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, 26 February 2015

When quality came as standard

When, in pre-decimal times, I paid £1-2s/ 6d (£1.12 1/2p) for my first ABU Cardinal 44X fixed spool reel - there was no thought of the quality of engineering that I was purchasing, just the satisfaction of having a reel to take the place of my "old fashioned" Mitchell 300's. Brightly coloured, with a futuristic design and the unique rear-drag system, they were revolutionary in their concept. What they also were was a flagship for Swedish industry and it's tradition of solid and reliable build quality - Volvo and Saab already well established in the motor industry.


Every ABU reel, of the period, made this proud statement
There was a moulded inscription on the reel seat of every ABU reel which proudly told that the item had been built in Sweden - alongside an individual item code. When carp angling started to assert itself within the UK, ABU reacted quickly - replacing the cream/green or cream/brown colour schemes of the 44 & 66's with the sleek black and gold livery of the next generation Cardinals - the legendary 55's. Same rear drag system, just so much more in tune with the cult status and fashion statements that carp anglers were starting to make.

Three of the very best - left to right - ABU Cardinal 44X, ABU Cardinal 55 and ABU Cardinal 66X
Manufactured in Sweden during the 70's/80's they remain perfectly functional in 2015.
It was in the mid-80's that Shimano came into the equation; their early models being a direct competitor to the ABU Cardinal range in as much as they were also of the rear drag design. That they (Shimano) went on to develop the "bait-runner" system is part of angling folklore and, as such, taken reel technology to the next level.
A Shimano Custom EX 3000 - one of the very early models imported into the UK (1983?)
Marketed as a direct competitor to the ABU Cardinal 55 range - even copied the colour scheme!
The Shimano reels were, and still are, a quality product, but are they manufactured with a built-in shelf life?

The beginning of the end?
Japanese marketing and manufacturing processes were the signal for build quality to fall away
in order to pursue sustained business growth and profitability.
The later ABU Cardinal 55's were manufactured in Japan and were to set the trend.
However, it is this Japanese build quality, and marketing genius, which has seen the decline in engineering standards. Why build reels which will last a lifetime when, with systematic design change, you can create demand for the new, and improved, models? The reel has been reduced to a disposable commodity - designed to survive for a few seasons, at best, before market forces and peer group pressure dictate that they must be replaced. Modern manufacturing standards are required to be adequate, not exceptional!
That original ABU 44X cost me the equivalent of approximately one days' wages; so in today's money well in excess of £100!Some of the reels being marketed today will cost three times this amount, yet are not built to last a decade - something has gone horribly wrong somewhere along the way. That I am now back using Mitchell 300's speaks volumes about my contempt for modern angling and the market driven forces which thrive within this new culture.

Action on the RMC - me with an ABU Cardinal 55 on a Tri-cast 13' 2.25 lbs t/c rod. - also from the 1980's!
Kevin, down at Sandwich Coarse Fishery quoted the phrase "Dragoncarp - falls apart!". Probably very true, but at a price which reflects the expectation. Some of the big players are equally guilty of this tag, but survive by celebrity endorsement and regular big fish features in the angling press. Tackle marketing is on a par with politicians and estate agents - professional liars, rotten to the core, preying on the gullible to fund their own agendas. Some of the stuff that I see on Youtube is beyond comprehension - carp anglers must be the dumbest life form in the UK to fall for some of this stuff - guaranteed that the carp won't! I'll end this here!

My Match Aerial centre-pin and a decent chub.
This reel was designed in the 19th Century - although my one is a Fred Crouch copy (1984)
Could a modern company expect to survive if their products were so timeless?
Let's not forget that I work for a Japanese company and have a good understanding of how this whole thing works. Sustainable growth is not based upon supplying products which will last a lifetime. Modern living has adapted to expect change, it demands innovation and the pace of that advancement is what drives successful modern industries. I don't drive a Model T Ford or ride a Penny-farthing bicycle, no more than I cook on a wood burning stove or own a tin bath. The advancement of civilisation has meant an advancement in sustainable technology. Me and my insistence to cling to certain icons from my past is, just one guy's eccentricity, not a downer on progress and the correctness of humanities desire to push the boundaries of our collective knowledge. Having a whinge about modern angling and anglers is par for the course - it's what I do because I've earned that right. I'm not in possession of any great knowledge, something which might set me apart from mere mortals - nope! I'm just a grumpy old git who has trouble keeping up with modern advances and attitudes. I might not win many friends with my opinions, but at least I'm harmless; my thoughts are only available to visitors to this blog and not part of an open forum! If you don't like it - don't read it.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Fascination and beyond

My jaunt along the highway of life has, as I've often said, been a blast. I've met, and crossed swords with, some extraordinary individuals - some of whom I am very fortunate to be able to call friends. Yet this trip has not always been about people - there have been so many other aspects on this adventure that are beyond personality and egos.
A Common Lizard photographed on the "Ramp" at Grove Ferry NNR
Looking has always been fundamental to my enjoyment of life; knowing how to look being more important than where? What I look at is as diverse, as it is important and inspirational. I quite simply lack the ability to put into words all of my thoughts about so many of the emotional influences that have played their part
.
Kruper's Nuthatch -  Icmeler, Turkey 
Luckily, cameras and photographs (now digital imagery) have also been a major factor in my daily routine and, as such, I am able to draw upon a massive resource when delving into my past. That old adage "Every picture tells a story" (cheers Rod!) has never had more meaning that where I am at present. As I rummage through the chaotic scrapbook of my past, I am rediscovering people, places, and so much more - all of which have combined to make my life such a rich and varied experience.

A male Common Darter - could be anywhere from Stodmarsh to Turkey!
There is no denying that fish and birds dominate my interests in the natural world and time spent outdoors, yet there are so many other creatures that have crossed my path for them to be impossible to ignore. It doesn't matter whether it be time spent watching Badgers with my children at a sett in Ashridge Forest, the joy of "boxing" Hares out on the Ash Levels, a hunting Mink beside the RMC, a Red Squirrel in the Scottish Highlands or coming alongside a mighty Fin Whale whilst Marlin fishing out of Funchal, Madeira. All of these, and so many more, encounters have enriched my time on this earth. As a very young man I decided that I didn't want David Attenborough to show me the wonders of our world. If I felt interested I would seek these things for myself - it doesn't mean I won't watch the brilliant documentaries which appear on our television screens but, instead of becoming envious, use them as a source of inspiration as well as education and entertainment.

