Bawburgh Tench

Bawburgh Lakes Tench

Bawburgh lakes tench with Chris TurnbullBawburgh lakes tenchTen years ago, in the spring of 1996, I recall walking around the banks of Bawburgh Lakes hoping for the chance of spotting a few fish of interest. Little did I know what would happen at the lakes in the fullness of time. Back then the Bawburgh Lakes Association had lost their short-term lease on Bawburgh Lake and the future of angling on all these lakes was very much in question. I had previously been used to travelling to Kent, Royal Berkshire and the Colne Valley for my tench fishing, but with family commitments increasingly preventing me from travelling I was desperate to find some decent specimen tench fishing in Norfolk.

I had for a long time lamented the fact that specimen tench fishing in Norfolk was still far behind the rest of the Southeast. Fish over 8 lbs were still incredibly rare, but with its clear and weedy water gradually maturing, it was obvious that Bawburgh had the potential to be something special. Indeed it matched everything I had come to expect of big tench waters elsewhere; however, with no fishing available on the lake, I was wasting my time looking, but nevertheless it was good to keep an eye on how it was maturing with a view to the future.That day I’d spotted a couple of small tench in one of the Back Bays and also seen a solitary big bream of around 13 lbs in The Arm. I was watching a couple of carp cruising out into the open water near The Point when one of the quarry workers drove up in a huge bulldozer and informed me that I wasn’t supposed to be there. Despite his warning, we chatted amicably for a while about the future of the fishery, after which I bade him good bye

Later that year, the quarry’s owners, Atlas Aggregates, invited me to put a caretaker team of Bailiffs on the water on behalf on NACA while the future of the pits was being decided. In exchange for keeping an eye on it, we would be allowed to fish the waters until the fishing arrangements were sorted out. The following spring gave me my first opportunity to access the full potential of these waters with tench being high in my thoughts. Problem was that according to the local experts, there were very few tench in the lake and those that were in there were generally pretty small. Ignoring their advice that the lake didn’t have the potential I was hoping for, I decided to test fish it a couple of times that April and May,but to no avail.However, I was greatly spurred on by the capture of an early spring 8.06 by Gary Humphries while carp fishing.This was an extremely big tench for Norfolk by any measure, and I was determined to catch one as big.While I’d taken numerous 8 and 9 lb fish from Johnson’s in Kent, Englefield in Berkshire and Sywell in Northamptonshire, a ‘Norfolk eight’ remained a long cherished goal I had yet to beat.

In mid-June I finally located a number of tench in one of the Back Bays and started putting some very promising catches on the bank with a number of fish going over 7 lbs including a new Norfolk personal best a mere ounce short of that impossible 8 lb target. Similar catches were also being taken by Colin Smith and Alex Rowley, a couple of my new Bailiffs, but soon enough the fish disappeared back into the main area of water, which by now had become so heavily weeded as to render it unfishable for the rest of that summer

No matter how promising the fishing had been, none of our experiences had prepared us for events that occurred the following season. By then NACA had officially acquired the fishing at Bawburgh Lakes, taking on the entire seven lake fishery under a management agreement with Atlas Aggregates, with season permits made freely available to NACA members. I started the season in The Arm taking a few fish to over 5 lb on the 16th May, but it wasn’t until the following week that anything of real interest happened.When it did, it was to blow the roof off specimen tench fishing in Norfolk

It started on the 23rd May with Tony Bidwell carp fishing in the first made-up swim along the river bank. He had experienced a few dropped runs on his boilies which he thought might have been caused by tench which he had seen rolling in the area. Gary Humphries and I had joined him for a cup of tea when another dropped run occurred, followed by a big tench rolling in the swim. Tony vacated the swim the following day, leaving Gary to move in to see if he could catch a couple of the culprits that were picking up Tony’s baits. The following morning Gary phoned me in a state of high excitement, having taken four tench weighing 7.13, 7.10, 8.08 and 9.01. Now if 8 lb tench were extremely rare beasts in Norfolk, 9 lb fish were of an impossible size which to my knowledge had only ever been achieved on one occasion when a carp angler took a 9.12 from Day’s Lake in Ringland. Gary’s ‘9’was certainly the first fish of this size ever caught in Norfolk by an angler specifically fishing for tench

