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, 19 November 2017

Change of scenery

Benno, Luke, Skunk and I met up at Iden Lock for a pike fishing social. Two rods each, as per fishery rules, we had eight baits in the canal well before dawn. It was clear and cold, with a heavy frost, and it felt good to be out. Expectations were high but, they always are at the start of a session or, it wouldn't be worth getting out of bed?


Sunrise over Romney Marsh was spectacular. Luke and I both inspired to grab the cameras and click away in the hope of capturing the atmosphere of the early morning. I haven't seen Luke's results but am happy enough with my own. As we were at a new venue I had changed my tackle and used a pair of Matt Hayes centre-pins on my Duncan Kay's in preference to the Mitchell 300's that I have been using on the drains.


At 08.00 hrs I had a very stuttering take on my sardine and found myself attached to a rather spirited pike. It was only weighed because Luke wanted to check his new scales against mine - bang on; the fish weighed 8 lbs 11 oz on both sets, surprise, surprise! I stayed until 10.30 hrs but this was the only action we had. A good laugh and time to catch up, but a few more pike would have been nice. Birds were rather diverse. I recorded two Common Buzzard, two Woodcock (year tick), Marsh Harrier, Green Sandpiper, Kingfisher, Water Rail, hundreds of Greylag Geese, Mute Swans and Mallards and the first sound I heard, on arrival, was a distant Tawny Owl, hooting away in a nearby wood.


Friday, 17 November 2017

They were on the munch

I've just got home from a ridiculous session, out on the marsh. Arriving just after 14.40 hrs; I had three rods fishing within twenty minutes and was to experience the most hectic feeding spell I've ever known out on these drains. In 90 minutes I'd had eight bites, resulting in five pike visiting the bank. Big baits and small pike have a history of coming adrift and so it was today.

She weighed 12 lbs 6 oz today. 
The up side of this, hectic, action was that it confirmed the effectiveness of my tweaked bait presentation and my choice of flavour enhancers. However, there were three recaptures involved so, feel it is time to call it a day at this particular venue and seek to continue the challenge elsewhere. I'm rather taken with The Stour as the next choice - I'll have a little look, over the weekend and see what I think?
I'm getting more confident with the Fuji kit, for my self take photos.
It does mean that I have to carry a tripod with me but, I would rather do that, than
have no option other than to get a shot of my capture laying on
the unhooking mat/sling.
I weighed all the fish today and they were as follows, and in this order, 8 lbs 6 oz, 9 lbs 0 oz*, 12 lbs 6 oz*, 10 lbs 8 oz* & 7 lbs 5 oz - the * marks the recaptures, that nine was for the third time! It's not fair on these fish, plus I am learning nothing new from these events, so it's for the best that I move on to other fisheries.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

I'm on a bit of a roll - stick with it!

"Blogland" is a fantastic place to inhabit; to be part of. Kindred spirits collide in cyber space and associations are formed with complete strangers, from places we've never been, yet know intimately through the postings of these virtual diarists. I now have friends whom I've never met, yet exchange views and comments regularly via this network. One big benefit of being part of this community is the ability to draw inspiration from the writing of fellow bloggers or from those other contributors who are moved to pass comment following something we've posted. It's a very fertile place, if you've the mind to search around.
I've been doing just this and stumbled across a post which was an advert for this bloggers book, "A year chasing big fish" or something along those lines. I won't offer a link, or name the guy, because I have no reason to promote such things. I had a little peruse of the site and checked out a list of PB's that had been proudly displayed, alongside a gallery of digital images. A very nice blog, well presented, but it didn't work for me. Why? Because, basically, the angler hadn't caught many (other than carp) "big fish"! And a year is a very claustrophobic timescale. My angling isn't solely about such captures, as important as they are, it's also about a lifetime's interaction with people and the enjoyment of places. That there's a pleasure to be gained from a plan coming to fruition is beyond doubt, however the frustrations and disappointment when things don't go your way is also part of the journey. The incredible high when that special fish is finally within the folds of the landing net and you are reduced to an adrenaline induced, gibbering, wreck is what keeps us coming back for more! Only a small percentage of anglers will understand this viewpoint - the vast majority, of which, being on the wrong side of fifty; at a guess?
Is it really possible to recall a lifetime's "big fish" angling highlights in a single blog offering? Probably not unless I take several weeks, to produce it, going back over my angling archives. Therefore I am going to give it a go; as a one off - might get messy? What species are included is purely arbitrary, they're the ones I have been successful in capturing unsurprisingly. That they span a period stretching back over four decades is probably the best indication of my journey and my belief that angling isn't a hobby, it's a way of life.
Tench

It is impossible to remove this fantastic species from my angling - their pursuit being my entry into specimen hunting. 1981, on the banks of Wilstone Reservoir, the very start of my apprenticeship, although I'd caught decent fish in the past. The anglers that crossed my path were at the top of their game and extremely generous in their advice. My confidence grew from the fact that these guys were happy to offer advice - I'd become accepted within the clique? Looking back, I was probably such a twat that I posed no threat on their own reputations as catchers of "big fish". It didn't take long for this to change. I learnt quickly and soon became very proficient at extracting tench from this venue. In the thirteen years that I was a member, over one hundred tench over 7 lbs made it into my landing net. The most prolific and happiest days of my early angling efforts. The members of The Tring Syndicate reading like a "who's who" of the very best speccy hunters of that period. It was a very special time, and place, to be part of - I'm very lucky to have been there.

