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!


Friday, 16 March 2018

March - on time

The weather forecasters are at it again? "Beast from the East II", no less, due to cause total chaos - just not too sure exactly where, or when, as yet! Look out of the window and see if it's snowing; might be a prudent option, tomorrow, before deciding where to go and what to do. It was showing 13C on the car display, this afternoon, yet will fall to -3C over the weekend, if the forecasts are to be trusted. How can that, fake tanned, buffoon, claim there is no evidence of climate change? It's March, the Spring solstice fast approaching, the daylight hours lengthening perceivably, as the evenings extend past 17.00 hrs. The first Sand Martins and Wheatears are already being reported, thus genuine Spring migrants, to be confronted by absolute climate mayhem.

The first Chaffinch of the year, in the garden. Scratching about on the patio and below the feeders, coinciding with a
a decent movement of the species at Sandwich Bay and North Foreland.
There has certainly been a subtle change in the visitors to the garden feeding station, as the daylight increases, and the first Buzzard movements have been seen. Spring is happening, despite (or is that in spite?) of the weather. A Grey Wagtail over, as I fed the aviary, a flurry of Linnets, the odd Meadow Pipit, Song Thrushes (plural) in the garden hedge - sure signs of the changing seasons. Daylight being far more important than temperature when triggering a reaction from our avian friends.

I'm confident that there'll be better images than this as the Spring migration gets underway.
The first Lesser Black-backed Gull was back at the Pyson's Road Industrial Estate, breeding site, on 8th March, it's mate turning up yesterday! There are eight pairs, usually, so I expect the others to arrive shortly.  House Sparrows continue to dominate the feeding station, with regular counts of 50+. The males are starting to moult into their breeding finery, a joy to be able to watch them from the kitchen door.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Final flourish

Out the bungalow at silly o'clock, headed for my final session of the, "English", pike season. I was torn between the river and the drains, eventually settling for the latter, as I am so much more familiar with them. Two baits cast out by 05.55 hrs, both Mackerel tail sections, popped-up with Fox bait poppers. I'd have preferred to use Sardines, but didn't have any left in the freezer, so used what I had.
Within 35 minutes the left-hander was away, I making a complete pig's ear of the strike and bumping the fish off the hooks as a result. 

Just before sun rise out on the marsh
The dawn was spectacular not only because of the sun rise but, also, the huge movement of Starlings flying east, out to sea. In the first hour I estimated some 20,000 but, because I am completely out of practice at this number assessment, would be happy to concede that possibly twice as many had passed over. Birds, in these numbers, are a magnificent spectacle, no matter what species.
I had two more bites, both fish landed, before I called it a day and headed for home and a kip before another late shift.

All the action came to my left-hand rod. Top fish is 10 lbs 2 oz, this one on the sling is 7 lbs 10 oz - nice way to finish!
One more addition to the year list, when two Great White Egrets were spotted over on Willow Farm, at Worth.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

In praise of the Raven

Being born in London I spent my formative years, growing up, in the New Town of Hemel Hempstead, as my parents plied their trade, as school teachers, in various schools of the district. However, the vast majority of my relatives remained in the capital and visits were frequent as family ties were far more important than they are today? Visits to the museums were regular, as were those to Battersea Fun Fair and The Tower of London; so obviously my first experience of Ravens. Those mythical inhabitants whose presence kept the site secure, according to the legend.
Over the years, as family holidays took us to the west country, Wales and Scotland, I came into contact with these magnificent birds, but always associated them with the rugged landscapes of coastal granite and Scottish mountains purely because of these experiences. It was sometime, in the early/mid - 80's and I was fishing Wilstone Res. The headquarters of The British Trust for Ornithology was in Tring and many of the employees spent time around the reservoir complex and it was, a very young, Steve Dudley who called a Raven, one evening, as huge flocks of mixed corvids made their way towards a communal roost site away in Ashridge or Wendover Woods? He got ruined by the disbelievers - me included. Whoever heard such nonsense, a Raven in the Home Counties, not a cliff or mountain in sight - bloody clown! Everyone now knows who had the last laugh - Steve's sighting had been the vanguard of a rapid colonization, of the region, by these highly adaptive birds.

