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!


Monday, 18 February 2019

It's a perch!

It seems like an eternity since I caught one; January 6th being the date when I last landed a two pounder and the weather has been on a roller coaster ride in the interim. Two sessions over this weekend have seen my drought come to an end. Two perch taken during both outings, the brace on Saturday would have struggled to make 8 oz together! Sunday evening saw a lovely fish, of 1 lbs 7 oz visit the landing net and, as such, mark an upturn in my fortunes. Several tweaks have been employed, none more obvious than my use of Bait Tech Predator Plus bait soak, which has resulted in my use of bright red King Prawn sections. 

Never has a 1 lbs 7 oz perch been more welcome?

However, it wasn't as simple as that, carp and bream also falling to this latest development. So quite where "predator" figures in the attraction is lost on me. It's just a great fish attractor; end of! I have given myself  three more weeks before changing tack and seeking a new challenge. Is a three pounder a realistic target from this venue? I'll find out over the next few weeks. Whatever the outcome, I'll be back for some more of these fabulous fish next autumn. My methodology and techniques have come on a long way since the "Black Dyke" sessions, let's hope that this can be continued as the adventure develops?

Sunday, 10 February 2019

A change of fortune

My life is an awfully mixed up affair, at present. No-one's fault, just the way it is and, as such, something I (& Bev) have to deal with on a day to day basis. That my blogging has been a casualty of the situation is of no consequence in the bigger picture. Angling has also been a real struggle, just to keep within the theme, and I'd endured three consecutive blanks leading up to my session, this morning. Out of the bungalow just before 05.00 hrs; I had to call in for some diesel, en  route to the marsh, and it was 06.20 hrs by the time I'd reached my destination. Three rods out before 07.00 hrs, I had just five minutes to wait before the Herring section was picked up and the alarm rattled out it's audible alert. A stern test of the kit before I drew a beautifully marked pike over the net chord. At 12 lbs 7 oz it was most welcome and a really nice way to end the drought.

I could have packed up there and then but knew that Bev would still be in bed and any further disturbance wouldn't be well received, should I go home, so back out went a fresh bait. It was almost two hours later that I had any further action. Thankfully I had brought a flask of coffee and was able to keep my spirits up with regular slurps of this sweetened brew.

The next bite was to result in a feisty pike, of 8 lbs 12 oz, visiting the unhooking mat. Returned without a photo, almost immediately my furthest rod signalled a bite and I found myself attached to a fish which had no intention of giving up easily. When I eventually managed to persuade it into the net, I instantly recognised the fish as one that I'd already caught twice previously. This time she was a little under weight, at 12 lbs 8 oz, but very welcome none the less. The weather was deteriorating rapidly, light rain had set in and the wind was picking up by the minute. I had placed the pike into my retaining sling with the intention of getting some record images if the rain abated? There was no point in getting the camera kit wet just for another trophy shot of this fish. A phone conversation with Bev had just been completed when an alarm signalled another bite. This time it was a pike of 9 lbs 6 oz which came grudgingly to the bank, to be placed upon the unhooking mat with my previous capture for a quick record image before they both being returned.

A most welcome brace.
The upper fish = 12 lbs 8 oz, the lower one = 9 lbs 6 oz
With the rain becoming ever more drenching, in some way due to the strengthening winds, I didn't bother recasting the rods. I packed up, extremely pleased with my efforts, it had been a most rewarding morning.

Sunday, 3 February 2019

One thousand - not out!

A milestone in the Of Esox & Observations blogging journey; post number 1,000. Who'd have thought it? Having risen from the embers of "The Non-conformist" fallout, I have been amazed at just how little angst and controversy this blog has gotten involved in. Differences of opinion are to be expected, no matter what the subject matter, but, by and large, this venture into Blog-land has been a very enjoyable way of placing my slant on things into cyber space, thus sharing thoughts with an unknown audience of infinite diversity. Long may it continue?