Wilstone Reservoir in the 1980's - I was there!

Bream

They're the species I'd joined Tring for; this reservoir complex having a history of producing "doubles" with monotonous regularity since the 1930's. I never came close, all the time I was at the complex, although witnessed a fair few for other members. The largest being a 13 lbs 12 oz for Alan Wilson, from Startops. I had to traverse the county border, into Bedfordshire, in order to get that "double" I so desired. One crazy night, in 1992, saw me land four Bream for 39 lbs - an 11 lbs 2 oz fish being the PB I'd sought for all those years.

Maggots, not boilies, were the downfall of this magnificent bream. I caught by design - not accident!

Catfish

The mid-80's and there is nowhere else I'd rather have been. Kevin Maddocks and Bob Baldock (God rest his soul) were on a mission to launch The Catfish Conservation Group. What they hadn't figured on was the fact that Cuddles, Sye, Me and The Mitch's were also fishing at Claydon during that same period. We weren't putting up with too much of their crap! The period is recalled with great fondness, the fishing was fantastic and the personalities immense - happy days and never to be equaled or repeated!

Benno with a 21 lbs plus cat from Claydon Middle Lake - 1992

Pike

The species which provides the name for my blog, the one that, to this day, is able to conjour some of the most intense memories from my school days. A small jack, caught on a live roach fished under a Fishing Gazette bung, was my introduction into a world of marvel. I'd caught plenty of decent pike before that fateful encounter with, a very young, Eddie Turner. His input was to elevate my pike angling to something which I'd never have achieved without it. He, along with Vic Gibson and Billy Hancock, showed me a direction that I'd completely no idea existed. Just to be able to call these guys mates is more than enough for me - I've been a very fortunate man to have enjoyed such company.


When everything comes right - Wilstone 1987

Carp

Kevin Maddocks has already been mentioned, but Duncan Kay, Rod Hutchinson, Richie Mc Donald, Roger Smith, Bob Jones and Rob Maylin had also played a major role in my discovery of these fantastic fish and the associated thrill of hooking a big one!  I  count myself very fortunate to have avoided the monumental rise to dominance that carp angling has exerted over all other aspects of freshwater angling, within the UK. My memories are of simple times and fantastic fish - thanks Kevin, for fucking it all up!

Benno goes close - 19 lbs 14 oz of commercial carp, on a zig bug!

Zander

There has been a lot of water under the bridge since I last cast a bait in the hope of catching a Zed. The 1980's, out on the Fens was a period of discovery, of madness, copious amounts of light ale and hilarity. The fishing was excellent and matched the company. Big Les Dudley is central to my recollections. Larger than life, he remains key to all that was great about that time during my life.

Cuddles with a Fenland Zed - Great times and sadly missed

Barbel

I'd have nothing to say if Benno hadn't been part of this story, however, long before he was born there was a guy called Fred Crouch who was to provide the spark. Barbel are, without doubt, one of the finest challenges which face any UK angler. That I can recall my apprenticeship, under the guidance of Mr Crouch is something of which I am very proud. As I've already said, I'm a very lucky man to have made acquaintance with so many characters, within this hobby. My love of centre-pins and compound taper Avon rods is all directly attributable to this wonderful man. The fish that have come my way, since Ben and I started to fish The Stour would make Fred very happy, I hope?

The very essence of angling. A magnificent River Stour Barbel caught by design - but I have no idea how?

I have absolutely no idea if this post will work for others - it's taken far too long, in preparation, to change it now!

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Stars realigning?

I'm back out on the marsh, for another after dark pike session. It's wonderfully still, mild, and overcast; the car display registered 13C as I drove across to the fishery. Just three hours, four bites, two to the right hand rod - both missed (eels?), one to the middle rod producing a pike of 7 lbs-ish and a screamer on the left hander resulted in an eel, of 2 lbs 9 oz, gracing the net.

My Fuji Finepix at it's best! I have absolutely no idea how anyone can get decent self takes of these bloody fish!
It's the middle of November, yet I am now confident that I can catch eels, by design, should I set out to do so. I make no claims to be an experienced eel angler, but I have spent the past six winters fishing for pike in the East Kent fisheries and have absolutely no reason to think that eels are any different from other species. They feed when the opportunity presents itself - my pike baits being attacked by these slimy nuisances, with monotonous regularity during the entire pike season.
I'm not thinking of another eel challenge, just yet! I will, however, take my night feeding pike project to another venue. It's a fascinating turn around in what I thought to be right and proper - pike in the dark and eels during the winter - who says we know anything about angling?