Unfortunately for Gary, he was due to start a shift at work later that day and would not be able to fish again until the following week, so after clearing it with him that he wouldn’t be put out by me having a go in the swim while he was away, I dropped in it later that afternoon with a float rod and a few pints of maggots and hemp in the hope that fish would still be in the area. I needn’t have worried as my luck was in, with two bites that evening producing two fish including a new Norfolk PB of 8.04. Finally, after years of trying for a Norfolk ‘8’, it had happened

Bawburgh was now looking like everything a travelling tench angler stranded in Norfolk could wish to have stumbled on. But from here on things just kept on getting better.Two evenings later I returned and took a 7.14 again on the float, so the following Friday I resolved to fish the night.The overcast, still conditions were not the best I might have hoped for; nevertheless at 8.30 pm I slid the net under an 8.09,my second Norfolk ‘8’ in a week. I felt like a king for whom nothing could go wrong, but this couldn’t prepare me for the following morning’s events when a hard fighting and fabulously conditioned fish eventually took the dial on my Avon scales round to 9.06

It had been a full ten years since I’d caught my last 9 lb tench and to say I was elated would be an understatement; nevertheless it had by now become obvious that a fish of this stamp was on the cards.Nothing could have braced me for the event that followed the sudden disappearance of my float at 6.30 am.After setting the hook and cautiously battling it out with a sullen and very heavy weight, I eventually slid a very big tench over the rim of my waiting net.The dial on my Avon’s read out 11 lbs 2 ozs but I was barely able to take it in. For years I had travelled the country hoping for a double figure tench and failed, and now merely ten minutes away from my home in Norwich, years after I’d given up hope of ever catching a fish of that size, I had landed a tench that had surpassed all my dreams. Thus was my initiation into Bawburgh tench fishing

Martin Burgess with an 11 lbs 5 oz tench, the biggest from Bawburgh Lakes to dateThis year NACA is in its ninth year of running the fishing on Bawburgh, and while I now once again frequently travel to other areas in search of big tench, each year I also spend at least a little time at Bawburgh on one lake or another.While other fisheries in Norfolk have come on over the years, with a few of them subsequently producing the odd double figure tench, Bawburgh Lakes has remained the county’s premier big tench fishery. Including my 11.02, Bawburgh Lake itself eventually went on to produce four tench over 11 lbs including an 11.05 lake record to Martin Burgess, an 11.02 to Jon Cranswick and an 11.04 to Darryn Stolworthy

While Bawburgh Lake itself perhaps peaked as a specimen tench water a few years ago and has apparently not produced a fish in excess of 10 lbs for the last few seasons, today the lake holds a much larger head of fish with plenty of fast growing 8 and 9 lb tench coming through.This season, I think it is entirely likely that it will start turning out the odd double once again, though in view of the increased competition for food posed by the high numbers of rudd and bream showing in the water, I doubt that a fish in a excess of 11 lbs is still possible.The general consensus, however, is that Bawburgh Lake tench are making a steady come back

Since NACA opened the fishery in October 1997, the other lakes have come on in leaps and bounds as tench fisheries, though they have yet to produce a fish to top 11 lb.While Colney Lake is perhaps the favourite water on the complex amongst the fishery’s carp anglers, it can produce some fantastic tench fishing with maggot and casters feeder-fished at range to shallower features being the favourite method. The stamp of tench on Colney is a little behind the other big lakes on the complex, but nevertheless it has produced male fish to over 8 lb and holds at least one female that tops 10 lbs with the lake record standing at 10.03. A few of the regular carp anglers on Colney talk of seeing huge mid-double figure tench and while I would love this to be the case, catches have not backed this up. Nevertheless there are few waters that can produce such fast action as Colney on a good day. Fish the right spot in favourable conditions and catches of 12 -18 fish can be expected with an outside chance of a massive bream turning up.The average size of the tench is in the 4 - 7 lb range with the odd 8 lb plus fish thrown in if you are lucky

Big catches like this do not come without effort.Good bait and plenty of it is the key, along with a lot of accurate casting with a spod.Typically one could expect to get through 10 or 12 pints of bait every 24 hours including lots of maggots, casters, hemp and pellets. Oddly enough, despite the numbers of carp anglers fishing, very few tench are ever caught on boilies. Lodge Farm Lake is very much the fishery’s up-andcoming water for tench fishing.With at least three different fish over 10 lbs having been caught, the lake record is currently a fish of 10.14 caught by Darryn Stolworthy taken in early May 2005. Without doubt this fish has the capacity to be much heavier if caught carrying a healthy pod of spawn and could easily nudge the 12 lb mark. Like Colney, Lodge has a distinct tendency to be ‘swimmy’, with large catches coming from one or two areas while the rest of the lake can seem almost devoid of tench.These tench are real nomads and are highly prone to moving on the wind in all three of the big lakes, and fishing into a new wind can result in some frantic fishing

