June 28th, 2013: DRAIN TENCHING
Warping, a method used by farmers to fertilise and enrich their lands, was introduced to the Humber region shortly after 1730 by a farmer called Barker of Rawcliffe. Farmland was deliberately flooded on the autumnal high tides and the suspended sediment then allowed to settle out, depositing a rich layer of silt as the water drained away. It wasn’t exactly a new invention for warping had been carried out successfully on the Egyptian Nile for Centuries.
By 1780s the practise had spread into the adjoining Trent valley.
Although this method of farming is not carried out today it is the reason we have some fabulous fishing available to us on the Warping Drain near Owston Ferry. The Drain, created to return flood waters to the Trent looks pretty much as I imagine it must have done some 300 years ago although back then a network of minor dykes would have emptied into it by gravity rather than today’s electric pumps.
Scunthorpe Pisces own the fishing rights and it has produced pike to 30 pounds, bream to 8lbs and massive perch but it is perhaps best loved for the wild tench fishing on offer. They may not be the monsters found in gravel pits but they regularly run to 6lbs with the biggest authenticated specimen caught to date weighing 10lb 2oz.
What is certain is you will get the fight of your life when you hook a tench in this shallow, weedy drain. Indeed, the most important item of tackle you’ll need is a weed rake because there are masses of weed.
I joined Pisces bailiff Derek Topping for an early morning session and was very pleased to learn that he’d been doing a spot of ‘gardening’ for us in the run-up. Derek had promised to rake a couple of swims and introduce a little bait to get the fish interested. You see, the Drain observes the traditional closed season so what better than to fish in traditional ways – a red topped float just over the marginal shelf, for some red eyed beauties during opening week? He was confident we would catch and I had every faith in his optimism. He wasn’t wrong!
We were treated to some fast and furious early morning action with both tench and bream although we didn’t quite match the hectic session enjoyed by one of the locals on opening day. He caught a staggering 24 tench to six and a half pounds plus 15 bream to 7lb 6oz. That’s amazing fishing by any standards yet a Pisces club membership, which allows you to fish more than two dozen fisheries, costs a mere £36.50 for the 2013-14 season and anyone can join (www.scunthorpepoliceangling.com). That’s a real bargain when you consider it costs £15 to £20 a day to fish the River Wye for barbel yet Pisces offer 3 prime Trent barbel stretches plus the River Severn in the their portfolio. It may be grim up north but we know a bargain when we see one!
The sun was already shining down as we tackled up. Not a cloud was to be seen in the clear blue sky and I feared the fishing might be tricky. My pessimism evaporated when the red topped crystal waggler bobbed and then disappeared from sight. A gentle strike saw me connected to the first of a dozen fish. The tench, for this is what had picked up my two nuggets of sweetcorn, was careering around the swim and trying to bury itself in any bit of weed it could find. No other fish fights quite like a tench. They are honest bruisers with a lightning turn of speed that belies their size. It is hard not to love them when you’re deliberately aiming to catch them on balanced tackle, in this case a power waggler rod matched with 6lbs line.
We went on to catch steadily throughout the morning. A switch of hook bait appeared to trigger bites. When corn didn’t work then a bunch of maggots, casters, worm or bread was all it needed to spark another flurry of action. Come lunchtime the feast was over but we’d filled our boots anyway. It’s always better to catch just enough and leave a place eager to return. I’ll certainly be having another trip down the drain when I find the time.
In complete contrast to my tench exploits, by the time you’re reading this I’ll be heading home from a different Continent. You might easily say in a different world. Hopefully I’ll have an exciting tale to tell after leading a party of keen lure anglers to the upper reaches of the mighty Zambezi River in search of tiger fish. If fishing in remote places appeals then you’ll love this place. The nearest tarmac road is 400 kilometres away! We fly in by light plane and land on a dirt strip. But enough teasing. I’ll reveal all next week.
If you’re serious about catching tench from weedy waters you will need a weed rake. You can make your own by strapping two garden rakes together with cable ties or you can buy one that’s purpose designed. Just make sure it’s securely tied to a strong nylon rope – it’ll dry out more quickly after use. Raking causes a lot of disturbance and colours up the water. You’d think it would frighten off the tench but they seem oddly attracted to the splashing. Raking releases lots of natural food items and really gets tench feeding.
Fishery Of The Week
I’ve been a regular visitor to the famous Anglers Paradise complex in Devon for more than 20 years. The accommodation is outstanding and guests get exclusive access to a dozen lakes. It’s a great place for carp anglers to target twenties while the catfish easily top 60lbs. Throw in some cracking golden tench, golden orfe and all manner of minor exotics and after a few glasses of Zyg’s wine it’s hard not to wear a smile. You might well bump into a star as the place has been regularly used in TV shows.
What’s less well known is there are a number of day ticket lakes available to anglers who may be staying elsewhere and these contain some of the biggest fish on the complex. Nirvana recently produced its first 40lbs carp. At Paradise you’ll find something for everyone including a 7-acre trout lake.
Anglers Paradise, The Gables, Halwill, Devon. 01409 221559 www.anglers-paradise.co.uk