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 March 2016

"I don't know" - the alternative option?

I must be bored? This offering has more than a little "Non-conformist" about it! It all started this morning, whilst out in the back garden, and I thought I heard a snippet of Willow Warbler (sub-song) from a couple of gardens away.  I awaited a sighting but, alas, all I got was a tail pumping Chiff for my troubles. After this brief encounter I was away for a wander around Newland's on the "fool's errand" that is a March Wheatear hunt.

The date should read 5th May 2006
As I was on my return leg, that same scenario, did I just hear a Willow Warbler? Funnily enough - the same result when up popped a Chiff (almost certainly the same bird!) So here's the dilemma. I didn't manage to get a single image of the bird, yet I am confident (well fairly) that it was a Chiffchaff!
I will now back track to 2006 and a bird that Don Wilkes had found at Minster SF - all the indications were that it was a hybrid Chiffchaff x Willow Warbler. I managed to get a very inconclusive, digiscoped image, but the primary projection does look a little too long for, nominate, Chiffchaff? It was four years later that I discovered a "mixed singer" Phylloscopus warbler in almost the same place. This time I had my EOS and 500 mm lens so was able to get some better images - still no better off, the parentage of this bird very unclear.



So here's the crux of my post! Does it really matter, so much, that I "have to know what it is?" If I was able to follow the example of some fellow naturalists - those manic souls whose devotion to listing our natural world allows for "token" specimens - surely I would be within the spirit of Pan-listing to have shot these birds in the name of data integrity - after all no-one can argue with a DNA sample. If it's not OK to kill a bird for a tick then why is it acceptable to kill insects, just for an Excel spreadsheet entry? All the time that Pan-listers are unable to id live specimens - they are a laughing stock - lost in some Victorian back water where collecting was par for the course and exactly why I cannot find any common ground or empathy. The whole, competitive, concept stinks - push yourself as far as you dare - just don't turn it into a sport, it encourages cheating!


Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Still looking out the back door

It was a bank holiday weekend; what else, weather wise, did we expect?  Can't have the working man actually enjoying themselves when they get a day off! Fortunately, for me, my return to work was not until 14.00 hrs so, what with my early finish on Thursday, my Easter break is really five days.
Making the first cuppa of the day, around 07.30 hrs, a Brambling was scratching about under the feeding station so I made the effort to grab my bins and camera kit - it would be to hand should anything interesting occur as the morning progressed. The BBC forecast was predicting (fairly accurately) early morning sunshine before a belt of cloud, and accompanying rain, arrived around mid-afternoon.

At least three Chiffchaffs flitted along the boundary hedgerow, as I watched the activity around the feeding station. I encountered a further six, or so, as I made my way to work later. A pair of Greenfinches made frequent visits and seem to be intent on nesting in a Leylandii hedge a few gardens to the south of us. House Sparrow numbers remain very good, some of the males are now sporting their full breeding plumage and look very smart indeed. Two pairs of Blackbirds seem to have our garden as a boundary between the two territories - disputes between the birds is a regular feature of my observations. Dunnock, Wren and Robin also look to be prospecting for nest sites in the neighbouring gardens and I suspect a pair of Blue Tits might be in a nest box two gardens to the north. Quite a few Starlings around, although they seem more intent on bathing than visiting the "fat-ball" feeder. A pair of Collared Doves and a lone Wood Pigeon are regular visitors to the garden, pecking around for spilled seed from the feeders.


The highlight of my day came as I walked across to work, at 13.30 hrs, and I saw my first ever Newland's March hirundine - a Sand Martin was skimming over the newly sown field, beside the Old Rose Garden (what's left of it) and is only my second record of the species in sixteen years! My return walk, some eight and a half hours later, revealed a light passage of Redwings, as their calls pierced the darkness of the dank night sky. Surely my first Wheatear sighting can't be too far away?




I can't help myself  - two Bramblings in the garden this morning. My guess is the same female and a new male.
As I probably won't see another one until October - I'll fill my boots!




Monday, 28 March 2016

Garden birding

As I write, this post, Storm Katie is starting to subside after a night spent battering Thanet. Heavy rain has been replaced by sunshine and shadow as huge white clouds speed across the sky. I'm off out fishing this afternoon, wind speed predicted to have dropped to a mere 23 mph, veering westward, in the process.
However, as I have been neglecting my garden observations in my recent, angling biased blogging, it is time I made an attempt to redress the balance. The garden feeding station still provides the main focus of my records, although there has been a small, but very definite, movement of Chiffchaffs through the garden in the past few days. Early on Friday morning, as I was getting the bivvy dried out - draped over the decking railings, there was a significant passage of Chaffinches passing overhead. Locally, Greenfinches have started their courtship displays and their resonant "wheezing" can be heard as a couple of males proclaim their territorial rites. Common Buzzards have been a feature, in favourable conditions, yet I have still to record Red Kite. Chris Hindle, over at Reculver, has already seen several this Spring, so they are on the move.


