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!

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Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Counting down

I've been out, and about, baiting swims in a couple of drains, in order to be well set for that first cast of the 2018/19 season. I still await delivery of my Wantsum AA membership card thus, have steered clear of the new venues until I have proof of membership. I've arranged parking, for the van, well away from prying eyes, and feel strangely confident about the situation. It is great to have so many contacts within the local farming/shooting fraternity that I can ask such favours without feeling embarrassed. (Not that I do or would!)
Work is off the scale, at present, we are flat out. Raw materials are proving to be our biggest issue; when can we get the next delivery? Order levels are way above target and overtime is available, should we choose to take advantage. Being down to my last £200k (joke) am happy to assist the cause by staying a few extra hours and ensuring customer demand is met, as best we can. It bloody great when you go to work because you want to, not have to - there's a massive difference between the two! Friday afternoon, just after 15.00 hrs, I will be headed off to my chosen drain with nothing more than a wish to be part of an outdated ritual, one that had been so pivotal in my past angling adventure. This time I will be alone, no lines of bivvies and fellow anglers, perched upon the concrete banks of the Tring Reservoirs, so no one else to decree that magic moment. The first cast will be when my Tag "Aquaracer" Calibre 5 signals midnight, far more accurate than awaiting the church clock - but, somehow, lacking the magic of those bygone times.
My life is good, right now, and any negatives are of my own making. The redevelopment of our bungalow is a glitch, in normality, which Bev & I have to deal with. The bigger picture sees us taking more holidays, driving around in decent motors and generally having a nice time. Moaning about not catching a carp is pointless when so many other things are going in my favour.



Monday, 11 June 2018

Just bloggage - stir crazy

The unbelievable scale of disruption and chaos, associated with our bungalow extension and interior remodelling, has left me completely numb. I don't know quite what I was expecting, but this situation is on another level; still, it will be worth it when it's finished. The only room that remains relatively normal is our bedroom, the rest of the place resembles a building site - funny that? Fortunately, Kevin and his team are a great bunch and really getting on with the transformation, all keen to do their best and deliver the result Bev and I hope for. As is normal, in these situations, there are unforeseen snags which crop up but, on the whole, things appear to be progressing to plan.

Wilstone tench fishing, in the early 90's, Les Bamford Optonic conversions and Shimano EX 3000 reels.
With this turmoil, as the backdrop, I find myself looking at old photos, the new coarse fishing season fast approaching. Plans are afoot to get a mid-night start on that hallo'ed night. It being a traditional ritual, rather than a serious attempt at adding to my carp tally, harking back to the Wilstone years and the superlative tench angling of the 1980's/90's. I have blogged about these times previously but, the period was fundamental in my development as an angler (and individual), I am happy to go back over old ground. Plus it gives me an excuse to use some more old photos from a time when I thought I was a good angler but, in reality, was nothing better than a "time bandit". Man did I waste some time up there on the concrete banks of that wondrous fishery? Thirteen years, as a Tring Syndicate member, was to see me experience eleven midnight starts on the opening day. I'd joined three weeks late, in 1981, so after Tony Chester (and Ric Francis - foul hooked) had landed the new record tench, thus had missed out on that first occasion. It didn't happen again and the build up to the "witching hour" was almost as exciting as the fishing itself. The adherence to the stroke of midnight, before that first cast, was an embedded part of the membership. It was bordering on insane, the lengths to which we went to ensure the first cast was on stroke of midnight and not a second before! Remember this was well before smart phones and the world wide web - chiming church clocks were the best we had, or maybe a transistor radio awaiting the midnight news bulletin. The pent up excitement was electric, the vibe almost touchable, as we counted down the last few minutes - and then we were off, casting into the darkness at the start of another journey into the unknown on the banks of Wilstone Reservoir. 


