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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Monday, 30 September 2013

Another walk in KG VI park

My slumber was brought to a juddering end when, at 05.00hrs, the alarm sounded for the start of yet another Monday early shift. Up and showered, a quick cuppa and I'm on my way; well almost! I hadn't gone 5 yards when I was confronted by the sight of a flat rear tyre on our motor. Bev needs it for work and we have to ferry the grandchildren later in the day - I'll have to do something!!!
I go back indoors to tell Bev the good news before restarting my walk across Newland's Farm to work. In the dark, the constant calls of Song Thrushes suggested that there was quite a decent movement going on, I even flushed a few decked birds from the cauliflowers, as I passed.
I had a word with my supervisor and a plan was agreed, "We'll sort it out tomorrow" being his parting shot as I headed back home little more than 90 minutes after I'd arrived. It was now light and the Song Thrush passage had reduced to odd singles moving NW along with a few Meadow Pipits and a flurry of Swallows. The offending wheel was taken off the car and replaced by an "Emergency" spare. Quite what Ford were thinking when they placed a pram wheel in the boot - it is barely wider than a Mountain Bike tyre!
08.30hrs and I'm at Kwik-Fit; who were very helpful, promising to have the tyre fixed, or replaced, by 15.00hrs (when I said I could get back to pick it up). A few chores to be undertaken before I was able to get back to King George VI Park for another session looking for a Yellow-browed Warbler. I got off to a decent start, with a group of 5 Firecrests in the immediate area of the Gatehouse. A few Chiffchaffs were scattered around and, un-surprisingly, a number of Song Thrushes were seen. A Grey Wagtail flew south along the cliff-top and several bunches of Chaffinches were also noted as they moved steadily overhead. With two circuits of the park completed, I was beginning to think that the hunt was over. A Firecrest teased me with a hide and seek show, but finally allowing a few token shots before it flitted back into the shadowy depths of the tangled vegetation.
My camera skills are way off the mark when it comes to getting images
of subjects within the dappled light of autumn leaves
Somewhere, from behind me, came the un-mistakable call of a Yellow-browed. Game on! Making my way over to where I thought the call had originated, the bird called twice more, slightly to the right. It was favouring the same group of trees that the "Blue-tail" had used. In amongst a sizable flock of Blue and Great Tits, I had a few tantalising glimpses as it fed high up in the canopy of a large Beech. They moved off and the bird was lost - until it called again? I had followed them along the park boundary when it called again from behind me. I must have walked right underneath it. Another 10, or so, minutes elapsed before I relocated the bird and managed to grab a series of pathetic record shots as I pointed the lens into the sunlit canopy.
 


 I did enjoy some fantastic views through my bins, so a successful outcome to my search. As I was watching one bird, a second called from where I'd just been - so at least two Yellow-broweds in the park today. Quite what else was waiting to discovered will remain forever a mystery; two sickly grand-children being in need of our attention - Bev and I on duty, via Kwik-Fit and a bill for £74.50!

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Walk in the park

In a conscious attempt to clear my mind, of all things relating to the trials of R. Stour barbel, I spent the majority of my free time today (Bev and I having to visit Tesco's due to a severe lack of food in the cupboards) watching birds. A steady movement of Swallows, this morning, was enjoyable although nowhere near as spectacular as the last one - I had counted over 700 before I lost interest and spent a while getting some shots of a pair of Collared Doves and a Dunnock having a bath. Still a few Chiffchaffs around the garden and with the knowledge that Yellow-browed Warblers are being recorded in huge numbers further north along the east coast I wasn't particularly surprised when, on checking Birdguides, I discovered that one had been seen in Ramsgate (no other details available to a non-subscriber).
Dunnock in the bird bath - a very pleasant distraction from counting migrating Swallows
Bev and I had a bite to eat, at lunch time, before I decided that King George VI Park required a visit. I allowed myself 90 minutes to grill the area - knowing that the venue would be heaving with dog walkers, joggers and assorted families enjoying the facilities. If there was a Yellow-browed Warbler anywhere, KG VI is the place in Ramsgate to look. I parked the car beside the tennis courts and made my way into the sycamore woodland adjacent to the gatehouse. A Treecreeper, calling, from the canopy of these mature trees, was a good start but, with the stiff easterly breeze, much of the park was "blown out" and birdless. The three track side plantations contained the bulk of the birds that I saw. Around 20 Chiffchaff and at least 4 Firecrest were scattered around the park, with Song Thrush and Robin numbers swelled by newly arrived continental birds. I didn't manage to locate a Yellow-browed, although there had been one earlier in the day. A very mobile flock of Long-tailed, Blue and Great Tits was given a grilling but was so restless that a single warbler could easily be overlooked.
With no chance of hearing distant calls - kids and wind noise making it very difficult - I returned home in time to listen to the Sunderland v's Liverpool game on Five Live.
 
Chiffchaff in the middle plantation of King George VI Park
A very nice day and great to spend time without my, self-imposed, burden! Two-barred Crossbill in King's Wood - a Kent tick for me. I'll see if it hangs around and then make my decision; I have a week of earlies to look forward to so could twitch the bird before dropping in on the river?

