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!


Saturday, 27 May 2017

Garden gold

We've got Emily staying with us, overnight, so I've had to tidy up my study/tackle room in order to use the sofa bed which resides there. As I was about my task I saw a group of five Goldfinches drop down into the top of our garden Christmas tree. I grabbed the camera and went out the front door, so as not to disturb them, and crept down the drive and peered through the trellis at the feeding station. Two birds were already on the sunflower heart feeder, the other three still perched in the lower branches of the tree. I rattled off a few shots, just because I could. They are lovely little birds and always welcome around the garden.

How can you fail to like birds like these around your garden?

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Really looking forward to this

In mid-May I changed from weekly to monthly pay - no big deal but, as I also received my annual profit share bonus, all of a sudden there was a lot of money in the account. I knew it was coming and had booked a week off well in advance. However, because Bev and I had no idea as to the actual amount, we'd not looked at any holiday scenario seriously. All of a sudden we knew exactly what we had to play with and Bev was straight on the case. Hence we're off to Tenerife for a short break and I'm surprisingly excited by the prospect. Bev's never been there, I visited the island in the early 1980's, but not since. It will be a nice change of scenery, if nothing else?

Southern Grey Shrike - Gran Canaria Jan 2004
We had our honeymoon on Gran Canaria, in January 2004 (bloody hell - time flies!) and I was still full on birding at that stage. I remember being fascinated by the subtle differences in the Chiffchaffs, Blue Tits, Kestrels and Yellow-legged Gulls (I wasn't aware of the "atlantis"  sub-group at that time?)
The other thing I recall was the numerous "rare" moths I encountered - yet another manifestation of my complete ignorance of such concepts. They were only rare because I was limited to UK (Kent) records - elsewhere on the planet they were as common as muck!

It's true that I no longer "digi-scope", my camera kit is hardly cutting edge despite the monumental advances in digital photographic technology which has occurred during the intervening years. My gear is functional and, more importantly, robust, thus well suited to the treatment I dish out. I still carry my 8 x 42 Bausch & Lomb "Elite" bins which, although rather tatty, remain superb optics. So, for one week only, I am hoping to rediscover some of the magic that new experiences are able to bring to birding. I'm even more drawn by the challenge of capturing images that are significantly better than those which I took in 2004 with a Nikon Cool pix 775 through a Kowa TSN 823?

African Blue Tit (?)

A bird with which I'd love to spend some more time - Spectacled Warbler
A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since 2004 - I still would like to think that there is something more to add to my appreciation of the natural world, beyond sun, sea and copious amounts of "light ale"

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

On a lighter note

I'd just popped out to get a loaf of bread from our local shop and flushed a Painted Lady, butterfly, from the Red Valerian that grows along our driveway. Task completed, toast made, I was able to spend a bit of time with my camera kit grabbing some images of this smart little insect. It's the first one I've seen in the garden this year, although there were several along the track from Preston churchyard, to Deerson, last week end.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Liars for a living

The desire to be one should prevent any individual from ever becoming one - an observation by Billy Connolly ref: politicians. On 18th April 2017, Theresa May announced her decision to call a snap General Election in order to strengthen her hand whilst dealing with the "Brexit mandate" negotiations following the triggering of Article 50. Seemed pretty straight forward from where I sit - Jeremy Corbyn is hell-bent on leading The Labour Party into oblivion, UKIP  in melt-down and the Liberals a total joke - she had pulled off a masterstroke? A win at a canter - easy peasy!
But no! Let's forget the Brexit deal and introduce some other policies which will assist our cause and make our party so popular as to be un-assailable. The Conservative Party has scored the greatest "own goal" in the history of politics (during my life-time) with their ill considered social care manifesto policy. Let's think about this for a nano-second? We want to win a general election, what should we do to make ourselves as popular as possible? Yeah, I know, let's threaten to impose a stealth tax on the entire generation of home owners who fell for the "right to own their own home" gag of Maggie Thatcher. Fucking genius - NOT! All those hard working, Tory supporting, ordinary people. Paid into the system for their entire lives, now being targeted as a problem because we are getting old and will need looking after in our latter years. Maybe if the money we've contributed to the system had been better managed, then the problem wouldn't be there? The Conservative Party has never, and will never, be about the working man - but then again, none of the alternative options are any better. They will say exactly what you want to hear in the run up to an election. Once ensconced in their comfy chair, nothing they promised will be of any consequence, they've made it to self-serving utopia.
In the aftermath of the shameful, cowardly, terrorist attack in Manchester, I have seen politicians, of all persuasions, singing from a single hymn sheet. The problem of social care isn't going to disappear because Theresa has had a change of mind  about the detail. If our politicians are able to unite in times of crisis, then it might be possible for the same unity when dealing with problems which will affect us all. If it's a good idea, why does it matter which party thought of it? It's still a good idea. On June 8th I want to vote for a strong and stable government not a "smoke & mirrors"circus act!

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Hobby time

I have spent four hours wandering around in the Stour Valley and, particularly, the ridiculously over priced and over hyped, Wingham Coarse Fishery - a syndicate for people with more money than sense? Everyone away from angling knows these waters as Seaton Gravel Pits, situated just outside the village of Whickambreaux, thus nowhere near Wingham, in the valley of the Little Stour.
Plenty of bivvy dwelling hopefuls surrounding the main lake and a couple of hardcore carpers on the carp lake, funnily enough.

If ever I fail to derive pleasure from watching sights like these, it's time to throw in the towel!
I was down there on the look out for year ticks and wasn't to be disappointed. There were a dozen, or so, Hobbies hawking over the North Lake, out of bounds to the anglers, and two Nightingales were belting out their magnificent song from lakeside thickets. I was really enjoying the simple activity of birding. Common Buzzards are now a gimme in East Kent, doesn't stop them being great fun when viewed through my optics. I did a massive circuit, starting at Hearts Delight, via Seaton GP's, on to Preston Marshes, Preston Church - looking for Spotted Flycatcher; nothing doing and then back to my car. Corn Bunting made it onto the list and I enjoyed some time with a pair of Yellow Wagtails as they bathed in a puddle.

