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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Sunday, 23 July 2017

Hard

I knew, when I embarked on this challenge, that a split cane "thirty" was going to be difficult. By adding the "unknown" element to the mix I have found myself way out of my comfort zone and well out of my depth (experience wise!) My only saving grace is that I'm consistent - I can blank with the best of them. The two latest sessions have been totally devoid of action, save a bat flying through the line on Saturday night. Bev has been a rock, supporting me and pushing me on, not allowing speak of failure or letting Dad down; because that's where my mind wanders during these low moments. However, with so much more to my angling than simply catching fish, the other aspects of my appreciation of the wildlife of the East Kent marshes eases the burden and enhances my enjoyment of time at the waterside.
A typical marshland swim, on a tiny drain, in the middle of nowhere!
Foxes and Brown Hares are a regular source of distraction out on these flat lands with Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard and Hobby also to be expected. Reed & Sedge Warbler, Common Whitethroat, Reed Bunting and Linnets are constant companions during daylight hours and the night fall allows other senses to take over. Last night it was Tawny Owl and Sandwich Tern, a strange combination, which made it into the diary with their characteristic calls emanating from the darkness. On other occasions it has been Greenshank, Whimbrel, Common Sandpiper and Golden Plover that have provided the audio treats.
Very common sight around the marsh. This was taken using the Fuji Finepix 3200 at extreme distance.
It's OK for blogging, but not up to the standard that the Canon and big lens could provide.
Right place, wrong camera?
I slept well, last night, having packed up at 23.45 hrs and arriving home just before 01.00 hrs. No surprise that I had a lay in, not getting up until well after nine! Making my way to the kitchen for the ritual kettle filling/coffee making start to my day. Looking through the kitchen door was a wondrous spectacle. There were 73 sparrows, mostly juveniles, feeding on the lawn and many more were on the feeders and in the surrounding vegetation. I am confident that there were well in excess of 120 birds in and around the garden at that moment. I made my coffee before going to the car to retrieve my camera which was in fishing bag as a result of my last session.

Only when I looked at this image did I realize that the lawn was in desperate need of cutting.
The task has now been undertaken and the grass is much more presentable.

I managed to get a series of images of the birds, as they searched the lawn for seeds. I use the sweepings from my aviary to scatter around the grass and it is this which must be catalyst for this gathering? I later spoke to a neighbour, Liz, who also reported 100+ sparrows around her feeding station recently. As I mentioned in a previous post - House Sparrows around Thanet are certainly doing very well, in 2017, and worthy of celebration.

Sparrows foraging for millet and canary seed on our back lawn




Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Forgotten files and Google Docs

I have been looking back through some of the stuff that I have written for the angling press, most of which hasn't been used because of some reason or other. This is just an example of the type of article I've produced since my discovery of Google Docs!

East Kent allure - it’s a personal thing!
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It was 6th November 2011 that I first cast a line in this particular venue. I had returned to “speci-hunting”, after an eighteen year break (bird-watching); Pike were my quarry and a wild twenty my target. My previous incarnation had seen me chasing (and catching) big pike in big waters, because that’s what was done back then. I had now made it my mission to do things very differently. Do it my way and deliberately avoid the masses. Fashion and fads were no longer to play any role in my pursuit of “big fish”. This is not a criticism of the current state of angling; more a statement about where I am along my journey of angling discovery. Having passed through the “catch the most” followed by “biggest is best” phases, I now find myself focussing on enjoyment of the moment. It would be utter folly to say that I have lost the desire to catch big fish, but it is no longer my only consideration when setting off to the waterside.
Out on the marshland of East Kent there are hundreds of miles of small dykes, providing the farming community with the ability to keep these flatlands well drained, assisted by the Environment Agency pumping stations strategically positioned around the area. I only have knowledge of the fish populations in a small section of these venues, there is still much to be discovered. Only the main drains are club controlled, the vast majority of the others are free to fish, once permission has been sought, and granted, from the respective land owners. Access is not always straightforward and often involves lengthy walks; so the key is to travel light,  tackle cut down to the bare essentials. It is this back to basics approach which I now find so enjoyable. It’s me against the fish, one on one, I am not in competition with other anglers for swims or chasing yesterday’s news. Success and failure, alike, are all down to my own abilities, not due to the activities of others. It’s just how I want it to be at this stage in my angling.
That first pike season back was to see me really test myself as I pushed the boundaries of what I thought was a right approach. I was in a situation of “catching the impossible”. No, I hadn’t morphed into Martin Bowler, the twenty, that I so desired, simply didn’t exist in the drain system that I’d chosen. I was on a hiding to nothing. I ended up catching the biggest pike in the venue on three occasions, with a top weight of 19 lbs 5 oz. It would be ridiculous to say anything negative about such a magnificent wild fish. Yet you simply can’t catch what isn’t there! I have to make it clear that my approach to pike fishing is very much based upon the static dead bait. I don’t use live bait because I couldn’t offer a reasoned defence to a passer by. I know how effective the method is, but have chosen no longer to employ this tactic for personal reasons. I also don’t chuck metal/plastic artificial lures into the water, in order to induce a bite, that’s far too energetic for me, plus I have so much more that I can be looking at whilst awaiting the audible alert from a bite alarm. Angling purity? Of course not, but it works for me and that is all the justification I require.


