Dave Coster's Fishing Diary - July

Checking my diary, it was July last year when I caught some big tench from Denton Reservoir. As reports from local rivers were not good, due to lack of rain and steaming hot weather, I thought some decent tench fishing would do instead.

For my first trip I decided on a two-pronged approach: method feeder at distance and a cage feeder closer in. If anything was going to work more immediately, I reckoned it would be the cage feeder rig. So, while I kicked off with this, I catapulted several balls of pellet laced groundbait, out on the method feed line. Closer in I was feeding chopped worm, casters and pellets in a medium sized cage, starting with red maggots on the hook. Last year this method saw me constantly being pestered by small perch, but for the first few hours I couldn’t buy a bite. I soon discovered why when my quivertip sailed round and a jack pike resulted.

After that nothing, so I moved out with my other rod, moulding a loading of micro pellets onto a method feeder, with a larger Dynamite Durable Krill hooker as bait. I was hoping to get an instant response after putting that grub out earlier, but not a touch. I tried switching to bunches of maggots - still nothing. Not a good start.

Next trip to the venue I decided to take along some of the new hybrid style feeders, as a well as my favourite cage and method designs. The water was very clear in the reservoir and I thought the heavier hybrid models might come in useful for trying even further out. I set one of these up, loaded with pellets and groundbait, blasting it a long way.

It was a hot and sunny day and the place was surprisingly quiet, with only one other angler on the bank. I couldn’t even see any of the big carp cruising about on the surface, like you normally notice here. My quivertip didn’t move either, so out of desperation I set up a float rod and sprayed in some red maggots. It took a while to get bites on the float, but I did catch a few perch and some small roach. This was first time I had caught any roach from this water, which doesn’t seem to hold much of a head of small stuff, mainly I suspect due to predators. Nothing much else happened, so once again I went home disappointed.

Yet another trip to the reservoir and many long hours spent studying a motionless quivertip. The heatwave continued, and nothing seemed to be moving in the crystal-clear water. This time I had picked a shallower swim further up the west bank, where I caught some big tench last year. Although shallow, this area doesn’t seem to get as much weed as the rest of the place for some strange reason.

While catching nothing, I paged through my phone to look at some of the tench I have caught here, the chunky looking one in the accompanying photo being one of the largest. I didn’t weigh it because I’m not really into PBs. All big fish are special to me and the only time I think I about weights seriously is in matches, where the winning one will do me fine!

For my next trip, after three unproductive ones, I needed to go somewhere and catch a load of fish, so I decided on Lake Two at Priory. Match weights this summer have been on the low side on this venue and a few events have been cancelled, so the place had had a rest since my last visit. I didn’t want to fuss around tackling up loads of gear, so I just set up an insert waggler on a 13ft float rod, looking to catch anything that came along. The wind was behind me, so I found I could feed casters and 4mm pellets to the same spot between two islands, to try and discover which the fish preferred.

I got bites straight away on casters but loads of small fish, making me decide to stick it out with pellets. It took a bit longer to get any indications, but the size of fish improved immediately.

I started to catch skimmers and the odd better sized bream, finding a 6mm soft hooker pellet, fished a couple of inches over-depth was best. Quality roach also showed up, along with some fair sized rudd. It was action all the way, which was gratefully received after such a slow beginning to the month.

There were loads of carp milling about just below the surface, not looking very interested in what I was doing. This place is packed with fish, so maybe they have wised up to the methods anglers are using on matches? Or could it be they have sussed out to keep their mouths closed when there’s more anglers on the bank? This certainly wasn’t the case on this occasion.

I kept noticing small fizzes of bubbles down the margin to my left, so I started flicking a few pellets in the area. After a while I dropped my waggler tackle in the spot and the float went straight under. I was suddenly attached to an angry carp, which made me backwind 15 metres of line as it surged off. I was only on light tackle but managed to net a decent sized fish a minute or so later. The same thing happened again next drop in, making me think I had stumbled on something, not waving a pole about, which most anglers do down the margins these days.

A couple of better bream turned up next, followed by a string of good sized skimmers. It turned out to be a busy and very enjoyable session!

Reinvigorated, I made another trip to Denton Reservoir, determined to get amongst the big tench. This time the weather was slightly less hot, a bit breezy and overcast, conditions I thought would help a lot. I spent ages deciding where to fish, looking for any giveaway signs of anything moving. I kept being drawn to a large weed bed on the southern dam wall, where several times I spotted good fish rolling. I couldn’t make out what they were, but this was enough to make up my mind on fishing the area.

For the first couple of hours I fished a cage feeder over where I had seen the fish swirling on top, but all I caught was a couple of small perch and a 3oz roach. What to do next?

I have seen anglers catch big tench quite close in along this part of the dam wall, so I quickly set up a 9-metre margin pole I happened to have with me. I wasn’t intending to mess about, selecting a 14 hollow elastic top kit and a 0.16mm hook length rig. After plumbing up and finding around 5 foot of depth, I balled in three balls of groundbait, well laced with casters and pellets. I let this lot settle while persevering with the feeder.

Another hour passed, and I suddenly noticed a good fizz of bubbles over where I had put the groundbait. I quickly wound in the feeder and shipped out my pole, baited with double caster. The bubbles continued and were definitely caused by a fish grubbing around my float.

My pole float was there one second and gone the next. Around 3 feet of heavy duty pole elastic stretched out of my pole tip and something big wallowed around in a circle, just off bottom. Then the fish woke up and steamed off towards the weed bed. I held on with several more feet of elastic in play and there was an alarming bend in my pole, but everything held okay. Luckily, I was using an eyed hook. This is something I have learned to do with tench, because when they hit into weed with spade end designs, very often the spade cuts through the line. I could feel the fish barging through clumps of weed, but gradually it was nearing the surface. I stopped another run and suddenly it was up. Its huge paddle of a tail angrily slapped the surface. This was a very wild tench! I netted the fish and after taking a quick photo, put it my keepnet to let it recover and give me time to work out how to get a proper shot of it and its happy captor.

I threw another ball of groundbait in the swim and fed casters over the top. Fizzes of bubbles appeared again as a carp angler came along the bank to see how I was doing. While we were having a chat, I hooked into another fish, but as the elastic started to stretch out of my pole, it came off. The carp angler told me there are also some big bream in the venue, saying he had caught them well into double figures, but adding they can be very tricky to locate. This confirmed what other locals had told me in the past. Anyway, my new pal kindly took a few photos of my tench and I slipped it back.

Twenty minutes later I started to get fizzes of bubbles around my pole float again and it wasn’t long before I hooked into another decent fish. This one didn’t have as much weight to it as the last tench and I soon got it in my landing net. I took a quick photo and put it back. The facing wind got a bit nasty after that, making presentation difficult, so I packed up.

This is the bigger tench I landed earlier, a photo taken by the passing carp angler. It took a lot of hours on the bank to get some action but was well worth it. I shall have to return and try my new margin pole method again.

During the last couple of days of July, the weather changed at last, with some much-needed rain and cooler temperatures. This prompted me to go exploring on the River Trent, checking out potential swims and getting to know some of the famous stretches. I hope to report on my exploits there next time.

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