Who am I?

My photo
An individual, of no great importance, who is unable to the see the natural world as a place for competition. I catch fish, watch birds, derive immense pleasure from simply looking at butterflies, moths, bumble-bees, etc - without the need for rules! I am Dylan and this is my blog - if my opinions offend? Don't bother logging on again - simple!


Friday, 4 March 2016

Those same questions - part two

I'll attempt to keep this to a similar template but, obviously, the secondary topics will revolve around size and difficulty rather than perceived rarity. Excitement remains the same, whatever the cause!

Why fishing? I feel that my own interest stems from that same childhood period, which also sparked my birding, in the 1960's, when I was free to roam and discover the countryside for myself. I could dig worms from the garden and take my gear down to The River Gade, which flowed through Gadebridge Park at a time when it was a mass of commercial water cress beds and not the municipal amenity that it is today. The river teemed with fish and I could catch Minnows by the bucketful, occasionally it would be a Bullhead that picked up the worm or even a wild Brown Trout. As I grew older, and wandered farther afield, The Grand Union Canal offered me the chance to develop my skills and widen my experience with fish like Gudgeon, Roach, Perch and "skimmer" Bream. There were no restrictions on unaccompanied children (me and my mates) fishing - we'd often cycle, rods already assembled and lashed to the cross-bar, to our chosen venues. Summer holidays were long, hot and fish filled - or rather that's how my, selective, memory recalls those by-gone times.
With this as my background, the angling bug bit hard, and many of my school friends were also afflicted and the competitive exuberance of youth drove us on. The angling press of that period still split its coverage of angling into pleasure and match fishing, both getting equal billing - the top match anglers were much acclaimed and deserved all the plaudits they received. Some of the guys went off down this "specialist" route, whilst I remained, for a time, a pleasure angler - happily catching whatever was stupid enough to pick up my baits. I would have been in my early teens, now at Secondary School, when the embryonic move into "specimen hunting" first started out. Chub and pike were the two species involved, although tench quickly followed as I gained access to Pixie's Mere. The rest, as they say, is history!

Still in my 20's - a very small (7 lbs-ish) pike from The Grand Union Canal near Winkwell, Herts.
As my journey through angling has two, very distinct, phases - separated by an eighteen year gap -  I have changed the seen and found questions, of my birding post, to then and now.

What is the best fish I caught then? Wow! I knew that this was going to be difficult, there were so many "big fish" caught during that chaotic period of my life. It is very difficult to remove the influence that my mates played in the memories of these fish - it is certainly not all about the biggest?
They were happy, anarchic, crazy times. After some considerable thought I have opted for my only river caught twenty pound pike.

8th January 1987 - 20 lbs 1 oz 
Nowhere close to the heaviest pike I caught during this period, it remains a milestone fish - from The River Thames, at Mapledurham, Berks, it is a cherished memory from a period which shaped my life and helped define who I am. It was a mad, mad world back then!

What is the best fish I've caught now? I know that the blog is "Of Esox" and that pike fishing played a pivotal role in my return to the hobby but, for all the superb fish I've been lucky enough to capture, it is not a pike which takes this accolade. The stand out fish, since my return to angling, has to be that wild Common Carp which I caught from a local drain; the first twenty since 1984, it was an event that defied my attempts at, meaningful, description yet defined everything I now seek in my fishing.
10th July 2015 - a fish which makes getting up at 02.00 hrs seem well worth while

What was the most deserved fish then? I expect that my answer will be a surprise to many; it is my PB Bream. By today's standards, this fish isn't worthy of a second glance - carp anglers dismissing such specimens as vermin! To deliberately capture a double figure Bream, in the 1980/90's, was an achievement equating to the "Four Minute Mile" - it was a bench mark that set specimen anglers apart from the "also rans"!

11 lbs 2 oz - Brogborough Lake, Beds
The fact that I had to cross the county border, into Bedfordshire, takes nothing away from my reasoning, although I'd loved to have captured one from the Tring complex - 9 lbs-ish being my best from those waters.