Looking rather bedraggled after emerging from a puddle
As I was already in the area, I took the opportunity to have a quick walk around Grove Ferry. Sand Martins were numerous and also a year tick, so a result of sorts. A couple of male Cuckoos were calling from around the reed beds and I witnessed a spectacular food pass by a pair of Marsh Harriers. The brisk westerly breeze kept many of the small reed bed species out of sight. Odd Reed Warblers flicked across the paths and Cetti's belted out their raucous song from hidden perches within the hawthorn and willow scrub. The only Turtle Dove, I came across, was purring away in the paddock, right beside the Grove Ferry entrance track. Great fun and rather rewarding with five new species added to my pathetic year list.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Red sky learning

Bev's hurt her back and, needing to care for Harry on Tuesday, I took an emergency day off - a major plus point of working for Fujifilm - no problem, no guilt trip mentality involved. You need the day off - have it! So grand-dad spent the majority of his day entertaining his grand-son. We went to two parks/playgrounds, stroked the horses, watched the pigs, smelt the flowers and wandered through Rod & Rex's collection of WW2 stuff - Spitfires, tanks and assorted military hardware - it's a pretty weird place, but we enjoyed it. Just to put the cherry on the cake, we then popped into The Coach & Horses, for a well deserved chocolate ice-cream, a pint of the finest Stella Artois, and a check up on the dress code for Mike & Penny's 25th anniversary bash? Tough life being a grand-dad.
Back to the bungalow by mid-afternoon, we sorted out a bite to eat and some You-tube entertainment before Debbie (Bev's daughter) came to collect her youngest.
A quick check with Bev - ensuring everything was OK and I'm off out down to the local club water. Could I catch a carp in two and a half hours? The answer was yes, but I struggled for it, missing four good chances before eventually setting the hook into the lip of a lively little scamp common. There was a very positive lesson to be had from my time at the fishery, however, I spent the vast majority of my time watching these small carp and their reaction to my floating freebies and hook baits. I was fishing in a small secluded bay in the NE corner of the venue. What wind there had been had died away and the surface remained glassy calm, allowing me a great insight into the behavior of these feeding  fish. It was a real eye-opener to see the violent reaction when coming across any bread. Fish would physically bolt away from the bait, even when it was free floating. In open water; attaching a hook and line ensured total failure, despite the fish being happy to feed from the surface on other offerings. The only situation where these fish felt confident to accept bread was in the margins and/or snags. My only success came by utilizing an old trick from a by-gone era. I cast my free-lined cube of crust under an overhanging willow, ensuring the line had passed over a thin branch, en route. This allowed me to tighten down, ensuring no line was in/on the water, thus present a bait without any obvious signs of a hook being involved.

I stayed until dusk, the fish activity increasing as the light fell away. Much to my surprise, many of the fish involved were Ide, not the carp for which I'd introduced the floating cat biscuit freebies. It was a fabulous evening, a Turtle Dove purred from adjacent farmland, a Cuckoo perched atop many of the fishery high-spots, calling constantly. There were numerous Reed Warblers, a male Reed Bunting, Lesser Whitethroat, Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Cetti's Warbler in the immediate vicinity. I enjoyed the session immensely, despite the lack of fish to the net. The sun set was a magnificent affair - all reds, gold and shades of yellows in a deep blue surround; my camera failing to capture the splendour of the moment - sadly!

Monday, 15 May 2017

Sandwich Sunday social

With deadline pressure growing, Benno, Bryn & I met up on the bank side of Victory Lake, at the Sandwich Coarse Fishery complex, for a last gasp attempt of getting some more material together for next month's offering. I manned the camera whilst Ben provided coaching for the youngest member of our angling gang. It was a really nice touch when Luke turned up to join in with the session. Although he had started off using a quiver-tip set-up, the wind was making the job of spotting bites a little tricky, so we swapped over to a whip to hand and float fished maggot. This proved to be the turning point and Bryn then succeeded in catching a string of small roach and rudd - one a chuck, so very pleasing. I got my photos, Bryn caught his fish and learned a few more lessons about the hobby which might provide a lifetime of enjoyment?

Bryn with the whip to hand, Benno & Luke look on. It was a cracking afternoon session at Sandwich Coarse Fishery
Only small "silvers" but when they are coming "one a chuck", very enjoyable
Luke will testify to the thrill that a hooked fish can provide. He is the only one of us who has a thirty to his name, yet it was a 13 lbs 4 oz common which left him an adrenaline induced mess late on Saturday evening. It's not my story, so I won't tell it, but it is great to know that such things occur and I am amidst kindred spirits.

A very wet, but happy, Luke with a 13 lbs 4 oz common

Friday, 12 May 2017

Progressing slowly

When I think back to the summer of 2011 it seems like eons ago, yet just six years have passed. What were very casual and light-hearted encounters with Longshaw Farm carp have been catalyst to the evolution of a completely different challenge.

A scamp common from Marshside Fishery - a wonderful little day-ticket venue just like Longshaw Farm (July 2013)
When I got back into "specimen angling" carp were probably the least likely species to spark any desire. I'd done with carp fishing; a very successful period in 1983/4 had seen me target the species and have a right result at a municipal park lake in Welwyn Garden City. Instead it was to be pike that captured my attention during that initial period of rediscovery. Then came barbel, what a roller coaster ride that turned out to be? Chub and perch haunted the periphery of my angling effort and eels made an incredible impression during that crazy winter project of 2015/16. Yet there can be no getting away from the fact that, since July 2015, carp have become an increasingly dominant factor in my angling.