A photo from our Scottish pike trip 2016. It can't do justice to the "personality" this species exudes when
experienced first hand. It's far more impressive than simply being dismissed as a "big" crow!
Moving down to Kent, in 1993, I immediately became involved with the county birding scene and enjoyed some amazing adventures as I sought to assemble a respectable county list. I think it was over five years before Raven made it as an entry. I had to "twitch" a lone bird, which was feeding on a sheep's carcass, down at Dungeness in order to make that happen. Yet, less than ten years later, the species was colonising "The Garden of England" starting at the White Cliffs between Dover and St. Margaret's. In 2018, Ravens are being sighted from a variety of locations around the county and have already bred on Thanet - a pair successfully used the, exposed, framework of the old Richborough Power Station, before it was dismantled.
I am now confident of recording the species, during the course of a year, no matter where in Kent I go. The vast flatlands of the Romney Marshes or Ash Levels, are just as likely to provide a  sighting as the sea cliffs of Folkestone and Dover. I even have it on my garden list and hope that I'll never cease to be thrilled by their resonant low croaking contact calls and the impressive spectacle of these massive corvids as they "play" on the wind.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Biteless not birdless

Another total blank on the canal, this morning, not a sound from the alarms although there were a few signs of fish in the section (species unknown). I was fishing to features and leapfrogged the rods along a few hundred metres in the hope of dropping in on a pike. It didn't happen and that might be it for the season? Wednesday morning could provide some final hope if I am able to muster the enthusiasm to visit the marshes for one last effort? I think that the weather will make the decision for me. Dry and I go, wet and I stay in bed! So far the BBC are saying dry, with sunny spells, and a light southerly. I'll know more on Tuesday!
So back to this morning and the birds which enlivened the session whilst I awaited some fishy action. I'd already picked up another year tick, as I spotted a Tawny Owl perched in roadside trees, as I drove along the Elham Valley - number 100! I also saw a Badger as I was driving through Etchinghill. Parking beside the canal, the dawn chorus was already underway despite the time being 05.50 hrs. The distant corvid roost was a cauldron of noise as the massed ranks of Rooks and Jackdaws greeted the dawn. Above all the din sounded the deep croaking of a pair of Ravens, as they flew past in the semi-darkness. The two birds continued to call and show, regularly, until 08.25 hrs when they headed off, south-west, across the marsh towards Dungeness? Unbelievably, another pair headed over, some two hours later, their abraded primaries allowing me to be confident that they were different individuals. Four Ravens in a day, and not a family party, in Kent! Crazy. It wasn't over, there were several singing male Yellowhammers, a nice flock of Redwing flew west, two Common Buzzards engaged in display flights, a Peregrine (year tick number two) caused panic amongst the feeding Wood Pigeons out on the kale fields, as it marauded overhead in the gloomy, grey skies. At least three singing Song Thrush, a Mistle Thrush, Blackbird, Robin, Wren, Wood Pigeon and Skylark enthusiastically greeted the dawn, providing a wonderful ambience to the venue. Fishless, who cares? It was great to be outdoors. I'd recorded 41 species before I packed up, just after 11.00 hrs - a very enjoyable session.

Friday, 9 March 2018

Pike season over?

Pike fishing, in the morning, because grand parenting duties are likely to cause problems on Sunday? I know the section of the RMC I will be fishing and have all the kit assembled in readiness. I'm toying with an idea of using floats but, realistically, know that my attention span is not suited to this method of bite registration - there's just so much else to look at! A float, in conjunction with a bite alarm, has some merit, given the close proximity of my bait and the desire to reduce resistance to a minimum, should a pike pick up my offering.  My head is awash with such thoughts! I'll see what happens come the morrow?
Probably my final pike session of 2017/18, although I might manage to sneak one in on Wednesday morning? I can have no complaints about the fish I have captured since 3rd November 2017 - when I started the campaign. Eleven doubles, to 13 lbs 8 oz, from thirty-seven pike landed, I'll put up with that knowing how little effort I have expended. I've had great fun and not endured a sustained period, of self-induced failure, because I couldn't catch a "target" fish; I didn't have one!  I now, therefore, look forward to my carp project creating such pressure - not!

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Dream on

That session, with Luke, last Sunday has proven a very fertile experience despite the lack of action. Our conversations revolved around hopes and aspirations for the coming summer and how we'd measure success. Of course, I mustn't waiver from my desire to land a "thirty" on the split canes. So could me catching a 28 be a PB, failure, both or just another rung on the ladder? Luke, however, seeks far larger quarry across The Channel. He and Benno have their sights set on the Wels Catfish, of a certain French river, and are already planning several long weekends. They are both self-employed, so don't have to worry about holiday entitlement but, also, they don't get paid when not at work - they make the call. As much as I enjoyed fishing for Wels, during the mid-80's/early 90's, I have no plans to attempt any serious return to their capture, thus am not enthused by this project - YET!

