Who am I?

My photo
An individual, of no great importance, who is unable to the see the natural world as a place for competition. I catch fish, watch birds, derive immense pleasure from simply looking at butterflies, moths, bumble-bees, etc - without the need for rules! I am Dylan and this is my blog - if my opinions offend? Don't bother logging on again - simple!


Thursday, 18 October 2018

Keep on keeping on

I nipped in to see Camo on Saturday morning, just for a quick chat and to drop off my third Duncan Kay for a little bit of TLC and a new cork handle; replacing the original Duplon one. Camo tried to convince me that modern carbon rods were far superior to this 1985 classic, but I was having none of it. I readily concede that modern carbon fibre technology is light years ahead of the stuff used to build my own rods, but the action and test curves of modern rods are off the scale by comparison. Daley Thompson won Olympic medals using vaulting poles with a lesser test curve than today's, long range, carp rods. Why am I bothering to give this ancient rod a face lift?

My younger brother, Sye, putting a Duncan Kay through its' paces at Claydon Middle Lake. (1987)
They just don't make rods with a soft, through, action like this in 2018.
Simple really, I can't purchase a new rod with this combination of compound taper, through action and a 1 lbs 10 oz t/c in a length of 11' 6" (or any other for that matter!) Pike season will soon be upon me, although technically it already is, but I have the perch challenge to occupy my time up until we have the first, prolonged, period of frosty mornings. My pike fishing is conducted on small drains, The Stour and The Royal Military Canal, I have no requirement for heavy gear with such close range angling. Soft rods are well capable of cushioning the most savage lunges of an angry pike, the likelihood of hook pulls being much reduced and my enjoyment enhanced by the "feel" transmitted via the straining carbon.
So whilst I await the first frosts perch will take centre stage in my angling efforts. I've managed to get four sessions in, thus far, with no sign of my target species.That eels have had no difficulty homing in on my hook baits, is no surprise in these chosen venues. My static bait presentation suits the feeding behaviour of eels, especially in low light conditions that I also associate with perch activity, so have been trying to exploit. I'm confident that my tactics will reap rewards when I eventually locate some perch, rather than fishing to features. Gareth and I are in regular contact so know how each other are faring. It's not my intention to disclose my associate's antics and achievements, they're his tales to recall. However, shared snippets are assisting me tweak my approach as each session's results are put into the mix.

A 1985 custom built 11' 6" 1 lbs 2 oz t/c "Tring Tench Rod".
Perch fishing in 2018 is a mix of ancient and modern - I'm loving it!
I remain convinced that small, 1 oz, natural dead baits will produce the perch I desire, but only when I can present the offering in a known holding area. Casting blind isn't likely to attract anything more than eels and pike. Bite indication has also required my extended attention, this entirely due to my reluctance to use a float; I lack the attention span required and get headaches from the reflected glare off the water's surface. Nope, it's static legering for me, electronic bite alarms and some type of visual indicator. I've tried monkeys, swingers and hangers, none of them have all the answers although I do favour light weight hangers when wind conditions allow.

I have to say that I'm really relishing this challenge, as I know it will all too soon be over. To assist me with my learning I am keeping a diary, so as to record my thoughts, as well as my results, which will hopefully lead to my ultimate success. I write down all sorts of obscure thoughts, as they occur to me. By doing so they are not lost with the passing of time and, although very random, might just produce that spark of an idea when revisited at a later date. Swim details, bait choice and presentation, weather conditions, etc, etc ..... are all entered within the pages of this little A5 hardback. So far, the only obvious omission is that of a perch bite! However, there is a secondary purpose for these detailed notes. Gareth and myself will both be posting some form of summary of this mini adventure - I'll need all the help I can get to come anywhere close to the scholarly outpourings of my fellow flatland fisher.

With all this in mind it's not been doom and gloom as my camera kit has been kept busy, whilst on this adventure. I am hoping that my images might level the playing field and, in part, speak on my behalf. I'm not alone in this quest; Bev has also been busy behind the scenes and has pulled an absolute master stroke! Only in the "final cut" will this be revealed, but man it will be worth the wait. Bev doesn't have the first idea about angling, but she certainly knows about admin and PR - nuff sed!
I'll finish with an image from Wednesday evening. Taken on a buoyant mackerel section cast upstream from my perch swim; this lovely little pike, of 8 lbs 14 oz, provided some entertainment whilst awaiting the first attentions of my target species - happy days.