 
I'd love to say that I got this shot today - only I'd be telling porkies!
Firecrest must be a candidate for the "best looking bird" on the UK list?
This one was along the cycle track, at Joss Bay, in March 2011.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

When my mind is wondering!

The Beatles released Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967 - the track (No. 5) is Fixing a Hole which contains the lyric "... stops my mind from wandering; where it will go. It really doesn't matter if I'm wrong, I'm right. Where I belong, I'm right, where I belong!"
My recent sessions on the R. Stour have been fish less - not without incident; but the barbel are not particularly co-operative. So with time to waste (specimen hunters, of "The Richard Walker era", call it controlled impatience) I have found myself with a chance to "have my mind wandering" about things, in my own company!
November 1981 - my first 20lbs pike
If I had the first inkling that this capture would lead to a life of such obsession - I don't suppose I'd change a thing!
Mum or, more correctly, her passing, has featured highly in my thoughts yet, I have also tried to fathom out why I got into big fish chasing in the first place? What possible fascination does the pursuit of "big fish" have that "pleasure angling" lacks? A stupid question; but with a very simple answer - "if it flicks the switch; enjoy!" It would be equally relevant if I asked why twitching, not patch watching, heavy metal not drum and bass, or real ale not Stella? It is all about personal choice and the freedom to make decisions based upon experience, not peer group pressure.
My fascination with catching "specimen" fish goes way back into my distant past. The "Mr Crabtree" comic strip and Bernard Venables column being right at the start of my angling journey. Neither mum or dad were in the slightest bit interested, so it was driven by my own search for knowledge/success. Being the (eldest) son of two teachers ensured that my reading and writing skills were going to be of a reasonable level - access to the school/Dacorum DC libraries ensured that books were always accessible. I read as much as I could - Dennis Watkins-Pitchford (aka BB), Dick Walker, Fred J. Taylor and so many other country folk of that era; I was fortunate enough to spend time with some of them, if not fishing we'd share conversation about various aspects of country life. I really have been a very lucky guy to have lived where and when I have. I enjoyed the best music that the UK has ever experienced/produced and have been a part of the "new dawn" of specialist angling (I even served on the Executive Committee of the National Association of Specialist Anglers) and was the NASA Chiltern Regional Organiser. My 18 year break ( August 1993 - May 2011), into birding, coincided with the rise of communication technology and was to be directly responsible for my being able to set a new Kent year list record when, in 1999, I recorded 263 species - I have never done things by halves! I have always been driven by trying to push myself beyond the comfort zone of "ordinary". I have never wanted others to show me something that I should be able to see for myself. Of course I have missed out - my stupid ego has been responsible for as many lows as highs, but I'll survive. I've just got home, after a sixth successive blank on the R. Stour. I realise that I'm struggling, I'm not as good as I'd thought I was - yet nothing will change the way I approach my challenges, or detract from my enjoyment when I succeed.
 
Stanborough Lake, Welwyn Garden City, Herts.
Rob Maylin had christened this venue "The Cracker Factory"
I was fortunate to be there at the start, a period when 20lbs carp were still very big fish.
I took three in three casts - so good enough to make the weekly angling press.
 

(I read the North Downs & Beyond post - Solipsism - I had to look it up on Wikipedia and now find myself completely head-f**ked) - discuss?

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Sat back and enjoyed the show

Appologies for the tardiness of this blog entry - it refers to the events of yesterday morning! Such is the way of my hectic lifestyle, it is over 24hrs after the events that I find time to recall them. Fairly routine; the start of my day saw me making early morning tea, for Bev, before examining the contents of the moth trap. Steve Gale's "brown is the colour" post being equally relavent in my case. It was a strange sort of dull, dank day which suggested that a few migrants might be about. I hung around, in the garden, awaiting my chance of "that" chiffchaff in the bird bath shot - it never happened.
Just after Bev had left for work the action began. In the gloom I could hear the excited calls of House Martins - in the next 30 minutes I'd counted 1,300+ moving steadily ENE overhead, Swallows were also on the move, but outnumbered at least 8 to 1. Then it all changed and there were hirundines in massive numbers moving in all directions, the gloomy conditions not being to their liking. I gave up any attempt at recording numbers as it was impossible to know whether birds were genuinely headed N, E, S or W or simply swirling around Thanet looking for a way to the continent?

House Martin, in the murk, over the garden
I recorded my first Greenfinches, of the autumn, as several groups moved SW with some purpose. Also noted were single Yellow and Grey Wagtail, a few Meadow Pipits and a juvenile Hobby, which came scything through the hirundines like a giant swift.
 
Juvenile Hobby, doing its' best Eleonora's impression - but lacking the languid flight mannerisms of that Mediterranean mega-star.

Events finished as abruptly as they'd started. The sun broke through the gloom and the birds simply vanished. Visible Migration - is there any other natural spectacle quite like it?
 
Juvenile Swallow - where has it come from? There certainly weren't any raised on my patch in 2013!

