Who am I?

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


Friday 12 April 2024

Another day, another "double"

 A bit like "Groundhog Day". I was back down at Sandwich Coarse Fishery for a "sundowner" session, on Thursday afternoon, and managed to trip up another nicely conditioned Mirror Carp of 15 lbs 15 oz for my troubles. It would seem that my use of The Bushwhacker baiting pole is causing a few ripples in certain quarters. Basically, if I am not allowed to use it I will take my custom elsewhere. It's a commercial day ticket fishery, thus needs to attract customers, not go OTT with rules which go beyond encouraging proper fish handling and their safe return to the water? I've not had chance to chat with Kevin, as yet, so will have to wait and see how things develop.

I ran the garden moth trap overnight and caught just two individuals. Obviously conditions weren't particularly conducive for these nocturnal insects, yet the two I did attract were migrants? A SIlver Y and a Dark Sword-grass, both of which were my first of 2024.

Wednesday 10 April 2024

Afternoon delight

 I managed to grab a short, "Sun-downer", session at Sandwich Coarse Fishery this afternoon. Although it was quite chilly in the stiff SW breeze I did manage to temp a lovely Mirror Carp, of 17 lbs 3 oz, to pick up my baited rig. A really enjoyable tussle, in a tight corner swim, was just what the doctor ordered. I'd only just landed it when Ken, one of the fishery bailiffs, turned up and the regulation banter ensued. Apparently I'm a cheat! I use a baiting pole and that's not fishing, yet it doesn't contravene any of the fishery rules, so I can't be doing anything wrong? Well that is with the exception of Ken's opinion. All harmless fun and after a quick selfie session, back it went. I stayed on for another couple of hours without any further action. I hadn't blanked, so what's to moan about?.

A lovely, scaly, fish in great condition.

Friday 5 April 2024

An "Old school" Carper?

When, on that fateful afternoon of 5th July 1983, I caught my first Carp over twenty pounds it was obvious that there could be no turning back. It was a huge fish and, even though I'd already landed Pike over twenty pounds, is the one which marked the start of my specimen hunting journey. Way back then a twenty was a "big" Carp and, to my mind, still is. That there are now Carp three times bigger swimming around in UK fisheries doesn't change anything for me. If the day ever dawns when I am unable to derive enjoyment from landing a fish of this physical size, then it's time for me to take up knitting! 

21 lbs 10 oz of pure joy!
Taken on floating "Slyme", a Duncan Kay bait, using a Gerry Savage S/U 10ft Carp rod.

Watching modern anglers, usually on YouTube, glibly dismissing "big" Carp as "it's just a mid-twenty, a low thirty" is completely alien to everything fishing means to me. If I can be bothered to stick a hook in such a fish then the least I can do is place it on the scales, out of respect? That I have records of every "double" I've ever captured is part of the adventure and if that means Danny Fairbrass considers me, and all those other guys who are able to recall the early days, as folk singers, harping on about a bygone era, he's allowed that opinion. However, he'd do well to remember that, if it wasn't for us, old boys, he wouldn't have the business empire built upon the meteoric rise in the popularity of Carp angling!

27th June 1984 - Stanborough Lake, Welwyn Garden City, HERTS.
18 lbs 10 oz - it was considered a "big" Carp back then.
If I catch fish of this size, today, they are just as appreciated as they've always been

The term "Old school", in a Carp fishing context, conjures thoughts of par-boiled potatoes and silver foil rustling in the butt ring of a split cane. Whilst that certainly still holds true for a small number of Chris Yates type folk, for the vast majority of anglers who experienced this Carp fishing (r)evolution we have also embraced, at least some of, the advances in tackle and bait which have been part of the process.  As an individual, my angling journey started back in the Summer of 1963, aged seven, fishing for Minnows in the River Gade. My apprenticeship required me to sample the delights of Gudgeon, Roach and Perch from the Grand Union Canal before advancing the the lofty heights of Bream and Tench from further afield. As my angling moved from stage one, catch the most, to stage two, catch the biggest, I was extraordinarily fortunate to cross paths with many characters who assisted my learning and helped steer me in a positive direction. That lunatic period during the 1980's/early 1990's saw me embark on a ridiculous course of obsessive pursuit for specimen fish. It didn't matter if they were Chub, Catfish, Bream, Tench, Roach, Pike, Zander, Barbel or Carp, the dereliction of duty, as a father, was something about which I am now very ashamed, but cannot change. The other thing which will never alter is that same period is one in which some of the most memorable events of my life took place. If only they could teach "experience" whilst  we were still at school?