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The Environment Agency have a carte blanche ruling over the entire East Kent drainage network (R. Stour catchment area) which decrees the traditional “close season” still applies, so no fishing between March 15th and June 15th, both dates inclusive. I have absolutely no issues with this, it played such an important role during my early angling experiences. Awaiting the midnight chimes, on 15th June, was a sacred ritual which was observed, with almost fanatical zeal, by those fellow members of The Tring Syndicate way back in the 1980’s! That first cast of the new season had a very special place in my annual cycle;  the anticipation of a new chapter, from an unfolding story, just about to start.
I took a break, for a couple of seasons, before returning to these humble surroundings. It was a pure fluke that I’d rung my son, prior to leaving for a barbel session on The Stour, only to learn that there had been an extensive weed cutting exercise, well upstream of my chosen stretch, and it was absolute chaos. I’d have to revert to plan B then? Very early on, during my first campaign along these drains, I had been made aware of the “big” tench that were also present in the system. This negative news from The Stour was just the excuse I required to get back out on the marshes; I’d go tench fishing instead! It was 6th July 2015 and I used the particle mix that I’d prepared for my barbel session and fished two 14 mm halibut pellets (buoyed up with ½ flouro pop-ups) over the top. It was a very spontaneous session, swim choice being totally random. I fished where I felt I had the best chance of a tench. A quick lead around located a clean area in a heavily weeded channel - so I dropped two baits in there with no real expectations. I was using pellets purely because that’s what I’d have used if I’d been barbel fishing; no other reason.
I have no idea of the time lapse, but I had a fast take, on the left hand rod, and found myself attached to a very spirited adversary. If it was a tench it was a bloody monster! My Duncan Kay carp rod, all 1 lb 10 oz t/c of it, assumed full battle curve and soon took control of the situation resulting in me leading my prize over the drawstring of my waiting net. 18 lbs 2 oz of wild common carp, get in! Success or failure?  I hadn’t caught a tench! Is it possible to make such judgement? The whole scenario was due to an unrelated event at another venue - so fate played a massive role in the capture of this magnificent fish. It didn’t end there, because I also landed a 3 lbs 6 oz eel as it got dark - so a session to remember.  Just four days later and I make a return visit, this time for a dawn start. My gear was adjusted for a carp biased attempt, my hook baits being chick-peas, rather than pellets, although my “munga” remained the trusted barbel mix. I fished the same spot and came away having landed two carp, the biggest being a 20 lbs 9 oz Common and, as such, my first over this magical statistic since February 1984.

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I was living the dream, these drains providing angling experiences that were beyond anything I could have wished for. What else was to be discovered in their watery depths?


I carried on for a few weeks more, landing a couple more carp to 16lbs +, but my focus had already shifted and the drains became, once again, outside of my plans. However, even when I’m not targeting them, I will often just drop on to these venues to wet a line if results, elsewhere, are a bit of a struggle. My dismal catch rate, pike fishing, on The Royal Military Canal, following two exceptional seasons, was the reason I found myself back out on the marsh. I just needed a bite, although what I planned was an eel campaign! I was going to have a month deliberately targeting the species as I had recently become aware of the “critically endangered” status bestowed upon them. Strange, they don’t seem too endangered in East Kent, bloody slimy, bait nobbling, pests!  What a decision?  October 2015 was to see the start of an unbelievable sequence of events. On the 24th I captured an eel of 3 lbs 1 oz, the heaviest eel I had ever caught by design and the seed of an idea came to light. Could I deliberately catch an eel in every month of the “traditional” pike season (Oct - March)? The next four and a half months (remember that the close season starts on 15th March!) was to prove as testing an angling challenge as I’d ever undertaken. My open dislike became a grudging admiration for this Sargasso Sea interloper and the project developed into a voyage of discovery. I certainly pushed the limits of my angling way beyond any comfort zone and discovered quite a bit about myself as time went on. I became totally absorbed in the venture. A lost fish, right at the net, in December seeing me behave like some, dummy spitting, kid. Eels had really gotten to me.  


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That fateful night of 12th March 2016 was to see me land the biggest eel of the whole campaign and provide a fitting finale to, what had been, a crazy project. I was emotionally drained, such was the intensity of my commitment to succeed. The close season had to pass, twelve weeks away from the marshes. Twelve very enjoyable weeks carp chasing on The Royal Military Canal. There was now another twist in this adventure, the introduction of two sixty year old split cane Mk IV’s. Nothing else for it but a June 16th first cast, so I was back out there again. A blank first night was simply a symbolic ritual, the drains then provided some superb carp fishing. I took two twenties and a nineteen before the deteriorating health of my father was to put a stop to my fishing, period!