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Dull day - damp chiffchaffs & rooks

I have spent quite a while, over the past three days, awaiting the photo opportunity of a Chiffchaff using our garden bird bath. With the number of birds moving, southwards, it was only a matter of time - but would I have the camera to hand when the event occurred? Well, as it happens, Bev and I were in the kitchen preparing a meal for Ron, Denise, Gary, Debbie, Emily and Harry when the first one appeared, so a chance missed! A couple of hours later, there was a second chance when, another bird flicked through the buddlieas and out onto the bird bath - camera waiting this time. I managed a series of shots - using both ISO 400 & 800 settings - nothing to set the world alight, but still a sequence of usable images from the encounter.



The only other sighting, of note, was that of a large flock of Rooks! Their importance probably a mystery to the majority of those who take trouble to read this blog? Rooks are "big news" around Newland's Farm - although annual, Rooks are a very scarce bird - so 20+ individuals, in a single flock, is a significant occurrence!  

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Moffs and sprogs

Mothing in the garden is nothing better than going through the motions, at present, despite some seemingly decent conditions (with exception of the recent night of the full moon!). The normal autumnal species are being ticked off steadily as the month progresses. A Centre-barred Sallow being the latest addition, with a nice Frosted Orange and Copper Underwing adding variety to the regular mix of Setaceous Hebrew Character, assorted "yellow underwings", Feathered Ranunculus, Lunar Underwing and L-album Wainscot. Migrants remain decidedly scarce - not even a Silver Y last night!




If you take a drive around the back lanes of the Ash Levels, between Lower Goldstone and Guston Farm, it will take you past a secluded cottage that rejoices in the name "Sparrow Castle". It was always a good area to find wintering Chiffchaffs, in the adjacent orchards, when I used to call the area my patch. Today, my garden feeding station was to host a large number of House Sparrows, thus bringing to mind the name of that property. I spent quite a while getting images of the activity around the feeders and bird bath, all the while Swallows, House Martins and Meadow Pipits were passing overhead and a dozen, or so, Chiffchaff flicked through the buddlieas en route along the Vine Close  garden hedgerow. I wouldn't be surprised to learn of some big day totals at the well watched coastal sites.
 



Thursday, 19 September 2013

No use for fish(er) or fowl(er)

We're in the midst of the very best period for both birding and angling, yet find ourselves at the mercy of the weather - so no change there then? A damp dawn, in the misty/midst of September, offers the promise of grounded migrants, add a little easterly bias to the wind and a day to remember is on the cards - very similar with the prospects for an autumn angler - decent cloud cover after a bright day; the water cools down very slowly and light penetration is minimal - just perfect conditions for those big Bream and Barbel to play ball. I am constantly perusing the 5-day forecast in the hope of spotting a niche where I might grab a day's holiday in the hope of of a chance for another R.Stour barbel.
A magnificent sight - just no good during the peak migration/big fish period.
Too much light for birds to find themselves disorientated or fish to be tricked into taking baited hooks?
I've had a little play with photo-shop; it was much brighter than this - not so orange!
Andy Lawson & co are also engaged in a similar regime - only hoping for the conditions to provide the basis for a spot of bush bashing (rare birds being the target!). Looking out from the living room window - it was remarkably bright - was to reveal why tonight/tomorrow is a waste of time!
I grabbed this image from the back gate - I rested the camera on the gatepost!
We spend the entire summer period building up to this period - yet are frequently disappointed by the reality - things never quite work out as we'd hoped? This is even more obvious when you are attempting juggle family life with an obsessive hobby - "oh what fun?"
Immature Kestrel hunting the field margin just beyond our hedge
A few bits around the garden were rather pleasing - an immature Kestrel attempting to find something along the hedgerow providing a nice photo opportunity. There were a couple of Chiffchaffs in the buddlieas and a Common Whitethroat scolded me as I fed the birds in the aviary.
Away from Newland's - I visited Dragoncarp Direct - Ramsgate, where I purchased a pair of Carp Kinetics "Native" boots. Chatting with the guys it appears that there have been a few anglers asking about the barbel images I've put on the "Wall of Fame"
Just for the record - I have used Dragoncarp.Direct gear since the start of the 2013 season. Both 13lbs-ders were on Matt Hayes "Limited Edition" Centre-pins, Used Tackle 18mm Halibut pellets - Korda "Wide-gape" size 10's - a JRC seat, assorted pellets and method mix ground baits. I use the £1 in-line leads (although I didn't realise that 98g = 3oz!) and landed with a Boss "Weight-lifter" handle on a Barbus Severn landing net frame (with a deep pan net - the original being nothing short of scandalous)
Great that I've created an interest in the barbel pottential of the R.Stour - a sad inditement to the level of ability of modern anglers that they are unable to go find answer for themselves?  My younger brother, Simon, describes them as "failed carp anglers". If they can't catch carp - they've got "Bob Hope & no hope" of a barbel from the Kentish Stour (even if I drew them a map!)

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Predictable - but no less enjoyable?