Dawn on the banks of Wilstone Res. Tring
I would need to be a complete "dullard" to be able to sit here without taking in the other wildlife that shares this
wondrous environment?
One of the most amazing sightings, I've ever had, occurred along the railway embankment, directly behind Pixie's Mere, Herts. I could hear Blackbirds and Chaffinches alarm calling from a small hawthorn below which a Weasel was spinning around, chasing its' tail in much the same way as some dogs do? Fascinated, I stood and watched, the birds doing similar, calling loudly and getting ever closer. I must have been watching this drama unfold for some two minutes before the Weasel suddenly leapt up and caught a Chaffinch immediately dragging it off into the undergrowth. I have never met with anyone who's witnessed this behaviour nor seen it documented? (Although I readily admit that I'm not the most knowledgeable individual on this subject) There have been countless other encounters with wildlife, whilst I've been out and about, that have given equal pleasure although none as spectacular; behaviourally.

I will never have the ability to use words to describe the pleasure I gain
whenever I hook a decent fish. The Dick Walker quote "If ever I stop shaking, it's time to give it up!"
will do for me - man against beast, but without a casualty as a finale.
The key must surely be to enjoy each situation as it arises. Don't bemoan those missed opportunities - rejoice in the ones that have been experienced, have become part of your journey of discovery. It was August 1993 that I, as part of a group of mates from The Top of the World PH, Hemel Hempstead, ventured forth to do battle with the mighty Atlantic Blue Marlin. What happened on that trip is the stuff of legend, I can still get a pint on the strength of those antics whenever I go back  - it was an awesome experience which none of us have come away from without being changed?  The fishing was sensational, even Roddy Hayes - the skipper - had seen nothing like it. My lasting memory of that holiday is not of monstrous fish but of an encounter with a huge Turtle sp.! Annibal (a very successful skipper himself today) was the pilot and, I swear, could smell fish! He could see, some two miles away, a massive feeding frenzy by a large flock of Cory's Shearwaters - "Feeesh!" is how he called it and set course directly towards the scene.
On arrival, some minutes later - the boat could only do 16 knots - we discovered a huge turtle, floating on its back eating a sardine/mackerel and the hoards of shearwaters had all been attempting to take away its' prize. Absolutely priceless - I was there!

So what am I supposed to do? Sea-watching from North Foreland and this Singapore campaign Spitfire
flies past. Ignore it - not a chance - as magical moment as anything else that has ever happened to me.










Monday, 23 February 2015

Staying focussed

I'm positive that at some time in the past, there will have been similar events, but I can't recall two consecutive winters where the weather has played such a significant part in my angling? Last year it was the floods, this year has been a combination of high winds, unsettled weather and ridiculous water levels - extremely high or low - no happy medium. Obviously the fish will cope with these conditions, but as an angler with limited time, I have been unable to adapt my approach to match the ever changing situations.

The oldest of my three Mitchell 300's. As you can see it looks like it has seen a bit of action.
I sincerely hope that I'll be able to add to history of this reel.
It's not that I unable to enjoy my angling, I have so many other compatible interests that I am never bored, but I am very definitely under achieving - by my own definition (not a competition with anyone else). If I'd have known how much flood water the RMC was carrying, I wouldn't have got out of bed on Saturday morning. Because I'd made the effort to get there, I fished out of spite, not because the chances of a fish were any thing other than zero - huge amounts of floating debris constantly dragging my tackle out of position - even with the rod tips pushed well into the water, the weed build up was like bunting hanging on my line and very quickly the flow would pull the line from the clip and the alarm would sound another false bite. It didn't help when it started to snow!. By 09.30 hrs, any enthusiasm gone, I was on my way home totally "pissed off". Will I ever catch another fish? Will I ever get to use one of my Mitchell 300's in anger?

The Mitchell 300A that Simon got me for Christmas - still awaiting a bite!
Realistically the answer to both these questions will be a yes - but how long am I going to wait? Will it be Scotland or is there a twist of fate just around the corner? Angling is all about optimism - my brother Simon often saying "It only takes one fish to make a season" and I'm very much a believer in that sentiment. However, I do have a slightly differing slant in as much as my season can also be made by the capture of a single fish but, and this is the difference, I must have caught it by design. Fluking a big bream, whilst carp fishing, doesn't count in my eyes. So is my season to be a success? I have until 14th March to make that capture which will raise it from very ordinary to something more memorable.

I'm not sure of the significance of any differences - my Mitchell 300
I have still got my "pike" head on and am convinced that my chosen venues are home to some exceptional fish, all I have to do is find them. Failing that, there are some chub and perch which could offer a realistic challenge in the remaining three weeks. I am starting my fifth week of "lates" - I will have plenty of time in which to make plans for the next session.
I'd made the effort to visit Kevin, over at Sandwich Coarse Fishery, on my journey home, on Saturday and we were able to have a decent chat. It would seem that this fishery, in line with most other local venues, has struggled to establish any consistency during these changeable conditions. Nice thing about Sandwich is that I can be there in fifteen minutes and have a choice of three different pools (I can't call them lakes) which offer the prospect of a decent perch. They might provide salvation should my pike angling come to nothing?

Friday, 20 February 2015

Not long

Back down to the RMC in the morning for another pike session, I'm on my own because other arrangements ensure that the Sunday morning is out of the question - Benno and Luke are working; shit happens?
I still haven't decided on my final destination, there are four areas which all have the potential to produce a decent fish, in my opinion. Any pike in double figures is a good fish from the venue, a fifteen plus is a very good fish and a twenty is the stuff of dreams. Since we started to seriously fish the canal, we have, between us, taken our fair share of decent pike. Doubles are a very realistic proposition during any visit, a mid-double is a fish to be expected during the course of the season, the chances of a twenty is always present, but has only happened once since I started to fish the water. However we have taken three different 19's and two 18's plus a handful of 16's (no 17's?) during our campaign - the prospect of something very special turning up is not beyond possibility - we've got photographic evidence of a 28 taken a few years back. When Ken Crowe gave a talk to the Canterbury and Thanet PAC group he spoke of the potential of the RMC, and he knows a thing or two about the conditions to grow big pike.
The water levels on the western side of West Hythe dam are now back to normal winter height and, as such, I feel a lot more confident than I did when they were three/four feet below the bank and I was forced to fish from the exposed, and very smelly, muddy margins. The strange thing about fishing the canal is that I very rarely encounter other anglers - pike fishing or pleasure anglers? Dog walkers and bird watchers are far more familiar company on the banks, not too bad, but it would be nice to compare experiences with other guys fishing this particular stretch of water. One positive from this situation is that I have never been in competition for swims - the canal is an open book and I can choose where I start the next chapter in my story.
A scraper double, from the RMC, which saw me end the season on a high in March 2014
The weather looks horrible and, if I'm to remain consistent, a blank should be on the cards! If nothing, but the eternal optimist, I am going there with high hopes of a fish - my efforts are due a result and, as everyone knows, effort equals success! If all else fails - I'll have my binoculars in the bag, so birding might come to the rescue - the Romney Marshes are a fantastic place not to catch pike; I've blanked in far worse! The English pike season finishes, for me, on 14th March - I haven't got much time to rescue what's been, up until now, a very poor season.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Pike fishing

