Big Fish Column: Tench fishing continues to improve with maggott or caster feeder the tactic de rigueur

Ian Welch

Big Fish Column

Despite somewhat mixed weather conditions the local tench fishing continued to improve last week with a number of fisheries beginning to produce good fish to a variety of methods.

For big fish anglers the maggot, or caster, feeder is the tench tactic de rigueur and although it is a world away from the traditional float tactics espoused by Mr. Crabtree it is unbeatable on modern gravel pits where there is often the need to present hook baits accurately at range. The modern angler has a much better understanding of the feeding behaviour of tench compared to Crabtree too, in fact our knowledge has changed markedly during the last decade with the realisation that baits such as boilies, pellets – even sweetcorn – are far less effective than properly presented casters or maggots.

For properly presented read a couple of red maggots hair-rigged with an artificial maggot on a relatively small hook or a couple of real casters fished back-to-back with an artificial one – again on a relatively small hook, a size 12 or 14 is perfect. For maximum effectiveness the feeder should be set up ‘helicopter-style’, ideally on lead core, with a very short hook length.

Tench fishing like this is not, of course, everyone’s cup of tea and there is still much to be said for the sheer pleasure of watching the scarlet tip of a quill float fished lift-style in the margins with bread or corn on the hook. But, and it’s a big but, it is not an effective way to consistently catch big tench and if size is your thing.

Taplow’s Fred Jarvis is very much a modern angler and his approach to tench fishing involves a caster feeder set up as described above with a couple of big feeders presenting hook baits over a patch of loose feed comprising casters and mini pellets bound lightly with a little brown crumb.

Arriving on a local pit during the late evening Fred put out a bucket of his feed and clipped his rods to the mark ready to make a start before dawn the following morning. With the line in the clip it was a simple matter of getting his baits on the right spot in the pre-dawn darkness and his precision was rewarded with seven tench between 4 and 10am, all of them over 5lb in weight and the best two weighing in at 8lb 12oz and 9lb 6oz. Superb tench fishing by any standards.

If the traditional style of tench fishing is more your thing the smaller, or more natural, venues with a bigger head of fish are probably the better choice of fishery compared to some of the ‘inland ocean’ gravel pits and it was to one of the smaller waters that Marlow angler Tim Lewis headed for a day’s fishing last weekend.

An 4BB insert waggler was sufficient to position Tim’s scopex-flavoured sweetcorn close to a bed of lily pads from which he extracted tench of 4lb 14ox and 5lb 5oz. Both fish being safely landed on 6lb main line through to a size 14 hook on a 4lb 8oz hook length.

There are plenty of tench showing in mixed catches from the local commercial venues too, Ron Grainger netting two around the 4lb mark along with carp to 7lb and a few roach and rudd on pole tactics from West End Farm and Alun Smith fish of a similar stamp, along with carp to 10lb and bream to 4lb, on floatfished meat at Finch Farm.

Away from the stillwaters and the local rivers are looking in great shape with the start of the new season now just three weeks away. I took one of my usual pre-season sorties along the Kennet last weekend and boosted somewhat by heavy rain earlier in the week it was well up on ‘normal’ late spring level and pushing through nicely.

As all local River Kennet anglers know, particularly barbel anglers, all is not quite so rosy under the surface in respect of fish stocks and a good looking river may not necessarily be the harbinger of great sport. It is, however, a positive sign and it is always encouraging to kick off the new term with the local rivers in perfect trim.

Any anglers wishing to report catches may contact me at

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