We're in that period, around West Dumpton and Newland's Farm, that (after 13 years) I'm fairly confident about the appearance of certain species, in certain places, on this Thanet area that I call "my patch." Today has been a classic. Finishing work, at 14.00hrs, saw me meander across the fields - a Whinchat in The Old Rose Garden being the first there this autumn. In the distance I could see that the farmer was starting to work the stubble. You can't call it ploughing as much of the straw remains on the surface - just somehow they run a machine over the field which breaks the top soil and turns the ground.
As I reached the end of Vine Close, I became aware of good numbers of Ivy Bees (Colletes hedarae) nectaring on the mature Ivy of the hedgerow - I only discovered this population in September 2012!
Ivy Bee (Colletes hederae) on ivy flowers (now there's a surprise!) at the end of Vine Close
Large numbers of feral pigeons have descended on the area so, I was absolutely delighted to see a juvenile Peregrine stooping at the massed flocks. I called Bev and we enjoyed a couple of minutes watching this totally inept hunter chasing shadows - it will need to become more proficient if it is to survive the winter. (No camera to hand so you'll have to be content with an archive shot from last year!)
 
Immature/Juvenile Peregrine over Newland's Farm (September 2012)
A Chiffchaff flicked about in the buddlieas but, try as I might, nothing more of avian note was seen. A couple of Red Admirals sought sustenance on the remnants of the buddliea flowers and a lone Common Darter dashed around for a few minutes during a break in the clouds. If I'm unable to find enjoyment in this little lot then it really is time to call it a day - not that it will ever happen all the time I've got four grand-children to entertain!
 
Garden Chiffchaff - flicking about in the spent buddliea flower heads

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Sparse rewards at Newland's

With the blog looking more like "The Non-conformist", by the post, I have consciously made the effort to get it back on track. If I ain't talking fishing (not  angling politics) then I should make mention of the other wildlife that crosses my path during the routine of my mundane existence.
So here goes! The weather of the past week has been decidedly changeable, you don't require a BBC 5-day forecast, just look out of the window.
Birds are still at a premium around Newland's Farm. I have missed a few raptors, of that I know, because of the columns of gulls spiralling into the heavens. It is a well documented route that takes the majority of large birds of prey on a course away to the west of Vine Close. I can see the result, but can't find the cause - even with a 30x eyepiece on my Kowa TSN 823.
A juvenile Wheatear on a newly ploughed Newland's Farm cauliflower patch
Odd Sparrowhawks and Hobby have been seen, as I stand in the garden. Chiffchaffs have replaced Willow Warblers in the garden buddlieas whilst overhead, the early morning passage of Meadow Pipits is very obvious - a few birds have been decked in the stubble. A Wheatear flicked along the footpath, by the "Old Rose Garden" this afternoon, as I wandered home in the drizzle. Odd Swallows skim across the fields and I've heard Curlew and Oystercatcher calling in the darkness as I've prattled about with the moth trap. Not much, I agree, but better than nothing.


A Meadow Pipit flushed from the Newland's Farm stubble - their excited "tseeping" calls are a regular feature
of my early morning walk across to Pyson's Road.
I spent a little while with Emily, this afternoon. As all Grand-dads do - we walked up to the sweet shop to get some "Milky Way Stars". A Firecrest was calling from a stand of Sycamores, by St. Augustine's; the first of the autumn for me. (A very regular Thanet visitor that is still absent from my garden list!)
 

Monday, 16 September 2013

Logic? - have a word; I'm a bloke!

Those of you who regularly visit this blog - seek urgent medical help! No, not really, but please take the content as a nothing more than the flick of a butterfly's wing in a tornado - completely irrelevant to the bigger picture. I'm not suggesting that the butterfly has no role but, the scale needs perspective. My opinions are of minuscule importance, away from the Dumpton HQ, and my opinion on the subject of anglers and their perceived contribution to UK conservation is 100% mine, and mine alone - I seek not to influence others in their perception of a wonderfully enjoyable hobby, or those who partake in such activity.
A Brown Rat - feeding on the remnants of the blackberry crop; cute!
What would you think if it was eating the Kellogg's cornflakes in your pantry??
Otters are a "hot" subject, at present, within the angling community - I'm not buying it! Cormorants - I hate the bloody things; southern interlopers coming over here and eating our fish. Mink? They haven't got a friend on this side of the pond, unless you still wear fur coats (Beautiful animals and ugly women - remember that one?) Badgers - bovine TB? Isn't the clue in the title? Bovine relates to cattle, not badgers - who is passing this disease to who? We can inoculate our kids with MMR serum - so what's the problem with inoculating our cattle with an anti-TB jab?  Badgers and cows are both in the clear, we don't eat badger (unless your name is Baldrick) so the job's a good'n!
I'm rambling - and you're still reading (think on!) - the interaction between humanity and the wildlife that shares our space will always be an arena where emotion plays as important a role as science/logic.
 
There is not an angler within the UK who would argue against Kingfishers
being able to hunt for prey at their fishery

Our farming has become an industry of mono-culture; on Thanet they grow cauliflowers and potatoes - incredibly well. Sugar beet is a Fenland speciality whilst cereal crops provide massive incomes for the farming communities of the "Shires" Be under no illusion that this is a criticism of farmers - it is not - I have many good friends who are directly involved in this industry. They work bloody hard to keep the supermarkets stocked with cheap food (that we all enjoy!) - Tesco/Sainsbury's/Wallmart are the key players in this caper.


A vixen and two cubs - good or bad news? I don't farm sheep, they don't eat fish - so are they a problem on Thanet?
They're not? Why would the owner of Newland's Farm feel the need to shoot over 170 in 2013.