I had a number of ideas for a post title but, settled for this one, because I thought it might get more "hits" than the alternatives? It was over forty years ago that I captured my first pike; gaffs were still a common sight and the use of a spring-loaded "gag" to hold the pikes' jaws open was the universally accepted method of getting the hooks - always trebles and generally of a large size - out. As often, as not, these fish were killed, not because they were good to eat but, instead, simply not wanted in the fisheries of the UK. Freshwater sharks is how the club anglers, of that time, viewed them. "The only good-n's a dead'n!"
It wasn't until the catastrophic effect, and match angler reaction, caused by the introduction of Zander into Fenland, by the Great Ouse River Authority, that Pike started to have an accepted and legitimate place within the ecosystems of the UK. All of a sudden it was "poor old pike" and the club anglers venom was then directed toward the introduced alien. Things have moved a long way since the 1970's - thankfully!
I did actually have a gaff, although never used it, which I'd found besides the River Orchy in Scotland. I assume that a Salmon angler had misplaced it? It was a nicely engineered, telescopic, piece with a steel tip, brass sections and a mahogany handle - it got lost during my divorce! I'm fairly sure that either Simon or myself still have a "gag" hidden away in our angling debris, they were really hideous contraptions. There was nothing humane about their purpose - they existed so that anglers could get their tackle back, not because the pike were worthy of returning to the water! It was the evolution of The Pike Society into The Pike Anglers Club of Great Britain which was to elevate the status of pike, and pike angling, to where it is today.

It might not be perfect - but the PAC has to take the credit for
the current status of pike welfare within the UK fisheries.
My confidence, in any pike angling situation, is due 100% to my membership of the organisation.
If you want to catch pike - then join the PAC! Simple.
My own journey follows a similar course. Pike have always held a fascination ever since that first encounter, with a small "jack", at Pixie's Mere. Tackle has evolved to make the capture of these fish a more enjoyable, and eco-friendly experience. The pike are no longer the "bad guys" in a fishery and, in these enlightened times, are now returned to the water in as a good a shape as when they came out. I have been very fortunate to have had some fine teachers as I've developed as a pike angler. Lester Strudwick was right at the very start of my serious angling, Andy Windmill (Luton PAC R/O) and, much later, Eddie Turner and Co - they have all assisted my education, and understanding, of the core skills I've acquired during this process.
When Luke took his 18 lbs 4 oz pike from the RMC on Sunday - I said to him to "take your time - there isn't a hook that I can't get out!" That's how confident I am with my own abilities - Davie Robertson (Central Scotland Pike Anglers) calls us the "Fish Doctors" after seeing how we're are able to remove hooks and rigs from the pike of Loch Awe. It's not about boasting - it's total confidence in my ability.

27th November 1983
19 lbs 9 oz from The Royalty Fishery on The Hampshire Avon
I am seriously of the belief that if you lose a pike, on modern gear, then it's a small one. I make no secret of the fact that, today, I'm a "static deadbait" angler. If a pike comes adrift, then it isn't the one I seek. Of course I might be talking absolute bollocks - but that's how I see it! If a decent pike picks up my bait, then I'm going to hook it and place it in my landing net - it's a very simple concept!

19 lbs 4 oz of Royal Military Canal pike
I will make a few observations about my baits - because I do have a tweak, or two, which might place my approach beyond the normal?  Firstly I am obsessed with colour! If I can do anything to offer something different - I'll do it. The most straightforward change is dying a bait - Dragoncarp sell sprays that do the job - I use carp boily colours - I can't see that where the dye is from is particularly important beyond the fact that you are offering something different? Then there is the use of flavours - I have played around with this for a very long time, I was catching pike from Wilstone Res. in 1987 using fish oils as enhancers on my baits.


What, I think, is fundamental in all this twaddle is the confidence gig! If you don't think that you'll catch a pike - then you won't. By using a combination of flavour and colour I am certain that I couldn't do more to make my bait more attractive. The fact that I have spent a lot of this winter without any action speaks volumes about this approach and, also, my choice of venues. Nothing will be changing as a result of this inactivity - I'm already planning my next trip and my confidence remains positive.

I've forgotten how many times I've used this image?
A River Thames Pike of 19 lbs 11 oz - 16.11.1982

Static dead baiting is never going to provide endless action. If a bent rod is what you seek then lure fishing might be a better option? Failing that - try live baiting if your conscience allows?

19 lbs 5 oz - the heaviest pike from the Worth Marshes on my return to angling. Magnificent!

I do hope that my choice of images hasn't been lost on you? They are all 19 lbs+ pike, apart from the final one, which, had I the desire, could easily have been passed off as "twenties" - Dennis Pye eat your heart out!

January 19th 1989 - British Aerospace Pit, London Colney, HERTS
18 lbs 7 oz - Sardine on VB's, a Duncan Kay rod with a Shimano GT 4000 reel




Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Thoughts about this and that

With one or two exceptions, it is usually a post about angling, or my exploits, that attracts my largest audiences - the "blogger" dashboard is a superb facility and provides statistical data which allows me to see when they logged on, what country they're from and how many individuals are looking, at any given time. It is a truly humbling experience to see that a particular offering has been subject to so much interest - I sometimes wonder what it would be like if I was popular? - although I don't suppose that'll ever happen!
My recent activity, whilst revisiting and exploring the lunacy of my past, has been a rather weird experience - it doesn't matter how hard I try, work, and my working environment, dominates the recollections. Angling is a very poor second. I'm forced to ask myself "Did it really mean that much? Was I really that obsessed?" The answer to both those questions is a resounding "YES" - what is happening is that I'm looking back with selective memory and am using my current mind-set to make judgement on my experiences. It's not working; I'm going to have to switch off Captain Sensible and get back into character! It might be a struggle, however, it seems to be the only plan I've got and, if I want this to be anything more than a pipe dream, my route to a successful conclusion.