Saturday's swim at Marshside

My float, being fished slightly over depth, relying on a single BB shot and the weight of my prawn section
to cock it. I have a problem remaining focused on a float when the action is regular, this was absolute torture.
Out with the rods again, this weekend, I should have known better. On Saturday morning the opening gambit of Mick, the bailiff, was "you must be f**king mad" - How polite, how reassuring? To be brutally honest - he wasn't far off the mark; I endured a total blank, not a touch on float nor bite alarm. Well if I couldn't catch a perch then Sunday meant I'd go out onto the levels for a bit of pike fishing and so it was. Different venue, same outcome! The only time I heard an alarm was whilst I was getting the rods set up. To top it off I had to move the rods twice due to cat-ice forming in the margins as the dawn broke over the frozen marsh. A spectacular sun rise was enjoyed, despite the lack of fish, with a Barn Owl hunting the reed lined banks well after sun up, a sure sign that prey is difficult to locate in these sub-zero conditions. Four Little Egrets flew from their roost site and there was a small, yet definite, movement of Lapwings heading westwards, high overhead. A Common Buzzard provided the bulk of the entertainment as it hunted from fence posts and telegraph poles. It would regularly drop down onto the ground as if it had located some food item, although I didn't see it catch anything in the two hours I was watching. It seems blanking was a common theme out there?

My basic set-up when pike fishing out on the flatlands

Cat ice forming in the margins as the light intensified
The forecasters are promising a rise in temperatures, possibly into double figures by Thursday, and I am hopeful of getting back out for an afternoon session,or two, in the coming week. Whatever happens, I can't catch any less.

Monday, 28 January 2019

Timeless fascination

Since my return to angling (specimen hunting?), in 2011, I have set myself targets in order to maintain a level of focus in my approach to the hobby. You certainly don't need to be a member of MENSA to spot that I am frequently distracted from these projects as other opportunities present themselves. However, by and large, this tactic has paid off and some of these various challenges have been completed whilst others are still ongoing. Right from the start pike have been the one constant of my angling year so, when I got back into the swing of things, it was natural that a "wild twenty" would be the first entry on the wish list. It took me nearly two years to achieve this goal, such is the underlying desire to seek my enjoyment, thus angling targets, at fisheries away from the crowds.This is in stark contrast to the circuit venues which had been such a fundamental part of my earlier involvement with the obsessional pursuit of big fish. Back then I'd expect to catch at least one twenty during the course of a winter. This is not a reflection upon the population dynamics of the UK's pike but, instead,  a realistic appraisal of the status of twenty pound plus fish within the fisheries I have targeted during my reawakened angling adventure. Back in the 1980's/early 90's, I would choose my venues with the chance of a "twenty" being paramount in my thoughts and, with this as my approach, it was slow going. However, if taken within the context of being a result driven exercise, I was relatively successful, twenties being caught with some degree of regularity throughout this period of my life.

Since 2011 I have caught far more pike than I ever did previously, doubles being very regular visitors to my landing net as a direct consequence of the venues I now choose to frequent. Twenty pound pike, of which I have taken just two and one of them was from Loch Awe, are now the icing on the cake and not the draw they once were! Don't get any impression that I wouldn't like another one, they're a magnificent fish and every one landed is an achievement to savour - they remain very scarce within the ecosystems of our waterways. The reality is I'm no longer prepared to forgo the enjoyment of regular action in order to target another twenty, unwilling to hit the road again in search of such a prize.