Luke with some French river success - more in 2018 please!
For me the, English, pike season ends on 14th March, thus just one more weekend before I have to switch to another quarry. My logic is heavily flawed, but still driven by the experiences of yesteryear when the traditional coarse angling season applied, carte blanche, on all freshwaters. Under no circumstances am I willing to cast a bait into a flowing water during the "close season" yet am now happy to continue to fish for other species, in enclosed  waters, largely due to the advent of "commercial fisheries" and the dominance of  (plastic, off the shelf) carp angling.

21.14 of wild Common Carp, on the split canes, from an East Kent drain - a thirty next?
That wild carp, I so desire, will come when it's ready - of that I am certain. With so many other factors falling into place, just recently, my ability to chase this ambition is now a realistic goal given that I will have more time in which to pursue my target. I'm not talking, time bandit, bivvy sessions - nope, just the ability to get in a few more short sessions during periods of suitable conditions. By using my time wisely, I feel confident of achieving that promise. I am also aided in my cause by the simple fact that I don't require anyone else to assist/accompany me. I can just as easily going fishing on my own as I can with Benno, Luke or Sye! As a group we are very fortunate that we share the same outlooks and values. We have no secrets, from each other, no jealousy of success nor boasting of prowess when it actually happens. Our angling is about enjoyment and being able to share that is fundamental to the relationships; none of us have to catch that fish in order to have a good day!

The pike that changed my life! The first Scottish Twenty I'd ever seen.
Caught by Benno, it was a monumental event and I was part of it. I stuck the net under it and took the photos!
I've been down to Camo's, this afternoon, to pick up a few bits for the coming weekend's pike fishing on the RMC. Conversation was varied, but the prospect of the abandonment of the "close season" on UK rivers was a particularly lively exchange. Being of a similar vintage we hold strong feelings about the "old days" and that build up to mid-night of 15th June and battle resumes. I have so many compelling memories of that first cast; the Tring Syndicate members were fanatical in their pursuit of tench yet almost, to a man, equally committed to that mid-night hour and the stroke of the distant church clock before a cast was made. The modern generation have never experienced that thrill, the build up to a "new season" and the adrenaline moment when that first rod was picked from the rests. My conversation, with Camo, was all about the fact that modern anglers had no reason to miss this experience, because it no longer has any relevance. You can't miss what you've never had? In an era when anglers are able to buy experience from the shelves of a tackle shop, rather than spending time on the bank with other, older, anglers - learning their trade. Don't look back in anger - just sadness, that the things which were once held as important now are compromised due to the quest for the dollar! There is no other reason why the close season has been lost - tradition has no place in rampant capitalism. Fortunately, I have lived through an era when such things still had a value and I was able to gain a great deal of benefit from being part of it. I've often used the term "No good getting old. if you don't get artful" when exchanging banter within the factory - it remains true whenever I say it!

Never to be repeated? Tench fishing at Wilstone in the 1980's. I don't care about what size this species
now attains - that period was the most important in the history of UK tench angling. Oh, yeah - I was part of it!!!!

Monday, 5 March 2018

Fool's gold

Luke and I were down at the Royal Military for 06.00 hrs, on Sunday morning, hoping to pick up where he and Benno had left off the previous week. They had taken eleven pike, to 16 lbs 9 oz, in a short session just before the onset of that crazy cold spell. What folly! Snow melt water had entered the canal - the result being a complete blank! We stayed for nearly six hours, not a sign of a fish.

A magnificent sunrise - "Fool's Gold"? We didn't have a touch.
It wasn't a session without enjoyment; Luke and I haven't fished together since the catfish sessions at Greenacres, way back in the previous summer. Plenty to chat about, plans for carp, catfish, perch and pike - places to go, fish to catch. As the sun came up, the canal looked fabulous and our expectations were very upbeat. The fish, obviously, had other plans and we failed in our task - "not much of an advert for pike fishing?" being my comment. Lots of other folk, enjoying the facility, walking their dogs, riding bikes & horses, or simply having a stroll - some very nice conversations, with complete strangers, being a brilliant compensation for the lack of feeding pike.

Benno with a 16.09 - just a week ago!