Friday, 12 October 2018

Perch window

This project has been on the back burner since 16th June, when Nick (the gamekeeper) showed me photos of some huge perch that he had taken, the previous season, in another drain system out on the flatlands. Events, recently, have made it very clear that if I'm to emulate Nick's results, then I had better get cracking. The autumn is upon us and the fish are feeding up in readiness for the colder months that lay ahead. My mate, Gareth, has already got his own campaign underway, landing a couple of two pounders for his troubles.
I made my first visit to the section, on Thursday, just to have a recce in preparation for a Saturday morning visit with the rods. I have to say that, in my very limited experience, the system absolutely screams perch. There are deep holes and huge weed beds, mainly cabbages, which offer superb habitat in which this species can lie in wait for the approach of its' prey. A couple of submerged concrete structures offer more scope for me to exploit as I chase my target of a "three". This is not wishful thinking, Nick took fish to 3 lbs 14 oz last season - that'd do nicely.
Not too sure what to expect with my first attempt, although I have to admit that I feel confident that my tactics will work if the perch are in residence. Once again the pursuit of an angling target all comes down to that very basic requirement - location. You can't catch what isn't there; simple! However, given my track record over the summer, I have to say that I can't even catch what is there!
This short campaign will be all the more pleasurable because Gareth and I are pooling information, although not necessarily fishing together, to try to get the best return on our efforts. Our approaches are very different, Gareth being very mobile whilst I prefer to sit and wait, having set my traps in spots which I have identified using past experience and/or watercraft.

I'm hoping for much better than this anaemic-looking specimen from a local club venue.
I think that the best bit will be when we both write our summaries of the project on our blogs, Gareth being a master wordsmith, his blog entitled Postcards from the English Outback. Please click the link - we really are like chalk and cheese, yet brought together via our fascination for the outdoors and the wonders of angling, in wild places, with tackle from a bygone era. Let's see where this takes me and how I end up? Whatever the outcome, it should be good fun.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Mushrooms, magic and a jerk!

On Sunday morning I drove across to visit my daughter and her family in a stunning little village tucked away in the East Kent backwaters. Well off the main thoroughfares, it is a wonderful, serene, environment in which my three grandchildren are growing up. The estate, in which their home is situated, is a magnificent mix of deciduous woodland and open pasture, interspersed with arable fields, surrounded by game crop. It is a hugely successful commercial pheasant shoot, yet the spin off for so much other wildlife is blatantly obvious to anyone who visits.

The morning was all about the kids, Bryn, Evelyn and Rowan who, accompanied by Sarah, came out on a walk to see what we could find. The two boys were soon off doing their thing with sticks and puddles, Evelyn, however, was looking for Fairy houses and dinosaur footprints - she found loads, such is the uncluttered imagination of the innocent. I found myself immersed in this world, the first sign of fairies is, after all, mushrooms! Evelyn was soon showing me plants that I'd never even looked at, all very strange having someone so young enthusiastically sharing her world of wonder. I clicked away merrily with the camera as we walked and chatted about the world as viewed through the eyes of a five year old! There were lots of Redwings in the woodland, scattering as we approached and an obvious passage of Siskin was occurring overhead, as birds called regularly above the canopy. Four Common Buzzards, two Sparrowhawk and a nice array of woodland species were recorded on our travels as we made our way to Fairy HQ - an old ice house stuck out in a secluded dell a few hundred yards from the "big house"

Common Buzzard over the woodlands
The Ice House - Fairy HQ and a place of enchantment for Evelyn
Sadly the shine was somewhat knocked off the experience by my meeting with a gamekeeper. Obviously in need of a PR assistant, he must be very good at his job, as the estate is testament to the incredible hard work that the team put in over the course of a year. I had a pair of binoculars around my neck, and a camera slung over my shoulder; maybe this was all he required to instantly recognise me as an "anti"? I was going to say what a superb job he (& the team) was doing but his instant rebuff was so rude I couldn't be bothered. Obviously a well balanced chap - a chip on each shoulder, I'd quite like to meet him in a pub, now that would get interesting - hey ho, takes all sorts!

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Rubbish, Anglers and other stuff

I joined the Wantsum AA this year, due to having spent a few close season sessions, fishing the beautiful Scroggin's Lake - part of their Marshside Fishery. I was invited to do so by Mick, the bailiff, and was very flattered by this offer as the club has a limited membership. If you've been a regular visitor to the blog you will be well aware that I've not spent any time at the club waters since June 16th, due to my quest for that carp out on the East Kent marshes.
When I returned home from Kefalonia, there was an email waiting for me from Robby Tuck-Brown, the new club secretary, introducing himself to the members, laying out his ideas for the club as he attempts to steer it into the next decade. Asking for advice, and input, from the membership as to what they would like from their club and the committee in the coming year? He finished his piece with a request for members to join a work party at Scroggin's - Saturday 6th Oct at 09.30 hrs. I made a mental note of the date and said to Bev that I'd nip across to help out, but also to introduce myself to those members present, Robby in particular. So I left home just before 05.30 hrs, this morning, headed for The Wantsum for a quick pike session, before making the short drive across to Marshside to join the other guys involved in weed clearance and general tidying of the fishery. I don't need to dwell upon the pike fishing, there's nothing to report - absolutely zilch!