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Late arrivals

Winter thrushes have been conspicuous, by their absence, so far this Autumn. I'd heard a few Redwings, calling in the dark in early October but  it wasn't until the end of the month that I recorded my first Fieldfare of the season. Both species have remained low key ever since. I recorded a flock of, 30-ish, Fieldfare on Saturday evening, whilst out on the marsh, by far the largest flock of the autumn, yet Redwing numbers haven't even made double figures; all very strange? This isn't a Newlands Farm/Thanet thing, this is what I have experienced around the portion of "The Garden of England" which stretches from New Romney (to the south) up to Ramsgate, incorporating the Royal Military Canal and marshes in between. Basically, the parts of Kent where I have been fishing!
I'm no longer an "active" birder, so there will obviously be other pairs of eyes which can offer a very different slant on the autumnal migration of these, splendid, birds into East Kent. I now consider myself little more than a, very, casual observer - I honestly couldn't give a monkey's about official records and committees - a complete waste of a lifetime; from my perspective. (Don't bother posting a comment - I fully understand that this is the perception of angling for many other folk who, also,  derive pleasure from being outdoors). Doesn't prevent me from enjoying my encounters with the bird life which crosses my path, just of no importance to anyone else; never was or could be!
The bird sightings, plus occasional photographs, are nothing more than embellishments for a blog post, they certainly don't appear for the purpose of informing the masses (aka - Rare Bird Alert!)

How I wish that this had been taken a couple of days ago - sadly not - Jan 2013
In The Old Rose Garden before it was reclaimed as farmland - because we don't have enough acres of
cauliflowers on Thanet!
So there I was, making my way home past the remnants of "The Old Rose Garden" when I flushed a group of eight Fieldfare. Wow! Newlands 2017 and this is big news! I had no camera gear, but that made not the slightest difference. I was thrilled that such an event had been witnessed by myself during a very ordinary working day. Simple pleasure derived from the most ordinary of encounters - means "jack shit" to anyone else and long may it continue!

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Feeding station conundrum

With the weather taking a, decidedly cooler, turn - so the action around the garden feeders has increased. House Sparrows continue to dominate, although Starlings are becoming far more frequent with a couple of double figured counts recently. However, the purpose of this offering is to pose a, hypothetical, question. Should I tolerate the presence of Feral Rock Doves around/under the feeders? I ask this because I am aware of other gardens where these wild birds are actively discouraged (shot!).
Before anyone get's all hot under the collar, shooting these "vermin" is not a crime, they have the same status as Brown Rats and I do shoot them if they appear around the garden/aviary.





A selection of the plumage types exhibited by the Feral Rock Doves that visit our garden.
The maximum count, thus far, has been sixteen.
It's that same old story of humans playing God! We like Squirrels, we don't like rats. Collared Doves are great, Turtle Doves are to die for - street pigeons? Not the slightest of interest, except perhaps on "Bird Race Day"? I actually quite like these feral urchins scratching about under the feeders. Their plumage is far from uniform and they have quite an intricate social behavior. So you can rest assured that they will continue to have a safe haven in our garden.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Coming along nicely

Another chance to spend an afternoon/evening session out on the marsh - so I did just that! I am really getting a feel for the place; enjoying the fact that I'm out there, as much as the fishing itself. I fished my usual three rods, but all four bites, today, came to just one; my left hand kit which was cast along, rather than across, the drain. I didn't connect with the first fish, although the teeth marks on my mackerel tail told the tale - I'd missed a decent pike, such was the space between the puncture marks. I re-cast and it wasn't fifteen minutes later than I'm in action again, this time the hooks took hold and, after a bout of tail-walking, a clean looking pike of 10 lbs 8 oz was in the bag (the same fish as responsible for the  earlier bite?).


I re-cast the gear, this time baited with a sardine, dyed green, and sat back to absorb the ambiance as the light started to fade away. A Barn Owl put on a fantastic show, as it hunted the surrounding fields, although I didn't see it catch anything whilst the light remained good enough to use my bins. A fox was also watched, hunting the reeds beside a feeder ditch - it was a real joy to be there to witness such activity.
It was well dark when the alarm sounded again, this time a rather dour scrap resulted in a pike of 9 lbs 2 oz visiting the landing net. A prominent scar allowing me to confirm it as a re-capture, from just five days ago, when it weighed an ounce lighter! The only other action, on the rods, was an ambitious eel attempting to snaffle a whole sardine - the rig came back looking like a clock spring!
I spent the remainder of my session awaiting an alarm to sound, but playing with the camera kit in an attempt to record some rodent action. I believe them to be Wood Mice, but they were mob-handed and continually drawn to my bait, which was in plastic bags beside my chair. Not the food choice of a vegetarian species, as I'm led to believe? Using the light from my head torch, allowed me to get the camera focused ready for one of these creatures to appear. Still not completely confident with this set up, I am happy enough with this result.

Sneaky little sod. It's impossible to know if it was the fish or the fish oil flavours, that I use to enhance
my baits, which were the draw. Whatever the truth, there were a lot of these rodents active around my swim.
I've got a week of earlies coming up, so another session is very likely. However, repeat captures do nothing for me, other than confirm the very low stock levels in these drains and the effectiveness of my bait presentation. One more visit then it might be time to take this experiment to another venue?