The garden highlight has been been the presence of a female Brambling, first seen on Saturday morning as I fed the birds in my aviary. This morning she was joined by a male and I managed to grab a few images through the glass of the kitchen door. They are a species which I record during both annual migration periods, although birds in the garden are encounters which brighten the dullest of days.
Always a pleasure when they turn up in the garden - and that's not too shabby considering it's taken through double glazing!

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Ancient with modern

I still have the desire to catch "big" fish and hope it will not diminish, all the while my health remains intact. At this particular stage along my angling journey I have made plans to use a pair of sixty (well, ok, fifty nine) year old split cane rods to catch a very big carp. I also wish to use reels which are of a similar vintage but, that's where my search for historical authenticity stops! Everything else I seek to achieve is going to be massively influenced by the huge advances made in fishing tackle manufacture and angling technology. This way I get the best of both worlds. I experience the thrills of using my vintage rod and reel combinations in conjunction with modern bite indication, bait presentations and terminal tackle that has been developed in the intervening years.
A statement about the eccentricity of an individual - not my ability to catch fish!
I happily accept that many will see things very differently - it's a free world and I have made no attempt to place myself "above" others as I set off on another adventure. Dead right, I think that modern carp angling and it's domination of UK freshwater fishing is a step backwards but, in a market driven society, people vote with their feet and carp angling seems to be winning that particular debate! Still, I can't help what I think - so I'll leave it there.
I've been with Benno and Sye, at a family gathering around at Dad's, and have spent quite a while discussing the split-cane caper and my approach. Both of them cast doubts upon my tactics and, perceived, lack of respect for the old tackle (as has Lee Morris) It's my game - my rules! I seek enjoyment from adapting an idea to land a big carp using a rod and reel combination which were manufactured a couple of years after I was born! I certainly have no wish to limit my chances of success by ignoring the huge improvements in tackle manufacture and reliability, focussed mainly on the actual rig mechanics and components. Let's not forget that it's only the bit in the water that catches fish - all the other gubbins is very secondary. In this respect, I am on an even playing field with all others who fish for carp. I know I've ruled out boily fishing, my decision, but I still have Peperami and Luncheon Meat in my bait repertoire alongside my regular particles, of which chick peas are my first choice at any venue. I will happily use flavours, enhancers and coloured dyes to give myself an edge, should I feel it worth a try. However, I'm not so silly as to ignore the possibilities of stalking, free lining, or doing a bit of floater fishing, should the opportunity arise - my options are as limited as my imagination in this respect. Hook baits could range from cockles and prawns to worms, maggots and bread! So there you have it - my thoughts as I set out on another angling adventure. I'd like to think that it will be as rewarding as have my pursuit of pike, barbel and eels, those previous projects which have been successfully undertaken since my return to "big fish" angling.

Friday, 25 March 2016

One night - two christenings

I got out for an over-nighter yesterday - the first outing of the Mk IV project. Sandwich Coarse Fishery is a small commercial set-up, but it has a nice vibe and I enjoy the fishing because it's not to be taken too seriously. It's the place I go when I need to recharge my enthusiasm or test out an idea for a rig or bait presentation. There are a few very nice fish in the main lake, but the general, run of the mill, carp are low to mid doubles.
The two Mk IV's fitted with a couple of very late Mitchell 300's - not that there's anything wrong
with them, they just aren't right for these two rods, historically.
I arrived around 15.30 hrs and had paid my fee and got my gear to the swim within an hour, ringing Benno to let him know I'd arrived. He turned up just before 17.00 hrs, having been working close by, and we had a chat about the rods and future plans. I had cast the first rod out and was preparing the second rig when the alarm sounded and the indicator smoothly rose towards the butt. Over went the rod and a satisfying curve developed as the fish was hooked. I had baited the rod with "Spicy Peperami" fished over my usual particle mix - something wasn't right, the fish was powerful, but it didn't feel like a carp; and so it proved. A bloody pike of 11 lbs 2 oz, hooked fairly in the jaw, but what an anemic looking fish - typical of dirty water conditions? Benno took some photos before bidding me "tight lines" and heading off home.



