Who am I?

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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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Thursday, 31 October 2013

To quote Fred. J

I'm unsure of when, or where, this event took place but I recall a quote, attributed to Fred J Taylor, when, in a conversation with Dick Walker, he said "I'll be glad when I've had enough of this!"
I have just got back home after my final barbel session on the R. Stour for the 2013/14 season - those words were never more appropriate?
Benno and I have achieved a level of success which we'd have taken at the start of the campaign. Ben is happy with his efforts - I'm less satisfied, despite the capture of three fish which have blown away my previous PB. Ever since "big fish" became a focus, for my attention, I have striven to get an understanding of behaviour of the species that I target, their quirks and the finer points of bait presentation which will increase the chances of success. My quest for pike, since I got back from my birding sabbatical, has been a journey of rediscovery, but I am happy that my successes have been the result of educated guesses and the ability to "read" a water. When I was tench fishing at Wilstone (1982 - 1992) I could "smell" the presence of my quarry - such was my understanding of the habits of the species within that particular reservoir. The Wels Catfish of Tiddenfoot, and to a lesser extent Claydon - Middle Lake, were caught because their behaviour was understood and, as such, my angling could be focused on concentrating my effort when conditions were favourable.
 

Then I find myself confronted by the challenge of the barbel of the Kentish R. Stour! Nothing, I have previously experienced, could have prepared me for this. It is not about my ability to use my tackle - how to cast, or where to present a bait - how to tie a specific rig; oh no, the lessons were far more basic than that. Where are they!!!????  I found myself at a loss (with the exception of one swim) as to where these fish would be, and why. Bait and presentation is a pointless exercise if you have no idea where the fish are - that's my barbel season, in a nutshell. I have failed to get to grips with location - my two 13lbs+ fish being the result of intercepting nomadic individuals as they paused on their travels between holding areas.
 

I am looking forward to the winter pike fishing and my quest for a "centre-pin" PB pike. The RMC is a 27 mile long pike swim - will my water craft be enough to discover the location of my quarry? Of one thing I'm sure - I won't catch it because I've accidentally dropped in on it; my insight into pike angling should allow me to take some pleasure from  any success - I was in the right place because I felt it would be productive, thus the complete opposite of my R. Stour barbel exploits.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

A return to the "land of giants"

Some time, stupidly early, on Sunday morning (Strictly MK and the clock change didn't aid the situation); Simon and I had a wander around Wilstone Res. Tring, HERTS. Aware that a 1st winter/female-type Ring-necked Duck was present, it came as no surprise that there were a number of birders present. What a shame that manners are ignored when a scarce bird is present? We might as well have been invisible!
Despite the fact that both of us were carrying binoculars (Simon 8 x 42 Opticron and me 8 x 42 Baush & Lomb "Elite's") and I had my camera slung over my shoulder - we were obviously anglers, thus unworthy of conversation?  I, for my part, did offer the "Good Morning; anything about?" entry level question - complete waste of time. It is so sad that Tring has lost a great deal more than water levels in its' reservoirs.
I probably could bore you with statistics - it is another 20lbs+ pike from Wilstone (1986-ish)
I'd wanted to have a look around, purely for nostalgic reasons - but, during our walk, Simon and I came up with a plan! Christmas holiday arrangements will see me having a morning back at this venue. Wilstone is part of my very being - the venue is where I learnt the basics of big fish angling, and the psyche required, plus the generation of anglers and birders, who inhabited the banks way back in the 1980's, fired my desire to developed an appreciation of the wider appeal of the natural world. The birdwatchers of the Beech Grove, BTO period being far more tolerant of anglers than the current incumbents - and the birding world wonders why they can't attract the younger generations?? And Thanet has a reputation for suppression?
 
A giant - 47 inches from nose to tail fork.
What did it weigh? For me to know and you to find out!

However, it takes all sorts, and that pike session is something that I look forward to. Between now and then, I have one more (planned) outing on the R. Stour before concentrating my efforts on a centre-pin caught pike of 23lbs 5oz+. It might be a dream too far, but what's the point in living if a man can't have dreams?  I'm confident that the RMC contains pike of this size - have I the skills required to catch one; now there's the question!

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Strictly MK - you had to be there!