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It wasn’t until mid-August that I managed a return to these flatlands. Quickly back in the groove, I was brought to earth with a shuddering thump because of the thoughtless actions of another angler.  I did, however, manage to winkle out another twenty before it all went pear shaped. So once again I walked away from the drains and sought challenges in other arenas.

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The onset of Winter saw me have a dabble for the eels and play around with an idea for pike bait presentations, both of which provided bent rods, if not the specimens I’d hoped  for.  So that sees me bang up to date. I’ve experienced some superb angling out on these small waters. The maximum cast would be less than fifteen yards and, as such, watercraft and bait presentation has played a key role in all of my successes. There’s been no requirement for powerful rods or fancy reels - the emphasis has been on making the most of the experience by using tackle which allows enjoyment without the welfare of my quarry being compromised. To this end I have employed, 1980’s, Duncan Kay carp rods - 1 lb 10 oz t/c, 11’ 6”  compound taper high modular carbon fibre and, since December 2015, two B James & Son “Dick Walker” Mk IV’s - 1 lb 8 oz t/c, 10’ compound taper split cane - circa 1957! Reels have been a hotch potch mix of Mitchell 300’s, ABU Cardinal 44 & 66 X’s, fixed spools, plus Match Aerial and Matt Hayes centre-pins, but that’s where the folly ends. My terminal gear is the best that I can afford/acquire. Under no circumstances am I prepared to gamble with my chances by using cheap line or hooks, terminal gear has to be the best I know how to use. Bait placement and presentation is a critical factor in my approach to these situations; I have to be confident in what I’m doing and know that I couldn’t do more to achieve my goals. If ever I have a niggling doubt, then it’s time to do something about it. With time being such a precious commodity, I can’t sit it out and wait - something's not right? Correct it! If I do nothing - nothing changes, it really is that simple.


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In the “crowded SE” it is an absolute joy to spend time at such neglected/overlooked fisheries. The fish that have graced my landing net far beyond anything I had envisaged when I first visited.  I happily acknowledge that this situation doesn’t appeal to everyone but, for me, it is very close to angling Utopia!

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

A special little fish

I have just e-mailed the fifth monthly article about, Bryn, my grandson's angling exploits to Barry Reed - the Editor of Freshwater Informer. Click Here for my July effort. I was moved to offer my services having read Barry's February editorial relating to a sorry episode involving social media and, carp angler, brand label snobbery aimed at a young angler who's Christmas gifts weren't expensive enough to be worthy of display? So far things have been very well received with feedback being both encouraging and positive, thus the editor is happy with my offerings.

Bryn with a typical "snotter" (Bronze Bream) from Sandwich Coarse Fishery
On Sunday afternoon, whilst Bev was watching the Men's Final at Wimbledon, Benno, Bryn and I were down at Sandwich Coarse Fishery attempting to get some more images to accompany this latest update. I was on camera duty whilst the other two were doing their thing. Suddenly Bryn exclaimed "It's very long!" as he swung in another small fish. He'd been catching a succession of roach and perch; his latest capture was neither species. It was a gudgeon, Bryn's first and a species which I'd not seen for many years. It took me back to my childhood when this species was the bread and butter for any youngster entering the hobby. I found myself attempting to explain to a nine year old that this small fish was the equal of anything else he had captured. I'm unsure if I succeeded, but he did offer "a new PB then?" as a parting shot!

That special little fish - a gudgeon!
In today's, carp dominated, angling such fish are barely given any credence by the unthinking hoards of carp chasers. Angling apprenticeships have been reduced to a shopping trip and an off the shelf instant angler is purchased, not evolved.

"How can this be the same as a gudgeon?" 
Grand-dad playing a feisty carp whilst Bryn is on net duty. Only by experiencing these
moments can angling become anything more than a fad?

Monday, 17 July 2017

Swim preparation - an alternative method

Having access to so many miles of East Kent drains is a real privilege. It requires little more than a quick, courtesy, phone call to the land owner(s) informing of my angling plans/car parking and I'm spoiled for choice. For some reason, way beyond my limited knowledge of such things, many of the drains are particularly weedy this year; indeed some are totally choked up. Clear, low water levels plus the wondrous warmth and sunshine have combined to produce an ideal growing environment for the local aquatic plants. I would imagine that many other inhabitants of these venues will also be benefiting from this abundant growth either as a food source or for spawning and subsequent cover for the resultant fry. Finding fish, under these conditions, is very difficult and I am forced to rely on watercraft and previous experiences in order to select my swims. That 3.5 oz Gardner weed rake has proven to be a fantastic acquisition and helped remove many kilos of weed from my chosen spots. However, I'm under no illusion, the Gardner weed rake is not capable of total weed (the vast majority being Canadian Pond Weed) removal - it requires a fair bit of tweaking in order to create a totally clean spot. Given these circumstances; there are a number of options open to any angler, each worthy of consideration dependent upon the individual situation.