I lack the ability to convey the excitement, nor the camaraderie, that we shared as the fishery gradually gave up its' treasures. Tench fishing, of a quality never previously thought possible within the UK, and right on my doorstep, so ridiculous to ignore. We now know that these fish were a direct result of the 1976 drought, and subsequent fish kill, plus the eutrophication of the environment, due to the agricultural run-off as a consequence of the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) of EU origin. Farmers had to overdose fertilizer applications in order to comply with grant regulations, happy days if you were tench fishing at Wilstone - sod the rest of the environmental consequences. We were myopic big fish anglers, and this lack of understanding still exists in 2018, because angling is unwilling to recognise the unbalanced ratio of big fish as a sign of an ecological catastrophe. All the while Barbel, Bream, Tench and Carp are pushing statistics ever upwards, what possibly can be wrong with our fisheries? No Minnows, Bullheads, Stone Loach, Sticklebacks and Bleak - blame the Otters! Easy. Whenever I visit a tackle shop I feel that I'm a lone voice, stuck in a time warp, such is the incessant desire for bigger and better carp fisheries from my fellow customers. Carp are now the only species which matters and they're bloody alien to the UK! Some truly screwed up logic involved in this situation, but the quest for the dollar has deemed it OK - weird! I wonder what input the water providers have in this?  It's got to be easier to give carp anglers more carp than trying to reverse the ecological disaster and return our waterways to their previous glory and biodiversity.



Two, seven plus, males and a nice brace (a six and seven) from Wilstone
So back to the exploitation of the environmental disaster at Wilstone Res. Thirteen seasons was to see me land, in excess of, one hundred Tench of 7 lbs and above. I have no way of knowing how many were repeat captures, but surely there will have been quite a few? What it can't do is reduce the importance of this event as a dawning of a new era in UK freshwater angling. Would I have been so enthusiastic had I realized the implications, moving forward? You kidding? - I was at an age when future meant tomorrow, live for the day, the moment, and I (we) did just that. We were smashing it and those Tench were waiting for my bait, I was having a bowl full of whatever was on offer! (Much like today's carp/barbel anglers) It's impossible for me to be critical of modern anglers wanting to catch big fish, although I have reservations about the current dominance of carp angling and the skewed version of a healthy fishery, but nothing I do, or say, will make the slightest difference. The state of our freshwater environments is normal for the current generation, and so it will go on as time, and the dollar dictate. As soon as there is no longer a demand for carp fishing, then our waterways will become little more than open sewers - always look on the bright side of life, eh?




Sunday, 3 June 2018

Fine tuning of phase three

Although the three phases of an anglers' development, within the hobby, are not his own invention; Luke Jennings description of these stages, through which an individual will pass, are wonderfully explored, explained and examined in his superb book; Blood Knots -ISBN 848871335. I have neither the eloquence, vocabulary or skills with the written word to ever hope that anything I post will come close to such a masterclass of literary technique, but I'll continue with my efforts because I derive great satisfaction from the process of blogging. So the three phases of an angler's journey is the place for this offering to start. That there are so many analogies that can be drawn with other pursuits, is understandable, because these phases are also about individual development and the search for answers, thus will apply in many other walks of life?

Phase one
The discovery of angling as a way of connecting with another dimension; like opening the door of a darkened room and peering in on a world of mystery and intrigue, full of creatures, unlike any others within your experience. Simply by picking up a rod and casting a line you are able to be at one with this alien environment and its' inhabitants. As I was a child, when I first became involved, I cannot remember if the thrill of the chase, or the adrenaline rush caused by a disappearing float, that kept me going back for more? At this basic, entry level, part of the journey, it's all about catching fish. It matters not about size or species, the whole purpose of going out is to catch a fish. My own adventure coincided with a period when the rivers and canals, around Hemel Hempstead, still teemed with life. Minnows, Gudgeon, Bullheads and native Crayfish were widespread and common, Roach and Perch were to be expected whenever the Grand Union Canal was visited. There were Bream and Tench in the local fisheries, monstrous pike (the fish of legends) lurked in the murky depths and someone once caught a Carp! (We're talking 1960's here!) So I was aware of the multiple species which inhabited these environments, but was happy to fish for whatever turned up and think that this is the basis for any entrant to the hobby. There are some who are happy to remain at this stage and, for want of a better description, they are the fair weather, pleasure anglers, always cheery and the source of many a "the one that got away" tale!


Circa 1990 - Benno with a mixed bag from the GUC at Tring


Phase two
The bug has really taken hold and there are two manifestations of this second phase. If competition is in your nature, it is very likely that match angling will be the path you choose? However, if big is beautiful, then specimen hunting (it's now called carp fishing) is where you're headed and exactly what I did. A spotty teenager with a burning desire to catch the biggest fish that swim. I probably spent twenty five plus years at this level of angling, chasing from pillar to post in order to place another statistic next to a PB list entry. I would be lying if I said that it wasn't a very enjoyable part of my life but, when all said and done, I wasn't particularly successful because I wasn't a very good angler. The ability to (ab)use time disguises many shortcomings, and I had amassed a very creditable PB list purely because of this time bandit, law of averages, approach. If I had my time again, would I change anything? Not a bit of it; they were crazy, enjoyable times and only by experiencing that aspect can I now look back and realize just how pointless my involvement was. I learnt very little although I rubbed shoulders with some of the finest angling brains of the period. Hindsight, that old chestnut, suggests I should have spent more time listening to their advice and less time on the piss - hey ho! 

