Tench from the Cambridgeshire Fens

Tenacious Sloth

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Hi, I’m Graham and am fairly new to this Forum (but not to fishing).

I thought I’d introduce myself by giving you a little bit of my angling history, followed by a rundown of what I’ve been up to in this, my first year back Coarse fishing since the 1970s.

It’s a long one - but you don’t have to read it. :)

I grew up in Cricklade, near to the Cotswold Water Park. I developed my love of fishing on the Ashton Keynes club waters fishing for Tench, mainly on Cokes Pit and Neigh Bridge.

In 1980 I joined the RAF and soon after found myself posted down in North Devon. The Coarse fishing down there seemed a bit patchy so I swapped codes to Game fishing and never looked back really. After discovering I could get a day off work each week to compete in competitions I soon found myself immersed in the Loch Style technique which involves fishing over the front of a drifting boat on the larger stillwaters and reservoirs around the country.

This continued for the rest of my RAF career across several postings and culminated in qualification for the England Team. After gaining several caps as a competitor I then managed the Team for a further three years.

I then fell out of love with fly fishing, almost overnight, just like that. It wasn’t any single factor, just a combination of several. It became a bit ‘samey’ and uninteresting. I’d also been over to Montana fishing the Rockies and, in comparison, fishing in this country seemed more and more like simple stockie bashing. It was also becoming very expensive.

That was five years ago. Have I missed it? No, not really. I’ve found other interests to fill my time. Like most blokes I know, I need to have at least a couple of hobbies on the go.

One of the hobbies that I’ve taken up in the last five years is cycling - a lot of it in and around the Cambridgeshire Fens. I often found myself cycling alongside a drain or ditch, noticing the preponderance of lily pads and wondering if they sheltered any tench?

There is surprisingly little information online about who owns the fishing rights on these various drains and ditches but eventually, after stopping and chatting with a couple of very helpful anglers, this summer I purchased a season ticket with the Ramsey Club, dusted off my 40-odd year old Mitchell 300s and got on the river bank.

On a nice summer’s morning, the drains can be a surprising picturesque place to be, with an amazing selection of wildlife.
6AA442CF-EC04-49F7-B095-08740D234C3F.jpeg
4145B90F-7D38-4410-A38F-BBC000300BDE.jpeg
The tench, also surprisingly, initially appeared reasonably willing to suck down my sweetcorn offerings, if I could get them down past the Rudd. There was also an occasional bonus bream to give a terminal tackle and landing net a good sliming.

I’ve probably managed about 15 tench over about a dozen sessions spread throughout the last few months (I didn’t really get started until mid-July). Most of them in the 3-5lb range with the biggest just a couple of ounces shy of 5lb. I lost a couple of bigger fish in the lily pads but have discovered this is the nature of the beast when fishing the Fens. I’m told they reach 8-9lbs which seems insane to me as the record by only a nads over 10lb when I last fished for them.
AE5B7A85-5123-4215-826E-B3D52A8A8B1E.jpeg 84EF4A84-6CEC-4CA3-BC17-39E7C60A16CC.jpeg 82FD758B-3C94-4767-A504-2432C6F28D54.jpeg 3EFD1CF3-9B37-4B6F-9A02-D017522382E1.jpeg 42F0D2F8-D847-4EA2-B0D6-19F2A7A9DBB7.jpeg EDDE7F19-24AB-473F-ABEB-71EAD56D5605.jpeg
Chatting to the other anglers I occasionally bump into (the waters near me seem very under-fished), chopped worm is considered the best bait with which to target Fenland tench, but I’ve stuck to a JGG Sweetcorn hook bait with loose fed canned hempseed to get them into my swim and feeding. This is purely due to laziness and ease of use as at the moment, as I can’t be doing with the hassle of keeping live bait in good nick. This may well change next season, but don’t mention this to my wife please.

I also stick to the float. This is just personal preference as all Fenland fishing is at close range and ledgering just doesn’t give me the same buzz that I get when the float lifts or dips. This preference for the float has it’s own problems though, as the flow on the drains and ditches is a lot more pronounced than you’d expect it to be, sometimes in opposite directions on the same day dependent on where they are pumping to and from for irrigation and flood prevention. There is also quite often a lot of floating detritus where the farmers have been maintaining the banks and keeping the reeds under control.

