It was the early part of the 2006 season when I stumbled across the crystal clear, 14acre gravel pit nestled deep within the Cheshire countryside.
Despite the massive fish that swam in its depths, this secluded little gem, with its steep banks and tree-lined margins had managed to stay below radar for all but a few lucky anglers, who like me, had found the lake purely by chance and on most visits I had the place all to myself…..

My early trips were based around catching some of the un-caught massive carp I had seen cruising around the upper layers sunning themselves in those early summer months, but after infiltrating the inner circle of anglers who knew the place well, I found that this place had much, much more to offer.
I had heard many a story of monster Tench and Bream being tossed back by disgusted carp anglers but it wasn’t until mid July whilst sat in a tall, old oak tree on the look out for carp, that all those myths and rumors were manifested in the form of a dark shadow moving below the branches of tree in which I was perched.
At first the shadow moving below me drew little more than a passing glance, at probably just upper double figures it was one of the smaller resident carp, I was on the look out for much bigger fish!
Slowly the fish made its way round from under the tree and into my clear field of view. I remember saying out loud to myself:

“that’s a lovely dark carp that……….. Hold on……….. that’s not a carp………….
HOLY S***!!! THAT’S A TENCH!!!!”

From that day I knew that those big carp in this water would have to wait a while…..
I had a new target!

The sight of that fish that day awoke something within me I hadn’t felt since being a schoolboy chasing 4lb carp in my local pond. #
I was now on a real monster hunt, chasing a potential record fish and I knew I had to up my game.
Over the next few weeks I read everything I could get my hands on regarding tench fishing.
After many hours research it was clear that Tench habits weren’t that different from the carp I’d been catching for most of my adult life and with that in mind I decided to scale things down and carry on what I’d been doing.
My 3 ¼lb T/C rods were put away in favour of a pair of Dean Macey 1 ¼lb Avon rods, I wasn’t happy dropping to less than 12lb for my reel line as it is a snaggy venue, so that stayed as it was.
Other than dropping the hook size from 6 to 8 and going down to a 1 ½oz lead, pretty much everything else stayed the same too, I’d caught plenty of tench while carp fishing so the lead arrangement obviously works for them and I had no other reason to change it.

Due to the high vantage points around this particular lake and the clear water it was often possible to watch fish feeding and it was clear all the fish in the lake had become partial to my scopex squid offerings, but it was also evident that both the Tench and Carp preferred the Robin Red variety, often tearing at the bottom weed to get every last morsal. For that reason my bait stayed the same, but instead of the 18mm boilies I had used for carp, I changed to the smaller of the boilie pellet varietys to keep everything balanced right.
It was a muggy August evening when I hooked my first really big tench, I was lucky enough to see the fish take my bait so I knew exactly what I had on the end when battle ensued.

The initial take was an absolute one toner and because I was high on the bank watching the fish at the time, it took me a little bit longer to hit my rod which immediately bent to its full test curve.
Those extra few seconds turned out to be vital as in that time the fish had managed to bury itself into a weedbed just behind by baited area. Despite applying steady pressure for 10 mintutes or more the fish just wouldn’t move and I was forced to put the rod down and open the bail arm in the hope the fish would free itself.
After an agonising 3 hour wait line began to fall from the spool as the fish made its way out of the other side of the weedbed, I picked up the rod, closed the bail arm and battle resumed.
The line lifted away from the weed and I was able to guide the fish into open water and after a quick fight I had my prize in fold of my landing net.
I’d had a few big Tench at this point to 9lb 6oz but was desprate to break the double figure mark. I couldn’t bear to look as I lifted its bulk onto the unhooking mat but as the net parted I had no doubt I’d caught my double.
At 10lb 10oz it was my new PB and a dream realised.

The rest of the season passed without any more big’uns and I pulled of the water in November to pursue pike and carp from another nearby water, but for all of the following winter those massive tench were never far from my thoughts.
It was again July when I got back to the venue and since my last visit my Missus had given birth to our third child and we had taken over a pub, so time was at a premium.
It wasn’t just me that had had a change of circumstance since I had been away, the lake had received a lot of work and new pegs had been constructed in what was previously a virtually unfishable area, this had changed the fishes patrol routes, feeding areas and habits, so I was back to square one and left looking at a lake I didn’t recognise anymore.
As well as the new pegs, the weed growth was much more prolific this year which presented more problems, but from up a tree I was able to find a couple of holes within the weed where I could add my hemp and monster carp pellet combo that had served me so well the previous season.
I added about two kilo of the mix to each spot via a spod and retired to my shelter for the night.