It was just after 21.00 hrs that I had a screaming take on the other rod, chick peas, and this time there was no mistaking the speed and power of the carp on the other end. A plump little Mirror, of 11 lbs 6 oz, graced my landing net - yet avoided the photo call due to a dodgy camera sensor, which was probably due to the damp; it was drizzling all evening before changing to heavier, and more persistent, rain much later. And that was my lot, I'm afraid - I missed a chance at around 02.00 hrs, it was off before I could get out of my sleeping bag!
It's a start and the rods are an absolute joy to use; that they are cradled on twin bars with modern alarms just adds to the piss take. I will have some fun when I roll up with this kit at a serious venue!

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Am I missing the point?

I first bumped into Kevin Nash when his embryonic business empire was based on "carp sacks" and he told me (and Cuddles) at a tackle show/London Regional NASA Conference gig (Reading University - 1980 something?) that he had a plan to revolutionise the product (an industrial nylon bag; with a drawstring on the top) by a simple advertising campaign. Didn't he just! Diamo-flow carp sacks - same product just the holes were diamond shaped as opposed to circular! Improved water ingress, better carp safety and much other associated bullshit - with this one simple marketing ploy, Kevin cornered the market, and Nash Tackle made a nice few quid!
Nash 2016 - the latest in the series of Youtube annual sales pitches (all four hours of it!) is just as clever, as you would, rightly, expect (check out the Eurobanx 2 bit - Lake Bled in Slovenia, absolutely fantastic - it is right at the end around 3 hrs 20 mins). Kevin and his, carefully assembled and extraordinarily talented, team seeking to promote their wares by highlighting the subtle changes and "improvements" that Nash Tackle have developed over the previous twelve months. I have to admit that many of the advances in angling technology are amazing. Nash, Korda, Fox, (Pete) Drennan and Free Spirit have, along with many other companies, pushed the boundaries of rod design, bite indication, bivvies, bedchairs and terminal tackle, with all its' reliability, far beyond anything I could of imagined. The bait industry has taken Fred Wilton's theories and explored avenues which he didn't know existed. His basic theory remains sound - the baits, which are now being produced, of a quality Fred could have, but, dreamt of! He had access to neither the science, nor ingredients, which we're now able to take for granted. But what's it all for?
It would seem that we now live in an age of freshwater angling mono-culture. If you go coarse fishing - then, the market assumes, you are a carp angler! It is a multi-million pound business which aims to extract as much money, as possible, from those individuals who have succumbed to the slick advertising and the, over- hyped, allure of these wonderful fish. In these modern times anglers, it seems, are changing their rods and reels more regularly than they change their socks!
Last year Nash were singing the praises of their "Scope" range of products - bloody telescopic fishing rods - fandango gimmicks and nothing new. This year it's 13 footers because they give you that "extra distance". The only common denominator is that both products are fishing rods which come with test curves of 3lbs and above! Why would anyone require a fishing rod which has all the finesse of a scaffold pole? Dick Walker landed Clarrissa (all 44 lbs of her) from, a weed choked, Redmire Pool using a 10ft split cane Mk IV, of his own design and manufacture, the test curve being around one and a half pounds. The only thirteen footers that I own were purchased in the 1980's and are a Bruce & Walker HMC 2 3/4 lbs t/c and a Tri-cast 2 1/4 lbs t/c and they have all the feel, and action, of broom sticks! Don't take this the wrong way - these rods do have a very specific purpose; my Scottish 24 lbs 10 oz pike was taken on the heavier one of them, but they ain't general purpose all rounders. In 2016, guys are turning up at commercial "carp puddles" with 3 1/2 lbs t/c rods, "Big Pit reels" and all the other gear they were "conned" (mislead) into buying having watched a Korda "Masterclass" on Youtube. Is it any wonder that so many of these commercial fishery carp have deformed mouths?