The feeder rigs that produce the goods on both Lodge and Colney are very much of the new-school bolt-rig variety combining strong lines and short hooklinks with heavy semi-fixed or in-line feeders. Short hair-rigs combined with braid or combi hooklinks and fake rubber maggots and casters are very much in vogue. 1.12 to 2 lb test rods are generally required for casting matched with 8 - 10 lb mainlines to cope with big fish in weed. Hooks are generally fairly small in very strong patterns with size 14’s and 12’s used in open water, going up to size 10’s for weedier conditions. My personal favourite patterns, after much experimentation last year, are Owner Iseamer hooks in size 10 in open water with Kamasan B775 Carp hooks in size 10 when weed is a problem. Obviously it is impossible to present maggots and casters entirely naturally on size 12 hooks, let alone size 10s; however there are a number of things we can do to mitigate against this that not only make our hookbaits more attractive, but also improve the mechanics of the rig. Neutralising the weight of the hook with a little foam or using fake rubber maggots and casters are both useful dodges that can give the bait a little buoyancy to counterbalance the weight of the hook or even pop it up off the bottom

Rubber hookbaits have become a vital addition to my techniques, providing a number of advantages over the real thing. Not only are they immune from the attentions of small fish, but being slightly larger and brighter than the real thing, they are considerably more easy for a foraging tench to find. Also,presenting them on a short hair-rig considerably minimises the chances of the bait masking the hookpoint, which is a common problem when using live maggots. Rubber casters in particular have proved incredibly effective, making long-range caster fishing an tremendously effective technique at distances where the fragility of real casters previously ruled out their use as a hookbait. I’ve always considered casters to be the best tench bait going, and my results using fake casters have only strengthened this conviction. Plastic baits will also accept and hold artificial flavourings for ages; however I’ve had so much success using them unflavoured that I now seldom bother with the hassle

With its intimate Back Bays and The Arm, Bawburgh is one lake that lends itself to float fishing; however in recent years the hordes of small rudd have prevented the effective use of maggots and corn. Today most tench anglers fish Bawburgh with scaled-down carp tactics, baiting with boilies or pellets fished on modified bolt-rigs or on Method feeders. Funnily enough, the tench on Bawburgh were once incredibly difficult to catch on boilies, with maggots, casters and sweet corn being by far the better baits. Such has been the effect of having to compete with so many small rudd, however, that the tench have learned to feed opportunistically on all manner of baits that they would have barely looked at in the past

While not quite in the league of the three big lakes, the charming little Colney Two Lake is a challenging tench water with the capacity to produce a really big fish. While the lake record is apparently still short of 9 lbs, the odd very big tench is reputedly seen in this pretty little water. When I say it is challenging, believe me these fish can be incredibly difficult to catch, even when they are actively bubbling on your baits. Feeder fishing and float fishing are both viable methods with, maggots, caster, corn, mini boilies and pellets all catching their share of fish

Chris with the first double figure tench from Bawburgh Lakes weighing in at a massive 11 lbs 2 ozsReports from friends around the country would suggest that today Bawburgh Lakes are perhaps a little short of being amongst the UK’s very best specimen tench waters, but despite this the lakes still produce Drennan Cup prize-winning tench most years, and the fishing is undoubtedly first-class if you are prepared to work for your fish.Take it from me, however: tench fishing on Bawburgh is no rest home for those that want relaxing, easy fishing. These tench are never distributed evenly like currants in a cake but are true nomads that are often here one day and gone the next. Luckily for us they have a liking for certain areas, which cuts down the odds in your favour once you get to know the lakes. Staying on top of the fishes’ movements is the very much the name of the game, with anglers who are prepared to get up and move with the fish being likely to be rewarded for their efforts, while those who wait for the fish to come to them generally ending up catching very little at all.? thought might have been caused by tench which he had seen rolling in the area. Gary Humphries and I had joined him for a cup of tea when another dropped run occurred, followed by a big tench rolling in the swim. Tony vacated the swim the following day, leaving Gary to move in to see if he could catch a couple of the culprits that were picking up Tony’s baits. The following morning Gary phoned me in a state of high excitement, having taken four tench weighing 7.13, 7.10, 8.08 and 9.01. Now if 8 lb tench were extremely rare beasts in Norfolk, 9 lb fish were of an impossible size which to my knowledge had only ever been achieved on one occasion when a carp angler took a 9.12 from Day’s Lake in Ringland. Gary’s ‘9’was certainly the first fish of this size ever caught in Norfolk by an angler specifically fishing for tench.

