Well, after what had been a very lacklustre couple of seasons, this spring I finally managed to turn it around and started to catch some proper quality fish again. Over the course of a few weeks, I smashed three existing PB’s, including one that had been on my ‘to do’ list for a long time.

The first session, had me itching to up my eel PB, one that had been niggling me for nearly 20 years. Despite having a few half-hearted efforts over the years, this time I was going to have a proper go at it, deciding to dedicate the entire Spring and Summer chasing one special leviathan. I knew of a venue that had done big eels in the past, so thought this would be the ideal place to start my quest.

Mike catches an Eel

After weeks of walking round and looking for suitable spots to target, I finally decided on this one particular area, as it looked very overgrown and clearly unfished for a long time. Knowing I wouldn’t get a chance to actually fish it for a few weeks, I decided prebaiting was the way forward, as even without fishing I would pop down very regularly feeding the area and hopefully draw some fish into the zone. I started baiting every other night, for three weeks, with a mixture of dead maggots and minced fish.

The spot was very snaggy and obviously unfished, as the swim in question was almost completely overgrown and inaccessible. The area directly in front of it had about 5ft of dense weed in around 8ft of water. After all the baiting, and once I finally came to fish it, I had to cut out a swim to be able to even set the rods up. That wasn’t much fun in the searing heat, but needs must. Once I had cleared a small area, I then set about getting the rods out. Due to the proliferation of weed I elected to fish a bunch of worms on a Dyson rig, about 15 inches under the surface on one rod, and a small section of mackerel on a similar rig on the other.

I missed a couple of takes early on, just after dark on the worm rod, but in the early hours, I finally connected with something that straight away felt very substantial. After a short but frantic battle, I saw a huge eel twisting and turning in the torchlight, and after a couple of close shaves with the net, I finally scooped it into the mesh. I knew straight away I had blitzed my old long standing PB of 3lb 10oz, but could hardly believe my own eyes when the needle on the scales flew straight round past 5lb, eventually settling on 5lb 9oz, and on my first night of my campaign!

That was the only fish of the session, though I did miss a couple of other hesitant takes the following night. Interestingly, I didn’t have a single knock on the rod with the fish bait, but switching that over to worms for the second night, attracted a couple more dropped runs, so I thought that next time, I should just go all out on the worm attack.

Tackle used was a 10ft 3lb hand built rod, a Shimano 6010GT reel, 30lb Gardner Kinetic Braided Main Line, 28lb wire, and a nice strong size 8 Gardner Covert Dark Wide Gape Talon Tip.

After that, I was understandably on Cloud 9, but my Spring was about to get even better. The following weekend, saw me fishing another big gravel pit, not too far away, on a social event. I wasn’t really expecting much, as having tench fished here in the past, I had only ever had one Tinca out in the previous 8 years, and though on a social, chucking out some maggot feeders might winkle out a bite from something.

Kinetic Braided Main Line
Target Fluorocarbon

Having fished this particular swim before, I knew there was a tasty 7ft deep gravel hump in 11ft of water about 20 yards out, so this would be where I would deploy my main attack. After an initial spoddage of about 3 pints of mixed live and dead red maggots and a couple of pints of hemp, I stuck two maggot feeders onto the hump. Both featured helicopter set ups, one with popped up maggots on a size 12 Target Specimen Hook, and the other with a worm kebab rig on a size 10 Target Specimen Hook. A cheeky third rod also fished on a worm kebab, cast down the right-hand margin into about 5ft of water on a freshly raked gravel spot. All rods were using 12lb Gardner GT80+ mainline, with totally stripped back supple 3-inch Target Speciskin hooklinks.

I only had one small bream on the first night, but a steady trickle of bait and regular casting, saw a take on the worm kebab on the gravel hump just before dawn. Initially I thought it was just a small bream, as the fight was very uneventful and the fish more or less just bimbled in towards me. Only once I had netted it, I realized it was a very special tench. I was expecting it to be a large ‘10’ or even an ‘11’, so I was totally gobsmacked when the needle spun round and finally stopped on 12lb 2oz, smashing my previous PB of 11lb 8oz. With all the photos and congratulations done, and the rods recast, I decided to get my head down to try and catch back up with my beauty sleep.

A couple of hours later however, I had an absolute screamer of a take. In fact, the fish managed to wipe out both rods on the hump before throwing the hook, but as soon as I had untangled them, I cast back out. Amazingly, despite the disturbance, I hadn’t even clipped the bobbin onto on my second rod, when the line was pulled from my fingers. Another lackluster fight followed, but like the first, before long I was yet again looking down into the net at yet another enormous Tench! This one looked even bigger than the ‘12’. Surprisingly, on the scales, she ‘only’ went 10lb 10oz, but I was far from disappointed. I had had my first ever brace of doubles, and with one of them being a new PB, especially after my previous week’s eel, I was left almost speechless. Alas they were the only tench for the session, but I was more than happy with a new PB and my first ’12’.