A Roach of 2 lbs 10 oz - Wilstone Res. Tring - 15th August 1990
An even better aid will be an extended period of looking at those old slides, that Sarah had discovered in her attic - they ought to do the job? If photos of Cuddly and the gang don't do it - nothing will! By coincidence, Bev and I have been having a bit of a sort out and a few photo albums have been re-opened, I've got a load of my very early digi-scoped birding images and some 35mm photos from the final session on Tring - Startop's End (March 1993). Photos are powerful allies in the process, as is the music of the period!

My final Tench from the Tring complex.
7 lbs 2 oz - March 13th 1993 - Startop's End.
Amidst the angling debris, that we've unearthed, are some very old reels that were given to me - many years ago. I've never even considered using them. Are they junk, or part of a collection? Possibly anglers, of my era, are collectors without purpose - it's just something we do as part of our progression between the various stages of the journey through the hobby? Don't throw it away, it might come in useful? It's a very fine line between collecting and being a hoarder.

I've tried to get some background on this reel - but come to nothing.
It sits on the top of my bookshelves - sad really?
The recent conversation with Luke and Benno, whilst on the RMC, has also opened up another avenue of thought and possibilities. I find myself juggling with elements of pike, perch, barbel, Scotland - more pike, tench and carp projects; my head is awash with ideas. What I need is the opportunity to put them into practise.
Bev is very supportive - the book is something with which she is in 100%  agreement. She has never been involved in angling, nor birding, yet encourages my participation. Our shared life revolves around our personal relationship, the support of our children and grand-children - not forgetting our parents, as if we could? I'm a very lucky man - cue Emerson, Lake and Palmer!

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Sun and some fun

Benno, Luke and I had a session on the RMC, this morning. It was a lovely day, light winds and a decent amount of sunshine - it couldn't be anything other than enjoyable. The section we'd chosen didn't allow a lot of space, so we fished two rods apiece instead of our normal three. The banter was good and we had much to chat about - Scotland is just over ten weeks away. Bait, methods, tackle and tactics all got an airing and soon the subject of Barbel came into the mix.
Luke in action - Benno waiting with the net.
We are all prepared to go back to that bloody river - why? Luke didn't do too badly last year, his first season - he took four fish, two doubles (10.04 & 10.08) and a nice bonus Chub of 5 lbs 12 oz, so two new PBs. I had a nightmare, yet managed to winkle out two doubles (12.10 & 11.04) whilst Benno didn't take a single fish. I think that the reality is that we simply can't ignore these fish because the river is very likely to turn up a huge specimen in the next season or two.
A cracking pike of 18.04
Luke's best fish from the RMC by some margin.
At 09.20 hrs, one of Luke's rods was away and resulted in him landing his best ever pike from the canal - 18 lbs 4 oz. It was a beauty, but absolutely covered in lice - showing that these fish have been laid up for some time. It was the only fish of the session, although Luke did miss another bite whilst Benno and I were to endure eel activity as our Sardines and Blueys took a hiding from the slimy pests.
Birding was reasonable, at least four Common Buzzards, good numbers of Fieldfare and a maximum count of seven Yellowhammer - a very good record these days. One Great White Egret and at least six Little Egrets were seen during the morning, a sign of these modern times. I had high hopes for a Tree Sparrow sighting, but had to content myself with House Sparrows, two Great Spotted Woodpeckers and an assortment of Chaffinches, Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits. Time past quickly and we headed off home very pleased to have seen such a nice fish, it's been a long time coming!

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Dream on!

Without wishing to tempt fate, at present my life is good - I am very happy and simply enjoying myself, being me! Bev has added her voice to the clamour - "You should write that book" ! As I posted the other day, it is a project that is gaining momentum. What do I hope to achieve, should it ever become reality? Do I see it as a "look what I've done" exercise or a celebration of the role that Les "Cuddly" Dudley and Co have played in my unique journey through the decades? The story is the same one, just how should I go about telling it?
It was Steve Gale who made me aware of the Luke Jennings book - Blood Knots. This superbly crafted collection of memories and tales being the inspiration for my own effort. I, as I've stated many times, am not particularly gifted with the use of the written word, Luke Jennings is a craftsman of some aplomb! That I should aspire to replicate his offering is pure fantasy, on my part. However, somewhere in the middle ground is a place where I could find a niche - my efforts being of interest, but without the quality of my more eloquent peers.
Would it sell? Does that really matter? - This project is all about ensuring that future generations of Wrathall's will know who, and what, I was! (My story, as told by me, and not a second hand assessment of what someone else perceived me to be!) I am proud that I've remained true to my beliefs for so long, almost an inverted form of snobbery in many respects. The capers I've been involved with, the antics we got up to within both work and play - there would possibly be a court case awaiting should all the truths be told?
I've made no secrets about it - my life has been a blast! If it ended tomorrow (which I sincerely hope it doesn't) I would go to my grave without regrets - how many other folk can say that?

Friday, 13 February 2015

Where is this going?