Friday, 10 November 2017

Reality, perception and wild guesses

My recent blogging has been, very much, angling biased, and for good reason; it's what I've been doing for the majority of my free time. It's true I've made mention of some of the birds I've seen, plus a couple of late dragonflies but, the pursuit of fish has dominated my writing because that's what is providing the brain cell stimulus; at present. There's a "night feeding pike" project in the offing and my focus is on getting the most from the time I have available.
I was wandering around the marsh, at the end of October, and bumped into another pike angler (Steve) who was lure fishing. After we'd exchanged the usual pleasantries it became clear that we were of a very similar mind-set. We spoke about tackle and tactics plus our desire to do things our own way, avoiding the mainstream angling circus. Simply by being pike anglers we'd already alienated ourselves from the vast majority of the, carp dominated, UK scene. Seeking wild (not big) pike, in remote places, puts us in a niche alongside hard core dace fishers - we're well off the scale of normal? We talked about the drains, and their potential, having to agree that the likelihood of a pike ever making twenty pounds is highly unlikely. Comparing our captures of the previous season, twelve pounds seemed to be around the top weight. I recalled that first season, 2011/12, when I was to land a magnificent pike of 19 lbs 5 oz, only to hear that one of Steve's associates had also taken a "19" from another drain, in the system, during that same period. Parallel experiences, how weird is that? Well not weird, at all, in reality. We are fishing the same waters and carry a set of scales, thus able to, accurately, record the weight of the fish we capture.

Pixie's Mere, Bourne End, Hertfordshire.
16th January 1990 - 22 lbs 3 oz
Steve was a little anxious when I let on that I had a blog. "You don't name the drains, do you?" I quickly reassured him that I worked too hard to allow poncing, wasters to use my efforts to cut corners. He was on the marsh because he had a vision of what he wanted from his pike angling and had made the effort to get out there in order to make it happen. Exactly the same applies to my own efforts - I wish to make history, not chase it.
For pike to grow to a decent size, in a wild/natural environment, requires some very special circumstances. The number one factor being neglect. If  I publicize where I'm catching these fish then neglect won't remain a factor for long? For as long as I've used a camera to record my captures, that's over 40 years, images have been deliberately taken to make exact location of my swim very unlikely, given the backdrops.

British Aerospace Pit, Colney Heath, Hertfordshire
23rd November 1989 - 16 lbs 6 oz
Pike are a magnificent species which grow to length that is beyond the experience of most (club/match/pleasure, even carp) anglers. They are, therefore, at the heart of angling folklore. "Chinese Whispers" will be a massive factor in the hysteria which surrounds many a tall tale.  Even a modest pike of, say, fifteen pounds is a far bigger fish than the vast majority of anglers will have ever, regularly, encountered. I have lost count of the number of times that I've had verbal exchanges, usually in pubs, but also on the bank and even at the Tesco wet fish counter, with guys who claim to have caught pike far larger than my PB. There are two very common themes in all these conversations - it's the only pike they've ever caught and, no, they didn't have a camera/scales to record the event! Being aware of this fairy-tale nonsense, surrounding the existence of "huge" pike makes me very cynical whenever hearing second hand reports. Wild pike, in excess of twenty pounds, are as rare as hen's teeth. Yes I have been extraordinarily privileged to have landed a few during my life yet, in doing so, have also captured many hundreds more that didn't break this magical barrier. As Robert Palmer once sang "Some guy's get all the luck?" If I'd not put a weight, to the accompanying images, how big would be the guesstimation of a, scaleless, pike fisher when they recounted the story in the pub?


Wednesday, 8 November 2017

More of the same

Up at silly o'clock; three rods fishing an East Kent drain by 06.00 hrs. It was a damp experience with intermittent light rain, but at least it was relatively mild. The car display read 9C as I drove across to my chosen venue. I'd had four takes before 07.00 hrs, which resulted in two fish to the bank, within five minutes of each other. The first chance I totally screwed up because I'd not opened the bale arm and the fourth bite came from a very small jack on a large mackerel tail section. The middle two takes produced pike of 9 lbs 14 oz and 12 lbs 7 oz, one each to bluey and mackerel, and more importantly, they came whilst it was still too dark to see without the use of my head-torch.

The best I could manage in the dull light of the early dawn. Happy enough with my third "double" in as many visits.
I fished on until 08.15 hrs without any further action to the rods - there is a pattern emerging here very quickly! A few birds around the marsh included two Common Buzzard, an adult female Marsh Harrier, two Chiffchaff, a (Lesser) Redpoll, a Greenfinch and eight Fieldfare heading north. Glad to get home by 09.30 hrs so I could get a couple of hours kip before work.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Gathering evidence

I've been back for another, dusk into dark, session pike fishing out on the marsh. This particular drain system has a recent history of late afternoon/early evening pike feeding activity as I can back-up with my diary notes from that winter eel project of 2015/16. I recall a "plagued by pike" phrase getting posted during the February summary; not something I ever thought I'd say in anything but jest! But there I was, complaining about pike feeding activity under the cover of darkness. Night feeding pike are not a recent phenomenon, the species has been night feeding ever since anglers started to fish during the hours of darkness - that's a bloody long time ago - centuries!

Witching Hour approaches - dusk out on the marsh
I've had a search around the UK internet links and discovered several threads where anglers have shared their thoughts and experiences about pike angling in the dark - all very interesting and adding further information to assist my own theories. It is behavior not restricted to the UK - there are comments from the USA/Canada as well as mainland Europe. I have, therefore, to conclude that pike taking baits during the hours of darkness are behaving in a very normal manner and it is us anglers who have overlooked the blatantly obvious. Night fishing is an approach worthy of exploration as there is much to be learnt about this neglected area of pike angling. Over the years I have taken many pike during the night, yet dismissed them as "accidental" captures and not given these events any great thought, until recently.