I took this "gut bucket" on a float fished prawn whilst perch fishing.
6 lbs b.s.line, a Match Aerial centre-pin, on a 1 lbs 2 oz t/c Tring Tench rod.
At no time did I feel disadvantaged by my tackle, although I did have a little fun
as I struggled to keep it out of the bankside bushes!
I suppose it is all about personal choice, yet can't help but feel that modern anglers are so over gunned, using 3lbs + t/c kit, that the enjoyment of doing battle with a fish has been lost? It's not the experience of the fight, but the resultant photo that matters most - and there are some outstanding examples to be seen on social media and in the mags. All of my Winter pike and eel fishing has been done using the Duncan Kays (1 lbs 10 oz t/c), my barbel gear is either 1 lbs 12 oz or 1 lbs 2 oz t/c and every carp I've caught, since 2011, has been taken on rods with a test curve of less than 1 lbs 12 oz. At no time have I felt that I was unable to take control of the situation - granted; I might be a while longer in getting the fish to my waiting net, but this prolonged enjoyment has never been at the expense of my captures welfare and their safe return to the environs from whence they came.
Benno uses Shimano "Hyperloops", Sye has Grey's Prodigy's and many other superb new rods which are way outside my experience. Technology moves our lives forward, a basic fact and one which I embrace in all other aspects of my day to day existence. Mobile phones, laptop computers, cars that don't breakdown and digital cameras - I enjoy the benefits of them all, but still hanker for those quirky experiences borne of uncertainty - when quality assurance wasn't quite the exact science it is today. The angling project for my split cane thirty (a new PB would be a result!) has all the unknown factors I now seek. Living, as I do, in East Kent, a 30 lbs carp is not a "big fish" (but it is!!!) and many of the local venues are able to offer me a chance of a fish of this size, and much bigger! So what can be more twisted than the fact that I wish to catch a thirty using a split cane Mk IV - well I'm going to do it using particles! Under no circumstances am I using a boily on one of those iconic rods - everything else will be as good as I know how, but I ain't using boilies! (And I ain't using par-boiled potatoes either!) I have given myself six months in which to complete this challenge - although, as yet, I have still to finalise  my venue choices?
Bev and I took a quick trip down to see Kevin (Tuesday afternoon) and I have booked a night out on Sandwich Coarse Fishery to have a little play with my new toys. Weather forecast isn't the best, but hey-ho! I'm going fishing and "you've gotta be in it, to win it!" After my meeting with Lee Morris, yesterday afternoon, I now find myself looking for some Mitchell 300's which are contemporary to my rods. It will not be an e-bay lottery - Mitchell made many thousands of these reels and they were of a build quality that ensured they've stood the test of time, I should be able to to get what I want for less than £100? In the interim, I am going to use my ABU Cardinal 66X's - twenty years the junior of the rods, but splendid examples of Swedish engineering (1973 - 75). As I'm not attempting to become a Dick Walker clone, or even Chris Yates, having neither the ability or desire, I just want to experience the feel of these iconic artefacts in as historic an encounter as I can recreate. (Sadly time travel is not an option!) The really crazy bit about this whole project is that I wasn't party to it, first time round. By the time I started fishing split cane rods had, already, been superseded by glass -fibre versions! I wonder just how many of my "ultra-cult carp fashionista" detractors will have any idea as to who Richard Walker was - even less; care about the split cane statement I'll be making? Modern times - happy anarchic days! We'll see?

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Dreams

Bev and I have enjoyed a superb weekend - it's extremely comforting when money is of no consequence! No, I haven't just won the lottery - an insurance policy has matured and released a nice few quid. Bev's got her new motor (a six grand birthday present - how generous am I?) and tomorrow afternoon I am headed to Essex to meet with Lee Morris to collect my new (old) rod - the second B James & Son (1957) Mk IV split cane! Anarchy awaits - look at me! The local carp "fashionista's" have a new kid on the block - yep! I too can catch carp but don't need the over-hyped kit that is on display for all to see. If a Mk IV was good enough for Dick Walker it's plenty good enough for me, two are even better. That carp challenge awaits and I'm right up for it - a split cane 30 before September?
Of course I'm dreaming - but what point to life if dreams ( Go on, hit that link - be brave and listen to what Jonathan Livingstone Seagull has to offer?) are unattainable? Dear Father we dream we dream, while we may!

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Life is good

Work is hectic, yet life is good in the Wrathall household! Things are starting to come together and "Easy Street" beckons! Bev's birthday, today, so a social itinerary to follow. New cars and old fishing rods to purchase - it's been a long time coming!


I've been searching through my lost treasure and have discovered some proper gems - this is the stuff of dreams. Digi-scoping was all the rage, then I got a D-SLR camera with a 500mm lens and yet, it is difficult to notice any improvement in quality of the end results.

Imm/female Black Redstart on our bungalow roof


The weather, on Thanet, remains inclement, to say the least. North - North Easterly winds persist with temperatures reaching 6 or 7C at best. Skies are grey and nights cold - so no raptors or moths to be seen. It will get better, of that I'm confident, in the meantime I will content myself with memories of bygone times and dream of things to come!





Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Changes

The vast majority of projects I get involved with are through choice. Some, however, are of necessity and far less enjoyable, although they do have "brownie points" as a spin off! At present, along with my neighbours, I am involved in a fence replacement exercise which has been anything but straight forward. Hopefully, it will be completed within the next fortnight and my accrued "b-p's" will result in consent for a couple of over-nighters at Sandwich Coarse Fishery?

This is what the garden looked like in high summer - there's an aviary down there somewhere!

The state of play this morning. The aviary now in full view and the fence line cleared of Buddleias. Still
quite a bit to do before we can get a new fence put up, but we're getting there
The feeding station continues to attract good numbers of birds, although the House Sparrows are a little flighty at being so exposed. That female Sparrowhawk seems to have cottoned on to the fact that the birds inside the aviary are unobtainable and has ceased crashing into the wire netting. I've only run the moth trap on a couple of nights - three species so far; Common Quaker, Hebrew Character and Clouded Drab.
She seems to have learnt the lesson?

Monday, 14 March 2016

My winter eel project - thoughts and conclusions

THE BACKGROUND TO THIS ADVENTURE
No less an individual than (the late/great) John Sidley stated that eels were "warm water fish; rarely encountered after the first frosts". This remains the popular conception, entrenched in the angling community, some thirty-five years after I first read his "Eel Mania" chapter in The Big Fish Scene (1979). Up until the middle of 2015, eels were, in my opinion, just tackle tangling, slimy, useless, pests. It was only when I learnt of the "Critically Endangered" status placed upon the species that I started to view them in a different light. My barbel fishing, on The Kentish Stour, has been a constant battle as I sought ways to avoid the attentions of these fish - even during the winter, my pike fishing was blighted by the ability of this species to home in on any soft-bodied dead baits; it didn't matter what month of the year! Critically endangered? Not in East Kent they ain't - so I decided to have a month of concerted effort following the reaction, of Darren Roberts - via my comments facility, to my moaning about the capture of a 3 lbs 6 oz specimen (6th July 2015) whilst carp fishing on a local drain. My plan was to spend the whole of October (2015) deliberately setting my stall to catch an eel by design, something I had never previously attempted - despite an accidentally captured PB of 7 lbs 1 oz (exactly the same as John Sidley!)

That eel of 3 lbs 6 oz - I claimed it ruined my day, Darren Roberts commented that it would "make his season!"
The reality slap of how "endangered" this species is spurred me on to deliberately seek to catch one.
OCTOBER 2015
I was able to get four sessions in, during the month, catching eels on every outing - they're that bloody easy? My approach to this angling challenge had been assisted, and shaped, by the superb facility provided by the www.nationalanguillaclub.co.uk (The Eel Anglers Club of GB) website. Although I have no desire to join this band of eccentrics - I take my hat off to their total commitment to the promotion of angling for, and conservation of, this crazy species.

3 lbs 1 oz - the fish that planted the seeds of a challenge in my head
On the 24th I caught an eel of 3 lbs 1 oz and the seeds, for a continued challenge, were sown. Could I deliberately capture an eel in every month of the traditional pike season (October - March)? The local pike fishing is pants and I have no desire to travel excessively in pursuit of "big pike". This challenge would, therefore, provide focus for my efforts and be a journey into the unknown - just how I like my fishing at this stage in my angling career! I couldn't find any advice on how to go about winter eel fishing, thus I would have to learn from my mistakes as the project progressed.

NOVEMBER 2015
I only required one session to achieve my target. On the 19th, a short session, into dark, resulted in three eels landed, from five bites, 1 lb 4 oz, 1 lb 6 oz & 1 lb 10 oz. Job done, roll on December. Missed bites seemed to be a common theme; lighting quick runs which resulted in a strike into thin air. I will offer my thoughts on this, and other subjects, at the end of the monthly round up.

DECEMBER 2015
I was out on the evening of the 1st and, what'd you know, I get an eel of 2 lbs 2 oz but loose a much better fish at the net, with the resultant dummy spitting tantrum. I also had a small scraper double pike, which was sort of ironic (well I thought so!) Back out again, on the 30th, I manage another small eel of around a pound.

JANUARY 2016
On Sunday 10th I set up my gear for the first time in the new year, the last day of a run of very mild weather. I had visited the swim the previous day and introduced a few freebies in preparation for my visit. At 16.10 hrs a beautiful slow take resulted in the smallest pike I've ever caught, on rod and line, so the pre-baiting obviously worked! Exactly an hour later and I'm away again, this time an eel of 3 lbs 2oz finds its' way to the net and a session in front of the camera. The 24th saw me experience my first total blank session - not even a single bleep from the indicators. Was this a sign of things to come? Not a bit of it; back again on the 29th and a small eel of less than a pound was the outcome from four bites in a hectic 35 minute spell. Much head scratching before the "eureka" moment - again; I will expand upon this at the end of the round up.