Alan Dugard is a very close friend of the Wrathall family - Mum called him the fourth son! He, and his wife Charlie, are very ordinary folk who, through the quirks of luck, drive, hard graft and ambition, happen to be very wealthy. Alan has a gift which allows him to spot opportunity even in the darkest hour. I never have, and never will, seen the world in this way. We are at the furthest extremes of a scale of ambition that is imaginable. We're still mates - and that's the key! On Saturday evening, Dad, Tim & Julie, Sye & Yve, Bev and I (the three present Mrs Wrathalls) assembled at Bury Farm Equestrian Village, Slapton, Bucks for a night of high drama! We had a table at the Strictly Milton Keynes charity bash.
The brainchild of Lindsey Inchbald and Accursio Romeo, Alan and Charlie donating the venue for this event, which was also supported by other local business and media communities. It was an exceptional success; purely to raise funds for two very worthy charities. MacMillan Cancer Support and Willen Hospice.

The MC, Andrew Castle, talks with Lindsey and Accursio - they all did a fantastic job
If I spend the next three weeks writing this stuff, I will fail to do do justice to the hard work of all involved, or the incredible experience that we had. It really was that good! All those who competed - an unbelievable mix of MD's, Head Teachers, DJ's, A Mayor, Hairdresser and a housewife (who won a radio station competition) plus Mr & Mrs Dugard - simply sensational efforts and result! Each, and every one, should be very proud of their contribution. I will do no more than post a series of images that I took during the event. Please excuse the quality (as if it matters?) they were taken using manual settings - ISO 800 - 1/125th sec no flash.
 
Alan, with his dance partner Ksenia Zsikhotska

Charlie - strutting her stuff

Jeremy Hicks, the MD of Land Rover Jaguar, speaking with Andrew Castle



The auction being conducted by Gareth Jenkins - a crazy whirl-wind of rich guys spending money on "toys"


The worthy winners - Mark and Caitlin

It wasn't in the script - the finale should have been a flying leap into Mark's grasp!
Luckily no-one was hurt and the evening finished with a massive after show party.



Thursday, 24 October 2013

Lacking?

Might I first start by apologising to those, who were looking for my "phantom post" entitled Stuff(ed) . No sooner than I pressed publish, did I hit the delete button, and am mightily glad I did so. I nearly did a complete stranger a major disservice and one that I rightly would have been slaughtered for. My cynicism almost my undoing on this occasion - I lack good faith.

I also lack experience of late autumn swifts, in the UK, as does the entire birding community! I have seen odd birds in October and even one in late-November, but their occurrence is very rare thus building an intimate knowledge of these out of range/season birds and the criteria for 100% correct id is unlikely. So where does this leave the individual who has the good fortune to encounter a fly by swift at this time. Struggling, that's where! Even if armed with a camera, the conditions which got the bird there, in the first place, are very unlikely to be those in which top-notch photography will be possible.

So, do you bite the bullet and report the bird as "swift sp." or do you try, to the best of your ability,  to get a specific id. I have seen 1,000's of Pallid Swifts on my travels around Europe, the vast majority during the summer when conditions are bright and id is fairly straight forward - they look pale (hence Pallid). They appear quite contrasty, particularly on the under wing, and fly with a less graceful/easy manner in comparison with our Common Swifts - in my opinion. Trying to apply any of this experience to a lone bird, flying in the gloomy conditions of a UK late-Autumn is simply not on. Yes, lacking in experience indeed - so who is qualified to pass judgement, based on UK experiences?

 
 
 

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Good luck Bazza! (A post by the Non-conformist)

When Barry Matlock took a wander across to Foreness Point, yesterday afternoon, he had an incling that something good might be on the cards. He, and Gloria, were in the right place, at the right time, to watch a Pallid Swift arrive in/off from the North Sea. He was able to get some very resonable record images, despite the camera being in a bag? (Mine hangs on my shoulder - whatever the weather) So the record should be a straight forward acceptance, yet it won't be! People who weren't there will have their say, the quality of the images will be called into doubt and the whole affair will rumble on for a while before, begrudgingly, the record gets the thumbs up because the KOS can't afford to lose another member. Birding politics - what's all that about?
Steve Gale has recently had cause to post on the antics of birders using the social networks, as has Jonathan Lethbridge (The Wanstead Birder) in a less aggrivated form. Barry's images are good, but inconclusive if given the full grilling. It certainly looks like a Pallid Swift, the vast majority of the features are clearly visible in one, or several, of the shots. There is just something about the biird that doesn't quite fit the mould. Is it the wing tip shape, or the apparent lack of a pale throat? I don't know, or care that much. Barry has called it - so a Pallid Swift it is. He is a highly accomplished birder who has a hard-earned reputation of finding good birds around the Kent coastline. How many birders twitched his Eastern Black Redstart at Walpole Bay?
 
