December starts in chilly fashion with me arriving at Bowood with heavy frost and the air temperature at -2C at 9am. Peg 12 looked okay and with the heavy frost causing a mist to rise from the water but I wondered whether the sudden drop may make it more difficult than it looked. Starting cautiously with one ball of light groundbait laced with just a smattering of micros and about 20 casters I began on the pole with a size 18 to 0.10 Shogun, having put a sardine out as usual on the pike rod. I began catching small roach on double maggot before being interrupted by the elastic coming out on the strike and a slow ponderous fish moving off. My initial thought was pike as it was a typical scenario at Bowood, the tench seem to move off faster and even the bream are faster. I’ll never know if I was correct as the hook pulled half way in.
Back to catching small roach when 10 minutes later the same happened only this time after the slow ponderous start it realised it was hooked and went a run that saw the hook being pulled out again. Back out and a slower wait for the roach, 30 minutes pass and the elastic comes out again, only this time I manage to steer a jack of 4-2 to the net. The roach are now coming a lot slower and it is apparent that there are pike in residence as another two are lost on the pole before a jack of 4-8 is netted on the pole. I then manage to miss my one and only run on the pike rod! DOH! Another two pike are lost, one with a snap, I am guessing that the other pike may have been foul hooked possibly. I packed up with 30 roach, 3 rudd and a perch in the net at 1pm and on returning to the car found the temperature had risen to 5C.
Two days later back at 12 with a very heavy fog, began slowly with odd better (relative to the others I had been catching) roach until 11am when the fog lifted and bright sunshine hit Bowood – from this point until I packed up at 1pm I only had a solitary bite. The seven roach remained my only fish, no sign of any pike!
Sunday sees a change and me fishing the annual Pike match at Peatmoor, you can select your peg and move as the mood takes you so I headed for Peg 1-
the first time I had managed to fish it in the match. Two rods are allowed so I opted for a sprat on one and sardine on the other, both fished on my usual float(pellet waggler) and single barbless hooks. Before I had even sorted one rod out a pike was taken opposite on spinner 5-2. Two hours later I was still biteless when the sardine float went, a strike met with a solid resistance and the pike managed to get around my other line before being netted. Sorting out the tangle of line wrapped around the pike I finally had the fish weighed at 7-10, which put me in the lead. Usually if you get one pike on peg 1 you will get other runs so I ignored the temptation to move and stuck it out until the end of the match – no further runs! My one fish put me second as the spinner had worked it’s magic with 3 fish falling for the lure to give a winning 15lb total. I think I have been second or third 5 times in this match now and never won it!
Back to Bowood on the Wednesday, peg 12 started at 9:15 had 6roach and 4rudd by 10:30 when there was a very sudden drop in temperature- almost as if you had stepped into a freezer suddenly. There were no more bites from 10:30 to 11:30, the rain started and I went home!!
The rain continued and continued but more of that later, Sunday sees me meeting Darren for the second round of the Port Talbot Docks Winter League.
The day didn’t start well apart from the 30mph winds and rain the motorway junction outside Chippenham was closed which meant a diversion to come on at the Bath junction. The rain was causing all kinds of problems with 3 accidents seen on the way to the Docks, fortunately by the time we got to Bros, where the draw was held, we had driven past the torrential rain and were greeted with a heavy drizzle. The day didn’t get any better with the draw being totally cocked up – we should have been in rotating sections but the organisers gave up and changed it to a random draw for all matches after the first attempt prompted a call for a redraw. Result was instead of being in the preferred high numbers where the original plan would have placed us we ended up in the same section as the first match with me on 7 and Darren on 6. First bit of luck was the rain had stopped and the wind dropped by the time we got to the pegs.
I set up the feeder with a 30g open end on a link swivel tied directly to the braid (no shock leader- never found I needed one particularly with short casts) and a 15 inch hooklength of 0.12mm to a 16 looped around the braid above the knot to form a sliding paternoster. The margin pole came out at 8m with red hydro to a 14g giant to a 16 on 0.12mm. Two whips set up at 4m and 5m, 3g at 4m and 5g at 5m. The match started and 10 balls went in on the pole line in about 14-15ft of water. A small nugget went on the 4m whip line and I started on the pole while watching Darren as he was fishing the whip exclusively and if he started to catch I would swap over. A bite first put in saw a two ounce roach swing merrily towards my hand before dropping into the water at my feet!(It was going to be one of those days). After ten minutes the weather changed- the wind that had dropped came back with a vengeance with 35mph gusts.