I was woken at around 4:20am by a lighting fast take which took the line from the clip and slammed the bobbin into the rod all in less than a second but then stopped. When the bobbin didn’t drop back down I thought I better investigate.
Upon lifting the rod I was greeted by steady pressure as well as the nodding and head-shaking I had come to associate with these big tench, it felt a good fish so I moved up the bank to get a better angle on it to guide it away from the thickest part of the weed and into open water. After a fairly uneventful fight (I can’t belive I’m going to say this) I was ‘disappointed’ to find a carp of around 18lb was the culprit and not the big tench I had hoped for.
Seeing as I was up I thought I may as well put the kettle on and have a re-think. You see, I was a bit concerned as all of my previous night sessions on this water had resulted in at least a couple of small tench and apart from my ‘nucsence’ carp, my buzzers had remained silent all night, leading to me worring that my presentation was not quite right.
Whenever you mention specalist tench fishing it wont take long before ‘The lift method’ is brought up.

This method, for those of you that don’t know, involves placing the bulk of the shot near to the hook, so bites are registered by the float lifting, rather than going under.
The reason this method is so popular for tench fishermen is down to the way in which they feed.: When a Tench feeds it will tilt its whole body and lower its head to pick its chosen food item off the bottom of the lakebed, once it has done so it will then right itself in the same manner. If said food item happens to be your bait, then as the Tench raises its head this will cause the bulk shot to lift up as the fish takes its weight, which in turn causes the float to rise and eventually lie flat, thus alerting you to strike.
Using 12lb line I knew that a normal traditional waggler and a couple of BB shots was going to be way too unbalanced to be effective, so I had to scale things up a little, my set up was as follows:
Knotless knot hair rig tied using a fang X size 8 hook and 15lb ultrasilk braid with some diffusion rig tube added to control the position of the bait in relation to the hook. This was then attached to the 12lb Nash Bullet mainline via a size 8 swivel around which was moulded enough total mass putty to cock the 4 gram Drennon number 10 peacock waggler float into position, the float was being held in place by four nash rig stops.
Hook bait was to remain the same and small ammounts of the same mix I had used for spodding the night before would be added with a catapult throughout the day.

Because I was using a boilie hookbait I knew I didn’t need to wind in too often as it should resist the attentions of any smaller fish in the swim.
I was about an hour into my first cast when the float lifted slightly, moments later the whole float lifted clear of the surface and rested on the surface, I tried to strike but the heavy line had sunk substantially during the long period while waiting for a bite and I found myself having to wind quite a lot of line back onto the reel before connecting with the angry fish which was luckily still attached.
After a brief fight a Tench of 7lb 2oz was weighed, photographed and returned to the water none the worse for its experience, “see you in a few years” I thought, as I watched it make its way back into the depths.

Not wanting to risk loosing the next fish because of the slack line fiasco that had occurred during the last battle, this time I made sure I twitched the line periodically to ensure I was constantly in contact with my float.  I didn’t have to wait as long for the next few bites and went on to land a succession of well conditioned Tench between 4 and 6lb.  Bites seemed to stop around mid afternoon and a good two hours passed before my next bite which when it did arrive, was completely different…

The float lifted just an inch and sat there for a couple of seconds before disappearing under the surface, upon striking I knew that it was a better fish and by the time I had been doing battle with it for a couple of minutes, I’d convinced myself I was into another one of the resident carp. It wasn’t until about 5 minutes later when the fish was in my margin that I realised what I had on the end. Was this the Tench I’d seen from up that oak tree over two years ago? It was certainly looking like it could be.

As soon as I saw the olive green flank of the giant Tench the fight changed…. I was quite calm when I thought I had a carp on the end, but now I knew I was into potentially the fish of a lifetime and started to panic.  What should have been a fairly straight forward fight turned into a disaster that saw me enter the water twice and destroy most of the surrounding bank side foliage in the process. But the fishing gods must have been on my side for once and despite all my fumblings I managed to slip the net under my massive new PB.  I was shaking like a jelly in a washing machine by the time I’d lifted the net around my conquest so decided to secure the net to the bank and compose myself.  After making a quick cup of coffee and a phone call to my mate down the bank to do the pictures, I was ready to weigh the fish.  Myself and the three other anglers that gathered in my swim since the capture had all guessed the weight to be around 14lb but to say I was disappointed to see the scales go to 12lb 1oz would be absurd.  The weight didn’t matter at all, it was a big, old, warrior of a Tench and it was an honour for me to catch it.

Up here in the North of England we are a little bit behind our southern counterparts in terms of weight of fish of species and a double figure Tench anywhere is a massive achievement.  That fish brought an end to my Tench fishing exploits for the foreseeable future, with so many other species to target and so little time I’m more than happy with my Tench PB for now, but with so many other big fish to target swimming in its depths, I’m sure I’ll be back to that little gravel pit in deepest, darkest Cheshire before too long.