I now need to fast forward eighteen years, as that is the period which elapsed between me (and my family) moving from Hertfordshire to Kent. My obsessional behaviour quickly transferred from angling to Kent birding and was to, ultimately, result in divorce. Bev and I getting together. was a very weird quirk of fate which eventually led to me picking up the rods again for "one last cast" with my son! Well that was the plan prior to that trip back to Loch Awe in April 2011. The spark returned and, once again, angling became the dominant force in my outdoor activities. During my time away from the hobby so much had happened as to make it unrecognisable from my time as member of the Tring Syndicate. Carp fishing dominated the scene and was catered for by an amazing number of club and commercial fisheries which simply hadn't existed in 1993. I have to admit, I did have a little dabble with the species but didn't like the atmosphere created by so many, unthinking, off the shelf, Carp fishing clones. To see and hear these folk dismiss double figure Tench and Bream as nuisance fish was too much and I sought my enjoyment in other arenas. Those two seasons chasing Barbel in the Kentish Stour certainly proved to me that there was still much more to freshwater fishing than Carp.

Two thirteen pounders taken just five days apart in August 2013
The top fish went 13 lbs 14 oz and the lower one 13 lbs 5 oz
Who needs Carp?

It wasn't until July 2015 that anything particularly noteworthy, Carp wise, was to happen in my new angling adventure. Because of some EA weed cutting my Barbel plans had to be put on hold and, instead, I thought a session out on the flatlands, after Tench, would be worth a bash. This proved to be a pivotal decision as, despite not catching the species I was after, a Common Carp of 18 lbs 10 oz graced my landing net and provided the insight that they could be caught away from the crowds and their moronic, tunnel visioned, views. Just four days later I was back, this time with Carp as my target and, with the fishing gods smiling down, I landed my first "twenty" since February 1984. What a fish, absolutely stunning, like carved mahogany and probably never seen a hook in it's lifetime? There and then I knew that Carp would now play a part in my second dalliance with angling.

My first "twenty" in over thirty-one years.

Exploring the East Kent drains provided some brilliant angling experiences, plus a few decent Carp along the way. My son, Benno, pointed me in the direction of the Royal Military Canal and we both caught a couple of twenties from the section near Seabrooke as a result. However, it was the drains which continued to hold me under their spell and now, having past my sixtieth birthday, had the added factor of using a couple of 1959 B.James & Son, Dick Walker Mk IV, split cane, Carp Rods. A couple of Mitchell 300's completed the set-up and "Old School" I was indeed. There is no doubt that using this kit does anything else but raise the enjoyment of catching fish to a new level, however, there is an element of feeling a little under-gunned in certain situations so I am now rather selective about when and where I use it. Not to worry as my main choice of rods are three, 1983, Duncan Kay 11' 1 lb 10 oz t/c carbon fibre versions which were built by Ian Crawley in the St. Albans branch of Leslies of Luton. I would think that 90% of my angling is done using these rods, be that after Pike, Carp or anything else. 

I'm absolutely spoilt for reel choice with a nice blend of ancient and modern versions at my disposal. Away from the Mitchell 300's, my preference seems to be with ABU Cardinals, either 66X's or 55's. That I also have the option of sticking a Match Aerial centrepin in the mix certainly helps add something to the angling experience if a decent fish is hooked. I also own modern Whychwood, Nash and Okuma, fixed spool, models which ensures that I have got most bases covered? As with all aspects of life, with the passing of time comes experience and, for me, it was retiring in April 2021 that really lifted the lid on the potential angling options that were available without having to rub shoulders with the weekend warriors. Although it is those wild Carp of the East Kent marshes which really fire my enthusiasm, I have to admit that my recent seasons spent on both local club and commercial venues have provided some excellent angling. 

