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, 9 December 2016

A pre - Christmas recce

Benno and I are off pike fishing in the morning. Really? How unusual is that? Well, were headed back to a venue where we enjoyed some spectacular results in 2013. We're not too bothered about success tomorrow, although we'd obviously like to avoid a blank if at all possible. What we're hoping is to find some fish and make plans for the coming holiday break, when we should have plenty of time to embark on a serious campaign.

Benno and I going pike fishing - it's been going on for over thirty years!
Although we've enjoyed some fabulous sessions, taking pike to just over 20 lbs, I don't feel that we've really got to grips with the place and there is so much more to discover. I will keep to my "big bait = big pike" theory, at this venue, because I have absolute faith in my baits. They are as attractive as I know how to present them; confidence is 90% of my approach, the roll of the dice providing the remainder. We will be there well before light and fish a fairly typical dawn to mid-morning session, in line with our previous experiences. However, I am not so convinced that fishing an afternoon session, into dark, might not offer us a better chance of getting to grips with some of these pike. Gavin Haig's recent exploits have provided much food for thought along these lines. Catching pike during the hours of darkness cannot always be accidental?

You'd think he'd be happier with such a nice Scottish pike. My job is now done and
it's now Ben's responsibility to introduce Bryn to the joys of angling. 
I also have a couple of tweaked-up presentations which I would like to try out, the Christmas period should allow me ample opportunity to give them a fair trial, fished alongside my regular offerings. The results will be interesting, of that I'm sure, given that I catch a few? My use of dyes and flavours goes right back to the mid-80's and time spent with Eddie Turner, Vic Gibson and Bill Hancock (The original ET team) on the banks at Tring. They were always tinkering with some aspect, or other, of bait presentation or rig performance and this had a lasting effect on the way I looked at my pike angling. "Do something different!" was the general vibe and the lessons of the past have yielded some wondrous results in the intervening years. I have done just that, yet feel that as time progresses it should have gotten more difficult to find an edge? Sadly this is not so and I have another post, in mind, based upon this worrying situation.

Garden Sprawk

I'm working eleven hour shifts in the run up to the Christmas break. Not ideal, but the extra money is very welcome during this over-hyped period of consumerism. As I was standing in the kitchen, just prior to leaving for work, Bev commented on the bird on the aviary? Looking through the double-glazed, back door, I could see a female Sparrowhawk chasing across the mesh; my male Canary happily taking the piss from within the safety of the flight. I quickly grabbed the camera gear and grabbed a few images before "You'll be late for work" rang out.

A couple of seconds later the hawk, tired of the game, departed to the north - never to be seen again?

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Is luck a factor?

The late Gary Player once famously replied, to a question; about being "lucky to win a major",  with this brilliant answer. "The more I practice, the luckier I get!" He was an outstanding golfer and a huge personality, thus able to carry off such a witty "one liner" with suitable aplomb. In angling circles, jealousy plays a big part of the "he's a lucky fisherman" when, in the vast majority of cases, it's the application of logical thought, allied to specialist techniques,which  have been the overriding factor in any individuals' successes. During the formative stages of my life I have to admit to being on that negative side of the fence. It's easier to explain to yourself, a lack of results, when using that lucky tag to describe the successes of others. Much more palatable than to admit that you just aren't good/skilled enough to measure up?

I have, however, now reached this stage in my life with opinions firmly embedded in the "you make your own luck" camp. I should have recognized this understanding of hard work and logic being a far more rewarding (literally) path than the simple "chuck and chance", of my youth, many years ago - but was completely unreceptive to that thought process. It was our (Benno and I) carp exploits on The RMC, that were to bring this into focus. One of Ben's mates is an incredibly successful angler along this venue and had explained that if we hadn't seen any signs, in a couple of hours, move! The "time bandit" approach blown away by this advice. It was, however, already in my repertoire, the earliest experience being my reading of Jim Gibbinson's 1983 "Modern Specimen Hunting" and, as such, allowing an insight into the approach, and thinking processes, of an incredibly talented angler, a guy with other pressures on his time. His fishing being a precious window of escape and relaxation - it follows, therefore, that he did his best to make the most of it. I was suitably impressed and without realizing it, at the time, adapted my approach to the tench of Wilstone Reservoir, with a complete change of tactic. I abandoned the long stay, sit and wait, technique and, instead, adopted a hit and run strategy. I was obviously in a very fortunate situation, my home was less than ten miles away, I worked shifts and could go there whenever I wanted.