My second three pounder of the campaign


FEBRUARY 2016
Once again, I managed to winkle out a small eel on my very first session of the month, thus the pressure was off which was just as well. I had a further four visits, two of which were completely uneventful and another which saw me "plagued" by pike! It was the session on the 22nd which was to see my only real success, a fish of around two pounds taken on a new bait - prawns, and new presentation, a direct result of my "eureka" moment from the previous month!

MARCH 2016
Wednesday 2nd and I'm back out there - it's bloody freezing, but forecast to get much colder. Am I going to falter at the final hurdle? A total blank session, not even enlivened by a Barn Owl or something similar. I cut a very forlorn figure as I trudged off the marsh that night. The long range forecast was not particularly inspiring and it seemed that I was doomed to failure. Obviously, just because The Environment Agency imposed the close season on my selected drains didn't mean that I couldn't pursue my challenge on The Royal Military Canal, but I knew that my heart was set on an eel from the marshland drains which had provided me with such a fantastic challenge over the previous five months. And so to the events of Saturday 12th - it was down to this session to make or break my ambition. Those two fish, right at the death, are the realisation of a plan which was hastily drawn up in response to "You can't catch eels in the Winter"

The realisation of a crazy project - never has any fish been more welcome.

CONCLUSIONS & SOME TECHNICAL STUFF
Let's get this started by acknowledging the fact that living in East Kent, with its' associated "micro-climate", is a major factor in my success. I am not a particularly good angler, although I am bloody persistent when I set myself targets. What I've achieved is something which very few other UK anglers have ever done - that's what makes it so special to me. It was a project which allowed me scope to discover stuff for myself, as there is very little information to assist in this particular situation. My enjoyment was derived as much from the challenging of established beliefs about eel behaviour, during the colder months, as using my experiences from previous pike seasons to demonstrate that eels do still feed in very cold water and can, therefore, be caught deliberately.

My standard set-up. A Duncan Kay, an ABU 66X, angled needle with light weight monkey and
a front-runner bite alarm.
This project was not about seeking specimen eels, it was, instead, focused on deliberately targeting them during a period of the year which is generally regarded as a waste of time. My thoughts are, therefore, just a general overview of my personal experiences and not a "how to do it" guide. Because of my venue choices, the tackle I used was not that which would be considered normal by today's eel anglers. My rods are 11' 6", 1 lbs 10 oz T/C  Duncan Kay carp rods which were either fitted with my ABU Cardinal 66X's or Mitchell 300's always loaded with 12 lbs b.s. mono. Bite indication was via monkeys on angled needles in conjunction with audible "roller-type" alarms. My hook links were a combi-rig made from 12 lbs b.s. Korda Sub Line and 40 lbs b.s.high abrasion resistant braid with a size 10 or 8 Kamasan Barbel Maxx hook with the barb crushed in. I courted with the Albright Knot for joining the two materials, but just couldn't get on with it. I finally settled on the four-turn water knot (as used in the 1980's for our Tring tench rigs) and have never experienced any issues with it.
That "eureka" moment? Well it was to ditch the braided hair and fish my baits directly on the hook - I know, you couldn't make it up! I still believe that the hair would have a role to play if I was fishing for big eels, but feel sure that it was responsible for many of the missed bites I experienced due to the basic fact that these small eels didn't actually have the hooks inside their mouths as they moved off with my baits.
My baits have been a very simple selection of fishy type origins, plus the trusty lob worm. I have had success using Spratt, Bluey and Sardine sections, squid, prawns and worms - in fact everything I have offered has resulted in at least one fish to the net.
It has been five and a half months of absolute pleasure as I've challenged myself and the accepted thinking of Winter Eel fishing. I have become fascinated by these fish and might, at some time in the future, revisit the challenge in an attempt to target a "big fish". In the meantime I'm going to have a couple of weeks away from fishing before embarking on the next project - a split cane carp campaign, with a twist! It has all the ingredients to be just as rewarding a challenge - I'll reveal more after the Easter break.




Sunday, 13 March 2016

Only gone and "dunnit"

Saturday 12th March 2016 - a date that will go down in angling folklore? My March eel is in the net, swiftly followed by a second, and what a way to complete a challenge. I arrived at the drain around 16.00 hrs - all three rods out and bait introduced by 17.00 hrs. Left hand rod - prawns, middle rod - spratt head section, right hand rod - lob worm (as suggested by Benno & Derek F). It was a strange session, I had no indication on any rod for nearly three hours. It was cold and clear, with a gentle easterly coming straight off the sea; I was confident whilst it was light - when it got dark my feelings were less enthusiastic.