Mark, one of Benno's friends - a hugely successful carp angler on The Royal Military, offered us some very useful advice when we first ventured out on that venue. It has stood us in good stead ever since. Now I've taken his thought provoking ideas and incorporated them into my preparation of the various swims around the drain system. I'm, as yet, unsure of the numbers of carp that I am chasing or, indeed, the maximum size but have to admit that Mark's logic has proven to be very good advice.
Knowing more about these drains than I do the Royal Military has allowed me to tweak the methodology slightly and utilize my experience to enhance the effects of my actions. So what was this ground breaking information? "Get the fish to clear the swim for you!"

If only I'd been using this set-up last Sunday!
"How?" you may well inquire; there is no way that humanity has learned to speak to fish thus far. No, it is far more simple than that. After the initial weed removal, using the rake, the remaining weed can be cleared by the  regular introduction of  munga. These small food items require any foraging fish to root about the silty bottom, displacing the lingering fronds in the process. My particle mix is specifically designed to attract the maximum number of species to get involved with this feeding activity. My standard Racing Pigeon Tonic Mix is combined with Hemp and liquidized Sweetcorn before being laced with shredded Tuna (in brine). There will be loads of carp anglers claiming this to be their basic "Spod Mix"- and probably quite true. I have arrived at this combination purely to gain the maximum number of fish assisting clearing my spots. I don't care if they are Tench, Bream, Roach, Carp or Eels; my only purpose is that of producing a clean spot on which to present my hook bait.

Floating weed directly above my spots is a sure fire indication that my plan is working
How I specifically target the carp is for another post, hopefully, after I've achieved my goal? "Effort equals success" -  a sentiment I first heard when watching Steve Whitby's "Carp Catcher" You Tube offerings. Probably an age thing, he also having served an extensive angling apprenticeship. Steve works incredibly hard for the fish he catches (check out his River Cam project) - hence the tag line. I'm afraid I've been rather lax with my recent blogging, a wedding reception in Droitwich and the monthly deadline for my Freshwater Informer article being the distraction. Life is good and things will return to normal very shortly, I hope!


Saturday, 8 July 2017

A change of fortune

Out of the bungalow at 02.10 hrs, this morning, headed back to the Ash Levels for another attempt at landing a carp. The weather was everything I could have wished for and I got both my rods out before 03.30 hrs. Same old tactic of a few pouches of munga catapulted into my swim before casting my baits in the midst of the freebies. I spent a while watching a couple of Foxes hunting mice in a newly cut hay field, saw a lone Hare and a smart adult female Marsh Harrier as I awaited my bite alarms to sound. I'd recast twice before, at 06.40 hrs, my right hander was away and I found myself attached to a very spirited fish.


Far too much weed in the drain for a proper battle, this was really a succession of spurts between weed clumps. The fish ended up with so much weed over its' head that it went into the net first time with very little resistance. Can't say it was overjoyed about the situation when I lifted it clear of the water - it had the right hump! It was a magnificent wild plated mirror, the colour of mahogany and one of the prettiest carp I've seen. The spinning dial reducing the creature to a statistic for my list - all 12 lbs 15 oz of it. I was over the moon with the capture; a plan had worked and the fish was hard evidence of being on the right track with my methods. I will get around to doing some tank work, so as to be able to show my rigs and how I am applying them. Similarly, there will be an account of my bait choices and the thinking behind them - probably at the end of the summer. I do hope that this is the start of something good - only time will tell!

12 lbs 15 oz of pure pleasure
Just as an aside, my regular camera kit has started to play up. Both my EOS 350 & 400 bodies will not work with either of my 18 - 55 mm lenses. The dreaded Error 99 being displayed whenever I attempt to use them. The bodies work fine with my Canon 70 - 210 mm and Sigma 170 - 500 mm lenses, so I have had to call upon the services of a Fujifilm Finepix S3200 to do my self take fishing photos. First impressions are pretty damn good - but I would say that because I am employed by Fuji, after all!

After I'd lost that carp last Sunday evening, I had started to write a post which never got finished. The landing of the carp today has lifted a great weight from my shoulders and my thoughts are summed up in what I had in a draft post - read on.