My kit set up on Scroggin's - anyone can spend a day at this beautiful fishery for £10 or £5 for
an evening ticket. 
The work party was a real eye opener. The average age of the folk involved was well passed retirement, I was probably the youngest one there? These anglers keen to give back something to their club. There seems a genuine buzz of enthusiasm this club generates amongst its' membership. They do have a match section, although my impression is that the vast majority of members are simply pleasure anglers, happy to catch whatever species is feeding on the day. My task, this morning, was litter clearance. Why the need? Surely club members take their litter home and yes, I'm confident that club members do. However, to enable the club to function, financially, they allow day ticket anglers to use the venues, even night sessions, at very reasonable prices and this is where the problem with litter arises. Anglers (?), certainly a section of visitors, with no affiliation to the club, treat it with total disregard to any rules. Why take home any rubbish when you can chuck in/over the surrounding hedgerow. I spent an hour and a half doing nothing more than clearing away crap discarded by visitors who have made the effort to travel to this superb site. It was bad enough around the lake, what had been chucked in the vegetation beside the main car park beggared belief. The consensus of the members gathered for the work party was that a polite notice "Please leave the fishery/swim as you found it" with a photo of the debris collected today might be good idea. When I lived in Hemel Hempstead, I was a member of Boxmoor & District AC and on the Westbrooke Mere Fishery gate was the notice "Leave litter - leave the club". This remains my own stance on the problem of users who show total disrespect to the facilities that they visit. Why should someone else have to pick up their rubbish, purely because they're too idle to do so themselves?

The crap that was collected from around the site at Scroggin's Lake today.
That black plastic sack is full of stripped wire coating, so fly tipped next to the toilet,
right in the car park. The only visitors to this venue are those who wish to go
 fishing; it is way too far, from the main road to deliberately drive here just
 to dump some rubbish, thus a rod user was responsible.
Photo is courtesy of Robby Tuck-Brown - thanks for this!
I have to say that I'm convinced the cheaper prices, charged for day tickets, is what draws these socially disfunctional individuals to visit. If the day ticket price was higher it would ensure that visitors were serious about their angling and didn't just own a fishing rod, but no rod licence! It is not the responsibility of the angling club to check for current rod licences, although they might state the legal requirement for one in their terms and conditions on the day ticket. I have been back angling since 2011 and have been checked by the Environment Agency Officers just once, despite my early efforts being concentrated on the very popular commercial fisheries of our area. Why am I bothering paying for a rod licence if I'm not seeing a benefit, or at least an EA presence at these larger venues? I know why, because, like the vast majority of other anglers, I care about my hobby and the countryside that I am privileged to visit during the course of my year's fishing. Here endeth my moaning!

The Carp Porter Mk II - just the job for getting my kit out to my swim. So much easier than trying to carry it all!
The year is quickly passing and my angling priorities will change with the seasons passage into the colder months. My first pike session, today, was very much a going through the motions type of visit. It was the first time I'd cast a dead bait into the venue, so very much a "work in progress" learning curve as I look ahead. Then there is a perch project to embark upon, with a kindred spirit, the plans for which have yet to be discussed in detail. I have a couple of personal targets, that will be used to assist my focus during the coming months. With our building project now very close to a finish, time will again be my own and I should have enough to go off in pursuit of these goals whenever I think there's a chance. One item of kit that I've recently acquired is a secondhand Carp Porter Mk 2 barrow and, although I feel I'm morphing into a first class tackle tart, have to admit that it does make getting my tackle out to my chosen swims so much easier. It also means that I'm able to take all my camera gear with me, so have more flexibility to record the wildlife and scenery as well as my, very occasional, trophy shots. I am finding it a very nice side show, playing around with the lenses, attempting to record alternate images to standard fare that I've become so used to seeing via the various social media platforms.

It was because of  using this old school tackle that Mick Jones (the bailiff) and I started chatting;
which, in turn, led to me getting invited to join this fantastic angling club - The Wantsum AA.

Monday, 1 October 2018

Things that pass in the dark

There was little chance that I'd repeat my success of Saturday morning on the Sunday evening, but still I went back and spent an enjoyable few hours going through the motions. It felt chilly in the intensifying NW breeze and I was glad that I'd had the sense to wear my thermal over suit. I didn't see any signs of carp activity all the time I was on the bank and feel the quest, for that carp, might be put on hold for another year; pike and perch taking centre stage in my angling focus as the temperatures fall away.