There was a Chiffchaff, probably the bird seen in our garden, flitting about in the hedgerow at the end of Vine Close as I walked across to work yesterday with a second individual calling from the shrubs beside the entrance to Blaze Neon over at Pyson's Road. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was drumming in the trees around the main farm buildings, over at Newlands and I'm sure that I heard a Firecrest (although not 100% - so I haven't added it to my year list) as I walked the footpath between Park and Prestedge Avenues. A couple of Jays were foraging in the garden this morning and the feeding station continues to attract a reasonable selection of species, for the time of year. So, with all this going on, I'm able to find interest whenever I feel inclined to look. However, there is one species dominating the Newland's Farm area - Wood Pigeons, in their thousands, are absolutely hammering the cauliflower crop.
I am not sure whether the crop has "gone to seed", as much of Mr Burbridge's had done before Christmas, or if these are a late variety still awaiting harvest? There's well over 100 acres - that's an awful lot of caulis!
Twice, in the past week, there has been a guy out there shooting. All legal and above board I would imagine. He had a portable hide and decoys set up and was clearly visible from the main road and public footpaths.
Was he engaged in crop protection work, or simply partaking of his chosen hobby? Unless I actually go across to have a chat with him I doubt if I'll ever find out.
As soon as shooting gets mentioned there will be people getting hot under the collar. It is a subject which will never find consensus amongst a section of the public, no matter how you dress it up. My personal opinions are based upon two factors - a) I'm a carnivore and b) although not a shooter myself, I have friends who are and, in their company, I've experienced many days out on a small syndicate pheasant shoot in Hertfordshire.
Being a carnivore, by definition, means I eat meat. This is not a food source that can be obtained without an animal having to be slaughtered. Tesco's, Sainsbury's, Asda and all other retail outlets have removed the "guilt trip" of butchering animals by slick marketing and fancy packaging. Your pork chops are still a dead pig and steak is an ex cow! That we are now, so far removed from the actual killing process, almost alienated from the basic facts of the food chain; in order for us to eat meat - creatures will die. Does it matter if a guy shoots his food or is it only OK when someone else has done the deed on your behalf?
Oh! but I'm a vegetarian - maybe that guy, pigeon shooting, was only out there protecting your lunch? These same retail outlets that sell sanitized, pre-packaged, dead animals are major players in the farming game - they dictate the price that a farmer will receive for any given crop. In order to be able to provide cauliflowers at 70 p/each Wood Pigeons need to be controlled? They have died in order to protect a vegetarians option not to eat meat - what a surreal concept?
When I first started my employment with Brooke Bond (who became Brooke Bond Oxo before being taken over by Unilever) I came into contact with Steve Baron. To this day, he remains a great and very dear friend, he was shooting man, as were many other members of that small factory workforce. It was through this contact that I was able to spend time, as a beater, on the shoot of which he was a member. Over the years I took both of my children to see how the shoot functioned and to allow them to make their own minds up about the cruelty aspect of the process. (As opposed to being told, by some left-wing school teacher, that it is so!)

Sarah-Jayne didn't object, although she is now semi-vegetarian, but wasn't overly happy with the killing, Benno loved it - although he's never looked to take up shooting as a hobby himself. Two individuals who have come to differing opinions based upon first hand experience; I'm perfectly happy with that.
The syndicate consisted of sixteen paying members (guns) - they shot every fortnight between October and January, eight shoots in a season.The average bag was between 50 and 70 birds, enough for a brace apiece for the guns and a few birds over for the tenant farmers, who's ground we were on, and the beaters if they chose. Nothing was wasted, birds had not died as a result of "blood-lust" they became part of the food chain, just without a KFC logo. I will admit here and now that I wasn't a beater because I wanted to be part of the "County Set" - Oh no, there was much more to it than that! Some of the guns were also landowners whose ground contained "private" lakes. My involvement in this country sport was an avenue for me to pursue my quest for big fish - via a different route to the majority of other anglers. By steering the conversation towards angling, during the breaks between the various drives, I was able to gain permission, get an invitation, to fish several very special venues.
Too proud to touch your forelock - more fool you!
By playing this game I've gained access to so many areas that others are not allowed.
Who's the looser?
So I am not anti-shooting, as such, but what I can't align myself with is the industrial scale slaughter, that masquerades as a country pastime, and is, in reality, the egotistical playground of the ridiculously wealthy. Guys, with more money than brain cells, slaughtering reared birds for fun - they certainly ain't doing it because they're hungry! This aspect of the "sport" is indefensible - rich guys killing thousands of birds per day because they can. This industry generates £billions during the course of a season and employs many decent folk who are simply trying to earn a living. I also work in an industry which generates £billions during a financial year, yet I'm not despised, because our business has no direct link with shooters and shooting? I wonder how many of our senior management/directors choose to spend their money to be part of this social set? And this is applicable to all successful companies - the wealth created allows individuals to make choices. You don't have to wear Tweed jackets and Plus-fours, at work, to be a shooting man. It is far more likely that a suit and tie will be the daily attire and a flat cap and Barbour jacket is for the weekend only?
I've seen the recent posting, on Birdguides, about the demise of the Norfolk Little Bustard - I am appalled by this crime, but not to the extent that I've lost sight of reality (read the comments for a better understanding of where I'm coming from!). There are other articles in the thread which are of equal dismay - Goshawk killing and the persecution of English Hen Harriers - acts of undeniable selfishness and total disregard of the laws, therefore, abhorrent. That the perpetrators are described as gamekeepers has tarred an awful lot of good guys with the same brush. Crimes against our wildlife are crimes against us, our children, and our children's children! These acts are deliberate attempts to devalue the natural heritage of our countryside - we do not own these creatures but, are merely looking after them for future generations!
I've always tried to keep in with the farming community - after all they control an awful lot of our countryside.
When I first moved to Kent, in August 1993, I quickly established contact with one of the local farmers. As a result I was able to wander over vast tracts of farmland, purely because I'd made an effort to introduce myself and not offer advice on how best to run a farm! I can still go there today, and many other farms as well, because I am not seen as the enemy! Birders, unable to see shooting as a legitimate pastime, whilst munching on a Mc Donald's chicken burger  - anglers who see Otters as the bad guys in rivers which contain illegally stocked barbel. Is it any surprise that an "us and them" mentality exists whilst single subject fanatics are claiming to be naturalists! Is it an age thing, or my industrial background, that has allowed me to see a "bigger picture" ?
Tasty, tasty - very, very, tasty!
I don't have all the answers - if any at all? However, I do have nearly sixty years on this planet and, as such, an inkling of what it's all about?



Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Exploration of my journey

It might appear, to some who have followed this, and my previous, blog that I'm loosing my way and straying widely from the general subject matter which has been at the core of my offerings since I started out. Some of the more astute might recall a series of posts, from a year or so back, when I mooted the desire to write a book?
Well, I still haven't written it; but the project is gaining momentum and odd chapters (rather a grandiose term for a saved word document?) have been assembled. Therefore, my recent posts have been a direct spin-off from my own investigations into my past. The most intriguing result of this process has been the realisation of what a major part my work, and working environment, has played. Some of the most extraordinary and influential characters in my development have come into my life purely as a result of my employment. Without their input I am sure that my life would have been more akin to a "Pin-ball game" rather than a "Roller Coaster ride"? I have no doubt that my love of the outdoors would have been there, but my realisation of how precious these encounters are, how they should be savoured and enjoyed, are because of the work ethic and values from the other side of my life's coin.
I had a draft post, which I've long since deleted, entitled "Heroes". I'd listed ten people who, I felt, had played an influential role in my life. There were anglers, birders, friends, musicians and work colleagues included, if that book ever comes to fruition, they will all receive their rightful thanks. But, just to demonstrate quite how diverse these people are - I will give an insight into the individual who was at Number One in that original post.
Her name is Sarah Frost (or that was her maiden name - she got married during the time I worked with her but always remained Sarah to me) I first came into contact with her when she, as a very young post-graduate, became project manager for the Cup-a-Soup granule manufacturing facility at the, Unilever owned, Ashford factory. To say that we didn't get on would be an understatement - there was real hostility. Why have we got a girl in charge? She oversaw the introduction of two Fluid-bed Agglomeration units - ensured that the product quality was sustainable then went away to further her career within the organisation. It was probably two years later that she returned to Ashford, but this time she was back as factory manager! Unilever were undergoing a period of restructuring and change - Global branding was becoming the driving force. Sarah was charged with raising efficiencies and cutting costs - same old money driven reasoning. At her introduction to the factory workforce she said that her door was "always open". I gave her a few weeks, then decided it was time we had a chat!
Our first conversation was an enlightening affair - I asked what it was I had to do to ensure that it wasn't due to me, or my influence, that the factory was forced to close. Sarah's response was as brave, as it was honest, - she welcomed my openness and invited me to attend a "Factory Strategy Group" meeting. If I do ever write that book, the rest of this tale will be told. All of a sudden my eyes were opened to the complexities of running a large factory, the role that being part of a Multi-national played in the day to day decision making process and the need for compliance, with an ever increasing legal responsibility, played in the way our business could move forward.
I hope that I contributed as much as I took from this exercise - I learnt an awful lot about myself and what a complete arse-hole I had been. There is no "us and them" in a successful business - teamwork is key, fundamental, underpinning everything that will ensure sustainable growth and prosperity. Sadly the hard work that Sarah put into the Ashford factory was brought to a shuddering halt when Unilever purchased the Knorr brand and the Mergers and Monopolies Commission forced them to sell the Batchelor's brand - we were taken over by Campbell's - who only wanted the Fray Bentos brand in reality. It was time for me to seek adventures new, after eighteen very happy years with the company I took redundancy, but that is another chapter all together.
Sarah is probably high up within the corridors of power in some multi-national or other - she might well be a working mum? I simply don't know. That I owe her a great deal of thanks, is why I've made this post, she truly was the most inspirational individual within my journey to where I am now. I hope that I repaid her faith with my own contribution to the "bigger picture" within her factory - they were very happy, educational times.


Just to show that I've not lost the plot entirely! At 13.25 hrs, yesterday, just as I was feeding the birds in the aviary, the gulls went nuts over Dumpton. The weather was anything but typical raptor migration conditions - grey and overcast. My immediate thought was an owl, but no, a Common Buzzard appeared - complete with the accompanying guard of honour - Carrion Crows and Herring Gulls giving it a hard time as it headed north. I managed to grab a few dodgy record images before I had to be on my way to work. A genuine migrant, it would be incredibly early, or a wanderer from the local breeding territories?

Monday, 9 February 2015

Influence and inspiration

I love to read, although my subject matter is generally from a very narrow spectrum. The use of the written word to convey emotions is a gift with which very few individuals are blessed - the rest of us just write! A bit like painters? A select few are talented artists - the rest of us draw pictures, usually very badly! Lacking these abilities is not a disaster - so long as we are able to be understood, then the exchange has been a success. Whenever I read something that I find most captivating, I'm always in awe of the simplistic choice of wording that the author has used - why can't I do that? (Probably because I didn't take my education seriously and now seek to over-complicate where it is not required?)

Two of the books that sit upon my library shelves.
Tackle collecting (the book being a 1987 offering - published by Southerby's) is not something I do, although Bev would strongly disagree - I continue to use my vintage gear, not seek to offer it a retirement home.
Fred Buller's masterpiece is a book which has inspired me since 1979. The research that went into this work
is phenomenal, especially when you realise it was done before the internet!
The "dumbing down" of our nations education continues to gather pace - texting, twitter and umpteen other communications channels that disseminate instant drivel - William Shakespeare - what's he got to boast about? My study area, fortunately for me, is full of books - not in CD form; these are the real deal, bound paper copies - so with a tactile quality that digital can never hope to replace? The thrill I get from picking up a book is only equalled by the delight I get from reading the words held within the pages - proper writing, none of this txt short-hand crap.
It is very true that I despised my time at school , I still have a low regard for teachers - they should be forced to do a proper job before being allowed to go back into a school! (School - University - School! What basis for passing on education/experience is that?) But I remain forever in the debt of the UK education system - I can read and write, plus have a great love of mathematics, because some-one in my past made the effort to enthuse me!

The inscription within my copy of the Doomsday Book!
I used to visit Fred's gun shop in Amersham regularly - it was the only place I could purchase
VB (Vick Bellar's) double-hooks. 


Sunday, 8 February 2015

Most unexpected encounter

Emily had stayed overnight, so I took her with me to meet her newest cousin - Rowan! We had to stop off, briefly at my Dad's place, to pick up a present before driving over to Goodnestone. Sarah and Berne looking a little jaded - lack of sleep does that to people, but they are coping admirably with their latest addition, plus a one year old daughter who's just discovering how much fun it is to be naughty! There's definitely some Wrathall in that one! We didn't stay too long - they had plans of their own; so we took a quick stroll down to the "big house" just to see what's about. Snowdrops were in bloom under the shaded fringes of the track side hedgerow and we discovered a little clump of crocuses in a secluded dell - Spring is surely just around the corner?
Out on the cricket pitch there were four gulls, one of which looked decidedly interesting! With Emily perched on my shoulders, I got to within 50m before the birds took flight. My suspicion confirmed as a ghostly translucent white-winger did a quick circuit above our heads before dropping back down onto the grass. A first winter Glaucous Gull - quite magnificent in the superb sunshine of a clear, crisp morning. It was an absolute brute of an individual, at least half as big again as the three accompanying Herring Gulls. No camera and no bins - it didn't matter. Any sighting as, unexpected as, this is what keeps me looking, keeps me getting outside when I should really be doing something more constructive around the bungalow? A Coal Tit in the church yard, as we got back to the car, meant that I'd added two more to the year list in little more than twenty minutes - utter bliss!