My second double of the campaign - 10 lbs 2 oz
I have quite a few avenues of thought which I hope to explore over the coming winter period. I already have a few ideas, but want to get more experience with these nocturnal pike and attempt to establish patterns and/or preferences as well as trying different bait presentations. All of my recent fish (seven in two outings) have fallen to my basic static dead bait presentation, fished flat on the bottom. Paternosters and pop-ups will receive a fair trial as will my continued tweaking of flavour and colour combinations. The true test, however, will be if I can get success away from these marshland drains. Then, and only then, will I feel that there is anything worthy to be shared with fellow pike anglers.



A frustrating time with my Fuji bridge camera kit - great as it is for the general scenery shots and self-take stuff. I have to admit that I wish I'd been carrying the Canon and "big lens" when I spent time watching a fox hunting an adjacent field. It flushed a roosting Short-eared Owl which put on a great show but, capturing, flight shots isn't within the capability of the user/camera combination when everything is automatic with a very slow focus response.

How I wish I'd been carrying my long lens
I have one more, shameful, admission - I saw my first Stonechat (a pair) of 2017 whilst I was out there; a woeful performance by any standards.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

A morning on the canal

I met up with Benno and Luke,  in our chosen car park, at 06.00 hrs and we made the trek to our chosen section of The Royal Military Canal over a mile to the west. There was a full moon beaming down from a clear sky, the temp display in the car reading 3C. No skimping on clothing today, every layer was needed before the sun rose and warmed the air very quickly.

The full moon shining above the wooded banks of the RMC
Water levels were low, for the time of year, although this could be a direct result of some maintenance work on one of the main sluices ? Loads of  floating weed was a problem we had to live with; many times a build up of this debris lead to a bite alarm sounding as line pulled out of a clip - both the lads were using back-biters. However, a problem which caused many false alarms was the continuous eel activity. Baits were a mix of bluey, sardine, mackerel and herring - it made no difference, the eels liked them all. The third time my alarm sounded, it was a steady take on a sardine. I picked up the rod and tightened into my pike, only to have an eel pop up in the margins and into the net. Luke and Benno thought the whole episode an excuse for a chortle and a torrent of abuse. At 2 lbs 6 oz it was a decent fish and I got Benno to grab a few images, as I don't have any decent photos of me with an eel.
I won't go into the details, but it was more luck, than judgement, that resulted in the one that I have chosen to use.

As good as it got! 2 lbs 6 oz of bait snaffling pest. The poppy is worn with great pride, not as a p/c ornament
In a bid to try to make something happen, we decided to bounce our gear along the bank, some quarter of a mile. As I was winding the first one in, a tiny jack grabbed the sardine and I found myself attached to the smallest pike I've taken from this fishery. The result of this move was more torment from the eels, but no more fish landed. We packed up at 10.45 hrs and headed homewards, plans already in the mix for a visit to another section in a fortnight. Between now and then, I'll see if I can't catch an eel by design, instead of accident - they are a truly amazing creature but I am puzzled by the "critically endangered" status -  Gavin Haig has experienced a very similar situation on the Exeter Canal so it isn't just me!
Birds were a bit scarce today, although I had seen a Long-eared Owl on my drive down and there were Yellowhammer, Bullfinch and Grey Wagtail recorded beside the canal. As we walked off, a Common Darter proved to be my second dragonfly sighting of November. A  very enjoyable first RMC trip of the season.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Piking after dark

This is a bit of a tale, and I will start at the beginning. Following my recent Top 10 - revisited post, there had been an exchange of comments, with Steve Gale, about eels and I had made mention of a desire to target a big one at some stage. Well, the weather has been ridiculously warm; I'd  had to cut the grass on Thursday, so figured that a couple of outings to the marshland drains might be worthy of effort based upon my earlier project. On Tuesday I took a wander across the marsh, my grandson Harry in tow, just to have a quick look and introduce a bit of bait (sardine & bluey sections  plus a few prawns).
I returned, next evening, tackle to hand and fished for a couple of hours after sun-set; always the most productive time when targeting eels? This theory is attributed to, the late, John Sidley and I have no reason to question/challenge the wisdom behind the statement.
My Wednesday session wasn't without incident, although no eels (fish) were landed. I did have a very lively encounter with a feisty pike which towed me around for a while before biting through the braided hook-link. It looked a decent fish, a low double being my guess as I recalled the encounter to Benno on Thursday morning.

My very basic set-up when fishing these intimate little drains. Open bale arm and a monkey on an angled
needle coupled with an audible alarm

Bev had an engagement with her parents and brother, for Friday afternoon/evening, so it was the ideal opportunity to get back out to the drain, pike tackle to the fore. My shift ended at 13.00 hrs and I was out on the drain before 14.30 hrs, three rods fishing within half an hour. It took all of five minutes for my first action, a scrappy little jack (5 or 6 lbs) giving me the run around before finally drawn over the net chord. Just over thirty minutes later, and my middle rod registers a fast take, on 1/2 Herring, which resulted in a very nice pike of 9 lbs 10 oz visiting the bank.The session moved on, and with the light fading fast, I recast the rod, knowing that I would changing the wire trace over to a braided hook link, for the eels. It was just after 17.00 hrs and already dark, the left hand rod having already been switched over to the eel rig, and I was sorting out the replacement stuff for the middle rod when it rattled off. A powerful and spirited battle, resulted in a lovely pike of 9 lbs 8 oz ending up on the bank and a session in front of the camera kit.