Travelling light, remaining mobile and flexible, I smashed the place up. Over a hundred tench in excess of 7 lbs in thirteen years - all of a sudden, when broken down like that, it doesn't seem quite so impressive? But during that period, it really was exceptional angling. The bare facts are that I only managed two eights and a nine during the entire period. I witnessed loads of big fish, many doubles, yet it was not my destiny to put a net under one for myself. So is there a role for luck in angling?  I can certainly state, without reservation , that I was extremely lucky to have been part of that incredibly exciting time and part of the whole experience of Tring tench fishing during its' absolute peak. I could, however, turn it on its' head and bemoan how unlucky I was not to have taken a "double" - shit happens! My brother, Sye, has a better PB than I, but didn't get 15 tench over 7 lbs during the same period - how is that possible, how is that fair?

Watercraft, experience and application; it is now the underlying driver for everything I attempt, angling wise. I know that I will get results if I work hard, I also realize that life's not always fair - you can't cherry pick the bits you like and discard the rest. It's a lottery and, if you believe the hype, you've gotta be in it to win it? When viewed in this light, my tench returns are easily explainable - I matched three numbers (7 lbs +) on a regular basis, because I was constant player. I had a couple of five number results (8 lbs 6 oz & 8 lbs 14 oz)  and even came close with five and the bonus ball (9 lbs 2 oz) - just never got that jackpot. That's not luck, that's the law of averages and why the bookies are so much richer than than the punters!

With that gift of hindsight, I have a number of (very plausible) theories as to why I didn't get the tench of my dreams from that magnificent fishery, but that's all by the by. I now have to use those experiences to ensure that my time on the bank is as productive as I can make it. With the very obvious exception of my holidays at Loch Awe, my usual sessions last around four hours - six and I'm pushing it! If I manage an overnighter, then Bev must be visiting friends?

I've used all these images (some from bivvy sessions, others from hit and run tactics) of Wilstone tench, because I have been playing with my slide thingamabob and have been basking in the former glories of a very special time and place! I recall that period of my life through very rose-tinted eyes and am sure that it wasn't all posing with with tench on sunny mornings. I don't care that much for the exact details; it's the lasting emotions, the memories and the lessons which are so cherished. To be able to use experiences from this period to assist my angling today is what makes me tick, not the chance capture of a big fish because I am able to spend unlimited time waiting for a bite. I'm as far removed from "time bandit angling", as is possible, and this is why I don't fit in with the crowd in the local tackle shops - I'm not just nipping in for supplies before returning to my bivvy! In that respect, yes I am a very lucky angler, I suppose!

Monday, 5 December 2016

I should make more effort

Yesterday morning,  in glorious sunshine, I went out for a stroll. In itself, nothing too different from any other nice day spent in the outdoors but, I was at Grove Ferry! The first time I've set foot on this magnificent reserve in a couple of years. The place has many special memories for me and I have been extremely fortunate to have seen and found many fantastic birds within the boundaries of the Stodmarsh/Grove Ferry Reserve.

It was very pleasant, although I could have written a list of what I would see without leaving home, such is the predictable nature of this extensive reed-bed habitat. Snipe flushed from soggy fields, Marsh Harriers floated gracefully as they patrolled the skies, ever watchful. A Peregrine scythed through a huge flock of swirling Lapwings, away beyond the Grove Ferry Inn and a Stonechat flicked along Harrison's Drove, advancing as I approached. Bearded Tits were present, but very uncooperative when I pointed the long lens in their direction. Plenty of Fieldfare, Redwing and Blackbirds feeding on the profusion of Hawthorn berries around the place and star billing went to the party of six Bullfinches feeding quietly in the paddock along the entrance track. A cracking way to spend a couple of hours - I should do it more often.