I'd almost given up hope when, at 19.40 hrs, the left hand rod rattled away and I found myself attached to a very spirited fish. As is usual, the netting was a bit of a saga, but resulted in my best fish of the whole campaign - 3 lbs 10 oz; I was on cloud nine! It was whilst I was attempting to get some selfies of this fish that the right hand rod was away and the second eel of the session became engulfed in the landing net. Just a tiddler, this time - a pound and a bit - but a brace in March, I was very happy to pack up and head for home - job done!

I will get a decent photo of me with an eel - sometime?
Only a complete goon could find fault with this result - I'm still "buzzing"!

Saturday, 12 March 2016

It's a start

I fired up the moth trap, last night, for the first time in 2016 and actually caught one! A Common Quaker was discovered on the egg boxes, thus I'm off the mark. Although daytime conditions are superb, for migrating raptors, the nights are still rather cold (around 3C) with an easterly airflow; so not ideal.

The Reed Bunting is still hanging around the garden and I managed a nice series of images as it repeatedly dropped down into next door's garden to feed around the bonfire site that been established as we've cleared our dividing fence line. The gardens are much tidier, but lack privacy at the moment and will remain such until we're able to reinstate the fence.





Friday, 11 March 2016

Newland's Friday

It was just after 05.30 hrs that I made my way across to work. Several Golden Plover flushed from the newly planted potato field and there was a flurry of Redwings, passing overhead; the first for some while. I had a blinding day at work - deeply insulted when my boss asked me to sweep the outside perimeter, taking care to ensure the chiller units were cleared of leaf litter! Are you sure? The same dough as I get for grafting, just to push a broom around in the sunshine - oh! the utter humiliation.

Despite my protests - off I went into the great outdoors, thinking of penning a letter to my member of parliament about this shoddy treatment. The skies were clear and the gulls busily going about their courtship routines - perfect for raptor indication. A couple of false alarms before, at 10.50 hrs two Common Buzzards were seen, as they spiralled north, causing some minor irritation to the flock.


Common Buzzards over Newland's Farm. It happens every year - can't stop it being exciting. Spring is very close.
As I arrived back home, a little after 13.00 hrs, there was a massive reaction over Pyson's Road, but I failed to locate the cause from my back garden. Shouldn't have worried because less than ten minutes later the gulls were up, over the estate, as a group of six Common Buzzards drifted leisurely westward. The gulls remained agitated, although I failed to spot any more Buzzards. Just to put the cherry on the top - a Reed Bunting landed in the garden Elder, calling loudly, then flitted into one of the, heavily pruned, Buddleias beside my aviary - allowing a quick record shot before it moved on. Spring is very close!

Reed Bunting in a garden Buddleia - nice!
I bumped into Franny, yesterday, and spoke about the local birding (and mothing) - very quiet at present. He enquired about my March eel? I have got one more session available, tomorrow night, before I have to "chuck in the towel" on the local drains. With another two weeks, of the month, remaining, it might be possible to salvage the project, should I fail tomorrow, by giving the RMC a bash? (No close season restrictions)

Open bale arms - monkey's on angled needles, there's an awful lot I have to
offer as conclusions from this fantastic angling adventure.
One thing is for sure; I will never again view eels as a nuisance species! (Which is very different from a pain in the arse!) 
I have quite a few ideas, and things to say, about this particular angling challenge - the post has already been started and awaits my final thoughts, some more photos, and results, but will be appear on my blog no later than 1st April.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Eight books for a desert island?

This could be fun? Steve Gale; prompted by Jon Dunn, has started yet another ball rolling - eight books for a desert island. I don't think I've ever read eight books! - of course I read, but I dabble, love the power of the written word, but can't seem to find the enthusiasm to read a book from start to finish.There have been one or two exceptions, but I am not easily drawn into the romanticism of epic tales from a period before I was born. Strange when everything about my angling and general appreciation of my surroundings is based upon the idyll of a countryman - a long forgotten concept in 2016.
I have a library full of hundreds of books but, by and large, they are reference material and not something which would hold much fascination should I ever find myself marooned on a desert island. I have to assume that the stay upon this island would be lengthy and my choice, therefore, be diverse enough to provide stimulus for a stagnating brain?