November 17th 2011 - Barry's Eastern Black Redstart which, to my shame, I "twitched"!
On 29th November 200?, I found a Pallid Swift on the Ash Levels (above the Ash Levels in reality) which was witnessed by Gadget. The record was dismissed, out of hand, by the hierachy of the KOS because I/we lacked any experience of autumn Pallid Swifts? Are you having a laugh - who in the UK does? So Bazza, I wish you every success with this sighting - if I was a betting man; I'd have a fiver on a Margate Cemetery "swift sp." in the next couple of days! (Know what I'm saying?)

Monday, 21 October 2013

Thinking (pike) Tackle

Benno and I had an early morning rendezvous in a car park beside the RMC where we had arranged to spend our first pike fishing session of the 2013/14 season. The swims are a mile and a half away, so the secret is to travel light. Our rods ready assembled, frozen baits in light weight cooler bags and our terminal tackle, alarms,cameras and assorted dross in small rucksacs. No need for bed chairs, umbrellas and/or bivvies. We can sit on an unhooking mat and if it rains we get wet, or go home! It really is that simple - pike fishing is our hobby, not our job or a ritual of endurance.
The weather forecast was horrendous; heavy rain driven on by a brisk SW wind - utter nonsense! We had blue skies and spent quite a while watching dragonflies hunting the canal margins, there were several pairs of Common Darters still egg laying! Kestrels hovered over the adjacent fields and I had glimpsed a Barn Owl, in the half light, as it drifted over the marshes en route to its' daytime roost.
I really am a very lucky man; my son is one of my best mates, Bev is my staunchest supporter, yet my biggest critic when I fall out of step, she underpins my being and ensures that my family connections remain as important as life itself. Getting old does this to you, so I am sure that this sentiment is not unique?
So where does pike fishing come into this rambling drivel? Well; as Benno and I were walking towards the canal, he told me that he had got me a present. It transpired that he'd been to the Dover tackle shop where we'd obtained our deadbaits for the Loch Awe trip. The owner had discovered a packet of VB doubles in a, long forgotten, box of assorted trebles that Benno was looking through. The outcome was that Benno had obtained the VB's for free! "My Dad would love those!"


I used to buy my VB doubles from Fred Buller's gun shop in Amersham, Bucks. Manufactured by Partridge of Redditch, they were of a quality that few companies could match, at that time. When I returned to the sport, I was dissappointed to find that "doubles" were no longer readily available - I suppose a search of the internet would have yielded a result? However, my bother Simon, got hold of a supply of Peter Drennan "Specialist Doubles" and my need for VB's was reduced.


The Drennan hook is a well made and reliable pattern, superficially like the original VB design, but lacking in one key component - the offset angle of the twin hooks. I have no gripes with the Drennan hook, after all I have landed the vast majority of the pike I've taken since May 2011, on these. So is it nostalgia that drives me on? The pleasure of aquiring these hooks is completely disproportionate to their worth, both in monetary or technical terms - it is purely an indulgence on my part. These hooks being as powerful as certain "pop" music in the ability to recall times gone by.


The other significant change that has been adopted, for the coming season, is that I'm now using the Matt Hayes "Limited Edition" centre pins with braided line, as opposed to my ABU Cardinal 66x's and mono. It should have no impact on my catch rate, but might just help increase the enjoyment of each capture? The Duncan Kay's and Optonics remain the same as always - short range fishing doesn't require ultra technology that is now readily available to those who seek such things.


