Who am I?

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

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Saturday, 12 January 2019

Little steps

Right up until the middle of November, the perch project was just fumbling along with no signs of me actually learning anything about the fish I was after, let alone catching one! Although the venue I targeted had produced some spectacular fish, during the previous season, I failed dismally. Location, or rather lack of, being the major obstacle, I simply didn't find them. My salvation came about as a result of a club work party, over at Marshside. The club secretary telling me about some perch that had been taken in a recent match. Very interesting and enough of a story to encourage me to swap venues and have a bash. That very first visit was all I could have wished for, two two's landed and plenty of other signs of perch activity. At last I was on a venue where I could develop my techniques as I seek that three pounder; a fish which will indicate that my project is headed in the right direction.


Ultimately, I suppose, the capture of a perch over 3 lbs 8 oz will see me satisfied with these fish and allow me to move on to other species with which I still have unfinished business. I'm not certain that this club venue will provide such a specimen, but the lessons learned whilst fishing here will stand me in good stead for any further fisheries that I visit in my quest. When, at last, I do succeed? Chub is the most obvious glitch in my PB statistics and will probably provide the next challenge when that time arrives. I don't think that I'll ever get serious about tench fishing again? Having experienced Wilstone at it's absolute peak, and being part of that historical period, ensures that anything else will be an anti-climax; no matter what size the tench now grow to. Carp? Well, when I've eventually succeeded in my split cane challenge, I'd like to think that I'll just be able to forget all about them. However, wild carp are very different creatures to those commercial puddle inhabitants and will, I'm sure, continue to draw me back to the flatlands long after the thirty has been secured within my landing net. Using a Dick Walker designed split cane rod just adds another dimension to the experience and it's something of which I hope I never tire. Pike will always be part of my angling year, although I no longer have any great desire to chase monsters (at present). I can't foresee a time when I fail to be excited by the bite indicator registering another pick up of my dead bait. They are the one constant along my entire angling adventure, no matter how many distractions I encounter en route.

Three Holes - October 1985
Crazy memories of absolute mayhem and anarchy
Now there is one species with which I'd love to reacquaint myself; Zander! Probably been best part of thirty years since I last caught one? As English as egg fried rice, they are still a species which hold a great many fond memories. People, places, mis-behaviour, generally pulling a few strokes, these fish evoke some of the happiest memories from a period of absolute lunacy. Not too sure if anything will ever become of this desire, but it is certainly something that's on my wish list.

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Graft and grind

With work dominating, Monday to Friday, I've morphed into a bit of a weekend warrior. The perch search resumed with my first outing of 2019. I arrived at the club fishery well before dawn on Saturday morning and endured a ten hour blank - not a sniff! A decent social, with Benno and Luke joining the project, as we chase that elusive three pounder. It wasn't without incident, although my rods remained poker straight, as the boys employed maggots and, therefore, caught a succession of roach, bream, hybrid silvers, a rudd and a lone perch (1 lb-ish). 


Because of my tackle choice I got engaged in two great conversations, with complete strangers, both were very complimentary about the gear on show. It's rather nice to have such encounters, as it means that the decent side of humanity is on display, especially when I was able to explain the historical significance of the rods to a young lad, who was with his Dad. The other guy asked if he could take some photos, with his phone, so I must have made an impression; although not too sure if that's good or bad? This was the first outing with the Allcocks Match Aerial and Mk IV Avon combo, so I was desperate for a bite!

Cygnet "Stage Stand" allow me to use bank sticks on the wooden platforms

The Allcocks Match Aerial in situ

The latest edition to my split cane armoury.

Well, there was nothing else for it! I went back this afternoon for another session, just a quick couple of hours. Conditions had improved, somewhat, it being far less windy/chilly and the cloud cover was much higher, thus light levels were better. Over an hour had elapsed, without a bleep. The only highlight being an adult Whooper Swan, which flew past, in the company of a dozen, or so, Mute Swans. They did a sweeping arc, out towards Sarre, before setting off towards Stodmarsh and The Stour Valley. It was well after 15.00 hrs when the signs started. Odd bleeps, of the alarms, and taps on the rod tip. I kept the prawns sections going in, little and often, and it was just before 16.00 hrs when I had a confident pull and MISSED IT !!!!!! It didn't end there, oh no. Within ten minutes I had another chance and didn't touch that one either. What's going on?? I'd already got the majority of the gear back onto the barrow when the alarm sounded for the third time, in little over twenty minutes. Glory be, the hook hold was good and after a very interesting battle, with the new set-up, I slid the net under a superb perch of 2 lbs 6 oz. Never has a perch been more welcome. Camera and tripod back off the barrow I went through the self-take ritual before packing up properly and  making my way homeward very pleased with a result which had been hard earned.