Out in the garden, this morning, a stunning adult male Sparrowhawk spent a few moments perched on the aviary before flying off across the farm.  A flock of eleven Long-tailed Tits paraded along the boundary hedgerow, allowing a quick record image before continuing on their way. Off to work in a couple of hours but, hey-ho, soon be Christmas!

Sunday, 4 December 2016

A fishy tale

I recall this story in order to remain within the "gang" so to speak. It is about an incident which changed the way I looked at things - a wake up call for an obsessed half-wit! It occurred in August 1987 whilst fishing on The Sixteen Foot Drain, just above Three Holes Bridge. It was a period when Zander were high on my list of priorities. I desperately needed to catch a "double" to ensure my PB list was able to be compared favourably with those of my peers - how sad was that? I was serving on the National Executive Committee of The National Association of Specialist Anglers and Regional Coordinator for the Chilterns, therefore, very much a part of this circus and living the dream.

9 lbs 8 oz of Fenland Zed (Oct '85)
Being a fully paid up member of this "big fish" scene, it was thought that we had some kind of magic wand that allowed us to consistently be seen posing with specimen fish. Nothing could be further from the truth, the number of good fish was in direct correlation to the amount of time spent on the bank - it was the start of the era of "the time bandits!"; the late Alan Wilson right at the forefront of this particular revolution. One of life's true gentlemen, he would have been the very first to admit time was his greatest asset, being an ordinary angler in terms of technical skills. Specimen hunters had elevated the status of homeless tramp (no disrespect implied or intended) into hero, a legend of angling folklore - the next generation carp anglers have turned bivvy life into an art form!

Cuddles, a founder member of the TOTW (The Top of the World) Speccy Hunters, with a Fenland Zed - 1984

The late, and awesomely great, Alan Wilson
The original "time bandit" and all round top bloke - the King of Tring!
I embraced this, time compensating for ability, mind-set and happily spent extended periods on the bank, whilst awaiting my target species to play ball. It speaks volumes about commitment as a husband/father that I could justify such effort in pursuit of a fish, thus, on to this particular event. The regular bunch of social misfits and total lunatics had driven up to the venue in order to spend the Bank Holiday weekend fishing for these introduced alien predators. We had no problems with getting Zander to take our baits, our issue was with sorting out the bigger fish - wheat from the chaff? The Sixteen Foot Drain had a decent history of producing fish into double figures, so it made sense, at the time, to concentrate our efforts there. What we didn't realize was how localized the captures had been and that we might as well have been fishing the Grand Union Canal - we were miles off the mark!
We'd set up camp on the bank and had got our rods out, I can't recall who was present during this session, but do know I was not alone - alcoholic haze being a recurring theme during this period of my life, so not much change then? I am unable to say if the live-bait I used was captured from the drain, or we'd brought it with us - those were the days! I had a small bream, lip-hooked, fished on a Dyson rig close to a marginal lily pad. It was at 03.15 hrs on the morning of 31st August 1987 that my ET Backbiter signalled the take. Picking the rod from the rests, there was a decent moon and I didn't require a head torch (just as well - I didn't own one!) - I tightened into a fish before setting the hook and "let battle commence" Bloody Hell! This has to be the one? I found myself playing a fish which had no intention of waving a surrender flag - it surged up and down the drain with powerful determination. Thinking that this was the Zander I so desired, I happily went along with the ruse and treated it like I was connected to a bar of gold! I have no accurate recollection of the period that the battle lasted, just the absolute dismay I felt as I drew the fish over the net - it had a pike's head on it!
It was obviously a good one, but I just couldn't allow myself to be happy - I was fishing, in the dark, for Zander. I went through the ritual of placing the pike into an ET tube then returned to the comfort of my sleeping bag, totally gutted!