No. 1 - Johnathan Livingstone Seagull - Richard Bach

If ever I require confirmation of why it's important that I am truly an individual - this simple book has it all. How far can anyone push themselves before they discover their limitations? I loved it as a teenager - it's even more apt now. I'm fully aware of The God Squad undertones, it remains, however, an inspirational story written by a talented aviator and word-smith
.









No. 2 - Wild Chorus - (Sir) Peter Scott

One of the greatest champions of conservation the world has ever known; beyond any doubt? This wonderful book was first published in 1938, my copy a rather tatty 1944 re-print. It recalls Peter's early years as a wild-fowler, tales of hardship and endurance as he sought his quarry out on the coastal wilderness of Fenland, The Solway and many other venues, home and abroad. Generously illustrated by his own art work, it is a magical read, transporting one back to those pre-war times and the excitement of stormy weather and the "flighting wild geese"!









No. 3 - Kenzie, The Wild Goose Man - Colin Willock


Sadly, I do not own a copy of this particular book. I was once lent a copy by my great friend Steve Baron, when we worked together at Brooke Bond in Redbourn, Herts. I believe that Colin Willock was the Editor of The Shooting Times when he wrote this biography. It is about one of the greatest wild-fowlers ever to frequent Fenland. Kenzie Thorpe was the very best,of the best, there was. Peter Scott actually employed him when he quit shooting to set up his first wild-fowl collection at the Lighthouse. It is a tale of a hard man, who lived to pursue his passion for shooting wild geese - and he certainly did that. Colin Willock manages to convey the hardships he endured and extraordinary skills he employed to tell the unique story of a bloke called "Kenzie"





No. 4 - The Voyage of the Dawn Treader - C.S. Lewis

The fifth book, of seven, in The Chronicles of Narnia which, for some reason to me, outshines the others in this much acclaimed literary masterpiece. I think that the character of the mouse, Reepicheep, is why I'm so drawn to this magical world? Small of stature, but brave beyond comprehension, this honest and loyal servant wishes to discover more - seek adventure beyond the known boundaries of the Narnian World. A fabulous tale, in a series of brilliantly crafted stories - I'd take the whole lot if I weren't restricted to just eight books!










No. 5 - The Big Fish Scene - edited by Frank Guttfield


Now this might, at first, seem a strange choice as it is a collection of chapters by various authors about how they go about catching various species of UK freshwater fish. It is included for several reasons - firstly I actually met many of the contributors during my time as a member of The National Association of Specialist Anglers Executive Committee. The offerings come from a time before the domination of carp angling over all else, thus each of the species are treated as equals plus the style of writing remains very much entrenched in the countryman approach of that era (1979). Len Head's chapter on "Giant Tench" is the most informative and descriptive piece of angling writing I've ever read - and that's saying something!






No. 6 - Blood Knots - Luke Jennings

A book that would have been undiscovered but for the recommendation of Steve Gale. A tale of friendship, during a life long journey through the three phases of angling priorities, I read it straight through - bloody uncharted territory for me - only to re-read it immediately after; such was the vivid power of Luke Jennings writing style. A wonderful collection of, well written, memoirs in which angling is the common theme throughout - superb; nuff sed!










No. 7 - A Lighthouse Notebook - Norman McCanch


If ever I do get stuck on a desert island and need to understand what is required to keep detailed notes of my encounters with other life forms, then Norman's classic is the template for everyone. His studious attention to detail, incredible artwork and lucid writing style combine to enable you to taste the sea spray as another gale hits his remote workplaces. I am very fortunate to have spent many happy hours in his company - generally in the Grove Ferry/Stodmarsh area, but not always. He is a great guy and this book is testament to his enthusiasm and ability as both an all-round naturalist and artist.







No. 8 - Angling in Earnest - Fred J Taylor

As important as Richard Walker was in the embryonic days of modern specimen angling, Fred J was the guy to whom pleasure anglers, of that period, were better able to relate. His writing was simplistic, yet powerfully descriptive none the less, and able to draw ordinary folk into his world without patronising or appearing aloof. Fred was a true countryman, equally at home with a shotgun or ferret as a fishing rod. He was an immense character in an era full of such people, yet it is his genuine love for the outdoors and sharing knowledge and experience which sets him apart from his peers - it's still some of my favourite angling literature despite being written in 1958.






So there you have it - two days it's taken me to come up with this little offering - two very enjoyable days of thought and discussion. Bev has a very differing list, she being a keen reader of many authors old and new. I even chatted about the concept with guys at work - with varying levels of response and enthusiasm. I will end by thanking Steve (and Jon) for the idea; it's been great fun and I echo Steve's comment that it should be compulsory for all natural history-type bloggers to have a go.