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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


Good Tench from Ashton Keynes Angling Club Waters

For more than 30 years I've rated the Cotswolds as an excellent centre for tench fishing and some of the best waters are controlled by Ashton Keynes Angling Club which is open to everyone, a season permit for 2 rods will cost around £50-00, certainly good value for money, its even a better deal for us old ones as it costs just £20-00. I suggest you take a look at the clubs website, just put Ashton Keynes AC into Google.

I had arranged to start the season off on Cokes pit one of the 7 club waters, where Dave Whyte of Southport and I had planned to make a first day of the season programme for my At The Water's Edge series every Thursday evening at 7 o'clock on BBC Radio Lancashire which can be heard for 7 days via the listen again on the internet. Ace Angler's Mail writer photographer and excellent angler Gary Newman also joined us to write a feature for his weekly Angler's Mail column. The weather wasn't kind to me, it doesn't matter what the weather is like when youíre doing a magazine feature, even in low light conditions you can use a flash gun for fill in light. When recording there isn't a lot you can do when you have 50 mile per hour winds blowing in your face causing havoc with wind on the microphone.

Club committee member Phil Chun of Total outdoors was our contact man who done all the hard work, Phil chose and prepared the swims, then sorted out the bait. Not only did he put up my bivvy he even arranged for me to have a bed chair. When I arrived late at night on the 14th June with the rain sheeting down in what I can only describe as monsoon conditions all I had to do was clean my teeth then crawl into my sleeping bag. Next day I got my first look at Cokes Pit itís a beautiful natural pit with several islands and lots of birdlife, it even has a colony of terns. There are mallard and tufted ducks, great crested grebes, coots, moorhens and all the song birds one would expect to see and hear in the English countryside. Apart from the passing cars it affords we anglerís peace and tranquillity. The lake holds a good head of tench from our catches on the first day the average was over 6lbs. There are some excellent roach perch and I'm told some good carp. Bream and pike also roam around in the depths of Cokes Water.

What really interested me in wanting to come back for a June 16th start after fishing another water in the complex last year was knowing the water has a close season and is only fishable from June 16th to March the 14th. It also has a nature reserve at one end so the fishing is restricted and the fish when they feel pressured they can move into a quiet area. Access to Cokes Pit is from the club car park via Waterlands or the car park bottom gate. Access to fish on June 16th is allowed from midday on June 15th. NO dogs allowed on this venue. The whole team would like to thank Jo Pendelbury and her staff at Waterlands Outdoor Pursuits for the use of facilities. This area is ideal for all the family, those who don't fish can learn several water sports, go bird watching cycling or just take a leisurely walk in the countryside. It has something for everyone.

Float Tackle and Spombs

After a goodnights sleep followed by a good shower then breakfast I was ready to get my swim sorted out, Having spent an hour raking the swim I used the large size Spomb to deposit half a sack compost containing hundreds, perhaps thousands of small worms. Then it was off with Phil to Cotswold Angling to collect 5 pints of caster 4 pints of red gentles 1 pint of whites and half a dozen bags of cooked hemp. Back at my swim I spent the day feeding the swim with casters gentles and hemp on the little and often basis. For baiting up I used a small Spomb which was perfect for the job in the gale force wind. I reckon the Spomb is the ideal item of tackle for getting bait into a swim, unlike the old Spod that left a trail of bait on its flight to the target area; the Spomb puts all the bait in one spot. Once you have got the knack of using the Spomb you can put the bait into the area the size of a dinner plate. I chose to fish with a 15 foot float rod, centre pin reel 8lbs Gamma line with a 6lb Gamma line hook link to which I tied on a size 14 Pallatrax barbless hook. I pinched a size 6 egg shaped weight a few inches from the hook. A further 3 feet up the line I bunched 5 BB egg shaped weighs with 2 AA shot under the float.

A Good Tench to Start the Season

June 16th was windy and wet, not one of those delightful first days of the season that were made so evocative by Mr Crabtree, with the sun rising over a mist covered lake and a dawn chorus. I was wrapped up in waterproof clothing, I even had to borrow a jumper off Phil Chun, and it was that cold.
About 7 o'clock I had my first brew of the morning, and then I sat watching a motionless float while listening to a colony of terns. Just after 8 o'clock BBC Radio Lancashire called me to find out how the fishing was going; as I started to talk I hooked a good fish on the sleeper rod. As I played the fish and discussed the day I was thinkingĒ Donít come off as we need this fish for a picture" A few minutes later I was able to net a good tench which when weighed pushed the scale needle to 6-7-0 I was more than happy with my first fish of the new season. During the morning session I had a bite on the float which was missed, after lunch I put in some more bait then plumbed the depth again so I could get the tackle set up perfectly with just the bait touching the bottom, I reckon the fish were being very choosy in picking up the baited hook. Within an hour the sleeper rod was away another tench weighing 6lbs.

Big Fish Lost

About 4 o'clock in the afternoon as I was talking to a friend the float slowly disappeared in the wind swept water, picking up the rod I set the hook, immediately thinking "The bottom" then I felt a powerful force slowing moving along the bottom, the centre pin reel was giving line to this powerful adversary, Gary was quickly in my swim with camera having heard the check on the reel slowly giving out line. This wasn't a carp or a foul hooked fish, I was pretty certain this was a big tench. Then it was off. 2 of the 3 gentles were damaged with some slime on the hook link, I was gutted as I reckon that would have been my best ever tench. Still that's angling. I fished on until darkness without another bite. The next morning I fished for a couple of hours for nothing. Phil had 2 6lb tench best at 6-5-0, he also lost five fish, and Phil was fishing at long range. Gary fished with Pallatrax method mix also at long range catching one good tench which he estimated at around 71/2lbs. Dave had just one bite on the float about an hour before we packed up, it was hooked then lost within a minute. We all agreed despite the rough weather and the fish not getting their heads down we would all return. For club membership and further details e-mail Phil Chun or email

Martin James Fishing