Boat Fishing, Blenheim Palace

There’s something about getting up early to go fishing. Not just the anticipation of the catch, more the silent atmosphere and calm at 4am. It’s Monday morning, and I’m off to Blenheim Palace to fish from a boat.

The roads are empty, few clouds are in the sky and it looks to be the start of a fine day. It’s often the simple things that make me feel so fortunate – and this is a welcome change to the regular commute to London.

I enter the picturesque Oxfordshire village of Woodstock at about 6am, and the grand Palace gates soon after.

If you’ve never visited Blenheim – you’re in for a treat. Going through the gates into the grounds is breathtaking. I’ve travelled and seen plenty – but the driveway, buildings, gardens and Lake are a sight to behold – and first thing in the morning, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.

The lake was designed by the landscape genius ‘Capability Brown’, I owe many of my fondest memories to this man who also designed the stunning Sherborne Lake, in Dorset, where I fished as a boy.

Once parked up, a couple of other cars join me. It’s not the cheapest place to fish, and as a visitor, you can only fish from a boat, but this just adds to make the day something special. Commercial Carp fishery this isn’t! – and I’m glad to find somewhere that’s not full of Carp anglers in Bivvies. Not that I’m against carp anglers – I was ‘carp nuts’ in the late seventies – just not anymore.

Anyway, back to the palace. The chap at the boathouse welcomes us. He dishes out the boats (and cleans them when returned). Later in the day he tells me he’s fished and worked at Blenheim for most of his life. Fishing it as a young lad, it must have seemed a magical place.

Strangely, he says even now, he can never decide which area of the lake to fish – it seems that the fish move around the lake, and one quiet swim today, could well be a hotspot tomorrow.

He also told of a shoal of Bream the size of a football pitch swimming on the surface one summer several years ago. The lake is probably best known for Tench and Pike, but there are huge Perch (over 4lbs), Roach and Bream present.

A regular once told me, although it’s tempting to keep on the move in a boat, it’s probably best to pick a spot and stick to it, in the hope that fish will find you. It’s worked OK for me.

Pike fishing is allowed throughout the open season. The picture (right) shows a 37lb pike taken from the lake a few seasons ago. The picture’s not great – it was taken on a mobile phone, but shows the water is capable of a 40lb fish.

Boat fishing is fun, although it comes with a few problems. Space is the obvious one – but the ‘facilities’ are less obvious until you need the loo. I recommend a Codeine or Imodium tablet first thing, although a couple of boiled eggs might be a healthier option.

Float fishing for Tench is my favourite method on the lake. I typically use bread, although didn’t have much luck on the day. Sweet corn and Luncheon meat seemed to do better. Maggots proved too tempting for the small Perch.

If you’re lucky enough to find the Tench, you might just tempt one or two – but there’s a chance you could be in for many more. It’s possible to get 20 or 30 in a session, and at an average size of 4-6lbs, that’s a good day in anyone’s book. Catching big Tench on a light float rod at Blenheim is as good as it gets.

My day finishes at 8:00pm. The sun is setting.

Fishing was a bit quiet – but who cares, while we’re still able to fish waters like Blenheim - it’s a wonderful world.

It’s also possible to fish for trout at Blenheim click here to find out more.

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