I'd taken my Canon kit with me in the hope of grabbing a few images of the Barn Owl I've seen just recently. As it happens, I actually saw two owls, but they were far too flighty and I was unable to get them in focus, let alone within range of the feeble flash unit that is built into the camera body. Not all was lost, however, as Beavers were both active and numerous, at least five individuals passing through my swim as darkness fell. If I couldn't catch a carp then at least I could play around with camera settings and see what I came up with.

Not quite up to Chiddy's standard, nowhere close in truth, yet pleasing enough for my first effort, allowing plenty of room for improvement should the opportunity arise again?

Saturday, 29 September 2018

A morning to savour

Bev and I, along with Madeline, our neighbour, attended the funeral of Hugh Mathews - the husband of Kathy, thus another member of the Vine Close massive. Margate Crematorium provided a splendid send off, for a really nice guy who had impacted positively upon so many during his time on this earth. There was a bit of God Squad stuff, but generally it was a celebration of the memories that Hugh has left us all with. After the ceremony there was a very low key gathering, as Kathy wanted, and we slipped away after a bite to eat and headed back home, leaving the family to come to terms with their loss.
Sneaky, or what? I could get out fishing whilst Bev went out with her brother and parents for their regular Friday away-day. I'd already got the bait from the freezer, prior to leaving for work at 05.30 hrs. What could possibly go wrong?  Are you kidding! EVERYTHING. Bev's father had been rushed into hospital, requiring a couple of blood transfusions, but no-one had thought to let us know where or when! Panic on, Bev and Gary (her brother) phoned around the various hospitals before discovering that Ron was in the QEQM Margate. Gary arrived from Whitstable, and collected Bev, en route to the hospital. I was told that I could go fishing, if I wished. Funnily enough my head wasn't capable of rational thought, let alone focus, and I said that I'd have an early night and get out in the morning, depending upon what  the outcome of the hospital experience.
Fortunately, Ron was discharged and returned to Herne Bay with Gary, the future being far from assured, but there are plans afoot to get social services far more involved with the, day to day, care of Ron and Denise. The alarm sounded at 03.45 hrs and so I was on my way, the weather forecast being overcast with a brisk easterly wind. Really? How much computer wizardry have the Met Office got and still they can't even get close to the reality of East Kent micro-climate quirks. The pre-dawn sky was illuminated by the waning moon and littered with countless stars. I could make out Orion's belt, through some wispy clouds, and offered up a few thoughts to the angling gods as I prepared to make my first cast into the drain. Two rods out, a small scattering of freebies on two spots, I sat back to enjoy the dawn.
A Barn Owl floated past and a pair of Little Owls called out in the darkness, it was classic flatland autumnal fare. The right hand rod couldn't have been out more than 45 minutes when the Siren R3 burst into life and my centre-pin spun as an unseen fish powered off with my bait. I don't think the fish knew what was going on because I had it in the landing net within a minute. Only then did it really start to play up. Too late old mate - game over! I knew it was a good fish when I landed it, but it was only once the sun rose that I could fully appreciate the beauty of my capture. A wondrous, wild, common carp, all 22 lbs 2 oz of it. It encapsulates everything I seek from my time out on the marsh - I was in adrenaline heaven. I spent the best part of two hours attempting to contact Benno, as I wanted to share the joy and needed some photos! Nothing doing, but that's Benno's story, so I had to revert to the self-take technology I have at my disposal. Task completed, although I feel that I've not achieved justice for the magnificent carp that I'd been privileged to catch.

I packed up before 09.00 hrs, photos done, and made my way back to the van encountering another angler on the way. Just like me he seeks the thrill of these wild places and the wondrous inhabitants of the crystal clear water. He has a very positive outlook on the world, despite his disability, and uses fishing as a therapy to everyday life. It was a joy to spend a little time in his company - he knows who he is. We will bump into each other again, of that I'm sure. Only one Beaver today, but plenty of birdie action included 4 Mistle Thrush, 2 Common Buzzard, 2 Sparrowhawk, Meadow Pipit, Goldfinch, Linnet, several Kingfishers, Golden Plover, Lapwing and good numbers of Stock Doves. All round it was a fantastic session.

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

This might be quite unusual?

I discovered a very strange-looking insect on some courgette plants that Elaini was growing at Saoulas. Initial attempts at an ID suggested an Assassin Bug nymph? Now I'm back home, with full internet access,  Leafhopper Assassin Bug (Zelus renardii) seems to be a very good candidate - an American species which is known to have been (accidentally) introduced into Spain and Greece (not too sure if that includes Kefalonia?); with the first Italian record being confirmed in July 2018!

It's very possible that I'm miles off the mark and the id completely wrong, but it still meant that I looked at something which is way outside my comfort zone - and for that I'm grateful. If ever I stop looking or fail to be amazed by the creatures I encounter, then it's time to chuck in the towel and quit!