Saturday, 7 February 2015

I'll keep searching

Way back in the aeons of time, one of the lessons which were part of the school week (when I bothered going - always happier with a fishing rod or air-gun) was "careers". At that time, the late 1960's/early 70', gas fitters, locally, were much in demand and, surprise, surprise, the lessons focused on how to become involved in that industry. I always wanted to be in the building trade but, due to "parental guidance" (two school teachers), found myself in a role within the Medical Research Council - a medical laboratory technician at The Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine - Dagger Lane, Elstree, HERTS - I fucking hated it! (Even more than I hated school - if that's possible?)
Salvation presented itself in the form of a job, as a factory operative, within the Distribution (Southern Region) warehouse operation of Kodak Ltd, Swallowdale Lane, Hemel Hempstead. I was like a duck to water - the role and the environment suited me to a tee! That was 1978 and I've been in warehousing/factory employment ever since.
I couldn't say that it's been the most rewarding way of spending a working life - but there are plenty of worse options. I get up, go to work, come home and forget about it - it is a means to an end, not an end in itself! I've only had four employers since I left school - The Lister Institute, Kodak, Brooke Bond (Unilever) and now Fujifilm SIS. Each one has played a massive part in my development as an individual and also influenced my thinking on so many other factors that are on the periphery of my world. I'm six years off retirement (should I choose?) and still don't know what I want to do. Over the years many have asked the question about turning my passions into a job (be that fishing or birding) - I'd hate it. Having to do the things that provide a release from the mundane - to create the mundane? Not for me, I'm afraid - I have to keep the two as far apart as is possible.
Has my time on this planet been put to the best use - have I lived my life to the full? Only someone looking from the outside will be able to make that call. I've done so much, that I'd never believed possible - I've been married (twice), got two fantastic kids, two more step kids and five grandchildren. I've caught some massive fish, watched birds all around the UK and the Mediterranean coast of Europe, experienced the adrenaline overdose of Disneyland, Florida, watched whales and dolphins in The Bay of Biscay and spent my youth watching QPR playing in the top flight of English football. And yes, I've been blessed with good health and had a blast living the way I find most rewarding, I've always enjoyed a pint but drugs and cigarettes have never played a part in any aspect of my journey - I can get myself in enough shit without their help!
Do I know what I want out of life - more of the same I guess? I continue to explore as many avenues as my interests dictate and will, hopefully, find enjoyment in the discoveries that await.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Favourite

When, in 1979, John Everard wrote his chapter on Barbel for the Ernest Benn publication; The Big Fish Scene, he started it with this (and I quote) "Someone once said that their favourite fish was the one they were fishing for at the time" Wise words indeed and as true today as they were back then.
Having had the privilege to learn my skills, via a prolonged angling apprenticeship, I have also been very fortunate to have been shown a "bigger picture" of the hobby and what's on offer. This will be the root cause of my intolerance of modern angling and anglers - it's not their fault that this type of journey is no longer available, even if they wanted it?
Modern equals instant - and is dominated by a single species; carp! Other species also have their devotees, but they are fringe players in the modern era. Then there are us old farts - stuck in the past, clinging to the notion of being part of a tradition. Sporting countrymen who seek challenges in idyllic surroundings and see their quarry as creatures of mysterious cunning who need to be treated with the utmost respect in order to get a bite. Romantic twaddle for the most part. In short, I can't get any more enjoyment from my approach than a modern carp angler will from theirs - it's the same, but different!
Do I have a favourite species? No, I don't think that I do. I love angling for big fish, but I also gain great pleasure from simply being outdoors, fishing or not. My appreciation of a bigger picture becoming more important with the passing of time. Seeing the world through the eyes of my Grand-children gives a whole new dimension to what's on offer. I will, however, attempt to give an overview of my current thinking on my angling priorities and the species involved.

Lean, mean, killing machine - a Loch Awe pike from our 2011 trip.
Any surprise that it was a pike which re-ignited the spark that got me back into angling?
PIKE - Well they have to be right up there at the top of the tree! It was Benno's suggestion that we go back to Loch Awe, for one last trip (back in 2011) that kick started my angling journey after an 18 year lay off!
Esox lucius - the Northern Pike, a species which demands respect simply because of the way it looks. Physically big, the un-blinking stare and needle sharp rows of teeth within the enormous gape, even to non-anglers they are impressive creatures. The apex predator in the freshwater environs of the UK, they are capable of testing the tackle and techniques of any angler who seeks the challenge - just steer clear of the obese specimens within trout waters, unless weight is more important than enjoyment? Not the hardest fighting species in our fisheries, yet a fish which for me will always be associated with wild places and wild weather.

BARBEL - A conundrum of some complexity. Yes I do enjoy catching barbel, and yes I have been very lucky to have landed some extremely large individuals in the past couple of years. I think that it would best be summarised by the fact that I do gain immense pleasure from my barbel successes, but I have no great love of the challenge of fishing for them in The Kentish Stour. My memories of so many happy sessions on The Royalty Fishery (Hampshire Avon), King's Weir on The Hertfordshire Lea, The Windrush and The Thames all cherished and stored indelibly in my mind. The trials of the Kent campaign being a serious blot in my angling story - I must try harder? They are a species with which I associate centre-pins and Fred Crouch (the two being inseparable in my former years) - to have landed four, of my five, doubles on such reels is what makes the Kent successes so much more bearable, I have a link with the past.


That I have this challenge, right on my doorstep, is why I can't simply walk away and ignore it. There are fish in the river which are, even by National standards, extremely big barbel - has one got my name on it? Summer of 2015 might just be when I discover some more about the R. Stour barbel and myself in the process? Their fighting abilities are legendary, they are able to test tackle and angler to the very limit - I hold them in very high esteem, although the Kent fish are bastards!

TENCH - I would be lying if I said I didn't once have a favourite species! In the Tring years, tench were it! To have been part of that era is a privilege which very few were lucky enough to experience. My time and memories of those events are as vivid, today, as they were over thirty years ago - it was a magical period and I was part of it!
An 8lbs+ from Wilstone Res. Tring, HERTS
In the mid-80's there was only one place in my world - the centre of the angling universe.
I will never live through, and be part of, another period of discovery like this.
There's no point in claiming tench to still be my favourite species - I've only caught one very sad little specimen since my return to the hobby. However, I have discovered a venue which might possibly reinstate these magnificent fish to their rightful place. OK - it's never going to be Wilstone II - it won't be history in the making, but it does possess the ingredients to make it a bit special if my hunch is correct?