I'm now in the very comfortable position of not needing to worry about how others perceive my ability based upon my choice of tackle or tactics. This also works in reverse, as I have no requirement to understand how others derive enjoyment from their own angling. Each to their own, I guess? I am now embarked upon a very individual journey which, by definition, will be done my way. I might have my angling roots back in the "Old School" days yet am not completely oblivious to the incredible advances in tackle, techniques and bait production that I will ignore them. My apprenticeship ensured that watercraft and bankside etiquette were fundamental requirements when at a fishery. An enquiring mind-set was also a major factor in big fish angling during my formative years and hasn't diminished in importance with the passing of time. 

The past three seasons of Carp fishing has been the most productive time I've ever spent in their pursuit. My single most important edge has been the desire to do something different from the norm.and that doesn't require the IQ of Albert Einstein at the vast majority of fisheries I have visited. The "copycat" mentality of the current generation of Carp angler is on display for all to see. Just take a look at YouTube and it is quickly apparent how little thought, and effort, goes into the fishing of the vast amount of contributors on this platform. The abuse of time, with very few signs of ability, is key to their thought processes and so it's bait & wait every outing with monotonous repetition. As I stated earlier, it's not for me to judge how others derive enjoyment from their own angling experiences, I just know that it doesn't work for me. Crashing around with 3 oz plus leads plus kilos of spod mix and boilies placed noisily into the fishery via a "Spomb" using rods which guys on Ramsgate beach would consider to be heavy doesn't fit anywhere in my own approach. 

So in 2024, how does this "Old School" bloke fish for Carp? At this point I do need to make it very clear that I have no affiliation to any tackle manufacturers, so my kit is based purely upon the need for it to be able to do the job I require. This said, it was an Oli Davies, of Nash Tackle, YouTube offering which pointed me in the direction of their "Bushwhacker" baiting pole system and it has proven to be a real game changing piece of kit in my own fishing, not only for Carp! I have an original version but have purchased an additional six sections which gives me a maximum range of 24 metres of stealthy and incredibly accurate bait placement. My baiting edge is provided by a home prepared particle mix which is based upon Racing Pigeon conditioning seed, but with a few tweaks which I will keep under my hat. My choice of boilies is to stick with frozen baits, of whoever's are available in the tackle shop at the time, and to use a wafter version as my hook bait for reasons which I will expand upon shortly. 

My rigs are a mix of simple blow-back and "D" rigs, I have absolutely no desire to create a "Ronnie" rig with all that metalwork which goes with it. Although I have no issues with modern braids, be they coated or not, I am currently using 10 lbs b.s. Diawa Sensor mono for my hook links with very pleasing results. Hooks have been a real journey of discovery with many twists along the way. Korda "Widegapes" took some beating until I stumbled across the Gardner "Rigga" model. They are insane and, along with the Gardner "Mugga" pattern, provide everything I require from my hooks. I'm happy to use a lead clip system or an inline dependant upon the substrate I'm fishing over. Where allowed I prefer to use a length of leadcore leader, yet am equally confident that tungsten tubing will allow me to present my rig in very similar fashion should the fishery rules require it?  My preferred lead size is between 1 1/2 & 2 1/2 oz, although I will go heavier if conditions dictate the need. One other thing which is part of my rig presentation is the use of back leads, no matter what distance I am fishing.