The first hour proved to be a warning of what was in store with very few bites and no-one catching much. I had 9 roach in first hour, Darren 7, whereas we were expecting to hit between 30-40 an hour from past experience (more of that later!) By the end of the second hour I had added 2 more roach, Darren was up to 20, I had broken up some cheese into pellets that had gone into the groundbait I was feeding but resisted the temptation at this point to try it, instead put half a medium dendra on the hook and swung it out into the wind that was coming straight at us. After 5 minutes the float buried and a 12oz skimmer was safely in the net, soon to be followed over the next hour by several more some small but including one of about 2lb, then the wind went from 30mph to a reasonable 20mph and the bites dried up! I now reached for the cheese to no effect, then tried mussel ( match record several years ago of 80lb+of bream was taken on mussel!) still nowt.
I rang the changes to no effect, the whip lines had only given me three roach, so I thought sod it and went out on the feeder managing a few more roach and a couple of skimmers by the end. The five of us in this part of the dock weighed in as follows peg3 7-8, peg 4 8-1, peg 6 8-1, peg 7 8-1, peg 8 DNW, the rest of the section was the other side of a small headland and went Peg 10 17-0, peg 11 DNW, peg 12 15-01. The lower section was far more consistent with mainly double figure weights headed by one of the organisers on peg 20 with 30-7.
Talking to Scott Williams on peg 3 at the end we asked why he fished most of the match on a feeder as he is known as the whip king at the docks taking many 30lb+ nets of whip caught roach. He explained that the heavy rain we had been having usually spells the end of the big shoals of roach that he had plundered and the shoals break up and seem to disappear meaning that skimmers come to the fore. Armed with this we will take stock and think about what we do for round 3 – next Sunday.
The rain did not abate and I decided that going to Bowood would be a waste as previously the water was chocolate and flowing like a river at times so with the local river up and a muddy torrent instead of its clear steady flow (even after the previous rains) I had an enforced break until the following Sunday’s return to Port Talbot.
With it being the Sunday before Christmas the cafe we normally use for the draw was shut so we had to meet at the docks at 8:15, that meant Darren and I had an extra half hour in bed before setting off at 6:30. The trip down was uneventful and we made good time, arriving at the dock entrance before anyone else.The draw this time put Darren on 13 and me on 11 – one day we may get to draw down the bottom end! Bearing in mind what we had learnt last time I did not put up any whips , just a feeder and the margin pole with the usual 14g Giant.
The weather, for once was kind to us with winds of only 20mph and the occasional short shower. The fishing however was a different matter! We learnt that the day before that the anglers plundered the bream on 12 and 13 with one angler having 4 keepnets out as there had been an influx of warm water from the steel works but there had been very heavy overnight rain that had cooled the water. At the start I began with 10 balls laced with dead reds, corn, casters and wheat and went straight over it looking for an immediate response, which came in the shape of a 2oz roach.
Unfortunately it was a case of diminishing returns as by the time 50 minutes had gone the bites had dried up and I had put 15 roach in the net. Picking up the feeder I began with a half dendra and chopped worm, dead reds and caster in the 40g feeder. Casting every couple of minutes I began to get a few bites but it was slow, switching to double maggot speeded it up slightly but it was a case of waiting and putting the odd small skimmer in the net. The guy on 12 was also struggling and the angler on peg 10 (the fancied one in this top half) had put a glut of roach in the net fishing the waggler shallow (4-6feet) but was now on the feeder and catching skimmers.
I could see Darren had decided to fish the 4m line and was catching but despite further attempts on the margin pole line it was not worth sticking with. The guy on 12 had tried the short line with no success so I decided to stick it out on the feeder , ending the match with my lowest weight of the series so far – 10-6, the guy on 12 had 8-2, peg 10 had 19-8. Darren had managed 175 fish for 15-12 while Scott on peg 14 won the match with a top 2 catch of roach plus one bream of 26-12.
Annoyingly the area we had drawn last match had fished well with a string of double figure weights with the exception of peg 7 (my peg last week!).
The trip home was the best we had in terms of traffic but I came to the conclusion that my decision making is crap! Next time I am going to do it differently!
Christmas then intervenes with a trip to Yorkshire but on the return I get a last chance at Bowood. Peg 12 was calling me and on arrival I find a reasonable colour but still flowing. The sardine is put out and three balls of groundbait with some caster, wheat and dead reds are put in on 10m, maggots on the hook and the pike rod goes! A strike is met with a solid thump and after a short but feisty fight a pike of exactly 10lb is in the net – a welcome start!
Bites were aplenty but the fish were painfully small and 61 roach, 2 rudd and a small skimmer at the end of the session went 2-12 with a further two pike missed, to conclude 2019. The New Year will see more action on peg 12 (hopefully) and the last 3 matches at Port Talbot. Have a good one !