It has to be a Wilstone Tench (8 lbs +) which encapsulates the whole experience of
my angling journey through phase two. The happiest, maddest period of my
entire life and one that I look back on with great fondness, despite being a twat!



Phase three
Resonating around in my head is the pounding sound of Bananarama, with Fun Boy Three, and their nauseating "It ain't what you do, it's the way that you do it!" lyric. Yet, despite my inability to praise anything about the quality of this musical abomination, there is no denying the accuracy of the statement in this particular context. I would be lying, through my back teeth, if I said that size no longer played a role in my enjoyment of fishing, because I still want to push myself as a specimen angler. Big fish, of whatever species, are very special creatures and remain central to my efforts whilst on the bank. However, "the way that I do it" is paramount in my thoughts, and actions, thus the reason for this post. Some of the modern angling equipment is of outstanding quality and design. The downside is that it comes with a hefty price tag and is accompanied by huge quantities of sundry items which have no useful purpose other than to fill a space in a tackle box/carp barrow. My constant quest for an edge results in my spending much spare time scrutinizing the carp angling t/v channels on Youtube. Some of the kit that is being marketed is mind blowing. If money were no object it would be quite possible to, easily. blow £5k and not have purchased a, triplicate, rod and reel combination to cast a bait in the water, because we all know how important it is to "look the part" in 2018!

1959 Mk IV's, Mitchell 300's and Siren R3's - Dick Walker would have liked it?
Sid & Jasper, my homemade swingers just add to the contempt I have for fashionista carp angling.
Fortunately, being an old fart, I am able to look at the challenges from a totally different perspective. I am comfortable/confident to start my planning from the hook/rig/bait presentation before worrying about the line, rod and reel choices and what logo adorns my bivvy. The vast majority of the other stuff doesn't enter the equation, being over-hyped and completely unnecessary. A bivvy table and a guest chair, nice as they are, won't add a thing to your ability to catch a carp! If I worried about my appearance, as perceived by a third party, I couldn't be happy that, for the last fifty years, I've managed a very reasonable impression of an unkempt Yeti! Guess what? I couldn't give a toss for other angler's opinions of my ancient gear. The tackle I now choose is all about maximizing my enjoyment of the encounter  without jeopardizing the welfare of the fish I seek.
It goes without saying that location is paramount in any big fish challenge. Only when you have found your chosen quarry is it worth thinking about the tackle and tactics required to outwit them. My split cane project means that I have to discover a population of carp (at least one in excess of 30 lbs) which inhabit a venue suited to the limitations imposed by the rods. Vast gravel pits or reservoirs are no place for my kit, nor my choice. To gain the maximum pleasure from using these ancient rods, I want to fish venues which allow me to experience the thrill of a creaking Dick Walker Mk IV as I imagine he would have done, himself, way back in the 1950's.
Only thing is, rather worryingly, I'm turning into a bit of a tackle tart. As I explore the huge resource, that is Youtube, I am discovering little tweaks which might assist my own angling. Almost all are presentation biased, being either a rig variation or bait enhancer. My desire to be successful has seen my carp tackle expand beyond anything I could have envisaged when I first set myself the challenge.
Whilst my bankside appearance lacks the logos of the fashionista brigade, the stuff in the water, doing the business, is top drawer. I have no allegiance to any particular brand and buy whatever items I require on merit. My hooks are Nash, hooklink material is Korda and so it goes on. Bait is a very personal thing, borne from confidence, and I am happy to say that my particle approach is still very much the first choice strategy at any venue I turn up at. However, I am not so stupid as to ignore modern bait developments and  "Camo" has been very generous with his advice (and bait) about how I move forward with this aspect of carp angling. PVA, stick mixes, pop-ups, bait soaks, Korda Krushas and Kutters, Ronnie rigs, I've stopped short at spods and "Spombs" - we used to call them "doppelgangers" in the 1980's! - but I have to admit that these advances are a positive development in my ongoing project and for that I am truly grateful. One aspect of modern angling about which I find myself totally drawn is that of hook sharpness. There is a guy at Nash who has made it his mission to promote their "Pin Point" hook range and has convinced me that there is much to be gained from maintaining razor sharp hook points, I now have a Nash diamond file in my rig bin, just for this purpose. Am I a victim of advertising hype, or simply taking advantage of technological advancement?