What is my most deserved fish now? I didn't need to think much about this one. The barbel of The (Kentish) River Stour have been an angling challenge, the like of which I've never previously encountered. My results, over three years of trying, are just seven fish - five doubles! It is, therefore, a barbel which best fits this criteria. Not the biggest fish I captured, but the one that I felt had been taken because of my logistics, rather than chuck and chance?

27th July 2014 - 12 lbs 10 oz of hard earned joy
A muggy July evening and I just knew that I had to be back on the river. It was a moment of intense emotion when this fish was engulfed within the mesh of my landing net.

What was the most exciting fish I caught then? An absolute "no brainer" - Atlantic Blue Marlin! If anyone knows of a bigger adrenaline trip than sticking a hook into a thousand pounds of angry Blue Marlin, then I'm up for a bowl full of that. Two weeks on the wonderful island of Madeira and an unbelievable series of events unfolded as thirteen guys, from The Top of the World PH, Hemel Hempstead, took on the best game fishing challenge anywhere around the globe! I saw, and experienced, some of the most awesome fishing that is to be had. These fish could take half a mile of line in a few seconds - we were fishing over depths where one and a half miles of line wouldn't reach the bottom! To see a fish of seventeen feet leap clear of the ocean is an awesome spectacle, holding the rod, whilst it is doing so, is a very humbling experience indeed.

Carp anglers and their "Big Pits" - these beasts boasted gear boxes and line capacity
in excess of two miles!

What is the most exciting fish I've caught since? I would hope that the majority of visitors will have some type of empathy when discovering that it was those experiences with Blue Marlin that actually ended my first period of angling. How could I possibly continue fishing for pike or carp after such an experience? There are two fish in the mix for this answer, both of equal worth, thus I will offer them as joint "winners" That they are both pike probably assists my cause - why else would I need to continue blogging as "Of Esox & Observation"?

It went 8 lbs 7 oz - the first fish I'd captured in eighteen years!
You bet I was excited!
The first English "double" since 1993 - I was made up and it had
a proper row!
It's a bit of a weird one, going fishing. Intruding into a world where we don't belong - the art of angling being of more historical relevance than the "hunter/gather's" requirement to provide food for the table. I have no problem with angling, for sport, as opposed to the acquisition of food. My angling allows  me the opportunity to connect with the vibe that is being a countryman. I understand the "antis" - "torturing another life form in order to gain pleasure?"  My response to this viewpoint is "Don't knock it until you've tried it" - seems pretty reasonable from where I'm sitting.


  1. 18 years without fishing Dyl! I didn't realise you had stopped totally. Personally, I became a dabbler/pleasure angler.
    Satisfaction now in my fishing only involves the catching of fish, and I try to do the least amount needed to succeed. One rod, one hook, me looking for one bite from one fish, sort of thing.
    Having to factor in human competition can lead to all sorts of nonsense. Did I really secure a swim simply down to my ability to run faster than the others?

  2. Rich,
    If you've not already read it, can I recommend the you get a copy of "Blood Knots" by Luke Jennings. It is a wonderful description of the journey through angling, separating the experiences in to three distinct phases. You and I, both, are now firmly at stage three! It's about how - not how big!

  3. I'm going to disagree with the fish that you most deserved and replace it with your Scottish twenty. After thirty years of trying and watching Tom, Simon and myself take one a peice, never has a fish been so deserved or welcomed by anyone!

    1. Benno - if there had been a section for a most wanted fish - that Scottish twenty would be top of the pile. The pike that nearly made it was my Royal Military Canal twenty - a very special fish taken at the start of our most successful period at this under-rated venue. Crazy thing is - can anyone really deserve a fish? You can do your best to ensure success, but luck still plays a major role whatever efforts you have made. - Dad

  4. If there was a section for most celebrated fish I reckon it would have taken some beating as well. The truth of it is, wether you can deserve fish or not, the more you practise.... The luckier you get !!

    1. Benno - I'd have drunk more than that for breakfast in the "Cuddly" era! Twenty four cans of Tennant's Super in 24 hours was par for the course - and we hadn't even caught anything; it got really serious when we did!