 



All the while that "multi-nationals" are the key players - our government/regulators will play lap-dog to their demands in order to remain in a position of influence/power. Depressing? Yep! - I've just about given up on this system to deliver clean water into our rivers. I don't believe a planning application will ever be refused because of an SSSI or other environmental factor. Big business - big money and it won't stop there.
I can't say that I'm right, because I have no proof - but put these theories into your own worlds and see if you don't find some amazing coincidences! It is a depressing situation; I'm getting wound up as I write this stuff. Thankfully nature has a tendency to fight back, in the most unexpected of ways, and I'm confident that my enjoyment will not be reduced by whatever interference is decreed by faceless clowns in the corridors of power. As this has very little to do with pike or observation - so I'll quit now, while I'm still ahead?
 
If they were not white - would anglers be calling for a cull of these recent colonists?

I can't get the balance of it all. I enjoy my fishing/birding,encounters with umpteen other aspects of our natural world yet, still retain a grasp of what is required, by a successful business, to prosper.
I owe Sarah Frost so much more than she could ever know - my first insight into how industry works - and now find myself indebted to another visionary. FSIS is only headed in one direction - and that is digital - I'll be at the front holding the flag! "Money talks - bull-shit walks"; welcome to the reality of 2013. Fishing, natural history, all things environmental, yep - I'm in, but it will never replace the basic desire to provide for me, and my family - business wins again?

Sunday, 15 September 2013

A worm at one end - a fool on the other?

My title is the classic perception of the general publics' view of anglers - silly men (very rarely; women), sitting on boxes, dangling a maggot in the water. Obviously, as an angler, I am slightly insulted, but fully understand that this opinion is borne of encounters with fishermen at local parks, rivers and canals. However, what I'm even more confused by, is angling's problem with the public inability to see anglers as conservationists; bloody right - I can't see anglers as conservationists and I'm one of them!
1984 - an 8lbs 10oz zed.
Don't get this mixed up; I know many anglers who are wonderful naturalists, able to enjoy the various wildlife that they encounter whilst engaged in their hobby - good all rounders, but absolutely no active contribution to conservation. The loss of the "close season" of the coarse angler, the lucrative business of year-round fisheries has, for me, shown the industry is "dollar driven". The chance of  habitat regeneration (March 15th - June 15th) has been replaced by the commercial fisheries willingness to allow anglers to fish whatever the cost to the environment. The demand of  anglers being as important as the fishery owners providing access - supply and demand (Welcome to the legacy of Maggie Thatcher and that idiot Tony Blah,blah,blur) How is this conservation?
Like-wise, I have been bombarded by the anti-otter campaigning of celebrity anglers - get real? Anti-otter? A native British mammal which, due to habitat degradation, has suffered a massive range reduction but is now in the same position as the Common Buzzard - repopulating areas from which it was lost in times gone by. I have got a real problem with this mind-set; yet do know where the problem originates - stupidly arrogant anglers, those (of my era) who took it upon themselves to illegally introduce barbel into rivers across the UK.
 
It's 1985 - my PB zander of 9lbs 8oz
The result of arrogant disregard to environmental issues by the Great Ouse River Authority

A look at the rise and fall of Adam's Mill is a micro-insight into the bigger picture. I have no sympathy with the guys who blame otters for their inability to catch fish. Otters belong in our rivers - barbel don't - well certainly not the 82 that are host to the species at present. Let's think about this situation? Otters love to eat eels, a species which have suffered a massive decline due to the pressures of modern water management techniques and the "solution to pollution being dilution!" mentality of the water companies. The massive spread of barbel has negated the demise of  the eel, to such an extent, that the preferred prey has become the newly introduced alien.
 
A regular feature of the mid-80's - a multiple catch of Zander (4 - 6 lbs)
Good angling or the result of "arrogant" disregard to environmental implications?
I love my fishing, I have enjoyed my recent run of barbel captures, but cannot allow the presence of an alien fish be a reason for attempting to stop the recolonisation of the R.Stour by a native mammal. If the cost of this is the reduction in the barbel population, so be it!
The actions of meddling anglers is mirrored by the crazy decisions of River Authorities (predecessors of the Environment Agency) which saw the introduction of Zander into the Great Ouse system. Wels Catfish, Zander, Barbel, Carp and many other exotics have given UK anglers so much more to fish for, thus sport. If the provision of these populations has provided the native wildlife a chance to regain a foothold in areas that they have been lost, maybe anglers are conservationists after all?
 

My accompanying photos are of my years (1983 - 1986) spent on the Fenland drains; Zander fishing is a direct result of Water Authority arrogance in their introduction of these fish into the Great Ouse river system. Anglers have ensured that the spread of this species hasn't been restricted to the Great Ouse catchment - The Severn, Thames and Trent are all host to these fish - who knows where else?

