerful fish, deep beneath the surface. Anxious moments, while the tench makes surging runs for weed beds and snags, that first glimpse of the broad flank as the net is readied and the fish is drawn, inexorably toward it.

All this is part of the enjoyment and excitement of tench fishing, and much more awaits the angler who sets out to catch tench. The very uncertainty of tench fishing may only serve to feed determination, for the tench is a demanding quarry never to be counted on, a fish of mystery, cloaked in secrets and folklore. In the not-too-distant past, the tench was known as “the doctor fish” because it was thought that any ailing fish of other species which rubbed against its mucous-covered skin, would be cured of its sickness.

The tench angler may be called upon to sit quietly and patiently for hours on end, watching a motionless float in water, to all intents and purposes, devoid of fish. The mesmeric effect of this on a balmy day, accompanied by the drowsy hum of insects is likely to have a soporific influence. However, at the first bob or sideways movement of the float, our intrepid angler is all wakefulness, his predatory instincts honed to a fine edge. Where is this species found in New Zealand?

Often the angler must be content with one or two fish and looks forward to that, an all too rare occasion when all is action and several fish are landed in one sitting.

Meanwhile, the angler dreams and schemes ways to get the upper hand, experimenting with new ground bait (burley) mixes to attract the fish and new hook baits to tempt them. From macaroni to sweet corn, luncheon sausage to potatoes, bread to worms and any other concoction which will stick on a hook. There is no limit to the tench fisher’s imagination.

The tench is a shoal fish, a browser of the bottom and omnivorous in its nature. Amongst its natural foods are bloodworm larvae, snails, beetle and dragonfly larvae and omnivorous in nature. Amongst its natural foods are bloodworm larvae, snails, beetle and dragonfly larvae and molluscs, where these are present.

Frog eggs and tadpoles are probably on the menu when available too.

Lethargic in cold weather, the tench is thought to hibernate in bottom mud through cold European winters. Here in New Zealand, it may feed spherically until temperatures start rising in the spring. Feeding begins in earnest when water temperatures reach 15 degrees Celsius and 17 degrees is the trigger for the spawning activity to commence.

The tench is sometimes called the "doctor fish".
The tench is sometimes called the “doctor fish”.

Spawning in Christchurch usually takes place in November when fishing can be a bit patchy for a couple of weeks but like most species on completion of spawning, hunger reasserts itself and from now on the chance of catching several fish at one sitting is much increased, and good sport can be had right through summer and into autumn when water temperatures begin to drop.

A short powerful body, coupled with large paddle-shaped fins makes the tench a formidable fighter. Its speed and length of runs will often rival that of trout and it is also a dirty fighter, seeking the nearest snags to bury itself in.

Owing to this propensity, it is seldom wise to use anything less than 6lb breaking strain nylon and a rod powerful enough to apply pressure enough to turn a determined fish.

There are many varied rigs used to catch tench, which I don’t intend to go into in this article. For information on rigs and tips for coarse fishing, see Coarse Fishing Corner on the fishingmag.co.nz website. It is full of information for the would-be coarse angler.

Why not give coarse fishing a try? When trout streams are low and salmon rivers are in flood, and hot days drive lake trout deep, have a change of pace. Try your hand at tench fishing, but a word of warning here. When you have hooked your first tench and are about to slide it into the net, don’t be surprised if you find that at that moment, you are, like me, hooked on tench fishing.