As I unhooked it, I also recovered the lost braided hook link, from Wednesday, so job's a good'n. It provides me with a great deal of comfort knowing that my tackle hasn't caused any prolonged damage or suffering to a magnificent fish. I rested the fish in my weigh sling whilst sorting out the camera kit. A quick self-take session and I slipped the fish back and changed the rig to a braided hook link and re-cast into the drain. Less than fifteen minutes later the right hand rod was away again and, after an interesting tussle, my first "double" of the season was engulfed in the mesh of my landing net. It certainly seemed that the pike in this venue are happy to feed under the cover of darkness. With the camera already set up, it was relatively easy to get a couple of record shots before returning her to the water. I fished on for a further hour and a half, my only eel activity coming to the rod which remained set up for pike. Half a mackerel being targeted by my quarry. I will be going back, that's for sure, but have other venues to explore as the days shorten.

First "double" of 2017/18 season - she went 11 lbs 1 oz
Other wildlife has added to the enjoyment of being out on the marshes; a Great White Egret and Common Buzzard on Tuesday, a Barn Owl on Wednesday and there was a dragonfly (Migrant Hawker ?) patrolling the drain as dusk fell yesterday - so much more to my angling than catching fish!

Sunday, 29 October 2017

A better day

I returned to the club fishery for an afternoon session, hoping to continue with my fine tuning of the luncheon meat rig. The nonsensical fiddling with clocks, meant that everything was an hour out of kilter and the sun set 16.34 hrs as a result. I was in my chosen swim by 14.00 hrs; two baits in the water within a few minutes. I had just over three hours to play around with my bait presentation and make whatever alterations I felt necessary.

Bure Boy and Jono would have done far more justice to this spectacular scene. I simply pointed and pressed the shutter!
Yesterday evening had provided a magnificent farewell to  BST.  Looking out, over Newlands Farm, from our kitchen doorway, was a superb experience as the sky darkened via a series of orange, red and gold vistas. Bev and I didn't rouse until after 10.00 hrs (old money!) thus 09.00 hrs in this new time zone. A lazy Sunday was all that had been planned, so I was happy to go along with that gig. I knew that Benno was hoping to fish at Sandwich Coarse Fishery, but wasn't convinced that is where I wanted to be; so much unfinished business at the club fishery. As it turned out the commercial was "rammo" and I headed around to the club fishery to discover one other angler present - RESULT!


Setting up in a familiar swim, I was fishing within a few minutes. My right hand rod registered a few occurrences, yet it was the left hander, with the luncheon meat rig, which provided the fun. It's not too surprising that a puddle full of scamps was able to deliver some action despite the very obvious change in conditions. I'd already missed a few "screamers" before tweaking the presentation to include a tiny section of tubing, thus producing a "blow-back style" rig.  It worked a treat and resulted in a few fish ending up in the landing net. Just as darkness was falling, my final bite was to see me land a small perch, the first I've ever taken using luncheon meat (SPAM). Pleased with the outcome, I headed home knowing that I'll be back very soon - on "earlies" next week so afternoons look favourite for another session.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Wasted morning

Up at 05.00 hrs in order to get a short session in at our larger club fishery. I'd checked with the club diary dates, in order to avoid match fixtures and/or work parties. I'd even checked the club web page, just in case there had been some recent changes to the details printed on my membership card. No alternative information was to be forthcoming, and so off I went into the darkness, confident of getting a few hours in, trying to fine tune my luncheon meat presentation.
It was all going well, in as much as I was fishing with my modified presentation, when I was approached by a, dog walking, lady who informed me that there was a work party and I had to cease fishing! "It states the other venue" I said - "Oh, no - there's always a work party here on the last Saturday morning of every month".

Not my swim, today, just an image to accompany my whinging
Having no other information, I packed up my kit and was just gathering my bits together when a guy walked up. "You can fish after twelve o'clock - always stay to help us if you feel like it?" "No thanks!" His reply "Just taking the piss like all the others!" what a lovely man. Back home before 10.00 hrs and straight onto the club website, only to discover that the lady involved is the web master. Next thing is to check through the club rules and bylaws, especially those pertaining to the larger fishery. Once again, nothing about monthly work parties or planned maintenance programs - hey ho! I wasted my morning because of two very loyal, committed and hard working club members. I could have done without the "taking the piss" comment as one of the club rules clearly states "No Dogs" - for the couple to have their own dog running freely around the fishery smacks of "do as we say, not as we do!"
Let's get this clear - I don't have to fish this venue, just as I don't have to re-join the club next season. I'll let this go, without feeling any need to get involved with club rules and politics. There will be an AGM in the new year and this will be my chance to influence some change in match angling being the dominant force within the club hierarchy; despite the ordinary member being nothing more than a pleasure angler and wishing for no more than being able to catch fish from the two club fisheries. If the club wish for fishery maintenance to be part of the annual membership package, then a charge for members who opt out should be an extra cost, not a gesture of goodwill.
As for the work party duties today - ripping out the reeds which are encroaching into open water, thus proving troublesome for the match guys, but perfect spots for perch fishing. I'm rather pleased with myself that I managed to avoid confrontation - after all, they're only wet fish and I've caught loads over the years! It's a very small club with a long, and distinguished, history. The events of today are no more than a glitch - the club will survive whatever problems I perceive.