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Life is good

I have enjoyed today! Sarah-Jayne, Berne, Bryn and Evelyn payed us a visit, this afternoon, so Bev and I could do the Nanny & Grand-dad bit; fantastic stuff, Evelyn is so tiny at just eleven weeks old!
So there's the first reality slap for today - eleven weeks ago I had just caught my first barbel since 1985 and yet yesterday I was griping that I'd not caught one in three weeks!
I ventured off to do battle with the R.Stour fish, arriving at the venue around 17.30hrs. I wandered down towards my swim only to be confronted with Ian McDonald - fishing in a swim that we are very familiar with. After we exchanged the usual pleasantries, I introduced myself and that was the start.What a fantastic bloke - full of useful tips and theories about the barbel of this river; one that he has completely mastered. It was a bit of a lesson (eye opener) to hear that he'd had nineteen fish from the river, thus far! I trailing way behind with just four. We spent nearly 90 minutes chatting about the fishing, people we knew and the world of angling politics - he is a top man! I gave him my blog & e-mail address; he gave me his mobile number - how cool is that?
We parted company and I got set up for the session ahead; floating/drifting weed being a major problem after the recent period of rainfall. I got wiped out just after 19.40hrs and had to recast my rig, yet it couldn't have been too bad as I had my first barbel of September less than 15 minutes later. At 6lbs 2oz it is the smallest specimen any of us have taken; Benno taking great pleasure in reminding me what it does for our average weight statistics when I rang him with the news. I didn't care, it was a barbel and one that means so much more than a simple statistic - I've worked incredibly hard for this fish.

The lens cap, off my 18-55mm, is the only item I had to hand that gave the fish a sense of scale.

I grabbed a few images of the fish, layed on my weigh sling, just for later reference - before returning it to the river. The moon rose in a clearing sky and it was time to come home. I got indoors to find a wonderful e-mail from Steve Gale (North Downs and Beyond) awaiting me. We haven't always seen everything from the same viewpoint yet have experienced an uncannily similar route to where we are now! Hertfordshire, Tring Reservoirs, Ashridge Forest, Birding, Dungeness, Mothing and so many other aspects of our parallel universes. He has the computer nous to have linked this nonsense to his superb blog - I am truly humbled. If only I possessed the knowledge to reciprocate - that's the trouble with being dullard, even the fish I seek have more intelligence than I?

Friday, 13 September 2013

Always a pleasure

It's a grotty, grey day out on Newland's Farm. Overnight, the conditions were perfect for depositing a few migrants around the area so it wasn't too surprising to discover a juvenile Whinchat perched atop the garden Elder bush. It was fly catching and dropping down onto the stubble, beyond the garden hedge.
A bird to brighten the dullest of days - a Whinchat on the garden hedge (ISO 400 - 1/640th sec)
A few groups of Swallows have passed overhead, Robins and Song Thrushes have suddenly appeared around the Vine Close gardens - autumn is upon us.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Taking stock

As a "specimen hunter", my desire to target large fish has very obvious down sides - I don't catch many fish and blanking is very much part of the routine. It doesn't have to be so! I could revert to my "old self" and concentrate my efforts on fisheries that are prolific, where large fish exist in numbers to make their capture regular, if not predictable?
But no, I've chosen to turn my back on chasing yesterday's news in order to test myself, my watercraft and angling prowess in situations that are, as yet, unknown to me. My pike angling exploits have taken me to some very un-fashionable venues yet, produced the goods without having to compete with hoards of other anglers. It is true that my results haven't sent shock waves through the angling world - but my captures have been as enjoyable as any I've ever experienced.
Barbel fishing on the R. Stour is a similar exercise. I am aware of Ian McDonald, and his captures, although we have never met. He is a local legend and many of the anglers, I do meet, claim to know him and tell stories about the various captures he's made. If he's anywhere near as good as the hype - he's one very good angler! I'm sure that he's a very nice guy, who doesn't require this PR stuff; there is no way any individual can have caught every fish in a river - fact!
Playing a seven on the R. Severn - a bent barbel rod.
How I hope to repeat this before November
I was chatting with Ritchie McDonald (at a NASA do - sometime in the late 80's) about Alan Wilson and the incredible results he was amassing. Ritchie said to me "If he wasn't fishing in the swim I wanted - then he's just another angler, not a great one" Ritchie prided himself on his ability to use experience, watercraft to know where the carp would be - he had an uncanny knack of catching the biggest fish in any venue; that's not luck - it's a skill. This scenario was never put to the test - Alan didn't fish for carp and Ritchie thought of tench and bream as nuisance species.
Now I don't know if Ian and I are anywhere close to the skill levels of Ritchie and Alan, but as we've never found ourselves competing for the same swim suggests that there is so much more that I have to learn about R. Stour barbel. Maybe one day?
At the moment I am really struggling to get to grips with these fish - I would have taken two 13lbs+ barbel for the season, yet now seek more of an understanding as to why I was able to achieve these captures in an area where I've (we've) never seen a barbel during daylight hours? November is fast approaching and thus, my desire to add to my tally of R. Stour barbel is becoming even more pressurised. In my head, I have created a "bogey situation" by wishing to capture a Stour barbel on the Match Aerial centre pin - the one that I've not managed yet (both the 13's came out on Matt Haye's Limited Edition centre pins)
Answers on a postcard - please!

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Complicated - that's a Ten - Four!

