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, 27 February 2014

Full circle?

Looking at my "Blogger" dashboard, I am slightly bemused, and very humbled, by the audience stats. It would seem that Americans are far more interested in what I've been up to - going way back into 2012; than those closer to home. A check of my most visited posts reveal that my thoughts on Kilchurn Bay pike angling have become the big news and that nonsense surrounding a Yellow-browed Warbler has all but disappeared.
So, in line with my previous offering, I will attempt to offer an insight into the journey that I have experienced in pursuit of the Northern Pike (Esox lucius) and how I have re-discovered an enjoyment that had been lost. (See Steve Gale's comment on yesterday's post - I am not alone)
I would have been in my mid-teens when I caught my first pike, a small jack, on a live roach fished under a "Fishing Gazette" bung - complete with a shop bought snap tackle. The venue was Pixie's Mere, Bourne End, Herts - now right behind my brother Tim's house, except today it's full of carp and the tench and pike are but a memory to us old uns. It wasn't the size of the fish that mattered, it was the hunting instinct within, the quarry, with their unblinking eyes and razor sharp teeth, it was man against beast at the very base level.There would have been little thought, and great deal less skill, involved in that initial capture - chuck and chance being the best description of my methods. Pike are creatures of instinct and opportunism; sadly "they don't get clever, they get dead" (a quote from Jim Gibbinson) - once a population of fish are subjected to heavy angling pressure the results fall away in direct correlation to the number of fish caught. Quite simply - pike are unable to recover from repeat capture within a short period.
A very modest pike from the Grand Union Canal, Boxmoor.
From Pixie's, and my initial success, I headed off to other venues. The Grand Union Canal runs right through Hemel Hempstead and was scene to many a pike fishing session. I never did get a "double" from the canal, but saw a couple caught by other anglers - 11lbs being the best.
November 1981 - 20 lbs 3oz 
Working for Kodak Ltd, it was simple to get access to their Water End fishery and become the first angler to take a 20lbs + pike from this venue - no one else went pike fishing there! It was my first twenty and, in 1981, the spark which lit the flame.
A superb pike of 23 lbs 5 oz - Wilstone Res. 22.12.1986
From the intimacy of these surroundings, it was a giant leap of faith - fired on by the successful tench fishing exploits - that I made the transition to the mighty Tring Reservoir complex. I would love to be able to say that I took the venue apart, but it is not true. I struggled to get to grips with the scale and intricacies of the problems posed. My successes were hard earned although, with hind sight, a lot of my issues were of my own making. I was in awe of the place, particularly Wilstone, and didn't approach the task with any level of confidence. Walking around Wilstone recently, I couldn't believe how small it was? How could I have been so perplexed by the challenge?
My only 20lbs pike from a river. (08.01.1987 ) The River Thames - Mapledurham, Berks.
I didn't stop there; the River Thames and River Avon (the Hampshire one) and the Fenland Drains were all subjected to my angling exploits, with varying levels of success. Pike were caught with some sort of regularity; many lessons were learnt and adventures had.
Every thing in the garden was rosy until 1993! We had a Wrathall family holiday in Florida - Disney and the Keys (Barracuda), which I followed up (five days later) with a fortnight in Madeira fishing for Atlantic Blue Marlin (very successfully) I came back to the UK completely head-f*cked. How could I possibly get enjoyment from a pike, a roach or a tench after what I'd just experienced? Thus, eighteen years on a birding sabbatical! There were many other factors involved, none more so than moving from Hertfordshire to Kent with my job. Birds had always been a part of my angling, long before wine, women and work came into my consciousness , however, once I got to Kent birding became my primary pastime to such an extent that, looking back, I had become obsessed by it.
Something had to give! What a surprise - my first marriage became a casualty of this crazy obsession and, although the damage had been done, provided a much needed wake up call for me to get some balance back into my life. I met Bev and things slowly started to take shape - what I'd thought important became less so; my interest Kent listing and everything associated with it dwindled. I still birded hard, the Isle of Thanet (where Bev and I had started our new life) was to see the bulk of my efforts. I have many great memories of days spent around the North Foreland/Foreness coastline or stomping across the Minster Marshes - some very nice birds found for my efforts.
Bev and I had discovered the joys of holidaying in the Eastern Mediterranean and my birding became more diluted as a consequence. My fortnights in the sun provided me with enough challenges and avian excitement to ensure that Thanet quickly became very "samey" - I was in a very similar situation as when I'd arrived home from Madeira back in 1993. Benno to the rescue! Angling has always been my first love, those of my generation still think of ourselves as countrymen, akin to the shooters and fieldsport enthusiasts of yesteryear, many of whom were also superb naturalists!
A "double" from that first trip back to Loch Awe - May 2011
That "one off" trip back to Loch Awe has an awful lot to answer for, it re-ignited the passion for angling that had lain dormant for all those years. Being a lot older and a little wiser, I know that this time around I will not allow it to become the obsession that it had previously been. A life in balance - that's what I need and with a little luck and the realisation that there are other, far more important things in the world I might achieve my aims. I still seek the thrills of a rod bent into a hard fighting fish, the sight and sound of wild geese dropping onto the Kent Marshes, the discovery of a wintering Dartford Warbler in a patch of coastal scrub or a migrant Hawk-moth on the egg boxes within my moth trap - no I don't think I could, or would, change if I had a choice. What goes around, comes around - my life in full circle!
Benno with a RMC pike of 16 lbs 9 oz
The pike fishing is now far more relaxed, I derive as much pleasure from Ben landing a decent fish as I do when I'm successful. I can't wait until Bryn and Emily are able to tag along - the chance to pass on the thrill of angling to my grandchildren will be matched only by their reaction when they first experience the electric sensation of the pull a fish on their line. To be able to share the joy of being outdoors, the natural wonders that are to be witnessed, yes indeed - I have very much to look forward to and when the time comes for them to hook their first Esox the circle will be complete.

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