Now as you are probably aware peg 10 at Bowood is my winter go-to peg as it is deeper and I work on the principle that so few people a) fish Bowood, b) fish for silvers that if I keep to one peg then there is bait going in and keeping the fish in the area. The downside of this it can become a habit that is difficult to shake off and you get caught in a rut. I decided that to get out of the rut I would fish either peg 8 or 9 on my next visit. As it happened when I arrived on the Friday one of the locals was on peg 10 anyway fishing for pike so I dropped in to peg 8.
Peg 8 is a lot shallower at only about 5 feet rather than the 8-9 on peg 10 so I set up slightly differently with a homemade shortish Chianti style float taking 4 no 8 shot and 3 no 10s. I set the bulk at18 inches from the hook with 2 no 10 droppers, line was 0.12 Shogun to a 0.10 Shogun hooklength and an 18 fine wire hook. I began by potting in three balls of groundbait (cocoa Belgique, Vanilla, Lake and Roach competition in equal measures) with a few grains of corn and about 40 pieces of hemp. The pike rod was suitably adjusted for the depth and a sardine was sent out to about 12m.
The roach were the first to appear on double maggot and after about 4 fish I switched to corn and while the bites were not as fast in coming the stamp of fish was better. After about an hour I had a run on the pike rod that I briefly thought I had hooked but then the bait came flying back at me, undetered I cast back to roughly the same area – 10m as I had twitched the initial cast after 40mins- and fifteen minutes later the float bobbed then slid away, this time the fish was hooked and a jack of 5-01 came to the net. I ended up the session with 23 rudd, 16 roach and 2 skimmers to give me a 10-10 total with a further missed run and a lot of the mysterious bobbing! The angler on 10 missed two runs also but did get a pike of 13lb.
The week-end was left alone and I returned on the Monday but the weather had taken a turn for the worst and there was frost on the ground with an air temperature of 1C with bright sunshine – not ideal by any means. I tend to keep the sweetcorn in a one pint bait box and wrapped up in a freezer bag with the air taken out and stored in my bait fridge in the garage. On arrival I add water to the bait box and wash the corn a couple of times then cover with fresh water, doing this a can can last me 2-3 weeks or more. Putting the water in the sweetcorn I was shocked by how icy the water felt. Starting cautiously I potted in a small ball of groundbait with just a smattering of corn and hemp (I need to do some more wheat!) but in the three hours from 10 until 1 I did not get a single bite on the pole and to make matters worse I missed a run on the pike rod so ended up blanking like the angler on the other bank on peg 20 who arrived just after me and packed up at the same time!
Two days later I was back at peg 10, the water was still icy and I started the same way, very cautiously, this time after and hour and twenty minutes the float dipped and I avoided a blank with a net-able skimmer that weighed 10oz, this turned out to be my only bite on the pole! At 11:45 the pike float disappeared and the strike produced a solid response a very welcome pike of 12-10 and that was it with me packing up at 12:45.
I have three unhooking mats but I deliberately do not use them at Bowood, experience has shown that the pike are far more active/unhappy on a wet unhooking mat than on the spongy soft grass at Bowood. It is very rare for the pike to flap around when on the grass whereas they can be a real handful on the unhooking mat – hence the lack of a mat in the photos at Bowood.
I decided that I needed to spread my wings a bit as I had not fished a river this season so on the Friday I headed to the downstream stretch of Sutton Benger with the rucksack seat and my Chinese rod bag carrying rods set up for a stick float, a waggler and a feeder. Baitwise I had maggots, cheese, micro pellets and worms. I slotted in the weir swim and starting on the maggot feeder I had a bit of interest after ten minutes – from a robin that settled on the rod near the first ring and looked at me as if to say “why are you not feeding me?” The robin was dutifully supplied with maggots and I managed to winkle out a roach, a dace and a bleak before I give in to my urge and got the stick float out. I had been priming a swim about a rod length out where there was a slightly deeper channel where I could trot my 5 x no4 through. The next hour was spent trotting through with one small chub and 6 bleak coming to the net. The fish were not big, indeed the total weight was only 9oz for the 10 fish but it was nice to get back on the river.
That visit turned out to be the last opportunity this month as a combination of booster jabs, visitors and -2C temperatures in the day made me think discretion was the better part of valour and I stayed in the warm! As I write this the temperature has gone from the -2C of yesterday to 9C but it is then getting colder again so the fish will not know whether they are coming or going!