So what do I do to make sure my approach is so different? Well, firstly, a kilo of boilies will probably last me over a month? I never offer them whole, they will be either halved or crushed (or both) and placed in the Bushwhacker on top of a scoop of particle mix. I think that I use about 60 kg of particles for every 1 kg of boilies. My wafter hook bait is the only whole offering I place in the swim. Out on the marshland drains and the Royal Military Canal, the challenge is provided by the Carp themselves. At the local club and commercial venues it is the other anglers which pose the biggest test. Margin fishing has been the biggest edge I can find, purely because Noddy and his mates can't use a Spomb or a catapult to deposit copious amounts of freebies at such close range, thus targeting spots at longer range where they can impress their peers with an agricultural display of bait placing prowess. The Carp associate all this disturbance with danger and head for cover where my rigs await them.

Day ticket Common of 25 lbs 4 oz

My sessions rarely exceed five hours and the kit on display is not expensive, logo covered, gear but still does the job required of it. NGT landing nets, unhooking cradle, and weigh sling, a cheap Leeda rod pod on which are Nash Siren R3 alarms (courtesy of Fujifilm awards scheme) and my choice of old rods and reels about sums it up. I do enjoy my time spent after these fish yet can't help feel that something is missing from modern angling because other species are held in such low esteem by the vast majority of those who now go fishing. A twenty pound Carp is physically a big fish and that hasn't changed despite the fact that there are specimens many, many pounds heavier swimming around in the fisheries of the UK today. So to sum it up, I probably am "Old School" because all I desire from my angling is to enjoy the experiences it provides. Big fish are still a draw, yet having experienced such a wondrous journey, certainly don't matter as much as they have done in the past.

Thursday 4 April 2024

Bits & bobs, odds & sods

The situation with Bev's medical issues all seem to be headed in the right direction, as predicted by the surgeon and cancer nurse after the operation. The biggest issue, from our perspective, is waiting for the next stage in this process. Obviously, for us, it is the top priority in our lives yet we recognise that the medical crew are dealing with so many other cases that we are, in reality, just another entry on a spreadsheet. Roll on 26th April and the consultation meeting with Dr.A. Podder to learn what happens next. 

Garden birding has been good fun, although I am really struggling to get any additions for the year list. Three pairs of Sparrowhawks are holding territory around the Newlands Farm area and I was delighted to grab a photo of a stunning adult male which perched on my neighbours fence a couple of days ago. A lone Buzzard has also taken up (temporary?) residence which is causing the local Herring Gulls quite a few issues as it goes about its' daily routine. 

I have been out with the rods, down at Sandwich Coarse Fishery, for a couple of "sundowner" sessions this week. I've caught Carp on both occasions, yet only one "double" out of three fish landed. I've got to give Kev, the site manager, a massive thumbs up for allowing me the opportunity to be a little flexible due to Bev's medical issues. Top bloke! 

The best one, thus far, at 17 lbs 6 oz 
Quite a distinctive character with a deformed tail which probably explains why it didn't
put up much of a scrap!

I saw my first Swallows of 2024, four, this afternoon and my decision to switch to centrepins provided added enjoyment from the capture of two "scamps" which fell for the tactics today.

Not quite a "double" these Sandwich Coarse Fishery Common Carp
are capable of pushing tackle to the limits.
I do have a post, in preparation, about my current stance on Carp fishing and hope to get it finished in the next couple of days. We have a busy, family based, weekend planned, so it will be placed into cyberspace when I am able to do so?

Sunday 31 March 2024

I wasn't expecting this

 Easter Sunday and "British Summertime" kicked in overnight, thus the body clock will be in disarray for a short while? I've just been outside to check the moth trap and have discovered a crazy butterfly on the egg boxes. A Speckled Wood, no less, my sixth butterfly species of 2024 had decided that a cool, clear night, with a gentle Easterly and temperatures down to 7C would be a good time to have a fly around. My earliest record of this species, without question. This type of encounter is exactly why running the garden MV trap is so much fun - you just never know what might turn up next?

Happy Easter!