During the last few weeks of Dad's time on Earth, we spent many hours in conversation as he prepared himself for the next stage of his journey. As Mum before, Dad was a devout Christian and held strong beliefs about the after-life. They were a comfort for both of us during this period - his passing was peaceful and dignified. "No regrets" being his oft-voiced verdict on the mark he (and Mum) had left behind. The success of St. Faith's at Ash (an independent school which my parents founded) is a permanent marker of their vision to promote educational excellence and responsible individualism as a way of preparing youngsters for the trials of adult life - I am incredibly proud of this legacy. It is nearly a year since Dad passed away and my desire to honour that promise remains central to my quest for a split cane thirty.
That outpouring of emotion following the crazy tackle malfunction, of Sunday night, is a direct consequence of my total desire to succeed. I've now had plenty of time to think through the episode; attempting to gain insight into the cause of my misfortune and review what might be worthy of future effort in order to continue with my challenge. It is I, not Dad, that set the parameters of this quest. My stubborn insistence to shy away from chasing "known" fish and frequenting "trendy" venues has imposed a set of limitations which push my boundaries beyond any "comfort zone" - I'm way out of my depth with this one!
Was that lost fish the one I so desire? No, I don't think (for a minute) that it was. It was far too feisty to be a thirty. My main issue is that my tackle under performed and I have a real problem with confidence when tackle failure can impact on the outcome come the time of reckoning. Under no circumstances can I use a 1957 Richard Walker Mk IV with a Shimano "Bait Runner" - it simply ain't happening! If the Mitchell 300's are unable to deliver a reliable performance, then my other option is to use centre-pins.

Friday, 7 July 2017

What's important?

I've just seen the sad news of the passing of Bradley Lowery, aged six! How anyone can think the id of an unknown moth or invert can compare with such events is beyond my comprehension. A young child has died because humanity is unable to find a cure for a condition - still got time to analyse Stonechat shit in order to make a fuck up! If you have the talent to further science - please use it to assist the fight against premature death rather than placing another tick on a spreadsheet of pointlessness!
Bradley with his idol; Jermaine Defoe - both deserving of our thoughts at this terribly sad time

A Celebration of Sparrows

The House Sparrows of Thanet have enjoyed a bumper breeding season and are being seen in numbers that cause comment from "ordinary" folk. My garden feeding station frequently hosts 25 - 30 birds whilst many others are perched in the surrounding vegetation awaiting their turn at the feeders. Getting accurate counts is virtually impossible as the birds are constantly on the move between the gardens. This might be a project for later in the year when the leaves start to drop?
If the collective noun for a group of Goldfinches is a "Charm" then surely this sudden increase in sparrow numbers must warrant the use of a "Celebration" to describe the massed ranks around our gardens?
A handsome male House Sparrow in the garden Christmas Tree
Plenty of other wildlife to keep me amused as I go about my daily chores. Humming-bird Hawk moths are almost a daily occurrence during these warm days. The first was nectaring on the Red Valerian along our driveway but, of late, they have been feeding on the Budlehias in the back garden.
A nice variety of butterflies has also been drawn to this food source and I have been playing around with the camera gear when time allows.



Lots going on in my little world, at present, hopefully I will be able to report some positive stuff very soon - fingers crossed!

Monday, 3 July 2017

Hard lesson

If I didn't have bad luck then I'd have no luck at all - that's exactly how I feel at the moment. Yesterday evening I got destroyed by a very powerful carp. An over-run on a back-winding Mitchell 300 producing a line tangle which allowed the fish to gain sanctuary of the lily beds and part company. It's the first bite I have registered since 16th June and, as such, am totally gutted by the loss. A small male tench, some time later, did nothing to ease my pain, despite being the first of the species I have taken from this drain system.

3 lbs 8 oz of male tench
If there are any positives, they are minor by comparison - my bait is working and my spots are now clear of weed. Going back early doors, one morning later in the week, to see if I can finally get a carp to the net? Man; I can't ever remember being so upset at loosing a fish!

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Abject failure

Well that's that! A week of concentrated effort; targeting two species and I've ended up with nothing to show for my efforts. One missed catfish being as close as I got - pitiful? Fortunately, my shortcomings have no effect on the rest of the world. My bruised ego is a burden I'll deal with - there's certainly no doubt that I'm big enough (and ugly enough) to cope with this perceived failure.


Just to rub my nose in it - Benno took three catfish during our session, best one going 24 lbs 8 oz - so there can be no excuses. I simply wasn't good enough with my approach/bait choice/methods !

Not good enough! My inability to catch a fish is of no consequence to any other individual on the planet, although it might provide some with a smile? I've been doing my best to keep abreast with the unfolding political nonsense, which has arisen since the catastrophic result of the General Election. Mrs May screwed it up "big time!" The blame lays firmly at her door (and that of her advisers) the buck stops there! Her actions, unlike mine, do impact directly upon the lives of the citizens of the UK and, as such, she has a responsibility to act in such way as to allay any fears and attempt to do what is right in the common good of the majority of our population. As an individual she has proven to be incapable of "human compassion" hence the  "Maybot" tag. The bigger issue is that of the Conservative Party being so far removed from 2017 as needing to be given a reality slap. Politicians, of all persuasions, are lying, self-serving, con artists - can't hear too many dissenting opinions to that glib summary.