The one thing that I am sure about is that I'm a far more competent (pike) angler, today, than ever I was. Big baits and a sit and wait approach might well be a recipe for catching big, lazy, pike; it certainly can't be described as thinking angling. These days I want far more from my time on the bank, whatever species I am after, and therefore that chuck and chance style fishing no longer has any part in what I seek to achieve. I suppose what I am trying to say is that I'd rather use ability, not time, to get my results; something which hasn't always been true. To this end my sessions, now, rarely last longer than four/five hours and whilst I'm fishing I do my utmost to remain active in my decision making. If something's not right I'll change it, no longer prepared to see what happens if I leave it for while. Pike are still capable of reducing me to an adrenaline induced, shaking, mess. The awesome acceleration and brute force created by the fin placement, along that elongated torso, being transmitted down a fishing rod is one of the defining reasons why angling is still such a thrill for me. I haven't given up hope of catching another twenty, that'd be ridiculous. My methods catch me plenty of pike, if the venues contain twenties, then nothing I do will adversely affect my chances of getting one to take my bait.

With so many other species to target within the local freshwater fisheries, pike are my fall back, comfort zone, which I use to rekindle enthusiasm or boost my confidence when I'm struggling. I simply enjoy catching these fish, whatever size, because they are a link to my earliest recollections of big fish angling. They are still that "freshwater shark" that match anglers of the 1970's used to speak about. "The only good'ns are dead'ns" a phrase which would crop up from time to time in the angling press of the period. I suppose it was this aspect which provided that original spark of interest in trying to capture these unloved, murderous, beasts. I will never tire of that unblinking stare, the toothy gape and dappled flanks of these magnificent predators. 

Only time will tell if I am ever to return to a deliberate attempt at targeting a big pike. In the meantime I am happily able to wallow in the myriad memories of my time spent in the company of these wonderful fish and the immense pleasure I have derived from the successes I've enjoyed along the way.

Saturday, 26 January 2019

A Barney (Rubble), my barrow, a kite and more

The two sessions have now been completed and, to be fair, I've struggled for bites. There is no getting away from the obvious fact that water temperatures are very low, 40 F, therefore not particularly suited to fish feeding. My perch efforts were a complete waste of time, not a single sign in over three hours at the club fishery, on Friday afternoon. I was back out at 05.15 hrs, today, headed out onto the marsh for a spot of pike angling. All three rods out by 06.50 hrs, it was just twenty-five minutes later that a popped up sardine was taken and the alarm rattled out its' audible alert. It was a stubborn, yet unspectacular, battle resulting in my first pike of 2019 being drawn over the net chord. A cracking fish, of 12 lbs 12 oz, was rested in the retaining sling whilst I awaited the light to improve before I got my photos. Well, that was it! I remained on the bank until 11.45 hrs and didn't have another touch in spite of leap frogging the rods along a 400 m stretch of the drain.

To be honest, I don't think I could have done much more with my dead bait presentations having ringed the changes with buoyancy, colour and flavours. This drain is over a mile from where I am able to park my van and, therefore, involves a trek along a winding track to reach it. Since I managed to acquire a, secondhand, Mk 2 Carp Porter barrow this task has been assisted greatly as it ensures that tackle choice is not restricted by what I'm physically able to carry. Pushing a barrow is far easier than struggling with back packs and a rod holdall, over the shoulder, whilst carrying a chair and cooler bag.
A promo image of the barrow that I own - I can't say
anything negative about it. It does everything I require.
I enjoyed a great morning out on the marsh, pike fishing being just part of the experience. I had the binoculars draped around my neck and spent much of the time scanning the surrounding flatlands watching the local birdlife. My mate Neil, the birdwatcher, was out and I watched him making his way around his regular circuit, thinking he must be seeing quite a bit due to the amount of time it was taking. When he finally appeared on the bank side, he raised his arms in triumph asking "did you get it?" As it turned out he'd seen a 2nd year Glaucous Gull, flying along the railway embankment and, to top it off, re-found a Great Grey Shrike which had first been discovered way back in the autumn. So a quality morning's birding for this time of year. I reeled off my meagre list of sightings. Two Little Egrets, two/three Common Buzzards, a Water Rail, Common Snipe, Reed Bunting and Cetti's Warbler, all very predictable. Understandably Neil was buzzing, the Glauc being a great record for the area. "You know what?", he said, "I'm surprised we've not had any Red Kites yet" He couldn't have drawn breathe before I raised my binoculars towards a raptor being mobbed over the adjacent marsh. "There's your Red Kite mate!" and what do you know, there it was. We watched as it gained height and flew off south. He said his good-byes and wandered off leaving me to make a slow pack down whilst continuing to scan the surrounding marsh to the south. It must have been the sixth or seventh attempt when "bingo!" there it was! The Great Grey Shrike, quite distant but completely unmistakable, was perched atop a lone hawthorn in the middle of a large grazing marsh. What a result? It'd been a fabulous morning and I drove home very pleased with my efforts. The weather is forecast to take a turn for the worse, over the next few days, so I've already resigned myself to the fact that I won't be getting back out with the rods any time soon. The coming week of late shifts will allow me to do some local birding. It's been quite a while since I visited the harbour and the under-cliff, this might be a good time to make the effort?