2 lbs 6 oz - boy was I a happy bunny.
The Mk IV Avon is going to take a little getting used to, it being of a far lower test curve than the original Mk IV's, although the through action is a joy to witness and the rod a delight to hold as the fish battle in their watery domain. The perch which christened the rod did me proud and tested the kit to a decent level before coming to the net. I think I'll need to hook a few scamp carp, to see how the rod copes, before thinking about taking it down to The Stour for a barbel/chub session.
Now back to five days graft, including fifteen hours overtime, thus money to be earned. By working extra hours I am able to purchase the whimsicle odds and sods, which enhance the enjoyment of this incredible hobby, without impacting upon our day to day finances. Sure I'd like to get out with the rods more often but, then again, it's a hobby that I enjoy; not my job! By keeping work and play separate, I'm able to make the best of both worlds. I work hard and play hard, yet know I can't have one without the other.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Hopes and dreams

2019 - Wow! The start of a brand new chapter in all our lives. What will it deliver? How will things pan out? The reality is that no-one knows and that the only way to find out is to embark on the journey and see where it leads. I, like the vast majority of others, have plans for what I'd like to achieve but, being a realist, will be happy so long as my health remains good, thus, continue to get out, and about, experiencing the wonders of our natural world. If it is able to be planned, which sadly it isn't, there are several projects that I'd like to see through to successful conclusions.

No. 1 is the Perch search. I have given myself until mid-March to continue the quest for a three pound, plus, specimen. I feel confident that the venue, I have chosen, is capable of producing such a fish, although I'm not convinced that there are many of this stamp to go at. With so many fish in the low - mid two  pound bracket, the future potential is very rosy.  If I fail, then I will happily return to the challenge next Autumn.


No. 2 the resumption of "The split cane thirty" challenge is a no brainer. I will continue to seek a successful conclusion to this promise; made to my father, and will not stop until I catch the fish, or die trying. My insistence that the carp has to be from wild stock is as important as the weight. Having discovered one such fish, it will remain to be seen if I am able to relocate it next June (the drains are subject to the traditional close season) or start back at square one, looking for another a little further afield?


No. 3 has nothing to with fishing, although if I am to see (photograph) an Otter, in Kent, it will probably be whilst I am out with the rods. A conversation with Neil, the birdwatcher, out on the marsh, resulted in me being shown some Environment Agency video footage of Otters at several locations around the local area, having been recorded using camera traps. I have only seen wild Otters in Scotland and must be the only angler who wants to see these indigenous mammals on the fisheries I visit. The fact that the most widespread and popular coarse fish in the UK is an introduced alien species (albeit by The Romans) is yet another demonstration of the crazy, mixed up, ecosystem that exists in our countryside.

No. 4 I have treated myself to a lovely example of a Dick Walker, Mk IV Avon, split cane, by B. James & Sons. It is a rod which I've been after for a while and want to use it on The Stour having another bash at the Barbel and also the Chub. I am hoping to get a session, or two, before the close season comes into effect. I'll probably pair the rod with my Allcocks Match Aerial - proper old school stuff. A new PB Chub isn't a particularly difficult target as my present best is a very modest 5 lbs 2 oz and I've seen two fish which could easily add two pounds to that figure.

No. 5 Both of my club still waters are open all year round and it is my intention to spend the close season period attempting to beat, at least one, club record weight. Although these two venues are primarily carp puddles, they contain a variety of other species including Roach, Tench, Crucians and Chub which are very rarely fished for. The club records for these, and other, fish are published on the website and I do quite fancy a bit of a change from carp before the 16th June.

No. 6 Is very vague and, therefore, un-quantifiable. I want to continue to derive maximum enjoyment from my time spend outdoors. It matters not where or when. Birds, animals and insects are all capable of satisfying my requirements. Plants, however, remain off the radar, but still have their moments, particularly when I'm on holiday.