I cannot believe that it has taken Damian Green to point out the fact that the Conservative Party has lost the vote of the 18 - 35 year olds. A generation of hard working, well educated, citizens who are unable to get on the housing ladder because of the systemic failure of our political process. To add insult, to injury, Theresa May then pledges to impose a stealth tax on that generation of "middle England" who had taken up the Thatcher option to own their own home - probably the most fertile Conservative spawning ground there is! The whole political system needs a kick up the arse. Corbyn is no better than Blair - the whole lot of them are a disgrace. There are many major issues facing the UK, surely a consensus Government, drawing from across the political divides, is our only hope. We are the fifth biggest economy on the globe - there can be no reason for austerity unless it's to protect the interests of the insanely wealthy elite minority?

You're very right! I only went to Halsey Secondary School and have worked in factories for my entire working life. What could I possibly know about the real world? Everything - I live in it!

Monday, 26 June 2017

Session Two - no change!

Back for another attempt, same outcome. Signs looked good, just my methods (rigs, bait and/or any number of unknowns) let me down. Pleasant enough evening sat there looking out across the East Kent flat lands. A slight change of tackle as I was using my newly refurbished Duncan Kay's with ABU Cardinal 66X's fitted.

Looking East from my swim.
Still have plenty of time in which to chase my targets. Benno and I have a 36 hrs session booked for Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday and that might just provide the turning point? A fair bit of kit to be sorted out before then, so I'm having an early night and forgoing this evening on the marsh. A mistake? Only time will tell!

Some seriously good kit on display here. There are probably only three of these rods left in existence - I own them all!
The 1974, rear drag ABU, reels are more highly sought than my split cane Mk IV's - crazy!

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Session One plus

As promised; back home after a very uneventful night. One major positive is that the weed rake performed superbly and I was able to fish my rigs confidently. However, I fear that my efforts to remove the offending weed ensured I scared whatever fish were in the vicinity and they were in no hurry to return despite my generous baiting. A couple of twitchy pulls on the maize came to nothing, yet there were encouraging signs as I packed up this morning. Going back for another bash this evening, having baited up.

A  very cozy little swim with many features to fish too. This particular section of the drain isn't much more than three rod
 lengths wide, so perfect for centre-pin fishing.
A very helpful session with plenty to remain optimistic about. I'll report on session two when it's happened!

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Session one

I haven't left home yet! I am writing the first part of this post before a bait has been cast, yet feel that I have to do it so as to be able to justify my confidence. I have purchased a Gardner "Deluxe Weed Rake" from Camo and hope it will assist my cause. I fished the same swim last Sunday, less than 12 hours after we got home from Tenerife! Weed was a massive issue and I ended up fishing "Ronnie Rigs" over my munga. The carp in this venue have probably never seen a boily, so it was no great shock that I failed to register any bites despite there being fish in my swim.
A  piece of kit that might assist my efforts?  Photo is courtesy of Gardner Tackle

I have a night ahead and feel far more confident that my hook baits will be more attractive (rigs more effective?) once I've managed to clear the weed from the swim. I will make my appraisal of the performance of said weed rake when I get home tomorrow.

There will be a Session One plus - trust me!

Friday, 23 June 2017

The temptation of fate?

Things have conspired to allow me a "window" in which to pursue a sustained period of angling. I've still got to earn a living, thus work has to be attended, but this next week will see me spending more time on the bank than any other period since Loch Awe in 2016. I have two targets, both of which are very achievable given the venues I have at my disposal. Can I catch a carp and catfish in excess of twenty pounds during the next seven days?

Luke - 27 lbs 5 oz
It all kicks off tomorrow afternoon and I hope to be blogging about the first session early on Sunday morning. I have loads of ideas that I want to explore and expand upon, as the week progresses. My initial target is a twenty pound plus carp, although I would readily accept a seven pound tench as failure (compensation) !

Benno with a 24! - one of three he caught that session (Nice phone call whilst I was stuck in Tenerife!)
Benno and I are booked on a small commercial, mid-week, and will hopefully rectify some of the issues we'd experienced on our first visit. As you can see, my regular angling companions have taken the piss and sneaked a couple of sessions in whilst I was stranded on Tenerife. My only hope is that it will be my turn soon - this coming week will be just the job!

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Tenerife reflections

The dust has now settled and I've had time to think about my time wandering around the arid, and incredibly steep, hillsides (they might just qualify for mountains?) that surround the resort of Los Gigantes. Did we have a good holiday? Yes; and no - we enjoyed being away from our daily routine, but Los Gigantes wasn't on a par with our normal sunshine destinations, so I would be unable to recommend the location; if asked. That's not meant as a downer on Tenerife, but more an indication of what Bev and I expect from a holiday in 2017. We're not looking for noise, bars, entertainment and kids! We're too old for that shit - been there, seen it, got the tattoo! Should have known better? Bev's never been to Tenerife, previously, and my last visit was before they built Los Americas! I think the best summary is "glad we made the effort, but won't be going back!"