My best pike on a centre-pin; 23lbs 4oz from Lynch Hill Fishery, Oxfordshire.
The photo was taken by Peter Stone, 26th January 1989, with Bernard Cribbins close by.
Happy days! A new centre-pin caught PB is my project for the coming winter.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Normality returns

The events of Saturday will remain indelibly etched in my memory for the rest of my days - the first decent fall of birds at Newland's Farm in the the thirteen years Bev and I have lived in our bungalow. So yes; it was a very special occurrence and one that I am unlikely to witness again. Just what factors combined to produce the fall are known only to the geographic and weather Gods! That they coincided with a mass autumn bird movement just compounds the issue and makes the chances of a repeat even more unlikely. Still, the fact that it happened at all is reward enough for me.
There are still a few Redwings around this morning, stragglers - nothing more. A Reed Bunting, flushed from the main footpath was my first of the autumn and a welcome reminder of what lies in store in the coming months. A return to the everyday slog of the local patch watcher - a Reed Bunting being a good bird amidst the Carrion Crows and Wood Pigeons of the Newland's cauliflower fields.
There are still two stubble fields remaining, so there is a chance of another decent bird, or two, before the plough is called into action in preparation for the next potato crop. A Short-eared Owl would be nice - I missed the only one, which was flushed by a dog walker from stubble, in October 2008!


Still a few stragglers around the area. Reading the reports about tired migrants dropping to the ground, at Forness and Reculver, it seems likely that these are birds re-fuelling before continuing on their way

I did get out pike fishing on Sunday morning - the session cut short by the onset of torrential rain. However, at 08.00hrs, a small "jack" pike took a fancy to my dyed/flavoured mackerel tail and put on a spirited show of defiance as I attempted to bring it to the waiting net. Not quite what I'd have liked but, it was a pike and, as such, a result on my first trip of the season to the RMC.

A Woodpigeon - the normal fare for the coming period of grey days and grey birds around Newland's

Saturday, 12 October 2013

A major fall at Newland's Farm

The overnight rain was continuous and, having Emily and Harry in our care, it was inevitable that I'd be up at first light. The sight that greeted me, as I made the early morning tea, was unbelievable! Thrushes, in huge clouds, dropping down onto the stubble behind our garden. In between my grand-parenting duties I managed to enjoy one of the best days' birding I've had anywhere in the world!!
My totals are very approximate, as there were periods when I wasn't able to spend time outside, but are as follows:-
Redwing - 17,800
Fieldfare - 10,200
Blackbird - 170
Song Thrush - 650
Ring Ouzel - 200+ (including one flock of 19)
Brambling - 7
Skylark - 41
Woodcock - 1
Chaffinch - 230
Goldfinch - 34
Sparrowhawk - 4
Golden Plover - 1
and a distant skein of 17 grey geese (probably Greylags)
Fieldfare in the early morning sunshine

I am in shock - totals like these are normally associated with the east coast bird observatories, not an inland site (Margate Cemetery excluded!) Once again my camera skills have proven to be well short of the mark - yet I am happy to share a few (of the 600+) images that I've recorded today.
 


Although they are annual, Ring Ouzels are a very scarce bird around Newland's Farm.
To have them present, in such numbers, is something very special - I feel very lucky to have witnessed this event.

Friday, 11 October 2013

A sky full of promise?

Another grey and stormy day on Thanet, the wind has shifted to the NE and still the birds are moving. A slightly different mix, this morning, with my first Brambling and Fieldfares, of the autumn, being recorded. Redwings continue to dominate the totals, yet Song Thrushes, Skylarks and Blackbirds were also recorded in decent numbers. I did spend a while, at the kitchen doorway, attempting to get some photos - a complete waste of effort! The sight of these birds, moving high above the garden, is such a welcome distraction from the trials of R. Stour barbel and the mundane repetitiveness of work!
A view from our garden, looking SE. The storm clouds, driven by a brisk NE wind, below a higher layer, are perfect conditionsto allow decent "vis mig" from Vine Close.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Redwings - mob handed!

I have just got back after a walk across to the Newington pet shop, where I purchase my bird food. The weather is awful, with a brisk NW wind blowing thick clouds across the skies with the occasional bout of rain, just for good measure. However, every cloud - as they say, the sight and sound of Redwings moving overhead was a most welcome compensation for getting wet.
I didn't flush any decked birds, all those I recorded were flying W or SW at varying heights. One flock, which passed over Newington, probably numbered 300 birds; most of the other groups were between 6 & 20 strong. I have no idea as to the scale of this movement, I might just have caught the tail end of something that has been going on all night?
Obviously not a photo from today - a Redwing feeding in a garden along West Dumpton Lane (Feb 2011)
They are a superb looking bird which, due to their abundance during the winter months,
tend to be ignored/overlooked by birders.
Conditions are ideal for sea watching at Reculver and North Foreland - I await news of what has been seen. Skuas and wildfowl should figure quite prominently, at a guess. I'm off to work now - what fun!