Friday, 27 October 2017

Feeding station wishful thinking

With the passing of the seasons, so the visitors to our garden feeding station change in accordance. Over the years we have been extraordinarily fortunate to have attracted some wonderful birds into our garden, purely because of our provision of food and water (for drinking and/or bathing). However, our geographic position, on The Isle of Thanet,  has also played a major part, thus birds like Ring Ouzel, Fieldfare, Black & Common Redstart, Reed Warbler, Ortolan Bunting, Waxwing, Tree Sparrow and Dartford Warbler have also been recorded "in" the garden, yet nothing to do with sunflower hearts, fat balls or bird baths.


A conversation with one of the guys at work, as I was attempting to explain my excitement about the recent Sparrowhawk/Collared Dove episode, actually set this thought process in motion. Over the years I've been privileged to have been able to photographed many birds around the feeding station. The vast majority of these images are of the very ordinary species, as expected in a Thanet garden, any garden?, but there have been some nice exceptions. I think that the image of a male Siskin, on our sunflower heart feeder, is the one of which I am most happy and sets the bench mark by which others are measured.

Yet another rare bird discovered at a garden feeding station - although, admittedly,  Dave's garden is pretty special!
I was staring out of the kitchen doorway, big lens to hand, via the full length, double-glazed, panel in the back door; simply watching the House Sparrows that are a constant feature of the feeding station. Bev asked "What are you doing?" - which isn't an unreasonable question. My reply went along the lines of " I am waiting for a rare bird to turn up" I had no major reason to expect such an occurrence, it was more wishful thinking based upon the fact that our garden has attracted so many birds over the past seventeen years, surely it has to happen sooner or later? Every year, without fail, rare birds are discovered in urban gardens, attracted by the provision of food. My only, UK, Slate - coloured Junco was discovered by Dave Bunney, in his Dungeness garden, feeding on seed that he had deliberately placed for the wild  birds. Will such an event ever happen in our back garden? Only by looking out of the back door window will I ever have a chance of knowing the answer.

A very sad indication of what's happening to our garden birds. In 2017 I've only recorded one Greenfinch at
the feeders, they used to be so regular as to be taken for granted. (Bit like hedgehogs!)

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Top10 - revisited

In January, 2014, I made a post entitled Top Ten which was a run down of the best ten fish I'd caught since returning to angling in May 2011. It was very much about me, and my successes, and fitted within a template that Steve Gale had introduced (although I don't think he claims to have invented the format?) to this blogging circus. Time has passed and the circle of bloggers is constantly evolving as enthusiasm (or lack of) has resulted in a steady stream of  defunct, re-launched and new, natural history based, sites for me/us to regularly visit.
I was looking at my blog stats, recently, and saw that the Top Ten post had received a number of visits, so checked it out and, having re-read it, felt sure that my perception of the ten most important/pleasurable fish would be very different in October 2017. First off is the realization that I haven't caught some of the most memorable fish over the period, thus it can't be all about me. There is an undeniable joy to be had by simply being part of someone else's successes. So; this time round, I hope to purvey that sentiment by including fish that I have witnessed, along with those I've been fortunate to catch myself. There are three of us who regularly fish together, Benno, Luke and myself, but we are occasionally accompanied by Sye (my brother) and Bryn (my grandson). Attempting to narrow this down to ten fish might get messy and, chronologically, things will go a little awry? But here goes!

No 10 - Benno at Loch Awe, 5th May 2011 Pike 20 lbs 6 oz

Kilchurn Bay, Loch Awe - Benno with the first Scottish "twenty" I had seen in 29 years of trying!
The first Scottish "twenty" that I'd ever set eyes on and the fact that I actually placed the landing net under this magnificent pike made it so much more special. Just being able to share the experience with my son and witness the joy, as he captured his first twenty, is as much as any father can hope for I reckon.

No.9 - Sye at Stream Valley Fishery, East Sussex. 10th June 2012  Perch 3 lbs 6 oz


A social at this lovely little venue was to produce perch fishing like I had never known. I can't remember just how many of these fabulous fish we took between us? A great many being over two pounds, my own PB of 2 lbs 10 oz was amongst them, but it was this stunning example which stole the show and made the whole gang happy to have been part of Simon's special moment.

No.8 - The Royal Military Canal, 17th February 2013 Pike 20 lbs 9 oz


A very special fish which produced some intense emotions. Taken just a few days after the death of my Mother; I was alone on the canal when the bite came. Only when I'd secured it within the folds of my landing net did I realize how special a fish it was. The pike I had been seeking since picking up the rods again in May 2011. My first English "twenty" since January 1990 and I had time to savour the event all by myself. It was an hour, or so, later when Benno and Luke arrived to witness the fish,  take some photos and share in my enjoyment of such a wonderful wild pike.