February 25th 1984 - Stanborough Lake, Welwyn Garden City (23 lbs 14 oz - still my PB!)
My diary notes make fabulous reading - looking back?
"The fish came to a single boily (as per Kevin Maddocks) relying on the quality of
my bait/rig...... these fish are heavily pressured and although wary, keep returning due
the supply of anglers baits that are regularly deposited in the general area."
It was a revelation when I read my accompanying diary notes which describe the capture of that fish, along with the tackle, and tactics, I employed. Did I really use a single hook bait with any confidence way back then? As for the description of, or implying that, my bait/rig being of exceptional quality is stretching the boundaries beyond breaking point. The bait had a base mix of semolina and soya flour. If we were cutting edge, then the dietary supplement "Complan" was also added to the mix before we over dosed with Geoff Kemp's Cream flavour and a spicy enhancer that I'd been asked to try by Keith Sellick - proprietor of Middlesex Angling Centre. If we wanted colour, then custard powder was the norm, although Rod Hutchinson was already selling bait dye and red was dominant during the period.
And so onward to the 6th July 2015 - a monumental day in my angling adventure and, as is so often the case, a complete accident due to events way beyond my control. I'd planned to go barbel fishing on The Stour in Canterbury, but EA weed cutting had made it impossible. A quick change of venue, although not bait or tackle, was to see me relocate to a small East Kent drain where I thought I might have a chance of a decent tench? With just a bucketful of mixed particles for attraction and some 14 mm halibut pellets as hook baits, I sallied forth and set out my stall. My efforts were not in vain, although it was not tench which responded to my tactics but a magnificent wild carp of 18 lbs 2 oz. (plus a 3 lbs 6 oz eel!)

The fish which kicked it all off - a complete accident! How much more of a part can fate play in my angling adventure?
If ever there was a spark which ignited a flame, then this was it for me. Back, just four days later, and my first carp over twenty pounds, since that fateful day in 1984, found itself engulfed in the mesh of my landing net. Another magnificent wild common carp - all fins and attitude! How stupid would it be if I ignored this opportunity? The chance to explore an unknown and un-tapped potential.
My early efforts were undertaken using my particle approach. Swims, once chosen, (these initial sessions saw me fishing to features, not locating fish before hand) were given a liberal dosing with my barbel "munga" mix. Which wouldn't have been too much different if I'd made it deliberately for the carp but, because all the ingredients were already present in my bait cupboard, it made no sense to go out and purchase more until I'd used all that I had. My local pet shop, where I buy the seed for my aviary and garden bird feeders, sells a pigeon tonic mix for 90p/kilo and this is the main ingredient. All I do, for added attraction, is put in hemp seed and away I go. Soak it for twelve hours prior to a six hour spell in the slow-cooker at medium setting (Cookery lesson over!). The resultant bait is further enhanced by the addition of liquidized sweetcorn, really cheap stuff that Tesco sell for 35p/tin. I've also played around with added sugar, rock salt and tuna in brine; there's no doubt that it changes the bait yet I can't honestly say that I've any noticeable improvement in results directly attributable to these tweaks? Conversely, it hasn't made the bait any less attractive so I suppose it's all down to personal opinion as to what does and doesn't make a decent "munga".

My back-up maize rig - that pop-up grain of Korda IB plastic is key to the whole presentation.
From the off my choice of hook bait was very easy, I'd used curried chick peas way back in my early days and was extremely confident that, given the circumstances, they would still do the job in 2015. And so it has proven ever since. It doesn't matter if I'm at a heavily pressured day ticket fishery or out on some remote drain, chick peas are always my first choice any time from early Spring to late Autumn. As a back-up, and a direct consequence of using pigeon tonic mix, I started to play around with maize (not sweetcorn!) in conjunction with a fake grain for added buoyancy. This simple ploy has resulted in the heaviest carp of the project, thus far. I landed "The Football" - it's called this because I named it - and came within 4 oz of my PB when this fish made the mistake of picking up my baited rig.

"The Football" - no need for an explanation?
I carried on fishing the East Kent drains but, was already aware of far larger carp than I'd been catching, inhabiting The Royal Military Canal. Why does size matter? In all honesty it doesn't but, being me, having made a promise to my father about catching a thirty on a sixty year old split cane rod (a family gift for my 60th) I have to fulfill my part of the bargain. When he passed away in August of 2016 I became focused on delivering my promise, with Bev in full support, I am now embarked on a mission. Obviously daily reality cannot be ignored - work, mortgage, bills, etc... have to be dealt with before this folly can take centre stage. I can afford it so much time and that is dictated by other family priorities. Yet, because it's there, I have purpose whenever I am able to cast a bait into the canal.

Of course there is always the chance that I've missed a trick and the (un-named) carp, I so desire, actually swims in the waters of The East Kent drains? With this at the back of my mind I have no plans to ignore them, but they are covered by the "close season" as decreed by the EA, so, all I have until 16th June, is the canal. These fish are a completely different proposition, as they are subjected to the attentions of a small group of very talented carp anglers. If I am to have any chance of achieving my target then I'll have to be at the top of my game. I'm finding myself rather enjoying the challenge. Am I good enough? Tough question, even tougher to take should the answer be "no" and I fail to realize my dream. So with these factors spinning around in my thinking it was inevitable that I would have to confront reality and attempt to utilize modern baits in my angling effort. It doesn't mean that I've lost sight of my original goal, or even that I have sold out. The best bait in the world won't catch fish if it's in the wrong place! Fish location, bait presentation and watercraft still have a major part to play in my challenge.

Casting a boily on a sixty year old split cane isn't something I ever thought about, during my original planning, it was going to be particles all the way. Strange things happen when you realize that time is no longer an ally. I am now fully committed to using whatever terminal tackle is required, be that rigs or bait, to ensure the best chance of delivering my promise to Dad. However, I have not yet completely abandoned the original project which required the fish to be of wild origins. I'm not about to go rocking up at some trendy day-ticket complex to catch "Wendy" at thirty-six - "she went thirty-four, seven last time out" - just to get a result. All the time I'm fit enough to get up for work, then I'm well enough to go fishing and long may it continue! Bait and wait ain't likely to happen, any time soon, either. The last time I did an over-nighter was 15/16th June 2016, the last time I used a bivvy was Scotland in April of the same year. If I am to achieve this ambition it will on my terms and under my rules. I hope that ability will allow me to by-pass the methodology of the time bandits and deliver a result due to an angling apprenticeship, learned, when all fish were equal?

Saturday, 6 May 2017

More carping on

This recent run of N/E winds and low temperatures has done nothing to assist my cause. Benno, Luke and I blanked on Thursday evening, none of us had a touch, and these conditions look set to continue well into next week. I've made comment, previously, about the importance I place on my own confidence when setting off after my target species. As such, the carp fishing is on hold until there is a significant change in the weather. This doesn't mean that I stop thinking about them and the problems which I require to solve in order to achieve my goal. I have my rig testing tank to assist my efforts as I explore new (to me) avenues of bait presentation.