Unfortunately for Gary, he was due to start a shift at work later that day and would not be able to fish again until the following week, so after clearing it with him that he wouldn’t be put out by me having a go in the swim while he was away, I dropped in it later that afternoon with a float rod and a few pints of maggots and hemp in the hope that fish would still be in the area. I needn’t have worried as my luck was in, with two bites that evening producing two fish including a new Norfolk PB of 8.04. Finally, after years of trying for a Norfolk ‘8’, it had happened

Bawburgh was now looking like everything a travelling tench angler stranded in Norfolk could wish to have stumbled on. But from here on things just kept on getting better.Two evenings later I returned and took a 7.14 again on the float, so the following Friday I resolved to fish the night.The overcast, still conditions were not the best I might have hoped for; nevertheless at 8.30 pm I slid the net under an 8.09,my second Norfolk ‘8’ in a week. I felt like a king for whom nothing could go wrong, but this couldn’t prepare me for the following morning’s events when a hard fighting and fabulously conditioned fish eventually took the dial on my Avon scales round to 9.06. It had been a full ten years since I’d caught my last 9 lb tench and to say I was elated would be an understatement; nevertheless it had by now become obvious that a fish of this stamp was on the cards.Nothing could have braced me for the event that followed the sudden disappearance of my float at 6.30 am.After setting the hook and cautiously battling it out with a sullen and very heavy weight, I eventually slid a very big tench over the rim of my waiting net. The dial on my Avon’s read out 11 lbs 2 ozs but I was barely able to take it in. For years I had travelled the country hoping for a double figure tench and failed, and now merely ten minutes away from my home in Norwich, years after I’d given up hope of ever catching a fish of that size, I had landed a tench that had surpassed all my dreams. Thus was my initiation into Bawburgh tench fishing. This year NACA is in its ninth year of running the fishing on Bawburgh, and while I now once again frequently travel to other areas in search of big tench, each year I also spend at least a little time at Bawburgh on one lake or another.While other fisheries in Norfolk have come on over the years, with a few of them subsequently producing the odd double figure tench, Bawburgh Lakes has remained the county’s premier big tench fishery. Including my 11.02, Bawburgh Lake itself eventually went on to produce four tench over 11 lbs including an 11.05 lake record to Martin Burgess, an 11.02 to Jon Cranswick and an 11.04 to Darryn Stolworthy

Chris with a fine Lodge Farm 10 lbs 6 ozs from May 2005While Bawburgh Lake itself perhaps peaked as a specimen tench water a few years ago and has apparently not produced a fish in excess of 10 lbs for the last few seasons, today the lake holds a much larger head of fish with plenty of fast growing 8 and 9 lb tench coming through.This season, I think it is entirely likely that it will start turning out the odd double once again, though in view of the increased competition for food posed by the high numbers of rudd and bream showing in the water, I doubt that a fish in a excess of 11 lbs is still possible. The general consensus, however, is that Bawburgh Lake tench are making a steady come back

Since NACA opened the fishery in October 1997, the other lakes have come on in leaps and bounds as tench fisheries, though they have yet to produce a fish to top 11 lb.While Colney Lake is perhaps the favourite water on the complex amongst the fishery’s carp anglers, it can produce some fantastic tench fishing with maggot and casters feeder-fished at range to shallower features being the favourite method. The stamp of tench on Colney is a little behind the other big lakes on the complex, but nevertheless it has produced male fish to over 8 lb and holds at least one female that tops 10 lbs with the lake record standing at 10.03. A few of the regular carp anglers on Colney talk of seeing huge mid-double figure tench and while I would love this to be the case, catches have not backed this up. Nevertheless there are few waters that can produce such fast action as Colney on a good day. Fish the right spot in favourable conditions and catches of 12 -18 fish can be expected with an outside chance of a massive bream turning up.The average size of the tench is in the 4 - 7 lb range with the odd 8 lb plus fish thrown in if you are lucky

Big catches like this do not come without effort.Good bait and plenty of it is the key, along with a lot of accurate casting!