A year is a long time and many things can happen which impact upon the direction your life takes. All being well, these loose plans will help shape the 2019 adventure of one very lucky me!

Monday, 31 December 2018

Ending with a flourish

I'd been out, on the marsh, yesterday; catching a small jack pike for my troubles, but losing a better fish  when it threw the bait, hooks still attached - oh bother! Or something along those lines. I'd harboured plans to get out on New Year's morning, but Bev had arranged a family lunch so I had to revert to plan B. Thus, at 07.20 hrs this morning I was sat behind three rods, awaiting events. It was a dull, calm and mild dawn, with very little to recommend it until, at 08.05 hrs my left hand rod was away. Another jack was quickly guided to the awaiting net, un-hooked and returned with the minimum of fuss. A new bait was cast and, before I'd got the monkey back on the needle, the line was pulled from my grip! F**K!, the landing net was still over by my un-hooking mat and the resultant pratting about meant that the pike spat the bait. Drat, and double drat!
Within ten minutes I had experienced a dropped take on my right hand rod. Thinking it was eels, I wound my popped-up Sardine in only to have a low double follow it to the edge before spooking away. I examined the sardine, and yes it had pike teeth marks on both flanks. What's going on? Just how cute have these fish become? I'm thinking too much! What happened next is the stuff of angling dreams, straight out of Mr Crabtree! Between 09.05 and 10.30 hrs I had a further six bites, all fish landed. It was the most intense feeding spell I've experienced out on the drains, quite simply a gift from the angling gods. "Happy New Year" - well it will be if this can be continued?  Three pike between 5 & 7 lbs, one of 8 lbs 10 oz, with two doubles, 11 lbs 12 oz & 12 lbs 12 oz. I'd gone back hoping to get even with that fish I'd lost yesterday - this result is off the scale. Self-take photos are always a bit iffy? I was doing OK until I posed with the biggest pike, in that soppy Santa hat. As I chucked the hat away, the pike span on my thumb and did me up real good! It took nearly 30 minutes to stop the bleeding. Shit happens; it's certainly not the pike's fault that a clown was holding it.

11 lbs 12 oz - a stunning wild pike from the flatlands

Only an idiot would put their thumb in the mouth of such a creature - spot the Malaka!
So here we are. No spectacular fireworks to usher in 2019, well not at Wraftie HQ. but I am really looking forward to the new adventures that will unfold as the coming seasons pass. I wish each, and every, visitor to my blog everything that you wish for yourselves and your families. Have a safe, peaceful and happy 2019 - Dyl




Friday, 28 December 2018

Pieces of a puzzle

The perch search continues and I have to admit that I'm really enjoying this voyage of discovery that is unfolding as my quest evolves. Time wasted at Black Dyke is but a memory, a glitch, in a very steep learning curve. I will be the first one to hold my hands up, I know very little about the finer aspects of catching "big" perch and, therefore, am having to adapt my tactics as I go. Today was a prime example of what I mean. Time off for good behaviour, plus Bev had to visit her parents, so I managed another session at the club fishery over at Marshside.
With nine two's already landed, I felt sure that my tactics were pretty much as good as I could manage. The first two bites resulted in lost fish, one a good lump, and meant it was time to have a rethink. My bait choice isn't up for discussion, but my hook pattern certainly is. I also had a tinker with my hook link, reducing it from 20 to about 8 inches and what would you know. All the subsequent bites were converted into fish in the net. I even netted my tenth two, of the campaign, and feel sure that things are moving in the right direction.


I had a conversation with another club member, who told me that his best perch from the venue weighed 3 lbs 10 oz. Bloody great news, then he spoiled it by telling me that he'd taken it on sweetcorn whilst reeling in, the fish, therefore, a freak capture and nothing to shout about, in my opinion. The only positive from the exchange being that I'm at a venue which contains perch of a size that I seek. I have ten more weeks in which to complete this challenge before I set my stall out for a new project. It won't matter if I fail to catch a three, as there's always next year? What's most important is the fact that I continue to learn as a result of my experiences on the bank and continually tweak my tactics to adapt to the conundrum posed by these wonderful fish.