Any fish feeding over this "munga" will develop no preferences as to the size of the food item they are eating.
I believe their confidence increases the longer they stay on the bait, therefore pre-baiting is a valuable
tactic when conditions are right.  It certainly paid dividends during my time out on the marshland drains.
I have always enjoyed fishing over a bed of mixed particles be that for carp or barbel. In my opinion the fish can become so preoccupied with feeding that the choice of hook bait is of very secondary importance. They are picking up seeds of various sizes and can't possibly associate one item with danger when in such a situation? Well that's how I used to think until watching some underwater footage of carp bolting away from "fluro" pop-ups in these very circumstances. Two things to think about here. Firstly; these particular carp inhabited a heavily pressured venue and probably knew every trick in the book! The second point, that I picked up on, is why would you fish a "fluro" pop-up over mixed particles in the first place? No, don't worry - I'm not that thick, fully aware of the pulling power of a high-viz, high attract offering over a bed of freebies. However, I have absolutely no doubt that these type of offerings are very quick to blow, such is the ability of carp to suss these things. So there might be a time and place in my current situation where doing just that could provide the chance of a bite because I'm fishing for very naive fish by comparison. I am not yet using particles this year and am still trying to concentrate my efforts on bait presentation and the effectiveness of my rigs whilst using boilies, in their various guises.
Cheap as chips! Some ancient baits that I purchased from The Range
when I was still happy playing around "scamping" at the local commercials.
There are a couple of things which I employ that might go against normal thinking. Obviously they are based on theories, I've certainly not caught enough carp to base anything on my experiences with the species. It was in July 2015 that I caught my first twenty since February 1984 and the desire was re-ignited. However, it wasn't until my 60th birthday (Dec 2015) that a plan came together - a thirty on a 1959 split cane Richard Walker Mk IV. This has become the focus of my angling since the passing of my father in August 2016 and I think my recent blogging reflects this single-minded ambition.
Danny Fairbrass swears by these - I'll reserve judgement until such time
as that thirty succumbs to my efforts
I have no idea how modern carp baits are produced, but concede that there are some outstanding products available from the various retail outlets. It is my theory that carp will not by-pass a good quality bait to get to another. My current baiting strategy is based upon this and I have a small take away tub full of air dried 15 mm boilies. They are of four different varieties, from two manufacturers (Nash and Camo), and these will act in a similar manner to my particles. With the carp browsing over an area, of silt, picking up a bait here and there, my mixed offerings should not arouse any suspicion of my baited rig! My hook bait is a single pop-up from the Mainline range, of which I have four varieties to choose from. The one thing I'm not doing is attempting to "match the hatch" Because I'm fishing over silt, the pop-up rig is preferable as it allows me to present the bait as obvious as possible. Carp should discover my bait easily and, because they are already feeding, make that mistake which results in a visit to my landing net?

A wild "Common" from a very unfashionable venue - it's fish like this that drive me on.
I probably have too much time on my hands and am making things far more complex than they need be? I'll happily await my moment, confident that it will happen given the momentum in my confidence. I've now had six twenties (five on the split canes) since 2015 and look forward to many more as I continue to chase my dream.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Delayed reaction

My two brothers and I (plus Chris Lee, a proper top bloke!) finally finished clearing Dad's house, garden sheds, greenhouse and garage, on Wednesday. Not too shabby considering it was nine months ago that he passed away! With the sale of the property imminent, closure shouldn't be too far behind - we hope? It was a really weird feeling wandering around the house, that my parents had called home for so many years, without any feeling of attachment. That's it - it's all over and the building will no longer have any part to play in my life;  a very strange situation to have to deal with (because that's exactly how I felt as I locked the front door for the final time!) Gas and electricity meters read, in readiness for that contract exchange moment.  St. Faith's will still be there, a lasting memorial to my parents vision, a shining beacon, but there will no longer be any part of me that remains in the village. Ash will become, as Hemel Hempstead before, simply a place I lived during my journey through life! Happy days and momentous occurrences being experienced in both locations, never to be forgotten? However, life is for living, so move on - you only get the one chance!
Back into work, for an early shift, today and I really wasn't too sparkling! For the first time, since August 2016, I found myself missing my Dad. Trying to work it out, I figured that it must have been the shutting of the door that kicked in? Well past my sell by date, it seemed strange that such emotion could still have such influence. I did my best to remain sensible, but had phoned Bev with my anxiety at the forefront of our conversation. By talking about my situation I was immediately lifted, spiritually? A chat with Eric, my supervisor, doing the job - I'd cracked it! Whilst it was only my issue, I was struggling, once I'd had a chance to open up, then a problem was no longer a burden. I still find it difficult to cope with Dad's passing, but at least those around me are there when I need them. For that I am truly grateful.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Angling insanity?

I feel very privileged to have been able to call, the late & great, Alan Wilson a friend.  He was an awesome character, a gentleman, yet little more than a very average angler, who's PB list read like the wish-list for A Passion for Angling! He was the original "Time Bandit" - fishing was a 24/7 way of life. He'd earned it? Retired, for medical reasons, at the age of 47, he'd payed his dues into the system that was to continue to support him as he re-wrote angling history. His name sits proudly on The Drennan Cup, and rightly so. He was a pivotal figure in the angling world, at that time.

Alan with a, Startop's End, Roach of 3 lbs 12 oz - Summer 1992
(Oops! - apologies for the original weight - that was Bill Pennies record fish!)
I find it rather irksome, that today I have very different feelings about the recipients of this prestigious accolade. Out of work, social scrounging, tramps - never done a day's work in their lives yet seen to be heroes by the angling media. What an example to set the next generation?

Another shot of that same roach - He was truly a visionary "Time Bandit"
If I am wrong, then it's of no consequence what I think, however, if the cap fits? Then wear it! There is a supporting article to the 2017 award which says "There is no substitute for time on the bank" YES THERE IS! It's termed ability - Dick Walker had a job, three record fish (only one claimed), Pete Stone, Fred J, Pete Drennan, Jim Gibbinson, Kevin Maddocks, Rod Hutchinson etc, etc, They all went to work in order to fund their passion - surely we owe it to them to keep specimen angling's top prize a realistic goal for the "ordinary working guy"?
Full time angling might well be a job in today's angling industry, but it isn't a realistic option for the majority. Pete Drennan is a prodigy of the Dick Walker school of angling - please let's get this ethos reinstated at the hub of angling achievement. It's not about time, but results per rod hours - that is truly the measure of angling ability!