I’ve made this sound fairly easy haven’t I? Well it really hasn’t been. The Fens seem very moody. I’ve had a few long sessions up to 10 hours in duration where although conditions seem absolutely perfect, my float hasn’t moved at all. I’ve started thinking about how far the tench and bream move about the drainage system and wondering how to predict this? I’m sure things will start to fall into place over the next few seasons. I can’t wait!
 

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Welcome to Maggotdrowning Graham. Please enjoy your stay...Good descriptive post and look forward to your future writings...(y)
 

Neskin

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May 17, 2018
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Hi fella,

Im just south of you (St Neots) but haven't really fished the fens very much, although perhaps when the colder weather comes ill see if any of those big fens pike are still about!

Great write up and pictures! Hope you manage a big tinca next season!
 

Flathead

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The winter is the best time to fish for Tench on the fens and they can be caught in good numbers on many of the rivers and drains.

They are caught in the summer but seem to shoal more in the winter.....and are an easier proposition.....many fen anglers do not really bother with them until the winter.

Caster and chopped worms are the baits to use either in a feeder or pole.
 

Tenacious Sloth

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For fishing rights this is pretty up to date although some have changed


Yeah. Thanks for that Flathead. I eventually discovered that page myself (how old do you reckon it is?) and fished New Dyke on the Yaxley controlled area.

Lovely piece of water, perfect overcast weather, low wind, everything was perfect. Fished it for 7 hours. Nuthin! :eek:)

Apparently, a good area for tench and very close to where I live. I’ll definitely give it a go next season.

Not sure about the winter tench fishing though. I’ve turned into a bit of a fair weather angler as I get older. :)
 

Flathead

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Yeah. Thanks for that Flathead. I eventually discovered that page myself (how old do you reckon it is?) and fished New Dyke on the Yaxley controlled area.

Lovely piece of water, perfect overcast weather, low wind, everything was perfect. Fished it for 7 hours. Nuthin! :eek:)

Apparently, a good area for tench and very close to where I live. I’ll definitely give it a go next season.

Not sure about the winter tench fishing though. I’ve turned into a bit of a fair weather angler as I get older. :)
It was published in 1991 but is still very much up to date.

I agree about the winter fishing....the fens can be pretty bleak ( even in summer) but, surprisingly, that is when the Tench are caught in numbers.

There are a lot of videos on YouTube about Fenland Tench fishing and some of it may surprise you.....such as multiple Tench catches on the Ramsey 40 ft in winter and big catches on the relief channel in winter.

In the winter the weed dies back and the fishing is much easier.

You need to find the ledges on the drains as most fish patrol and feed on them......and the far bank is often better than the near bank.....probably due to less disturbance.

Best concentrate on a couple of waters and experiment....but Tench are a much better proposition in winter than summer on the fens.

Good luck
 

SUFC

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Joined
Aug 22, 2020
Messages
49
Hi, I’m Graham and am fairly new to this Forum (but not to fishing).

I thought I’d introduce myself by giving you a little bit of my angling history, followed by a rundown of what I’ve been up to in this, my first year back Coarse fishing since the 1970s.

It’s a long one - but you don’t have to read it. :)

I grew up in Cricklade, near to the Cotswold Water Park. I developed my love of fishing on the Ashton Keynes club waters fishing for Tench, mainly on Cokes Pit and Neigh Bridge.

In 1980 I joined the RAF and soon after found myself posted down in North Devon. The Coarse fishing down there seemed a bit patchy so I swapped codes to Game fishing and never looked back really. After discovering I could get a day off work each week to compete in competitions I soon found myself immersed in the Loch Style technique which involves fishing over the front of a drifting boat on the larger stillwaters and reservoirs around the country.

This continued for the rest of my RAF career across several postings and culminated in qualification for the England Team. After gaining several caps as a competitor I then managed the Team for a further three years.