Nowhere close to my goal, nor the type of carp I hope to catch in order to keep
that promise. These gross, boilly munching, mud pigs are as far removed from
my target as it is possible to get. 
I'm using boilies, Siren R3's, Ronnie rigs, pop-ups and umpteen other carp related items that Dick Walker could have but dreamt of - so why is my split cane "Thirty" such a challenge? It certainly doesn't require me to morph into Chris Yates, Tweed jacket and all, in an attempt at travelling back in time. All I seek is the fulfilment of a promise, to my Father, to use a piece of angling history to create a memory for myself. It matters not a jot, to the rest of humanity, if I succeed or fail - and that's the  crux of our existence. We all have a choice about what is important in our individual journeys - "Sir,  remember that you are an Englishman, and have consequently won first prize in the lottery of life." (Cecil Rhodes) A quote that my Dad made me aware of, many moons ago, during a conversation about the importance of being an individual and remaining true to who you are. I don't know if others are any less proud to be Scots, Welsh, Irish, Polish, Armenian or Inuit, the list is endless, but I do know how important it is to remain true to yourself, a lesson embedded at the very core of my soul. My desire to achieve my goal is without question. I have no timescale, thus no deadlines to my project, so will take as long as is required. Within the last week I have been offered membership of Wantsum Angling Association, something I am rather flattered by. They control Marshside Fishery, where I had that recent "twenty", but also a stretch of The Stour and a couple of sites along The Wantsum. I've never cast a bait in any of these new venues and the unknown potential is a very exciting prospect. Mick and Ben, the two bailiffs, paint a very rosy picture - that's their job! With the 16th rapidly approaching, and chaos around the bungalow, I remain hopeful that I'll be able to continue to chase my dreams in these new waters, seeking that fish, the capture of which will enable me to move on to pastures new.


Another eight pounds and jobs a good'n
This is what a real carp looks like and something similar will see my challenge completed.

Friday, 1 June 2018

Cheeky chappie

So sorry for the lack of recent blog activity - stuff going on which has to take priority. Been out and about, catching plenty of scamps and ticking a few boxes on the year list. Bumped into Murray Wright, at Oare Marshes, on Bank Holiday Monday and spent a brilliant hour, or so, catching up. Hard to believe it's been seven years since I was last there! Absolutely stunning views of an adult Red Kite, hunting over newly harvested game crop, yesterday, as I took my grandson, Harry, over to see his cousins - nuff sed! Rods out again this afternoon, didn't blank, but I'm reluctant to call my session a success. One fish in five hours is hardly hectic? The highlight was the discovery of a very confiding Common Lizard which happily posed for a few photos.
Very pleased with this result. Taken with a Fuji Finepix S - my Dad had brought it for Mum, just before she passed away,
and it hasn't been used until I picked it up. 14 million pixels, with a wide range of modes/functions, it has
proven to be a very useful addition to my camera collection. Yes, I know it's not cutting edge but neither am I, so
a combination made for eachother?
There's so much going on, at present, that I can only hope my blogging will be possible rather erratically over the coming weeks (months?) I'm certainly not giving up, just other things must take priority during this period of upheaval. Keep the faith. Take care and stay safe - Dyl

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Greenfinch overdose

Something very strange is happening around the garden feeding station. Since that first female was seen, on May 9th, Greenfinches have been almost daily visitors. At least five different individuals, based upon the plumage and condition of their feet. Four males, yet there is no sign of nesting activity anywhere around Newlands. I am now wondering if I'd fed sunflower hearts instead of mixed seed, over the winter period, if I would have attracted more of these finches? Whatever the answer, it will be sunflower hearts all the way, going forward. With my long lens ever present, I have managed to grab a few shots, in varying light levels, of these welcome visitors. Taking down the blinds in the conservatory means that I'm now able to get within four/five metres of the birds without any disturbance and take my photos through the double glazed windows.