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Sunday again!

The weather forecast was dire, so much so that Benno & Luke cried off and stayed at home watching the football - strange that? One a Spurs fan the other Arsenal! Being made of sterner stuff, plus I'm on a roll, I got down to the fishery by 14.00 hrs - luck was on my side as Bev had plans to visit various retail outlets as she plans the interior of our bungalow following extensive modification - builders knocking walls down and similar stuff. Apparently I'm to be annexed into the loft, such is the scale of devastation Bev envisages - let's hope the money stretches that far!
So, once again, I find myself alone in my attempt after a split cane thirty. No worries, it's a fabulous place to be whatever else happens. I'd found some fish within ten minutes of arriving, they were in a swim some quarter of a mile west of where I'd taken the 23 last weekend. Gear collected from the car, I was fishing by 14.30 hrs, a screaming take, just fifty minutes later, which resulted in a lovely little common (14 lbs 14 oz) ending up in my landing net. A cracking fish, made all the more enjoyable when Paul, the bailiff, turned up. He was happy to take some photos and spend time chatting about the fishing and associated subjects - nice guy!

Rods back out, a few more freebies scattered over the area, I had to wait until 18. 10 hrs for the next action. Another screamer, this time a small tench had been tricked into taking the bait. Just out of interest I put it on the scales - 2 lbs 12 oz the result.

Tench - never seen an ugly one!
These will be Bryn's next target for The Freshwater Informer saga
Same routine, rods recast and a scattering of freebies over both spots, it wasn't ten minutes later when the same rod was away again. I have no idea what happened, but I lost the fish when my main line was cut by an underwater snag - it came back looking like it had been dragged over a cheese grater!
At no time did I feel that I hooked something exceptional and, if past experiences are anything to go on, I saw no signs of disturbance on the surface. All of the carp I've taken (and that's now three!) have boiled on the surface as I've set the hooks under these particular circumstances.
No more action before 21.00 hrs when I packed up and headed for home. It was a great session, the dog walkers friendly as ever (such a pleasant change from some of the Thanet version) and I made one guy's day when I allowed him to photograph that carp on his i-phone.

I've neglected birds in my recent blogging; although they are still a part of my daily routine. A cock Pheasant came strolling past my swim, beyond me before I could grab the camera. I only had the 18 - 55 mm lens fitted, but managed to grab a shot as the bird attempted to retrace it's route as a couple, walking their dog, approached from the opposite direction. Greenshank and Tree Pipit over the garden in recent days has been a nice distraction, but I have to admit that I am really struggling to find any enthusiasm of late!

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Fine tuning and rambling thoughts

Avid Carp is a brand label that has somehow managed to avoid my notice since my return in 2011. I own just one piece of kit which bears their logo, a Combi Mat , which my Brother-in-law got me as a Christmas present several years ago now. Nash, Korda and Fox dominate my carp angling purchases, although there are several other companies who's gear I'll use without hesitation, such is the quality available in this huge market place, that is the carp industry.

The very simple, yet effective, logo of Avid Carp.
My "Combi Mat" might not be state of the art carp tackle, but it does the job and
is also brilliantly suited for unhooking large pike.
So what's the big deal with the Avid Carp thing? Well; I've been watching hours of carp related offerings on You-tube and stumbled across Next Level Carp Fishing - Vol 3, an Avid Carp production. I am not watching this stuff to be entertained, I want to be educated. I already know what a carp looks like, I've seen a bent fishing rod and the final moments of a successful battle - the prize being drawn over the waiting net. For the individual involved - bloody amazing and fantastically exciting! But I'm not that guy and I just want to know how and why? Is there some detail, some smidgen of advice, which might assist me in my quest for that split cane thirty? I don't want advice on specific fisheries either. I am fully aware of several commercials which are capable of producing thirty pound plus carp; all within twenty - five minutes of my front door (driving!) No, what I am seeking is that little snippet which I might just be able to adapt/adopt to suit my purpose. and may just have found one? It should assist me in my efforts when employing the "blow-back rig" (that I will be using) later in the year when more confident of introducing larger quantities of bait. I've experimented with tying this rig and have already come up with a small tweak which improves my own confidence. I will spend some more time tank testing the presentation and, hopefully, get a few shots to show what I'm attempting to do.
I'm not a member of any carp (angling) related forum group, don't use Twitter or Facebook, so might well be completely off the mark here? I have no more chance of original thinking, where carp are concerned, than I have of re-inventing the wheel! I would like to think that it is universally accepted that location is the number one factor in successful specimen angling, bait, rigs and tackle coming a long way behind in their relative importance?

 My friend, and ex Tring Syndicate member, Richie Francis made comment about the carp's limited ability to learn from experiences. Rigs and baits will have a given period of effectiveness in heavily pressured situations before the fish suss them out and deliberately avoid/ignore them. Fortunately I am not conducting my campaign on such a venue, yet there is still a fair amount of angling pressure, and I have no idea as to the methods, tactics or baits of the other anglers. From what I have seen there a few guys who are extremely cute, know the score, and are going about their own projects in a very focused manner. I cannot allow them to impact upon my tactics unless I have information which suggests duplication. I'm perfectly happy that they go their way and I go mine. If they are more successful - hey ho! Crazy thing is - none of us speak to each other, we'll probably never know?