I knew it wasn't going to be easy; barbel fishing the R. Stour has proven to be one of the toughest angling tests I've ever encountered. Certainly I've experienced a level of success yet, for the life of me, don't know why? What did I do right, on those four occasions, that I've failed to do on so many other visits?
Benno and I were back on the river for 18.00hrs - fishing within 15 minutes of arriving at our chosen swims. Both of us are using the same hook baits and fishing over the same bed of particles (ground bait) which has proven to be, partially, successful in reducing eel activity. I know that this is true because Benno didn't have any bait today, so used mine! Un-surprisingly, I fished in the swim where I'd taken the two 13lb+ fish; Ben opting for a swim which we have become certain holds a resident group of fish.
A cracking R.Stour barbel - our tenth fish since June 16th
I really fancied our chances tonight, the conditions were text book perfect. The river fining down after a couple of days' rain, a slight hint of colour and an overcast sky (in mid-September) what else could an angler require?  Well, as it happens, a decent weather forecast wouldn't go amiss. At 19.45hrs, Ben had a barbel of 10lbs 4oz (hence the post title) and I got a garbled walkie talkie message "fish on dude!"
As conditions were so perfect my message to Ben was that he should sack (ET pike tube) the fish and I would continue to fish my swim until 22.00hrs when I'd pack up and come along and get some photos. I phoned Simon, who was fishing for barbel on St. Patrick's Stream, to tell him of our latest "double". He asked if it was raining? "No mate" says I "It's bloody perfect down here - ring your nephew, he's just had another double!" Within minutes it was pissing down - Jonah strikes again. I'd packed up by 21.15hrs and made my way back to Ben, where we got some shots of the latest addition to our Stour barbel tally.
 
Benno looking rather stupid - well he is a plumber after all!
He now leads me 7 - 6 in the barbel league (I didn't fish the R. Wye - didn't get invited?)
I haven't had a bite in over three weeks, that's nine sessions! OK, so I only fish with one rod. It still doesn't change the fact that I've not caught a barbel since 21st August. I can't help feeling that my efforts to seek a solution to the eel issue haven't, in some way, led to a situation where my approach has been over complicated because I attempted to overcome problems that weren't there? 
The fish that Ben took is our tenth of the 2013/14 season, from the R. Stour. Quite what this represents, as an achievement, will only become clear when we learn of the results of other anglers who are also barbel fishing the R. Stour. The October regional Pike Anglers Club meeting will probably give us an idea?

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Stealing time?

There are two you tube offerings in which Lawrence Breakspear is interviewed by Steve Williams for Barbel Fishing World (please take the time to watch them - around an hour for the two parts!) Here is a guy with over 200 double-figure barbel, under his belt, waxing lyrical about all things fishing and of life itself.  Lawrence is a couple of years older than me, but very much a part of the Richard Walker school of speccy hunting.


Alan Wilson with, one of several, a Wilstone double-figure Tench that he took during the late 80's - early 90's
He speaks about the "glass ceiling" that all anglers are able to reach - after this level of skill has been achieved then it's all about time (on the bank). My experiences on Wilstone allowed me to see the greatest exponent of "time on the venue" - Alan Wilson; a true giant amongst specimen anglers of his era (he'd take a bit of beating today!) Leon Tandy & Geoff Mills, Ken Brown (still very young!), Lester Strudwick and any amount of other, equally talented, anglers couldn't match the results of this "legend" purely because they had other commitments - Alan had none away from fishing.
I'm not particularly proud of this "mega self-ish" period of my life; but can't turn back the clock so will have to live and learn. Bev has seen my transition from a birder back to an angler (she has no idea about my angling past, although I have tried to explain my antics and obsessional behaviour). But, as I have no desire to repeat the cycle - one failed marriage is plenty heartache for me; here I am wishing I could spend more time in pursuit of a R. Stour barbel, yet with enough restraint to realise that my efforts will be severely compromised by other aspects of being a husband, father, grand-father and employee of FSIS. Fishing fits into my life - my life no longer fits into fishing; and that is a major change.
I can't change the fact that my waking hours are dominated by thoughts of all things barbel - yet I am now old enough (wise?) to realise that there are other factors to an enjoyable life away from the pursuit of fish/birds! So now I am looking at life, my family and work commitments, seeking periods where I can fit in another session on the R. Stour? With less than 7 weeks until the pike tackle gets dusted down; I've got to grab every opportunity in order to give myself a chance of that 15lbs+ fish I feel is there for the taking. As Gerry Raferty sings - "Stealing Time - I won't feel guilty as the time is mine!" For all it's faults, shift-work does have the compensation of allowing me free time when most others are unable to be on the banks.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Ramble on

It has been quite a strange sort of week; the Factory Open Day takes place tomorrow (Saturday) and has dominated the efforts of the management team. Production has continued, as normal, but with an eye on stage managing events for the 200+ visitors due to attend. All the local dignitaries have signed up - wanting to be seen to be associated with the major employer on Thanet and a factory in the running (2nd time in three years) for Factory of the Year. That Fujifilm SIS has the confidence to open their doors to the public speaks volumes about the progress the company have made since Sericol was purchased by Fuji and the transition, from analog, to digital ink production has occurred. I sincerely hope that all involved enjoy the day!
Pied Flycatcher - in Northdown Park
Benno and I are back at step one; ref R.Stour barbel - we haven't had a bite for over a fortnight, that's a lot of rod hours. We have a few ideas, basically tweaking the current tactics, but are determined to stick with our plan of barbel angling until the end of October - we are not prepared to throw in the towel and head off after carp/bream/perch/tench etc, etc...
 
