Today was a new fixture on the Godalming AS match fishing calendar – a first visit to Bowsaw & Billhook Lakes, near Odiham, Hampshire.
|Bowsaw & Billhook Lakes, near Odiham, Hampshire|
Due to some last minute cancellations and pre-planned holidays only 13 anglers graced the banks of Billhook Lake. This meant that we’d each end-up paying a relatively high match fee (as the whole lake had been book and needed to be paid for) – however as the lake hosts 30 pegs at least we’d have loads of room!!!
As this was my first visit to this venue I put out some feelers during the week and received some invaluable information from anglers who had fished the place before – the target species were (proper) carp in the 3 to 6lb bracket, the lake itself was pretty shallow at only about 3 to 4 feet deep and the main tactics were the method early/the margins later on.
|Looking left from peg 3 on Billhook Lake|
Not knowing much about the flyers I approached the bag of dreams with an open mind – when peg 3 appeared all I really knew was that I’d probably have peg 2 on one side and peg 4 on the other!!! As it turned-out peg 3 was an end peg on the day – a massive advantage on any venue.
After pushing my fantastically overloaded barrow up the steepest slope in the south of England to get to the lake I was very pleased with what I found – this was one great looking venue set in some amazing countryside! My peg was full of features – 2 great looking margins, a large patch of lilies at about 7/8m from the bank to my left and a number of smaller lilies forming a feature of sorts at about 25m.
|Worms, meat, pellets and dead maggots!|
Being my first visit to this lake I brought a range of familiar carpy baits – the main selection was made-up of 2mm, 6mm and 8mm pellets, Ringers fluro pop-ups and Banded Allsorts, 8mm luncheon meat, dead red maggots, groundbait and dendrabenas. (Hardly revolutionary but enough to cover a range of tactics including the straight lead, method feeder, long/short pole and margins as needed.)
|Yellow Ringers Banded Allsorts worked well today|
Prior to the all-in I prepared two rods – one fitted with a small 30g Preston Innovations method feeder and the other with a 1/3 ounce Guru square bomb. Each was on 8lb Daiwa Sensor mainline and the hooklength for the straight lead was 30cm of 0.19 Guru N-Gage into a size 14 QM1 with a hair-rigged pellet band – ideal for an 8mm pellet or a Ringers Banded Allsort (a new, highly coloured dumbbell hookbait). For the method I had three different hooklengths – all were 10cm long and on 0.19 but one featured a size 16 QM1 and a hair-rigged pellet band for a 6mm pellet, another a size 14 and a hair-rigged bayonet for a fluro pop-up and the final version was as the straight lead hooklength described above (just a little shorter).
I also set-up a pole rig for fishing 8mm meat towards the lily pads to my left – this consisted of a 4x12 KC Carpa Force on 0.17 mainline to a 15cm hooklength of 0.15 with an eyed Kamasan B911 size 16. (Even those these floats (which feature a diamond body and a line through the body arrangement) are stated as being 4x12 they actually take 8 or 9 number 10s, making them more like a 4x14.) Given the expected size of fish and the proximity of the lily pads elastic was black Hydro.
On the whistle I cast my method feeder towards the lilies at 25m – nothing materialised on the first few casts, but by the half hour mark I had two (smallish) carp in the net so at least I was up and running. A switch to the bomb and pellet lead to two more carp by the end of the first hour – interestingly despite trying a variety of hookbaits all 4 fish fell to a bright yellow Ringers Banded Allsort.
|Aerial view of Bowsaw (top) and Billhook (bottom)|
After that decent first hour the next two can only be described as ‘brutally hard’! Despite a few bow waves on the 25m line no proper bites developed – the TK+3 meat line was equally frustrating as when the float did dip four or five times every strike was met with fresh air! (Presumably this was down to small silver fish pecking at the bait.)
The lack of bites may have been down to the fact that a number of carp were spawning – the video clip above gives a flavour of what was going on all day!
To ease the boredom I set about putting together two margin rigs – a 4x12 Preston Durafloat 10 straight through on 0.17 to a size 14 Guru MWG for fishing meat to the left and a slightly heavier version on 0.19 to a size 12 to be used with 2 whole dendrabenas to the right. (Elastics were black Hydro and Preston 17 Hollo respectively.) I also set-up a new swim for silver fish at TK+3 to the right – this was fed with a small ball of groundbait and a few dead maggots. This line was hardly prolific and just as I was about to ditch it I caught two tiny skimmers and a very welcome bonus carp on single maggot!!!
|A decent run of fish from the 25m line|
Fortunately the second half of the match (we were fishing from 1000 to 1600) was better and I caught 4 fish on the straight lead – three on normal 8mm pellets and one more on the yellow Banded Allsort. Again the meat line towards the lilies at TK+3 failed to produce anything – the same went for the left margin (which I’d also been feeding with meat.)
|The right margin|
Going into the final two hours I knew I was doing reasonably well but that I needed something significant to happen to propel myself into the frame places. As a result I turned to my (as yet untouched) right margin and kicked-off with 4 large cups of Sonubaits 50:50 groundbait, softened micro pellets and dead maggots.
I left it for quarter of an hour to settle down, but as soon as I went on it (with two full size dendrabenas on the hook) I had 3 good fish in a row – just what the doctor ordered!!! I had to re-feed a couple of times but in those final two hours I had a total of 7 or 8 big fish (these edge fish probably averaged 6lb whereas those on the tip were 2-3lb). (During this period I also tried the straight lead and left margin a couple of times (whilst leaving the right margin to settle) but didn’t have any more bites despite continuing to feed both lines as best I could.)
|Claire ‘Bagger’ Hollis was fourth overall|
One of the joys of drawing an end peg is that you often find yourself on the scales and today was no exception! (Personally I don’t mind this too much as it gives you the chance to see what everyone else has caught and ask a few questions.) After weighing the low numbered half of the lake it was soon my turn and in the end my 16 or 17 carp and two tiny skimmers went 75-13-0 – just enough for second place but miles behind Ian Dixon’s 125lb!!!
- Ian Dixon, Peg 19 125lb
- Phil Morris, Peg 3 75-13-0
- Dave Steer, Peg 24 67lb
- Claire Hollis, Peg 25 60-8-0
|Sonubaits 50:50 Method:Paste was fed down the edge|
Conclusions: all-in-all a very enjoyable day and a nice warm-up for my fortnight at White Acres (which is less than two weeks away now). Bowsaw & Billhook certainly seems a very good venue with lots of fish to be caught – something that is reflected in the number of bookings for club matches on their calendar! The Ringers Banded Allsorts certainly worked well and seem to be a good alternative to standard hard pellets and fluro pop-ups when fishing the method or straight lead. However I failed to catch anything on luncheon meat once again – I’m going to give it one more go at White Acres and if that fails I’m doing to do away with it permanently!!! One final question though – should I have started building the right margin an hour or two earlier? Personally I don’t think so as towards the end bites slowed – however that line really was the key to my match as I probably had 30lb on the tip in the first four hours and 45lb from the right margin in the last two!
Until next time …