It was around thirty-five years ago that I started to deliberately target carp and, to be perfectly honest, I don't think that much has changed, despite an eighteen year gap! If you are prepared to find an edge, that unlocks the code, carp remain fairly easy fish to catch. I readily accept that this glib statement might wrangle a few die-hards. After all my PB remains firmly stuck in 1984 - 23 lbs 14 oz!
I have absolutely no doubt that, should I take my kit across to Cottington Lakes for a session, I could improve upon this particular statistic dramatically. It's no longer what drives me. I don't want yesterday's news - I seek to make my own headlines, in an angling parlance? I am looking at the conundrum from the opposite direction. I'm attempting to think (?) like a carp and adapt my bait presentation accordingly. I agree that it's a weird concept but feel sure that there's plenty more scope to explore as the project unfolds.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

When the wind's in the east

I had a window of opportunity, Bank Holiday, Monday afternoon, so took a drive down to the club waters for a peruse. Although wonderfully bright and sunny there was a chill wind blowing from the N/NE and I failed to discover any signs of feeding fish at either of the venues. "When the wind's in the East; the fish bite least!" It's a proverb which has been passed down through the angling generations, yet still has as much relevance today as it did when Izaak's peers first offered this observation. I returned home without bothering to get the tackle out of the car, such is my lack of confidence under these conditions. I give absolutely no credence, whatsoever, to the "moon phase" theory and will go fishing whenever I feel the conditions are right. So, for me, it's all about confidence. An Easterly is the kiss of death where carp are the target, being a species who's distribution and feeding behavior is dominated by wind direction. The moon, however, will only play a part if there is no cloud cover, thus, increased light intensity will also have to betaken into consideration when setting out my stall. I think that the only time I welcome clear skies, with a full moon, is when I'm pike fishing and either arrive pre-dawn or plan to stay late, exactly the opposite would apply if perch were my target species. At all other times I don't give the moon phase a second thought when I head out of the door - I'm going fishing, confident in my methods and abilities. Get an easterly wind; my confidence takes such a dive that I sometimes find myself sitting there wondering why I bothered ?
All this week I've been studying the weather forecasts, looking for that combination of wind direction, cloud cover and barometric pressure, attempting to pick my moment. Benno had wanted a Thursday session - all his fish, last year, came on Thursdays (how very scientific!). I fancied the Friday, but it coincided with Benno's birthday and so didn't happen. St. George's Day it would have to be, the best forecast for a while given the ridiculous temperature drop we've been threatened with.
On my own today, Benno still sulking over the football results - he's a Spurs fan (I tried my best, but school friends turned his head). I arrived just after 16.00 hrs and spent the next hour and a bit walking a two mile section looking for signs of carp. It wasn't until I was almost back to my starting point that I found what I'd been looking for. Couldn't be 100% certain that carp were responsible, but seeing reed stems being knocked about was better than nothing. Two rods out by 17.30 hrs, I had a two inch lift on my right-hander within 30 minutes. Tench? Half an hour later and I had a liner on the same rod; something was happening out there. Both rods recast and another scattering of freebies catapulted over the top I had to wait until 19.50 hrs for the next action - a screamer! Same rod again, this time there was no messing as a huge boil on the surface appeared as I picked up the rod! What a battle, I had the fish over the net only to have it swim back out. It was an epic encounter and one which left me reduced to a gibbering mess when I finally managed to draw it over the chord of the landing net. On the scales it gave the statistic of 23 lbs 5 oz - what a way to start my campaign.

I am forever indebted to Keith for getting the photos - thanks!
I rang Benno, who was willing to drive down to get some photos, but I said I'd ask another angler, who was fishing a couple of hundred metres away, if he'd do the honours. The guy, who's name was Keith, did me proud and I am forever in his debt. I slipped the fish back and pretended to go through the motions of carrying on. It was pure farce; I'd done what I wanted, now it was time to pack up and get home - job done! I'm typing this post, grinning like an imbecile, a glass of 1664 close at hand. Days like this don't come round too often, best make the most when they do - tight lines.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

I don't get it

Out yesterday evening for another session after a decent carp. Benno had said, in a phone conversation, "you're just as well blanking after big fish!" How right can any man be? It wasn't, however, without incident; my tackle and tactics remain unchanged despite my dry net. At this time of year it's unrealistic to expect huge catches or masses of signs of carp activity. Nope - it's all about watercraft and educated hunches. When I arrived, I spent over 90 minutes walking a two mile stretch trying to locate some fish. One or two "might have beens?" but nothing positive. There were three swims to which I was drawn, all containing open water adjacent to overhanging snags and reed beds. Classic carp swims on these type of venues and less than six rod lengths from the bank - hence the requirement for watercraft and a subtle approach.

I'd made my choice and spent a while watching the reeds before catapulting out a dozen, or so, TG Active (or were they?) boilies and getting both my rods cast in to position. My choice of rig for these early season efforts is heavily influenced by the Korda Masterclass 4 material. I have no desire to use chod or helicopter rigs, but am sold on the "spinning rig" presentation. I've adapted the rig to suit my own situation and have spent some time tank testing the resultant tweaks.

This will take a bit of explaining.
Hook link = Korda N-Trap semi-stiff to a Korda QC Ring Swivel (size 8) , a
Nash Fang Twister (size 7) hook with a line aligner shrink tube cover.
Bait is a 14 mm Camo pop-up plus an IB maize plastic pop-up on
a size 20 micro swivel stopped by a Nash Hook Bead
I'm really fortunate that Alan Turner (aka Camo - please click the link) has his tackle emporium in Ramsgate and stocks everything that any wannabe carp angler could wish for. He also has his own bait range (there's a clue there?) which is far more reasonably priced than the mainstream offerings. I can only offer the advice - "Don't knock it until you've tried it!"
So there I am as darkness approaches, bite-less. Just as I'm preparing to leave my right-hander was away with a screaming take. I picked up the rod and bent into what felt like a small tench. Almost immediately the left-hander was away. Had the fish picked up the other line? It was carnage and I eventually lost the initial fish in a nearside snag. Funnily enough I wasn't unduly troubled - I knew I hadn't been done by a carp. I reeled in the left hand rod to find myself entangled with another carp rig. It was a horrendous contraption, the 4 oz fixed lead still attached! The hook was better suited to shark fishing and the hook link could have been made of fuse wire it was so stiff! There was a piece of anti-tangle tubing and about 3 m of mainline still on the swivel. Had the guy "cracked off" making an under arm swing into the venue? It was agricultural at best. I took it down to Camo's mid morning only to have a carp angler (a decent enough guy) offer support for the offending rig. It takes all sorts and I happily acknowledge that I'm no carp angler. It's a weird world and there are times when I just don't get it!

