Come the middle of February many matches feature good catches of tench. Often these are quite good fish for the water, and they are not just odd fish. When the tench feed you can bet that several anglers will catch them and they will make up the bulk of the weights.

Why tench, traditionally considered a summer species, should suddenly start feeding in what is often the coldest month of the year is open to conjecture. OK, so the days are gradually getting longer, and perhaps water temperatures may be creeping slowly up, but tropical it isn't! Tench probably move around more in winter than we might imagine, if we were to believe traditional angling lore. Yet if they are so catchable why don't the tench show up right through the winter?

Animals that hibernate in winter often suffer a crisis in the Spring as their fat reserves are burnt up before the end of the bad weather. Perhaps then this is the reason for the tench to suddenly become more catchable. This is only conjecture, but if the fat reserves built up over the summer were to run low then this certainly could trigger the tench to start feeding until they were satiated. If this is true then the tench must find enough to eat as, regular as clockwork, the feeding spell only lasts a week, two at most, before the tench disappear again. This isn't a new phenomenon either. I can remember a friend of my fathers catching some very big Thames tench in the winter over twenty years ago.

Perhaps it is also significant that a lot of these February tench come from rivers and drains. Could it be that in moving water these fish have to work a little harder, and so burn up their fat reserves quicker?

One bait stands out above all for winter tench, the humble worm. With the true lobworm becoming increasingly difficult to get hold of, my normal choice these days are large dendrobenas. For most forms of fishing, including tenching, these are ideal as they live for ages with little attention. Being around three to four inches in length they are also just the right size for tench fishing. I normally fish a single worm mounted on a size 12 Mustad specimen hook, or two on a size 10. Hook the worms through one end and let them dangle.

How you fish really depends on the conditions. Normally tench at any time of year will be found close to cover and most of this will be tucked right under your own bank. I use my MAP seventeen foot float rod to actually reach out beyond the marginal cover. When I get a bite the strike pulls the fish up and out, away from any potential snags and into open water. Float fishing is by far the best method at this time of year as bites are often quite delicate. Also, the vertical line rising from hook to float will help keep the line out of danger.

Begin the day by feeding a handful of chopped worm mixed with an equal amount of casters. If the water temperature is rising then a small amount of fishmeal mixed with it won't do any harm. Plumb up carefully and fish the bait a couple of inches over-depth with a number eight shot just touching bottom. Expect bites to come at any time, often first from any perch that might be in the area, but as the swim settles, increasingly from the tench. Big roach and the odd eel might also put in an appearance, just about anything with fins is likely to eat worms every now and then.

So if tench are your thing, look for a slow flowing stretch of river, or canal, that produces fish in the summer months and get out and have a go. Whilst a misty summer morning it might not be, the tench still fight as hard and look as fabulous on a cold February morning as they do come June.