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Focus - or lack of?

Adult male Lesser Grey Shrike - Pefkohorri, NE Greece, September 2009
I enjoyed Phil Parker's (The Broadstairs Birder) "2 shades of grey - 48 more to go!" post in which he recalls the events of the weekend when he was able to see Great and Lesser Grey Shrikes within the Kent county boundaries. I, too, had a fantastic weekend; finding a new patch bird - sharing it with a few local birders, Phil included, as well as my grand-daughter, then was able to spend a few hours on the R. Stour in the futile pursuit of barbel. Living the dream? Patch birding is a very rewarding pastime, relatively common birds can take on a whole new status - I've only recorded Coal Tit once, in 13 years, around Newland's Farm.

Great Grey Shrike - Chamber's Wall some time back in blah, blah, blah  - I found it!

Female Woodchat Shrike on Mallorca - June 2007
My efforts over the weekend are indicative of my present mind-set, I find myself at a cross-roads. Birds have provided some salvation from the undeniable fact that my angling efforts have been a total failure. I am going through the motions, purely to fulfil a stubborn insistence to carry on (regardless) until November. It would seem that I've learnt nothing about the barbel of the R.Stour - if I knew what I'd done right then I would know what I am doing wrong? I haven't got the first idea and, as such, am at a point where I see little purpose in continuing with this project. I have given myself two more sessions on the river, before November, but have thrown in the towel - I'm off piking on Sunday. It will matter, not a jot, if I catch a pike or not - I will be doing something different and fishing for a species which I feel I have a far greater insight into their behaviour, habits and preferred feeding areas. FREEDOM - George Micheal eat your heart out!
 
 
Southern Grey Shrike - Gran Canaria January 2004
I find it impossible to see the capture of two 13lbs+ barbel as a success, if I am unable to fathom out what combination of factors contributed to these fish gracing my landing net. It is no better than the "chuck and chance" mentality of the pre-Richard Walker era.
So why all the shrike photos? Well they are a birder's bird - a photogenic family which have provided me with so much enjoyment, over the years - so very different from the barbel of the R.Stour!
 
Juvenile Red-backed Shrike - Asparan, Turkey - October 2011

Saturday, 5 October 2013

It's a sharing thing!

Back to Newland's this morning, the Great Grey Shrike still present at 07.30hrs when I took a detoured walk to the local shop for some bread and milk (not that you needed to know that?)
I returned, a couple of hours later, with Emily, she needed it for her list - well she is two and has already "twitched" a Great Northern Diver in Ramsgate Harbour. We bumped into Phil (The Broadstair's Birder) and Adam, as they arrived. Luckily we were able to show them the bird, perched, distantly, on some power-lines. It was a nice moment, the bird being a tick for Adam who'd missed them at every other attempt over the past five winters.
Typical of the views today. Perched on power lines that cross the stubble field between
the "White House" and Prestedge Avenue. Not that Adam was complaining.
Emily needed to get home for her nap - she was falling asleep on my shoulder, probably the excitement of a new bird? So I quickly exchanged pleasantries before getting my charge back home; all of 200m away! I was able to get back, complete with my scope, within fifteen minutes and was surprised to see Phil and Adam with their optics pointed directly at me - focused on the floor? A quick scan through the bins was to quickly solve the conundrum; an adult Peregrine was decked in the stubble busily eating something. My thoughts immediately being that the falcon had nailed the shrike and they had witnessed the whole affair.
 
A decked Peregrine - not an everyday occurrence at Newland's
Luckily, this was not the case, and after we'd enjoyed prolonged views of the Peregrine we relocated the shrike. It looked fantastic through the 30x eyepiece of the Kowa TSN 823. A Grey Wagtail and Curlew were recorded whilst I was in their company; it's surprising what else is found when birders visit a new site. Several other birders came along to enjoy this bird; always elusive it was, however, seen by all those I met with. Birdguides have reported it present at 13.50hrs - so there are other birders spending time enjoying the best "Newland's Farm" bird since the Little Bunting.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Great Grey day at Newland's