This is Los Gigantes - it could be any resort on Tenerife. The buildings are a copy-book, stereo typed, design from a
 single architectural thought process. Absolutely lacking in individuality; no soul!  
So what did I discover on my travels? Birds were very much at a premium, only seventeen species recorded during the seven days we were on the island; and that included (Feral) Rock Dove! I found it quite surreal, therefore, that two species were actually "lifers". Monk Parakeet is a bit lame, but Barbary Partridge was a belter and worth all the effort involved. Insect life around the resort was minimal, the authorities must be using some fairly radical insecticides to keep the pesky bees, hover flies, wasps and mossies away from the paying public. The down side of this tactic is that many other, non-target, species are also effected. There are very few butterflies or moths to be seen and you can forget beetles and spiders, they just aren't there to be found?




It wasn't until I'd discovered a footpath, just beyond the resort boundary, that invertebrates became a realistic subject for study. I say footpath? The reality is a route along a valley, which rapidly rises and takes you through vast Banana plantations and other agricultural crops before posing some very serious fitness questions. It's only 8 km between Puerto de Santiago and Santiago del Teide, but it's also about a 3,000 ft in altitude between the two, that's serious climbing and I failed dismally. I am very grateful that I'd taken my hiking boots, because without the ankle support, feel sure I would have come a cropper on the loose scree and irregular levels of the route.

Not for the feint hearted!
I admitted defeat in my quest to reach Santiago del Teide, but still had the stupidity to take a side track which lead to a high point, over looking the resort, which entailed some ridiculous terrain. Going up was arduous, coming back down was verging on suicidal! How any tourist bumf can advertise such dangerous footpaths is beyond comprehension; it certainly wouldn't happen in the UK! The up side is that the views were awesome, the counter argument is that you could fall off the cliff and be in serious trouble, if not dead?  Health and Safety regulations and compensation chasing law suits - not applicable in Tenerife apparently?


Plain Swift - the best I got, unfortunately!

Did I learn much? Not really. However, it was nice to be out wandering, looking at whatever caught my eye. Great fun trying to get a decent image of Plain Swift and many happy hours looking at the dragonflies which used the plantation reservoirs. I took nearly 700 photos, the majority being pants, but there are a few which make the grade?

Grey Wagtail, at an irrigation reservoir, collecting insects for a hungry brood

A proper, "f-ck off". spider ! There were hundreds of these around the banana compounds - awesome creatures!




An Atlantic Canary - male!

I would love to say that our time on Tenerife had been wondrous. It wouldn't be true! We'd gone with a Thomas Cook package, via Love Holidays, and got exactly what we'd paid for. Brits abroad are embarrassing, socially dysfunctional, chariactures - we had the whole spectrum at El Sombrero. I'm no saint, but I do know how to say please and thank-you without the need to put an expletive in the sentence!


Monday, 19 June 2017

Small, Scarce or, maybe, something else entirely?

Whilst wandering around the arid hillsides of Tenerife I came across a small moth which I thought I recognized as a Small Marbled (Eublemma parva)? I'd tempted an individual of this, rare (?), UK migrant some years back to the garden MV and had felt rather pleased with myself, as I remember. It was important back then! However, something about this Tenerife insect didn't quite fit my gut feel, yet I didn't know what it was. Only when I got back to the comfort of my study was I able to pursue this line of inquiry and seek further assistance.

The moth that is causing the head scratching
My reference material is very basic, the masterpiece by Waring, Townsend & Lewington, and, as such, not particularly helpful. The UKmoths website was similarly unable to assist my cause, there being no images of Scarce Marbled (Eublemma minutata) to be found. I mention Scarce Marbled because that is the other option I had considered. Why? Well the images of Small Marbled all show the insect to have dark/brown/black eyes; a feature that is very prominent in all the images I have been able to access. The moth that I'd encountered had pale green eyes, visible even in shadow! It might be possible that cameras play tricks and all those images available on the web are a consequence of some quirk which has produced this dark eyed portrayal.


Happily, none of this stuff has any relevance in my enjoyment of looking at natural history, I am able to continue along life's pathway blissful in my ignorance. Strange how age effects the understanding of what is important? One thing's for sure - id'ing live moths ain't in my world! (How sad are those souls who feel the need to kill their unknown insects in order to tick another box on an Excel spreadsheet?)


Sunday, 18 June 2017

Home

Back home safely after a very relaxing week in Tenerife. I'll say more about the trip, and the wildlife I encountered on my wanderings, when I've had chance to get sorted out! A few pics to set the scene.







A really fantastic way to enliven a week's break in Los Gigantes. It was quite arduous at times but, ultimately, a very rewarding experience as I explored the barren landscape beyond the resort boundaries.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

A French spam-bot! If only that was all I had to worry about?


Blogging is great for the ego - the stats, that are generated by Google, warm the cockles of your heart when things are going well. For whatever reason, of late, Of Esox has been subjected to a systematic surge in popularity with the same group of posts getting identical "hits" every 25/30 minutes. For every page view I receive from the UK there have been seven from France - merci beaucoup!