Speci Hero 12lb 2oz tench

After initially planning to spend the Spring and Summer chasing a big eel, and with that out of the way I really was at a bit of a loss as to what to target next. Before I had finished packing up after my tench brace though, I decided, as I still had a couple of pints of maggots and hemp left, to drop in on the ‘eel’ pit on the way home, and chuck them in there if I saw anything of interest. Otherwise they would just go back into the freezer for the future.

Before I got to the venue, I had a rough idea of the area I wanted to target. To be honest this was more just for convenience rather than anything else, but as I say, I was at a bit of a loss as to what to fish for next. Upon arrival though, I could see someone already set up where I was thinking, so decided to have a more thorough mooch around. Walking along the long bank, armed with a pair of polaroids and my left over bait, I spent a few minutes in each viable area, just watching the water. After about half a dozen ‘swims’ (they aren’t really swims on here, a lot of them, like the eel swim, being very unkempt and overgrown), I stopped at a rather unspectacular looking gap in the bushes, and peered down into the depths. The margins along here are very deep, so it was always difficult to accurately estimate the size of any fish you see down deep, but I saw a very large tench cruising through about 10ft out. I couldn’t be sure, but it certainly looked like another double. A big fish anywhere, but knowing how few and far between they were on here, a very good fish. “That will do for me” I thought, and after watching the water for another 30 minutes or so, and the fish not returning, I decided that this would be my next fishing spot.

I knew I wouldn’t be able to get back down and fish for a few weeks, so it would be ideal for a bit of pre-baiting. With the marginal shelf dropping steeply off only a rod length out, it was an easy matter to chuck in my left over bait by hand. I then dumped a few strategically placed branches into the swim, so I could see if anyone was visiting it, as they would have to move them to fish it and I could tell if anyone had been in there.

I religiously baited the swim during the next three weeks, depositing two pints of red maggots and two pints of hemp every other day. Eventually, I could finally fish, and once at the lake I was soon set up. I opted to fish just two rods, as the swim was quite tight, and soon had them swung out into place. Both rods on maggot feeder helicopter set ups, with maggots on a size 12 Target Specimen Hook, 12lb Gardner GT80+ mainline, with totally stripped back 3inch Target Speciskin hooklinks completing the set up.

Almost immediately, I started getting liners, so my confidence was sky high. However, I had to wait until about midnight before I had my first fish. It was not a Tench, but an 11lb 2oz bream was a very welcome distraction. Through the night, I had another three bream, all doubles including a slightly bigger one at 11lb 9oz. Then, just before dawn, I had a screaming take, and after a few minutes, I could see a nice tench around 7lb at a guess powering about just in front of the net. Unfortunately though, it decided to throw the hook. I was annoyed, but at least I had seen a tench. Not long after recasting that rod, it was away again, and this time I did land a tench. A bit smaller than the one I lost, but around 6lb or so I would think.

12lb 4oz Tench

After all the disturbance through the night, and early morning, I was absolutely shattered and promptly fell back asleep, only to be woken around 9.30am by a stuttery take once again on the left hand rod. Once I lifted into the fish, straight away I could tell this was something decent. At first, I thought it may have been a small carp, but after a couple of minutes I got my first glimpse of it. It was another tench, and it was immense! After that another couple of very nervous minutes followed, before I eventually managed to coax it into the waiting net. I knew it was a double straight away, but it was only once I lifted it out that I saw just how wide and deep it was. It was easily the widest Tench I had ever seen. I couldn’t believe it when the scales bounced round to 12lb 4oz. Only 3 weeks previously I’d had a fish of a lifetime with a 12lb 2oz tench, and amazingly I had broken that PB already, and from another completely different venue as well.

The rest of the day passed pretty uneventfully, apart from a few perch on the maggots, but at about 11.30pm, the bream moved back in, and I landing another nine bream, seven of which being doubles to 12lb 9oz.

My final tally ending up with two Tench; a 6lber and the 12lb 4oz. I also caught seventeen Bream, 11 of which being doubles to 12lb 9oz, and a stack of perch between 8oz and 1lb 8oz.

So that, so far, sums up my spring specimen fishing. A 5lb 9oz eel with Tench of 10lb 10oz, 12lb 2oz and 12lb 4oz. Far more successful than I had ever imagined, but very welcome indeed.