Saturday, 15 April 2017

An explanation?

My recent blogging has been, at best, a mish-mash of half-baked nonsense. I've not managed to catch a decent carp, find a Newlands wheatear or lure an unusual moth to the garden MV trap - why? If I am totally honest; my heart's not in it at present. The ongoing saga of my, late, father's estate dominates my time, but there is light at the end of that particular tunnel, it will hopefully be sorted out before the end of May? I can't get motivated to start my split cane thirty challenge all the while my head is telling me that conditions are not right and mothing isn't doing it for me either. Birding around East Kent is very hit & miss - I'm mainly getting the miss part, I've still only seen seven Swallows! Work is hectic and then there is my commitment to Freshwater Informer and the provision of articles describing the angling development of my grand-son, Bryn. I offered my services and have no complaints about the situation but it does impact upon my time/ability/enthusiasm, to make blog postings.

It's quite likely that I won't see an Osprey during 2017 - Time in Scotland is about so much more than pike!
Luckily I have got the May article completed, well ahead of schedule, and now have opportunity to focus attention on blogging for a while. I find it really weird that we're not going back to Loch Awe this year. It has been a part of our angling cycle since 2011, six years on the spin we've fished Kilchurn Bay in the week leading up to the May Day Bank Holiday. I am well aware we'd all agreed, after 2016, that it was over, we'd cracked it, and we'd seek adventures in warmer climes. 2017; we're going nowhere and I'm suffering as a consequence. It's true that Bev and I have two holidays booked, June and September, but fishing tackle will not be part of the hand luggage on either trip! I'm experiencing withdrawal symptoms - why are we not going somewhere? I'd like to think that it's no more than a glitch, due to the distractions of sorting out Dad's affairs, and normal service will be resumed in 2018 - even if I go on m own!

That's an awful lot of freebies for a £1
Anyhow, I'm still getting down to the club fisheries and catching a few small carp and horrible little F1 hybrids. Great fun with a single rod, some "Go Cat" freebies and small cubed bread crust as bait. I doesn't get any more basic than a rod, reel, line and hook - no need for leads, floats or fancy rigs.
I've actually been fishing in the reed beds, these fish are fearless when in such surroundings and will take a bait without the normal caution of an open water situation. 10 lbs b.s. line straight to the hook and it's hit and haul when the bite comes. All of the fish have been fully scaled apart from one. I caught a linear mirror which, if it weighed 20 lbs plus, would be the target of anyone who fished the venue; it is a beautiful little fish and was the highlight of my past week.

An absolute peach of a carp!

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Competing with a big moon

It's just after 20.00 hrs (08.04.2017) and I have set up the garden 125 W MV moth-trap for the coming night. Temperatures are set fair at 10 C all night, so my only issue will be with the clear skies and beaming moon. The wind is predicted to remain a gentle southerly, so there is certainly a chance of something unusual turning up? I have certainly experienced some decent catches, historically, under similar conditions.

Many Plumed Moth
I've only run it on three occasions so far this year and endured a total blank on the second night. Much better for the third attempt; Double - striped Pug, Clouded Drab, Light Brown Apple Moth and a Many Plumed being added to the 2017 tally.
Sunday 9th April 2017
The reality proved to be rather disappointing, just three moths lured. One each of Hebrew Character, Common Quaker and Bright Line - Brown Eye (which was new for the year!). I'm running it again tonight, although I don't really think conditions are that much better? I'm on another week of late shifts, well four days, and don't see me doing much else!

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Deadline day approaching

My first article for The Freshwater Fisherman appeared in the April edition and I'm happy enough with the result. Barry Reed (Editor) and his production team have done a good job, however, being likened to a modern day Mr Crabtree was flattery most undeserved (click here to see - page 9) Having committed to this series of articles, it all of a sudden becomes far more difficult if the weather conspires to keep the main protagonist indoors! Bryn has spent more time on his X-box than anything else during the month of March due to the constant run of chilly NE winds. With just ten days remaining for my second offering to be on Barry's computer, I have very little to work with - call plan B into action. Long Shaw Farm to the rescue? We've Sunday afternoon to get enough to fill the space I'm allotted, so let's hope for lots of photo opportunities!

I have taken both Harry and Emily down to the smaller of our new club waters to look for fish and frogs; a box of cat biscuits handily in the car, just in case! The weather has been kind and on both occasions managed to get a few carp up on the top, although never in a frenzy of activity. I also got a rod and net involved when Emily came along and had a couple of small commons from a number of good chances. The successful method being tiny bread cubes, free-lined, on a size 11 Barbel Maxx, 10 lbs b.s. line, a Match Aerial centre-pin on a Duncan Kay rod.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Carp - but not as we know them!

Benno, Luke and I were, once again, on the banks of our latest venue, carp fishing. Only our second visit but, this time, all three of us had located some carp activity prior to casting our baits. Things were looking up until four lads, in kayaks, ruined any realistic chances with their inconsiderate (and illegal - they had no life jackets and, therefore, permission to be using the waterway) behavior. Not only did they paddle past as we were setting up, they made a return visit as darkness was falling and used all the manners of "Council House Central" to demonstrate their contempt for others. Chav's - nothing more, but something else we'll have to learn to tolerate as the project advances. They weren't aggressive, just enjoying themselves but with zero consideration for the impact of their actions upon others. It wasn't a complete waste of effort as Benno actually caught a carp! It's the first week of April - what's going on? The first I knew was when a garbled message came through on the walkie-talkie! "I've only f**king got one!"

My initial reaction was "result!" Benno not quite so sure once he'd examined his prize. It was a freak of a carp - more like a boomerang than a fish. Very long, but with a distinctive "kinked" back bone, it went just over twelve pounds on the Rubens - in good nick it should have gone twenty!
Where do we go from here? Well it's a start and there are many other fish in the venue. There can be no doubting that they get a serious amount of angling pressure during the course of a year. Our challenge is to test ourselves to see if we are capable enough to adapt our tactics to deal with these new conundrums and those alternative approaches of the unknown anglers?

Sunday, 2 April 2017

"Looks like hard work!"