17 lbs 1 oz of Fenland pike - probably never seen a hook previously?
What was my problem? It wasn't a Zed - wake up and smell the flowers you prick!
I have no idea as to when my slumbers ended, but it was already well light and I was able to reflect on the events of the previous night. Sure enough, securely pegged in the margins, was my ET tube containing the culprit of my broken dreams. As I lifted the fish from the water I knew it was a decent lump. the scales recording a weight of 17 lbs 1 oz - in the light of the dawn I realized what a complete twat I'd been. It was a, scale perfect, superb pike - probably never seen a hook before? How could I have been disappointed by such a fish? There is no method, known to man, that allows a "Zander only" tag be attached to a bait and, as such, I should be happy with whatever happens. Whilst I was playing the fish, adrenaline levels were at 100%, it was only the realization that I playing a pike which caused a problem - surely the enjoyment was key, not the outcome? Obviously, at that time, not so. It was a major kick up the arse for me - I needed to regain focus, get back to the basics of what angling was all about? If I couldn't enjoy the experience of a night time pike - why bother continuing? The reality slap was a hard one - happily I learnt the lesson and carried on - never did get that double figure Zed - still got plenty of time?

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Jobs a good'n

So there we were, all assembled on the banks of the drain, awaiting the alarms signalling the interest of a hungry pike. Sadly, they hadn't read the script and the fish had switched right off since the rapid fall in temperatures during the previous week. Neither Luke or myself, had a sniff, Benno saved the day with a bite, on a Bluey tail section, and this allowed Bryn a chance to realize a dream. With Benno at the net and Luke providing the coaching, Bryn successfully landed his first ever pike. He'd never seen a live (or dead) one until that moment; his beaming smile speaking volumes about how he felt. He had told his Uncle Ben that he felt cold, not another word after the fish was on the bank.
With advice from Luke and a practical demonstration from Ben, he was ready to pose with his prize, for the ritual photos.

What a way to start your pike angling journey - at 9 lbs 8 oz it is the biggest fish Bryn has ever seen!
It was a cracking morning, despite of the lack of action to my rods. Birding very enjoyable; loads of Fieldfare and other thrushes had roosted overnight in the adjacent hawthorns, there was a female Merlin hunting the rough grassland beyond the drain, at first light. I recorded my first Mistle Thrush, for ages, three Little Egret, three Marsh Harriers (ad male, ad female and sub-ad male) Gadwall, Teal, Water Rail, Common Snipe, Kingfisher, Cetti's Warbler plus a decent northerly movement of Lapwing. I should make more of an effort to carry the big lens, but can't be arsed to lug that extra weight just in case I get a chance photo opportunity.  However, the day was not about birds or me, it belonged to an eight year old, just starting out on his personal exploration of the joys of angling. "Touch me, Perce!" (You've go to be a Wraftie to understand this?)

Friday, 2 December 2016

This should be fun

Benno, Luke and myself are taking my grandson, Bryn, out pike fishing over the weekend. I posted a photo of him with a nice perch a few weeks back and, since then, he has also landed more perch, a good number of "skimmer" bream and seen caught a decent roach (Benno) and chub (Luke) whilst getting destroyed by a lively little carp at Sandwich Coarse Fishery. He has now made it very clear that it is a pike which he would really like to see, so Uncle Ben has made plans.

A very young Benno (aged eight or nine?) at Startops End Res with a nice brace. Those
ET Pike-tubes are still in service today, some twenty five years later!
We're going to the drain, where I've had so much recent success, and are planning to give Bryn all the rods (that's nine in total!) in the hope that he can catch his first Esox. The weather isn't too sparkling, although the -10C, forecast for other parts, isn't a factor. It is still important, however,  that an eight year old doesn't get cold, and/or bored, on his first pike outing - so we have to ensure he is actively involved with what we are doing and stays warm and dry. I will be at the venue, well before the others, and have an ET pike tube in my rucksack just to ensure that, should I get lucky, there will be a pike for Bryn to admire on this auspicious occasion. If I never catch another pike, I will still have caught more than my fair share; I've been very fortunate. It will be an absolute delight should this plan come to fruition, and we are able to introduce a young angler to the delights of pike fishing. The memories of my first capture are as crystal clear as the day it happened - that's what I am hoping for Bryn; a milestone moment, a memory which will remain entrenched for the rest of a lifetime. Around such events are lives, and life choices, influenced. Be nice, not horrible - that lesson will never go away!