I then fell out of love with fly fishing, almost overnight, just like that. It wasn’t any single factor, just a combination of several. It became a bit ‘samey’ and uninteresting. I’d also been over to Montana fishing the Rockies and, in comparison, fishing in this country seemed more and more like simple stockie bashing. It was also becoming very expensive.

That was five years ago. Have I missed it? No, not really. I’ve found other interests to fill my time. Like most blokes I know, I need to have at least a couple of hobbies on the go.

One of the hobbies that I’ve taken up in the last five years is cycling - a lot of it in and around the Cambridgeshire Fens. I often found myself cycling alongside a drain or ditch, noticing the preponderance of lily pads and wondering if they sheltered any tench?

There is surprisingly little information online about who owns the fishing rights on these various drains and ditches but eventually, after stopping and chatting with a couple of very helpful anglers, this summer I purchased a season ticket with the Ramsey Club, dusted off my 40-odd year old Mitchell 300s and got on the river bank.

On a nice summer’s morning, the drains can be a surprising picturesque place to be, with an amazing selection of wildlife.
View attachment 74461
View attachment 74452
The tench, also surprisingly, initially appeared reasonably willing to suck down my sweetcorn offerings, if I could get them down past the Rudd. There was also an occasional bonus bream to give a terminal tackle and landing net a good sliming.

I’ve probably managed about 15 tench over about a dozen sessions spread throughout the last few months (I didn’t really get started until mid-July). Most of them in the 3-5lb range with the biggest just a couple of ounces shy of 5lb. I lost a couple of bigger fish in the lily pads but have discovered this is the nature of the beast when fishing the Fens. I’m told they reach 8-9lbs which seems insane to me as the record by only a nads over 10lb when I last fished for them.
View attachment 74453 View attachment 74454 View attachment 74455 View attachment 74456 View attachment 74458 View attachment 74460
Chatting to the other anglers I occasionally bump into (the waters near me seem very under-fished), chopped worm is considered the best bait with which to target Fenland tench, but I’ve stuck to a JGG Sweetcorn hook bait with loose fed canned hempseed to get them into my swim and feeding. This is purely due to laziness and ease of use as at the moment, as I can’t be doing with the hassle of keeping live bait in good nick. This may well change next season, but don’t mention this to my wife please.

I also stick to the float. This is just personal preference as all Fenland fishing is at close range and ledgering just doesn’t give me the same buzz that I get when the float lifts or dips. This preference for the float has it’s own problems though, as the flow on the drains and ditches is a lot more pronounced than you’d expect it to be, sometimes in opposite directions on the same day dependent on where they are pumping to and from for irrigation and flood prevention. There is also quite often a lot of floating detritus where the farmers have been maintaining the banks and keeping the reeds under control.

I’ve made this sound fairly easy haven’t I? Well it really hasn’t been. The Fens seem very moody. I’ve had a few long sessions up to 10 hours in duration where although conditions seem absolutely perfect, my float hasn’t moved at all. I’ve started thinking about how far the tench and bream move about the drainage system and wondering how to predict this? I’m sure things will start to fall into place over the next few seasons. I can’t wait!
Enjoyed reading that. Do you normally get boat traffic going along the Fens?
 

Tenacious Sloth

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Enjoyed reading that. Do you normally get boat traffic going along the Fens?

Yes. But not many, two boats would be a busy day on the middle levels where I fish.

Can be quite a disruption though; particularly on some of the weedier stretches of the Old Nene. A canal boat churns up a lot of weed, and if there’s any surface drift, which there will be if the wind is anything over about 7mph, floating clumps of weed and reeds will be messing with your float and/or sunken line to it, for a good 30 minutes afterwards.
 

160642fishing

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The Old Nene at Benwick holds good Tench,I chatted to a bloke fishing it while walking my dog,he'd driven from Leicestershire to fish it and had done for years he said.They hold Winter matches on it and Tench usually feature in them.
 

R0B

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Joined
Nov 17, 2020
Messages
26
This is exactly the type of fishing I am looking for - 45 mins to Ramsey for me so may be worth a go? Similar to you, Graham, I have been know to let two wheels get in the way of fishing (to the point of it being work) but these days I have my priorities right :LOL:
 
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