All three of us met up at the fishery, just before 16. 30 hrs (Saturday 01.04.17), and took a stroll along the chosen section in an attempt to locate a carp. or two. before committing to swim choice. We saw nothing which could be directly attributable to carp activity, thus had to rely on watercraft and "gut feel" for our first session of 2017. Fortunately we do have last years results to draw upon, so educated guesses were used rather than blind faith.

Sun-set wasn't until 19.28 hrs and we had plenty of time to watch the water and were eventually rewarded with two definite sightings of carp; so all very encouraging. It confirmed that they were present in our section and, as a result, boosted confidence. It wasn't until May, in 2016, that Benno managed our first carp from this venue, so it came as no surprise that all three of us blanked today. We're not getting involved in "time bandit" tactics - if we don't get any indication within three hours then it's time to head off home. We are on the banks five weeks earlier than last year; will we be able to make this work to our advantage?

As I have stated in my previous blog, we're fishing beside a public footpath which is very popular with the local dog walking community, plus regular joggers, cyclists and ramblers enjoying the exercise and facilities that the venue has to offer. It was an "off the cuff" remark by a lady walking her dog, which is the catalyst to this post. I was sat on my unhooking mat, what little gear I had, neatly stacked on the top of the bank, a can of "light ale" being supped as she approached. "That fishing lark looks like really hard work!" being her quip as she passed. I offered some, light-hearted, reposte. It wasn't until she had disappeared from view that I actually thought about what had been said and the perception v's the reality.

The carp that started our campaign in May 2016. Benno with a 17 lbs 4 oz Common'
We only managed five fish, from the venue, during our first season - three 20's! Benno leads 4 - 1; I've a lot of
catching up to do!
I have absolutely no doubts as to the image I portray, perched beside my kit - can in hand! Hard work? Well that's already been done, it's how and why I'm there! Bait preparation, rig tying and testing, assembling the various items required for the project - all of these things have taken place long before I leave home. My time at the fishery is about enjoyment, hence the laid-back perception of an outsider. Nothing could be further from the truth, although I am rather pleased with this situation. If that is how I appear to a non-angler, perhaps some of those "brand label fashionistas" will also see a similar thing and dismiss such "Noddy" tactics as unworthy of their attention - I can but hope!

Other bits to be mentioned are pertaining to my slowly evolving "year-list". I've added the following:-
Willow Warbler - 30.03.17-  one singing in the garden,
Blackcap - 31.03.17
Sedge Warbler - 01.04.17 - two in sub-song along the RMC
Swallow - 02.04.17 - Sholden, Nr Deal

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Sound advice - no pictures!

As the "split cane thirty project" enters season two I continue seeking advice, via the wonders of You-tube, amidst the copious offerings; ref - Carp fishing! The vast majority of these efforts are amateur, video blogging, "Look at me on holiday in France" etc, etc... However, there are plenty of  other, very professional, company sponsored/endorsed, programs which have been specifically produced for this web platform and it is these that I am drawn to in order to derive some snippet which might aid my cause. I've scrutinized rig tying, studied underwater footage of fish behavior, seen some amazing fish, caught by the very best carp anglers at some of the top venues.

Danny Fairbrass is the "Guvnor" at Korda, and competent angler to boot. It was something he said in a recent "Master Class" offering that really hit home. I don't know the guy, never met him, or any of his cronies, so this is a genuine thumbs up for a very honest piece of advice. I'd been watching Danny and Darryl Peck, catching some awesome carp in Germany, when he offered this pearl of wisdom. I won't make a direct quote but, instead, give my reaction to the implied sentiment. It is two pronged - firstly he said that it was perfectly acceptable to copy the example/methods of successful anglers. Nothing too outrageous in that concept, I've been attempting to copy the example set by successful anglers since Mr Crabtree! However, the real crux of his message, which could easily be overlooked, was that although it was acceptable to replicate, the aim should be to improve upon it! Now that's very special advice. Kevin Nash calls it "the edge"- that something which sets you apart from the other anglers at your venues. "Do the same but do it better!"

Getting involved in carp angling, 2017, is a bit like dabbling in the dark arts of the Harry Potter stories.  I'd still like to think that my apprenticeship will stand me in good stead - location, location, location. It isn't all about baits or fandango rigs. If I can locate these fish, then I will catch them, just as Dick Walker had done sixty years ago. So what I gleaned from Danny's spiel was that I need to be at the top of my game to ensure I give myself the best chance of a successful outcome. It's not simply about using "Cell or Key" boilies - it's when, and, more importantly, where, you put them!

April 1st, on Saturday, and we are already planning our strategies for the coming season. We are not only competing with the carp, we also have the actions of other anglers to consider. There are a small group of anglers who are already extremely successful at this fishery, they are highly accomplished and very cute (read sharp!) with their methods and approach. Then there are the others - unthinking, wannabe, carp anglers - "all the gear; no idea!" It is these guys who will shape our campaign as things move forward. Benno, Luke and myself are not a registered charity, we aren't about to become a benevolent society for the lame brains. Our methods and swim choices are not about to go viral if we hit the jackpot. We are only too happy to exchange ideas with others, especially those encountered on the bank, but we ain't dotting I's or crossing T's for lazy parasites. We'll be fishing beside a public footpath, absolutely nothing we can do to hide our presence, even if we wanted to? I think that the best mentality I can use is that of our River Stour barbel exploits. All three of us caught some exceptional fish during that project, without getting involved with the "circus" which accompanied those times. Let's hope that we can replicate those events over the next few months, catch a few decent carp and walk away without any fuss?

Tuesday, 28 March 2017


After the early morning fog had burnt away conditions looked good for a raptor, or two, so I had my camera and bins strategically placed by the kitchen door. Awaiting the gulls to alert me to a passing Buzzard or Kite. It wasn't to be; instead I was treated to some fantastic close up views of a male Rose-ringed Parakeet which made repeated visits to the feeding station. It is my guess, therefore, that it is breeding very locally and already feeding his incubating mate or a young brood?

Before dropping down onto the feeding station, it would perch
in the top of our "Christmas Tree"
Once on the sunflower heart feeder, it would allow me to within twenty feet, no problem. So I took full advantage and spent quite a while firing off a series of portraits as it gorged on the seeds.