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Getting there

With a little luck, and a decent tail wind, Bev and I should have managed to empty our storage locker by Sunday afternoon. We'd used it to store our belongings whilst the building project was underway; thinking that we'd need the facility for just a few weeks! Nine and a half months later, and well over a grand in rental fees, we are finally able to get all that stuff back home. My new study/fishing room is coming together nicely, with plenty of room for the tackle as well as my reference library and assorted dross that comes with being me. Stuffed birds and "George" the pike are back on display whilst my choice of artwork now adorns the walls. I've had to make one small concession as the washing machine and tumble drier are housed within the room but, as they are next to my bait fridge/freezer, it is no big deal. From my desk I am able to look directly, via the large window, out into our back garden and the feeding station is now within 5 m of the back door.

The garden, however, is in much need of attention and it is our plan to get this sorted within the next few weeks. Piles of rubble and associated debris litters the grass and the decking area is strewn with junk. All will be dealt with by the hiring of a skip - easy?
Plans are already in place for a couple of outings over the next two days. I finish my shift at 13.00 hrs, tomorrow, and am headed over to the club fishery for another perch session. With the weather forecast predicting temperatures up to 9C, with light winds, I'm hoping to get a float out on the Hardy split cane. I've not used a float in ages, so don't expect to set the world alight with my efforts but I'm rather looking forward to giving it a bash. It will depend upon the results of Friday to dictate what I do on Saturday morning. I've two options open to me. I either go back perch fishing or, more likely, have a session out on the drains after a pike or two. All the pike kit is ready to go, three rods, with reels and rigs attached, are in the hard case, dead baits packed in the freezer, all I'll need to do is place them in the van should I make that call.
I am hoping to get the perch project completed before mid-March and have already committed to write a piece for the club Newsletter about my own experiences, at this fishery, with these splendid fish. With this in mind I am carrying the Canon kit, alongside my Fuji Finepix, with the intention of getting some images of the bait presentation, rigs and tackle that I use, rather than just the fish I catch. The Fuji is a superb piece of kit, particularly for my self-take trophy shots, yet the Canon outfit offers far greater flexibility due to the various lens and extension tube combinations that I have available to me.

Monday, 21 January 2019

That moon

If there's a benefit from working early shifts then, this morning, I hit the jackpot. The BBC News/Weather pages had been raving about the Blood Wolf Moon and, apparently, there won't be another until December 2029! My alarm rattled off the wake up call at 04.50 hrs and I had 25 minutes to grab my shower and get dressed before the eclipse reached its' climax. Here, on Thanet, conditions for sky-watching were perfect although, sadly, my camera skills were woefully short. The images being a poor record of a spectacular event, in fact so spectacular that Bev even got up to witness the phenomenon.

20.01.2019 - 23.00 hrs 

21.01.2019 - 05.15 hrs (Quite magnificent when viewed through my binoculars!)
I make no claims of being remotely interested in astronomy, but I certainly enjoyed this extraordinary sight in the sky above our garden.