House Sparrows continue to dominate the feeders, but a couple of pairs of Goldfinches and Great Tits are also taking advantage of the food source as is the Rose-ringed Parakeet. All good stuff. Saturday afternoon was spent sorting through masses of junk, out in the garden, and coincided with a decent raptor movement. Two Red Kites and fourteen Common Buzzards moved N/NW over the garden and were a welcome bonus before that pitiful excuse for a football match kicked off.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Nice twist

I hadn't got any particles prepared, so was taken by surprise when the opportunity to go fishing suddenly arose. Scratching around the bait cupboard I managed to assemble a couple of tins of sweetcorn, some flaked tuna and some krill carp crumb. It would have to do, because there was nothing else! Kit already in the van, I drove across to Marshside in brilliant sunshine, just happy to be out. I pulled up and did a lap of Homersham Lake, but wasn't overly impressed, so continued on to Scroggins where the only angler on the venue was just packing up. I'd got the place to myself, and so it remained for my entire session. Two rods out, fishing to marginal features, with a stiff ENE breeze pushing into my swim. In spite of the wonderful sunshine, sat on my chair it was rather chilly and I grabbed a couple more layers from the van to allow me to keep warm.
Nothing happened to trouble my bite alarms and, eventually, after three hours, I decided to reposition the baits into open water where a few carp had shown. I cast out the rods, hoping that a carp might stray across my single offerings. There was a bit of activity in the marginal reed beds and I threw out a couple of handfuls of dog biscuits amongst the stems to see what was causing the commotion. Almost immediately a bright orange Koi appeared and started taking the floating biscuits. Only six or seven pounds, but still better than the bottom baits had provided, so time for a change of tactics. Back down to the van I grabbed my sawn-off Mk IV and spare Mitchell 300 loaded with 12 lbs b.s. line. I tied on a size 8 Fang Twister and baited up with a scuffed up 14mm pop-up. Twice, in a few minutes, I had carp suck in the offering, yet I missed them both. I was headed for a blank. Whilst I was stood up, I saw the Koi swimming at the edge of the reeds, sucking down debris from the floating scum that the wind had pushed in. Time for a move and quickly my little offering was bobbing about amidst a raft of floating reeds and then it was gone and I bent into an incredibly powerful fish. Game on, I couldn't give it an inch and had to bully it away from the snags and play it in the open water, avoiding the two lines that were still fishing. Probably five minutes had elapsed, and it clearly wasn't that Koi, when I got my first glimpse of the fish and immediately knew it was a bit special. A couple of minutes later and into the net it went - bloody hell, it's a "twenty"!
With no-one else around, I had to set up the camera for a few self-takes and hope that I'd do the fish justice. It looked magnificent in the late evening sunshine and I felt very pleased with myself for making something happen rather than sitting behind the alarms just hoping. Job done, I happily packed up and headed home. Days like these don't happen that often and I wanted to enjoy the moment. I couldn't blog about it, however, because I'd placed all my card readers and cables in storage. Dumb schmuck! I was down Poundland, just after it opened, in order to get another SD card reader and transfer the images from my camera to the laptop. I called in a Camo's to tell him the tale and scrounge a cup of coffee, before coming back to go through the process and write this post. I think the majority of pleasure anglers would agree that it is a superb fish, especially as it's my first double from the fishery!


A cracking result of opportunism - 20 lbs 7 oz of total joy

With all the upheaval of our current building project, I'm not too sure when I'll next get out but will remain content with my lot as this fish didn't figure in any of my plans for 2018. Happy days.






Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Lost treasure - old photos!

That box of old slides has provided me with some great, nostalgic, recollections of the crazy days of big fish chasing and the superb company I enjoyed whilst on my adventures. I actually think it was a slideshow compilation that I had assembled for a NASA Regional talk, somewhere or other. It doesn't matter about such trivia, what is enjoyable about the event is that I'm looking back at images I've not seen for about thirty years. Not sure if it would have happened if we hadn't got the builders in? The slides are a little dusty and my equipment is not the best, but I've copied a few photos to share with anyone interested. I hope you are able to empathise with my situation and share the enjoyment of these long lost memories?

A Rudd-like hybrid from Wilstone

Some, fresh-faced, young Essex Boy on the banks of Wilstone.
I wonder whatever became of him?

Cuddles and Baz Adams on the Sixteen Foot Drain - an iconic image from my Kodak years.
I was made up when I discovered this image in my slides and wanted to share my joy with the
technical team, who resided in the offices above the warehouse. I was told that "to get better
exposure, of my subjects, we should have been fishing on the opposite bank!"
Some people just don't get it

Still my PB Zander - Three Holes, September 1987 (?)  My diaries are in storage, so I can't check it up.

Wilstone sun-set - pike fishing from the pier