"Regrets, I've had a few" sung Frank Sinatra, and who hasn't? Perhaps my biggest fishing regret is that I've spent very little time fishing for (or catching!) tench over the last few years, and, on cold December evenings like tonight my mind's "wishful thinking" transports me to lazy summer days, lilly pads, and pin prick bubbles fizzing around my quill float. It's been way too long.
My teenage years saw me avidly catching tincas from my local club lake in my hometown of Reading. Lovely olive green or brown fish with little pink eyes that fought doggedly and took my sweetcorn, worms or the then "new fangled" Ritchworth boilies with seeming abandon.
This last year although I have caught tench, it's mostly been my angling companions who've slipped their nets under the flanks of summer's most archetypal of fish. These handsome specimens being held by Pete and Greg being typical of the fish I've had to behold, and sometimes capture on film, but that have rarely been captured on my hook over this last twelve months.
As with all fish I'd rather catch a big specimen than a small pup, but rather like pike, tench seem to be at their very prettiest when small. Fish of less than a pound, like the one Greg is holding in the picture below, don't pull your string too hard, but have a charm and beauty that their more impressive larger brothers and sisters can never quite recapture. The smaller they are the softer and silkier they seem to the touch- perfection in miniature, and what's lacked in stature is compensated for in style.
Perhaps, as we enter a new year, one of my resolutions should be to spend a more of my time in the warmer months intentionally pursuing tench (the tench I did catch this year were never my target fish, and were all accidental captures). No fish is more redolent of all that summer angling signifies, and it's almost a crime that these paddle tailed beauties have slipped under my radar, if not over the rim of my landing net, with any regularity of late. Misty dawns, lilly pads, centre pin reels and quill floats may have become a tench angler's cliché, but it's a cliché I intend to insert myself into more frequently in 2017.
In former times the tench was held to be some form of underwater physician, the thought being that its thick coating of slime contained healing properties and that fish of other species would rub their flanks against those of the tench to avail themselves of the efficacy of its healing balm. This led to the tench becoming known colloquially as the "Doctor Fish", and although it's now believed that there is no scientific evidence for this piece of angling lore the nickname has stuck, and is still sometimes used. True or not, I hope to see "the doctor" several times next year to remedy a growing longing for "all things tench".