Friday 29 March 2024

Looking ahead to retain focus

Under no circumstances do I have any desire to wish my life away yet, with the current situation, find myself making angling plans for April and beyond. I have absolutely no problem with getting the Easter break out of the way before returning to the waterside. My C&DAA membership is due for renewal at the end of the month and, having chatted with Benno, will get it sorted. It was at the March PAC gathering that Tom Lane, a proper good guy, asked if, after Pike season had ended," would I be Carp fishing again?"  A perfectly valid question from an angler who, despite his tender years, is far more accomplished in their pursuit than I. My negative response needed quickly amending, as there is no way I could possibly go through a, river, close season without casting a bait in their direction. So yes, I will do some Carp fishing, probably focussing on Victory Lake, at Sandwich Coarse Fishery, but my real hope is, after June 16th has dawned, to have a serious attempt for those Tench which I spotted in Black Dyke. A couple of other distractions might be provided by Perch and Eels, although no serious thought has been entered into as yet. Obviously, how Bev's medical situation develops will have a massive impact upon anything I am planning, thus the requirement to remain flexible will be fundamental over the next few months.

So at present, I am only thinking about what might be possible before June 16th and Carp will definitely be the species which will provide the challenge. Ten weeks, or thereabouts, should allow me plenty of opportunities to get to the bankside whenever the conditions are suitable. Day ticket Carp fisheries aren't my favourite venues yet, somehow, Sandwich Coarse Fishery suits my short session approach and has the stock which provides the realistic chance of a "thirty". Added to this is the relatively short distance from our front door ensures my ability to get back home, should Bev need me, within twenty minutes! 

My first "twenty" from Sandwich Coarse Fishery

I do have a "Plan B", in the locker, which can only come into play once we understand what direction the medical situation will take?  I haven't caught a Carp from the RMC since 2015 yet am well aware that small gang, of very talented guys, are catching some stunning fish from the canal. Not too sure that I will be able to give the venue proper attention, due to the distance involved and the resultant inability to conduct a pre-baiting program, yet it is a place which offers the "unknown" potential that I find so intriguing.

My best, split cane caught, Carp from the RMC (23 lbs 5 oz) 

Is ten weeks enough time for me to add another five "twenties" to my tally? I am currently re-reading Kevin Maddock's, 1981, "Carp Fever". Kevin and I never did see eye to eye, as he was a tunnel visioned technician, whilst enjoyment of the angling experience was far more important to me. We never Carp fished together, it was the advent of the Catfish Conservation Group which lead to our paths crossing. In my defence, I was young, vocal and very head strong. Kevin was up there to be shot at? Anyway, the target setting mentality used by Kevin, during those times, certainly now resonates with my angling journey in 2024. I'm now reading Carp Fever with a very different perspective on what Kevin had written all those years ago.

Wednesday 27 March 2024

Not a lot happening

Bev and I had an appointment with the nurse at East Cliff Medical Centre, this morning, where she removed the dressing and was able to confirm that the healing process is going as well as could be hoped. Bev still has quite extensive bruising around the scar tissue, but this has to be expected at our time of life? No replacement dressing was applied, so that's a very positive sign of progress. When we returned home, after a detour to Copper's at Preston Garden Centre for a spot of brekkie, there was a letter from the surgeon confirming our follow up consultation on 26th April. At this meeting we will learn of what happens next, so we've got four weeks to get back into some form of normal routine. I have no intentions of picking up the rods again until after the Easter break has passed, so will continue to potter around in the garden when conditions allow. I managed to add Jay (No. 41) to my 2024 garden list, on Tuesday, when three birds flew south over the bungalow. Hedgehogs are nightly visitors to the feeding station, yet the mix of strong winds and rain has made it very difficult to get a decent chance for some photos. On the one occassion I did get the camera kit readied, the Hedgehog that turned up had a distinct preference for the Fox bowl over the normal fare on offer.

These same conditions are also playing a major role in keeping the moth activity to a minimum. This morning did, however, provide a nice surprise in the shape of two Esperia sulphurella (Sulphur Tubics) which are my earliest garden records by some margin.

Gale force winds are predicted for tomorrow, starting just after midnight, thus I won't be wasting effort, or electricity, running the trap tonight. However, in the run up to this next storm, there appears to be a window of opportunity allowing me to play around with the Hedgehog photography kit. Watch this space!