BREAM - I'm not sure if I'll ever make another serious cast in an attempt to catch a big bream? Such is the way of the modern angling scene. In my crazy past, these fish were much sought and prized - a double being the "Holy Grail" amongst the chosen devout followers. My quest for such a beast was a leap of faith - an angling puzzle of equal complexity to any other that I faced.
To have captured double-figure bream, by design, is one of the highlights of my angling career. That modern carp anglers dismiss them as "Snotters!" is a very sad indicator of how the sport has lost its' way.
11 lbs 2 oz of hard earned Bream
Taken on tackle suited to the task - the fish provided all the challenges I required.
3 lbs b.s hooklinks - maggot/bread cocktail on a size 14 hook
Not winched in on modern carp gear!

PERCH - A species which has only become a viable challenge since my return to the hobby. I adore the bristling fins and erect dorsal as a perch comes grudgingly to the net. They are all attitude and colour - I love the species for all they represent. Hard fighting and always good looking - on the right gear a test of any angler's ability. I will continue to pursue this species, during the season, my desire being to see my PB reach a respectable 4 lbs +. One of the things that attracts me most is the unpredictability - these fish can grow to specimen size, yet remain undetected, in the most unlikely of venues.

WELS CATFISH - An introduced species with which I enjoyed a very successful period in my earlier years. Fish of unthinkable dimensions are now present in UK fisheries - a thirty was the fish of dreams in the 80's. Do I really want to use sea fishing gear to catch fish in a UK coarse fishery?
These introduced foreign monsters don't sit easily with my current thinking - I'm happy to give them a miss. The Claydon years were everything I could have hoped for and, once again, I was there when it mattered. The subsequent generations of anglers, that have followed, know no different and the thrill of modern cat-fishing is no less exciting than my recollection of those times gone by?
It is very difficult to look at this image without feelings of happiness.
Some of the craziest times of my life were spent on the banks of this fishery.
Cuddles, Vic Gillings, Shaun Harrison, Stewart Martin, Kevin Maddocks, Bob Baldock,
Uncle Tom Cobbly and all - mad, mad times!
CHUB - Sadly, I've always treated chub fishing as a make weight pursuit. Only very rarely have I deliberately set out to catch this species. It's to my shame that I've not developed a greater interest, they are fantastic fish and very worthy of a sustained effort. There are chub in The Stour which could add two pounds to my PB, without any trouble. A situation that I often think about, but that's as far as I get - I'm so easily distracted!
Why do I struggle to get enthused by fish like this?
CARP - Living in Kent means that carp are a species which simply cannot be ignored. Every fishery in the county contains these creatures - almost! There is no getting away from the fact that I really enjoy my encounters with the carp of the local commercial fisheries - I use them as a way of recharging my enthusiasm and bending a rod whenever I'm struggling with other projects. The one thing that this approach is not, is serious - it is fun fishing. I still harbour a desire to capture a decent carp, but I want it from a venue where I don't have to compete for swims and known individual carp. There are very large carp present in The RMC, The Stour as well as many of the dykes which criss-cross the marshes. These fish see very little pressure and would provide all the challenges I desire, should I choose to fish for them? It is on my "to do" list, but, then again, so is very much more!
Floating crust on a centre-pin and a tench rod - commercial fishery fun
ZANDER - Even when I was "full - on" chasing big fish, zander somehow seemed like a side-show? They were a circus act, not to be taken too seriously. I did have a dabble, caught some decent-ish specimens, but they were just a distraction from the pike fishing which is why I was in Fenland in the first place. I only ever saw one double - taken by the late John Foster. Benno has spoken about his desire to catch a zed - I might get carried along with moment, but still can't see this species as anything more than a quirky distraction from pike!

A Fenland "Zed" - October 1985
So there it is - my summary of the state of my angling priorities as of February 2015. Be under no illusion that these thoughts are cast in tablets of stone - I can change my mind with the direction of the wind; and often do.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Tedium

Unlike many "bloggers" I no longer feel the need to report every session; each fish that graces my landing net or bird that appears in my binocular view. It would be far too boring to bother reading and tedious, in the extreme, to write. With the recent weather failing to settle into any type of pattern, it is hardly surprising that the fish populations of my local venues have been unable to establish any sort of regular feeding periods. Anglers that I speak with are all struggling for consistency - not that I lack consistency - I can blank anywhere I go at present! No big deal? I've experienced periods like this in my past and I'm confident that things will improve. Birding is as predictable as the tide tables - all the usual species in all the usual places. The only exception being the reappearance of the Chiffchaff in our garden on Sunday afternoon - nice result although I had already year ticked the species with one that I discovered feeding in the FSIS bushes, beside the security hut, on 26th January!
The local foxes are encountered on a fairly regular basis - the yapping bark of the males being heard occasionally as I make my way home in the darkness. Unlike Thanet hedgehogs, foxes are thriving amidst the mosaic of urban sprawl, concrete and cauliflowers. It is very likely that they are using the chalk cuttings of the main railway line as a means of moving around the area. I frequently see individual foxes from the Hereson Road railway bridge, particularly when looking towards Broadstairs. Away from Newland's Farm, I don't think foxes have many threats - road traffic collision is probably the biggest single factor in limiting their numbers during the course of a year?
I this reads like I'm struggling for enthusiasm - got it in one! I seem to be simply going through the motions. I go out because I feel I should, not because I want to - all rather strange. It will only take one decent pike or the discovery of a scarce avian visitor - probably a gull - and I'll be back on track. We're already in the advanced stages of our Loch Awe planning - 2015 will be the final trip, for a while. We all recognise that there's so much more to see and do at other venues around the UK and further afield - Simon's looking at Canada and Muskies!
Like peas in a pod - Fenland zander in 1985
Benno has a desire to catch a Zed - we have a small window of opportunity open in early June and I can feel a bout of "Tench Fever" coming on. I have discovered a venue that is ticking all the boxes. But all this stuff is in the future - I'm wishing my life away. I really need to get focussed on what I can do now - then get out and do it!