Juvenile Red-backed Shrike - Corfu Sept 2007
The moth trap continues to provide a smattering of interesting garden visitors, although the numbers of migrants is disappointingly low (almost non-existent). I still haven't managed to find a Whinchat around the Newland's patch, since the four were seen in the winter wheat. A few Yellow Wagtails were out in the cauliflowers, yesterday, and I found a "very" pale Clouded Yellow as I walked home on Tuesday afternoon. Sadly it had gone when I returned with my camera gear - such is life. Two more Common Buzzards spiralled south in the glorious afternoon sunshine, on Wednesday, causing little more than a mild response from the Vine Close gulls.

Wryneck at Foreness Point "Pitch & Putt"
 I have been scouring the Internet, looking for clues to help with our barbel fishing conundrums, but have found myself frequently distracted by the adventures of "bloggers" who are engaged in the autumn birding fest that is happening across the UK. This, in turn, has caused me to look back through my archives and relive some of the September magic that I've enjoyed since moving to Thanet. My accompanying photos, therefore, are from the past - when it was birds, not barbel or moths, that took centre stage!
 
A Newland's Farm Whinchat - September 2012

Monday, 2 September 2013

Does enjoyment require a scale?

I suppose that I had to make this post at some time, or other? I read so much stuff on blogs, posted from the UK, and beyond, that it is impossible for all the content to be of interest. That another individual has found enough energy to produce a blog entry suggests that, despite my own opinion, the subject is worthy of an airing.
I think that what I'm asking is "Is it possible to compare Clint Eastward - in a spaghetti western - with the musical genius of Steve Vai/Jimi Hendrix or the thrill of discovering a new species of moth in your garden moth trap?" Obviously the subject matter is of a very individual bias - but I think that you should get my drift? If it flicks your switch - then enjoy it. There should be no pressure to have to defend your corner, just because others see the world differently. Individuality - being a free spirit - don't seek excuses; enjoy the experiences that you encounter. Share them with a wider audience, if you feel the need? But please don't feel that you have to make excuses for the pleasure you derive, because others might not be able to align themselves with your point of view.
I have fallen foul of this mentality, during my blogging experiences, and have recently seen others become victim to the "wanting to please everyone" syndrome. It ain't possible - never gonna happen! Somewhere out in cyber space is a goon who wants to piss on your party - fact!
Three million people give the thumbs up for a youtube Led Zep clip - seven twats feel the need to disagree; you simply can't win all of the time.
Birding around the Kent countryside is some of the best that can be experienced in the UK, Spring and Autumn migration being particularly noteworthy. Geographically, the Isle of Thanet (where I call home) is in "Pole Position" to intercept any lost avian waifs and strays that are moving south down the North Sea.  Mothing is also a beneficiary of this geographical fact - butterflies and dragonflies are also a feature; just the Thanet Suppression thing continues (seven Long-tailed Blues? - I saw more than that in 20 minutes at North Foreland - or did I?) What you can be sure of is that no Long-tailed Blues made it as far as Margate Cemetery (Very strange!) Too busy counting Black Kites?
That barbel fishing has taken president, over all other things (except mothing) related to natural history, has given this blog a slightly warped insight into the world of Dylan Wrathall. It isn't a bad thing, just a statement about what I find important (of interest) at present.
So I am very sorry that I cannot align myself to a collective of birdie/mothie/natural history-type blogs; as always the underlying theme must be about the enjoyment of an individual - me!

Sunday, 1 September 2013

We witnessed a little bit of angling history

Yesterday evening Tom B, Benno, Cliff (Bunny) Bunyan and I were, once again, barbel fishing on the R. Stour. For Bunny, this was to see him achieve an ambition which has taken him from Yorkshire to Hampshire, Herefordshire to Norfolk, in pursuit of this magnificent species. His dream was to catch barbel from 25 different rivers - the landing of a fish of 7lbs (exactly) was to be the fulfilment of his quest and we were there to share in the moment.

The fish that fulfils a dream - barbel from 25 different rivers.

Cliff had travelled down from Hemel Hempstead to fish with us - arriving early in the day in order to secure a swim that we have become sure is home to a group of resident fish. It seems that our results away from this area are as a consequence of intercepting nomadic individuals as they move up and down the river.
 

Bunny did it the hard way, he took his fish in the daylight, something that we have yet to achieve -  we are all geared up to fish into darkness, as is our routine. Benno and I failed to add to our tally, but Tom took his second fish (in two outings) with a nice barbel of 7lbs 10oz. Our collective total now stands at nine barbel since June 16th. I have made no attempt to work out how many sessions/rod hours have been put in for these fish. Whatever the cold facts; I don't think that any of us would change this learning experience for anything else. We are really enjoying the challenge that these R.Stour barbel are providing.
 

Earlier in the day, as I was in the garden tying some new rigs and sorting out my gear, a reaction from the local gulls alerted me to a passing Common Buzzard; my first of the autumn.