No.7 - Benno on The Stour, Canterbury. 5th July 2013 Barbel 11 lbs 6 oz



Rod Stewart once sang "Every picture tells a story" and never has that been more true than with this image. It proved to be a pivotal moment in our project and was, at the time of capture, the largest barbel I'd ever seen. Just a few days after we returned from a trip to The River Severn, at Hampton Lode, where I'd managed to land my first barbel since September 1985, this fish was the one that ignited the flame. Caught during a very short evening session, the walkie talkie message "Dad, I'm in!" was catalyst to a magical experience as I netted this PB specimen for my son! I remember ringing him the next morning and the phrase "smiling like an idiot" being part of the conversation. Benno had said it, but it applied to me in equal measure - a truly wonderful experience for me to be part of.

No.6 - The Stour, Canterbury. 21st August 2013 Barbel 13 lbs 14 oz


That River Stour barbel campaign was to be as exciting, an angling challenge, as I'd ever experienced, yet never did I feel that we (Benno and I) had learnt anything about the fish that graced our landing nets. Such was the random pattern to our successes. If, however, I look beyond the obvious and simply seek the impact and enjoyment of a fish then this barbel is right up there with the best. Benno was fishing nearby, thus able to share the experience and grab the photos. It was a very special time, and place, for us both


No.5 - East Kent Marshes 10th July 2015 Common Carp 20 lbs 10 oz


I am no fan of modern carp angling, completely unable to buy into the mind-set of the current generation of devotees. There can, however, be no denying that they are a fabulous species and provide a challenge like few other fish. I'd packed up carp fishing in February 1984, having caught my PB from Stanborough Lake, Welwyn Garden City, Herts. All 23 lbs 14 oz of it! It was a crazy twist of fate that contributed to my being out on the marshes, at this time. I'd been going barbel fishing, only to learn of an Environmental Agency weed cutting operation, so had reverted to plan B. I'll go tench fishing out on the marshes. Well that's what I'd planned, what actually happened was I caught an 18 lbs 2 oz carp! This fish is the result of my second, and carp focused, session and is everything I wish for from my carp angling. Probably never seen a hook previously, it provided a stern test of my angling techniques before it was drawn over the landing net. In the early morning sunlight it looked as though it had been carved from mahogany, a beautiful creature to behold and well worthy of inclusion in this list.


No.4 - Luke at Sandwich Coarse Fishery 12th February 2017 Perch 3 lbs 3 oz


Luke is the quiet one within the group, he's also a very accomplished angler. I wish I'd been able to use his 30 lbs carp in this listing, but wasn't present when he landed it so will have to make do with his PB perch instead. He and Benno had been fishing with Bryn (my grandson) in order to get some material together for our Freshwater Informer articles. I was stuck indoors with jobs to do, but a phone call from Benno had me making excuses and driving over to see them. As I parked my car the phone went again with Benno informing me that Luke had just landed his PB perch on the drop-shotting gear. I was there within a minute and gazing down on a truly stunning fish - Luke's soppy grin spoke volumes about the capture!

No.3 - Royal Military Canal. 23rd April 2017 Carp 23 lbs 5 oz


A milestone fish, in an unfinished project. It is only special because it is the heaviest fish I have so far managed to catch using the B James & Son Mk IV split cane "Dick Walker" rod that was my family gift to celebrate my 60th birthday. That promise to my Father, to catch a "thirty" using it, is the driving force behind this challenge. I realize that it's a very tall order but, I did make that commitment and will do my utmost to make it happen. Dad passed away in August 2016 and I have much to do in order to honour my word and his memory. St George's Day, on the canal, was everything I wished for. A savage bite, a prolonged battle and a nice fish to pose with. The split cane comes alive under these conditions and the use of a Mitchell 300 reel just adds to the fun. What will it be like when the dream becomes reality? I'll certainly have to re-write my Top Ten, that's for sure!


No.2 - East Kent Marshes. 12th March 2016 Eel 3 lbs 10 oz



At no time, in my life, did I think that eels would feature in my angling highlights until I received a comment from Darren Roberts about my dismissal of a 3 lbs 6 oz fish that I'd caught whilst carp fishing. I had always thought of eels as slimy, tackle tangling, pests - it didn't matter if I was after carp, barbel, pike or perch, these Sargasso Sea interlopers were a problem, no matter what time of the year. Then I became aware of "critically endangered" status that had been placed upon the species and set about a project to catch an eel in every month of the traditional "pike season".
I succeeded, and it is this fish which completed my challenge. The largest of the whole winter period, I can't recall being happier with any other fish of any other species. Eels had certainly gotten to me!


No.1 - Kilchurn Bay, Loch Awe. 25th April 2015 Pike 24 lbs 10 oz


So we've finished up where I started. Kilchurn Bay, on Loch Awe, the scene of so many special angling events. That magnificent backdrop providing something extra to, what are already, very special memories. Just before 06.00 hrs, on April 25th 2015, my bite alarm sounded a take. I was using a centre pin and a thirty year old rod made the occasion even more quirky as I went on to land the largest pike that any of us have caught in Scotland.  The company of Benno and Luke was special, the fact that I'd waited 33 years unbelievable and the out pouring of emotion was a very personal experience. No, I wasn't crying like a baby - although I wouldn't be ashamed if I had.
The feeling of contentment, of personal fulfillment, was the overriding emotion as the day panned out - plus the fact that I went on the piss from 06.10 hrs.might have helped?  If there is ever going to be a fish to replace this one, at number one, then a split cane rod, or my grandson, will have to be part of the story