Bawburgh Tench Special
Extract from NACA Journal 23
By Martin Burgess
My personal road to Bawburgh and its tremendous tench fishing began back in 1995 and was instigated by three circumstances. A long held interest in spending the summer months in pursuit of carp using traditional methods was coming to a natural end. My wife Kathy was pregnant with our second child and even with my tendency towards a selfish outlook I could see time was going to be more limited.
Finally the relaxation of the traditional close season meant I could have potentially three more months to apply myself to something new. I decided tench were to be my next interest and having caught them up to four plus in the past a five seemed a realistic target. So over the next two years I set about learning afresh the methods needed to catch the larger fish consistently. Ringland was the first venue I tried and despite unlimited guidance from Chris Turnbull I struggled. It seemed that fine-tuning the float rig was key. More often than not the bottom shot was buried in algae and the bait ignored despite obvious signs of feeding tench in the swim. On the few occasions I got it just right the float would disappear from the surface without any hesitation and a fish would result. To a large extent I addressed this by moving venues to Sparham Pool. Here more plentiful stocks of albeit smaller fish saw me develop my float technique to the point where results in terms of tench caught at least doubled.
By the time Atlas Aggregates opened the gates to Bawburgh in spring 1998 1 had caught two fives, one from a private broad and a personal best of 5.14 from Ringland. Having declared my intention to buy a spring ticket both Chris and Colin Smith said I would "blow away" this fish with something much more substantial. Despite the evidence of their previous successes at Bawburgh, lacking confidence as I did, their statement seemed to be the kiss of death.
That Easter I spent a good deal of time walking round Bawburgh, plumbing the swims and getting to know the ever-friendly regulars. The few sessions spent fishing were slow, as the weather was appalling with snow, sleet and rain making an appearance at various times throughout the week. Nevertheless being there was enough as I was at least starting to get a feel for the place.
The first real sign of tench activity, I saw, was during an early morning session in May. For the first few hours or so it seemed like I was back at square one with fish turning the swim into a bubbling cauldron, yet not a glimmer on the float. Taking advantage of a lull in feeding activity I stripped down the float gear and set it back up again this time paying acute attention to the position of that all important last shot. All the while I was doing this the froth that remained from the previous hectic feeding ebbed back and forth in front of me like the debris from some fabulous party that I had been unable to attend. After re-casting, followed up by some careful feeding, things were instantly different and I finished the short pre-work session with two fish over five. Progress indeed.
A family holiday took me to Holland for a week and when I returned it was to the news of Chris' epic catch. Just rewards for someone that has put so much into local angling, and of late Bawburgh in particular, and I felt both pleased and inspired. I needed to get back in touch with the water after a week's absence, particularly as the area of activity seems to have shifted from the back bays and arm to the main body of the lake, an area I had always looked upon as somewhat daunting. On the first of a number of planned evening trips I walked past the "going area" and chose a newly constructed swim which offered marginal cover by way of reeds and a large bush. Although unproductive, the first two or three sessions were interesting as the float showed definite movement from fin wash and I was intrigued enough to give it some more time. This was to prove to be the right decision as after an early start on the following Saturday morning marginal float tactics resulted in a splendid fish of 8lb 3oz. This fish alone would make my season and after congratulating me on my success Chris told me that I could relax and fill in the gaps between this fish and my previous personal best. How could 1, or anyone else have possibly known what was to lie ahead?
On all the occasions I fished the swim I had noticed tench consistently rolling in an area some forty yards out. Prior to fishing a Friday night/Saturday morning session Chris and I plumbed the area finding a previously unknown bar. This was certainly not float work and I rigged up two maggot feeders which I had customised by glueing inside 2oz in-line pear leads. Short hook links to super specialist 10's completed my adoption of a popular and well documented rig.
Chris returned to Norwich and left me to fish as he was desperately trying to get on top of his work to free up time to join me. The evening was uneventful and after one male tench of just over four and two dreaded eels I bedded down for the night. Casting out again at four, after first making tea, I was soon into action. The first fish was a pleasing fish of 7lb 8oz, by five I was weighing a new personal best of 9lb loz. witnessed by the arrival of Len Head and Alan Pearce.
Then it just went completely silly. Provided I put the baits on the feature a bite resulted. The next was 7-15, then 8-3, 10-11 (there goes that personal best again), 4+ male and a further female of 7-4. By now it was approaching 10 am. and the need to take a break was clear as I was on my third sack, courtesy of John Sadd, and my state of being was such that I was starting to feel quite light headed. I had already summoned Chris urgently by phone and he was bringing Kathy and my son James to be a part of the witness party, my daughter Joanne was already with me having accompanied me on the over night stay. I was to learn later that Chris spent the best part of the journey telling Kathy that I did not fully appreciate what I had done in terms of both local and possibly national significance.
On his arrival "the team" quickly set about preparing for the photo shoot with sacks, mats, water and cameras aplenty. Me, I just stood back and watched, grateful that such experience was on hand. With Chris, Len and John on the cameras various memories of the day were recorded to the point where even Istarted to grin uncontrollably.
Once the fish were all safely returned I looked back to my rods whilst the others talked behind me. The tench were quick to show me that they still wanted to play and an 8-2 was quickly landed and returned. Chris had seen enough and decided work was going to have to wait as he returned to Norwich to collect his gear. Whilst he was gone I lost a large male to a pike and shortly after both rods were away at once. Joanne was playing the right hand rod and anxious that she didn't lose it I played mine harder than usual. Getting it in the net I looked down on what I realised was another double. Joanne easily managed her fish, a 4-7 male which also finished up in the same net.
Chris arrived back just before twelve and knew I was in a genuine state of mild shock when he asked me if I had caught any more and I replied over my shoulder, "yes, another double, 11 lb +". A hurried check on two sets of scales and we recorded a weight of 11 lb 5oz, a new Norfolk county record. "Well that's it you really have done it now" and for the second time that morning my friend and angling mentor Chris shook my hand in congratulations.
I left the water at Ipm. too mentally tired to consider doing anything else. The enormity of it all was starting to sink in and some aspects of it were quite frightening. To catch over 89lbs of tench, including two doubles, one of which was a Norfolk record, was fishing I could not even have dreamt about and the like of which will never happen to me again.
After that weekend the water was visited by a succession of anglers the calibre of which I could only aspire to. For weeks results dropped off to almost nothing, which only served to underline what I had been fortunate enough to experience. With this in mind I was pleased that those who had sought to encourage me, namely Chris and my wife Kathy, were able to share in this rare and wonderful event.