Initially I planned to pop the worm sections up using a disc of foam as I thought the foam would also act as a buffer and help keep the worm sections on the hair. To get it to sit right I wanted the hook link to be flexible so decided to try with a coated braid with a short section stripped back above the hook. Three short sections of the largest worms in my bucket were cut and threaded on followed by a disc of foam and then I had the fun of trying to get a hair stop through the loop of braid covered in worm guts. I had been struggling that spring as it was both cold and wet, more memorable for mud than tench, so I was rather surprised when I had a bite first cast. A few experimental casts afterwards confirmed the worms would stay on, so my confidence in the rig rocketed.
Over time the rig evolved. Firstly, I dropped the foam and found it made no difference to the number of bites I got. Then I tried mono as it would be easier to get the hair stop through and again, it worked just as well. Next, I started using a quick stop pushed through the worm sections which made life so much simpler. The following spring, I spoke to the match angler Neil McKinnon and told him about the rig and said the only issue was the knot on the quick stop could tear the worm. He solved that problem instantly, “tie them on with a loop”. The simple solutions are the best! He also showed me how to tie hook links to a precise length with a loop tier, thereby enabling lots of hook links to be prepared in advance and stored in a hook-link box and then quickly attached using the loop. By spring of 2013 the worm kebab has ready to wreak havoc at Linear and that spring I did just that as I landed over 125 tench including a memorable morning on Manor when I caught 39 in about seven hours’ fishing. Catching so many tench gave me huge confidence in the rig and proved to me that if you want to experiment, do so on a well-stocked water as then you can see if it is working. Trying new things on a water where you can expect one fish a trip is definitely a bad idea.
The problem, when you find somewhere you enjoy fishing but feel you need a new challenge is where to go next. My mate Rob Thompson and I discussed it and decided that Medway Valley Fishery was worth a go. On my first trip on Larkfield I managed a scraper double on rubber casters (plastic baits are now banned) and after a session on neighbouring Road & Island lake I returned to Larkfied for a four-day session. After much deliberation, I settled on a swim I had liked the look of the instant I had viewed an aerial photograph of Larkfield. It is known as The Rushes due to a large reed bed to the left, but it was the distinct gravel bars that appealed to me. I started baiting both with two rods at just over 60 yards and one at 40 yards.
On the first morning I was woken just before dawn by a carp, but thereafter the tench moved in. By the final morning I had landed 7 doubles to 11lb amongst about 30 tench, the vast majority on worm kebabs, including six of the doubles. Not surprisingly, I was up at first light and after recasting put the kettle on. My early morning brew of Yorkshire tea was still too hot to drink when I had a bite. The fish kited left and ended up coming towards me through the rushes. By keeping the rod high and guiding the line around the rushes I had successfully landed the five or so tench that had followed this route so was confident I could land it – until I saw the size of it! My mate Paul Thompson was in the adjacent swim and had heard my alarm go and was standing by me and said: ‘That’s got a big mouth” as it came to the net before turning tail. I replied: ‘It’s got big everything’ and managed to turn it back from the reeds and into the waiting net. I knew instantly it was bigger than the previous six doubles, in fact not just bigger but a lot bigger. First reading on the scales it hovered at 13lb 4oz, so we zeroed the scales again and re-weighed her and with the needle midway between 3 and 4oz settled on 13lb 3oz. Paul shook my hand and told me I’d just beaten his Tenchfishers’ record. As I released her and I watched her swim off I thought it was quite likely that I would never see, let alone catch, a bigger tench.