Graph of Blogger page views
I know not how, and care even less, about such cyber shenanigans -  the graphical evidence looks great!

Strange, as it may seem, I love maths, the interpretation of statistics and the way they can be used to derive answers from apparent chaos. All this said, I don't see much sense being made of the current electoral process being played out on national and social media in the run up to Thursday's General Election? The major players have provided an embarrassing display. The only reason they've not become a global laughing stock is because that "fake tanned buffoon", on the other side of the Atlantic, has the monopoly on incompetence/stupidity in public office in 2017.
I have the added problem of being a voter in South Thanet. Our standing MP is the only one that hasn't been cleared of electoral expenses fraud from the 2015 election. A ploy which meant that Nigel Farage has been beaten by a cheat - he should be my MP. It is beyond doubt that he voices many things that the ordinary man worries about, although I concede that he is not the greatest diplomat ever walked! The thing about UKIP is they aren't ever going to be the government, yet they represent the disenfranchised Labour voters who can't align with the "Socialists" since the (War Crime escapee) Tony Blur, blur, blar, blarrrrrrrrrrrrrrr "New Labour" fiasco!

Do any of our party political leaders instill a feeling of confidence in their ability to negotiate our way out of the EU?  Is there one amongst them who you'd trust to look after your budgie, let alone the NHS? We vote on Thursday - cum Friday morning our destiny (as a Nation) will be more chaotic than before because the paucity of the candidates we have to vote for - so few are fit for purpose. A strong, stable, government? - not on the evidence of this election campaign!

Monday, 5 June 2017

Waters new

It was July 1985 when I caught my first twenty pound plus Wels Catfish and September 1991 when I had my last. At that time all the catfish, which were, legally, in the UK fisheries, could be traced back to the original stock at Woburn Abbey - the home of The Duke of Bedford. My PB is a fish, one of eight (?), which was given to Leighton Buzzard AC by the Woburn estate in recognition of the efforts, by their club members, in netting the main lake, prior to the opening of the safari park. As such, it is a fish of which I am very proud, although by modern standards it is a very modest specimen.
I've not used this image previously. My PB Catfish (25 lbs 2 oz) from
Claydon Middle Lake - July 1985
Once Kevin Maddocks had screwed up carp angling, with the publication of "Carp Fever", he then set about catfish. The original aim of The Catfish Conservation Group was to promote the species within UK angling. Kevin, however, had bigger plans - he used the CCG to promote his own vision of an angling travel agency and covert stocking of waters with catfish from "dubious" origins (mainland Europe?) He purchased Withy Pool, next to Henlow Greyhound Racing Track, and, surprise, surprise, the record cat was caught there shortly after. The captor had seen it swallow a Mallard - yeah right! A visionary entrepreneur, without any dispute, Kevin has played a major role in shaping the way freshwater angling, within the UK, evolved. It doesn't matter what my personal thoughts are - he has provided a lot of opportunities for others, to develop and exploit, which have resulted in many more anglers being able to experience the thrills of big fish angling both here and abroad. Some legacy; but not one I'd like to be associated with!

I looked like an advertising feature for "Dragoncarp" - the CK logo emblazoned on much of
the kit that was visible on the bank. What a "Noddy"!
So what's this all about? Benno. Luke & Skunk had arranged an over-nighter at a superb little commercial fishery. The big twist was that we were going there to fish for cats, not carp, a whole new ball game. They got there well ahead of me and stayed after I left, but that's by the by. Benno lost (got destroyed by!) the only catfish hooked. Luke, Skunk and I plagued by weird occurrences. Cats were almost certainly responsible for the twitchy takes and full blown screamers, yet somehow avoided getting hooked. It's a distraction I could do without but, feel sure that, I'll be back there shortly attempting to rectify the situation. I'm fairly confident that all it will take is a bit of tweaking rather than a complete change of tactics.

Red-eyed Damselfly
The weather was kind and there was plenty of wildlife to keep us amused whilst we awaited our bite alarms. Almost as soon as I arrived, there was a Red Kite soaring overhead, quickly followed by a Common Buzzard. Nuthatch, Bullfinch, Lesser Whitethroat, Reed Warbler, Song Thrush vied for our attention as the went about their daily chores. I played around with the extension tubes on the 170 - 500 mm lens trying to get some images of the Odonata (dragonflies to you and me!) that call the fishery home.

This rather impressive male Black - tailed Skimmer was patrolling the bank right under my rods.
I'm rather pleased with this one


One dumb fish!
However, I didn't blank because a dopey scamp common took a fancy to a piece of luncheon meat on a size 2 Fang X hook and hung itself. I got a photo because I needed all the help I could get to ensure enough material for a blog entry. One more week of work before we're headed to the sunshine, with much to do, I don't see too many opportunities to get out before we leave!