I went fishing yesterday evening and caught a rather modest chub using a method that I'd completely overlooked; touch legering. I came home and started to write a blog entry but became lost in a sea of nostalgia and technical stuff. The post was saved to the "draft" file; I'd revisit it when I finish work, well that was the plan. An early shift on Friday is always a good one - we finish at 13.00hrs!
A rather modest, although immaculate, chub caught touch legering.
The reel is a Matt Hayes "Limited Edition" 4 1/2" diameter Centre-pin 
It had been a grey, overcast sort of morning and there was a significant passage of hirundines passing over the Pyson's Rd Industrial Estate so I decided to walk back home via the muddy fields, instead of the footpath. A few Meadow Pipits and a couple of Song Thrushes were my reward, plus muddy shoes, until I turned left just beyond The Old Rose Garden and made my way towards Vine Close. A bird flushed from the lea ward side of a small oak and flew low across the newly sown field. "That looked like a shrike?" thinks I subconsciously. No binos or camera, I thought little more of it until a Great Grey Shrike flew back past me - bloody hell! A patch tick!


 
 

I've found several Great Grey Shrikes over the years, yet none of them mean as much as this one. I rushed home to grab my camera and binoculars; if there was any chance, I wanted a record of this bird. I rang Gadget, who was fishing the R. Stour, before making my way back to the hedgerow, at the end of Vine Close, where I'd last seen the bird. Bingo - it was still there and with a bit of creeping about, I managed to grab a few images to ensure the record was beyond doubt. A new patch tick; something only "patch watchers" can appreciate. Seeing a UK Great Grey Shrike is always enjoyable - finding one on your patch just elevates the sighting to another level.

The best I could manage - my Newland's Farm Great Grey Shrike - with Buff-tailed Bumblebee!

Thursday, 3 October 2013

The last and first

The 1st of October; tradition dictates, is the starting date of the English pike fishing season - a date which was marked on the calendar with the same importance as 16th June (the start of the coarse season) and 14th March (the end) - dates which ruled my angling, therefore my life, in a previous era.
In 2013, it passed without notice; well almost! One of the guys at Dragon Carp was keen to get out on the 1st and had asked me for advice. Talking pike and pike fishing certainly did something - I found myself reading through old diary notes, looking at photos of my October pike fishing which, in turn led to my thinking about the intense excitement I felt in the build up to that magic date.
My last "double" from Tring (16th December 1992)
Pike fishing on this reservoir complex was a joy. The three main bodies of water each having
their own character and presenting their own challenges. Pike played a huge part in my life
during the mid - 80's to the early - 90's

I'm sure that, like most other pike anglers found, the reality failed to live up to the occasion, but still it was a momentous part of the annual cycle. In 1987; Barry Adams, Paul Elborn and myself did hit the ground running - we took a massive haul of pike from Wilstone Res. and made the front page of The Angling Times - "Tring Trio Top the Ton" being the sensationalised headline so there has been one time, in over thirty years of trying, that October 1st (we were actually bivvied up for five days!) coincided with early season pike cooperation.
 
May 2011 - my first pike on my return to the hobby. At 8lbs 7oz, it wasn't a monster, yet it stirred the desire to get back
into a hobby that had been long forgotten.

November 6th 2011 - a momentous day, in my life!
This is the first English pike that I'd caught since December 1992. At 9lbs 14oz, my desire for a double was ignited.
Light the blue touch paper and away I went!!

These days, I associate my pike fishing with the short days of winter, frosty dawns and a need for extra layers of thermals and the like. I am off after barbel again, this evening, my first session of the new month. Looking back through my notebooks/diaries; I have never taken a barbel after September. This is, of course, purely down to the fact that I've never tried for them beyond that month. I've managed to catch carp and tench in every month of the season, so why not barbel? Well, a phone conversation with Benno, this morning, might be catalyst to my failing again. We both have taken our eye off the ball, so to speak. Ben's PB  barbel is 11lbs 6oz and mine a stunning 13lbs 14oz - if we'd been offered that at the beginning of the year we'd have taken it. Continuing to struggle with the challenge of R. Stour or bend a rod after RMC pike? It's a toughie - have I the resolve to see my plan through, or will the lure of Esox become too much?
 
I am undecided, at present, but will Tench become a priority for the 2014 season?
I would like to think that if I spent as much time, locally, as I have in pursuit of R.Stour barbel,
I'd have more than five fish to show for my efforts?
If the post title seems a little weird - take a look at the captions on the accompanying photos; it should help.