Thursday, 27 December 2018

Fishing for a photo

As part of the festive celebrations, I received a very dis-respectful gift from one of the Kefalonia gang. So hurtful, how could anyone do such a thing? (J for joke - please don't think that I'm in any way offended!) A Santa hat with "MALAKA" written on it. Now this is very much, a clique membership thing. Elaini, the owner of Saoulas, has used this (very rude) term to describe our gang since we first assembled there some four years ago. Taken out of context, I feel sure that many would be offended - I think it's brilliant and, as I'm the guy wearing it, hope no-one else has any negative views?


As soon as I opened this present, I knew what I wanted to do - get a photo of me, with a decent fish, whilst wearing said, offensive, headgear. That Boxing Day pike wasn't worthy, so I had a very short, afternoon session, after perch, today, and managed to winkle out a fish of 2 lbs 4 oz (and a bit!) which did the job. I had three perch in little under three hours, and couldn't believe how quickly the temperatures dropped once the sun had set. I packed up at 16.15 hrs and my un-hooking mat was already frozen!

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

2018 - My year (in words and pictures)

So here we are again folks! It's that time of year when we, bloggers, offer a condensed review of the events that have impacted upon our annual cycle. Without question, it has been my least productive blogging year, by quite some margin. I aim to rectify this in 2019, but that's stuff for another day. Quality, not quantity, that would be a superb cop-out, but not true in my situation. I've been lazy but, with the disruption of a complete bungalow interior rebuild, I know why it's not been my best year in that context. The builder had said six to eight weeks! Five months later and we were just finishing off the interior, the garden and conservatory still require major effort in order to get them up to scratch. So 2019 will also feature some level of stress, due to this end project and the disruption it will entail. That's to look forward to, now let's look back.

JANUARY

For the most part, angling was a non-starter. I was still a member of Sandwich & District AA, yet couldn't catch a cold in either of their two fisheries. Added to that, a run in with the most odious committee member I've ever encountered, ensured that membership renewal was never up for consideration. I spent most of my time getting a year list up and running. Off to a very good start, birding down in Ramsgate Harbour got me Iceland Gull, Snow Bunting and a C-R 1st yr Shag - all the way from the Isle of May. Happy days!


FEBRUARY

The "Beast from the East" - nuff sed! Fishing wasn't an option and it was left to the local birdlife to provide most of the entertainment. The garden feeding station was heaving, thus central to much of my attention during the month. The building project had not yet started, so the, then, kitchen doorway was scene of many a photography session. It wasn't. however, only birds attracted to the feeders!


MARCH

The weather had started to return to some level of normality. Spring was just around the corner and I could get back out with the rods. The local drains continued to provide excellent pike fishing, whilst I had started to visit the Marshside day-ticket venues in search of some early carp. This was to pay big dividends later. The first butterfly of the year and the start of the Spring Common Buzzard movement - very typical fare for our Thanet garden in March


APRIL

Where else? Scotland and the mighty Loch Awe. No, no, never ...... well OK, just one last trip! I'd just purchased my Nissan NV 200 van, and picked Sye up from Aston Clinton, en route. We travelled up, overnight, enduring an absolute fiasco of roadworks and diversions as we attempted to navigate our way north The loch was as magnificent as it ever is, we struggled - big time! Benno, Luke, Sye and I all caught pike, some of which were very pleasing. However, the weather tested us to beyond breaking point and we headed home, two days early, as a result. I don't see any of us ever returning?


MAY

Back into carp mode, awaiting the 16th June, and a return to my split cane "30" challenge out on the flatlands. Marshside day-ticket fishery and I was having a blast. Mick Jones, the bailiff, was a great help during my early visits, giving some excellent advice as he went about his duties. My use of split canes and centre-pins/Mitchell 300's ensured I got noticed and led to an invitation to join the club. I was very flattered and seized upon the opportunity, particularly because I'd not bothered to rejoin Sandwich & District AA. A new club, a new adventure and this one started with a real bang when I landed a magnificent Mirror Carp (20 lbs 7 oz) from Scroggins Lake.


JUNE

A real roller coaster of a month, as the bungalow refurb stampeded into motion. Absolute chaos ensued as Bev and I attempted to live out our normal lives within a bomb site! The traditional angling season opened and, as a result, I crossed paths with Gareth Craddock. A proper character and superb blogger, we hit it off immediately and embarked on our separate challenges out on these desolate flatlands. So much else was going on, in the background, that focus was a real problem. I didn't catch much, saw even fewer birds, but had a blast along the way.



JULY

The realisation of a long awaited plan. Bev was 60 in March and we'd had decided that a family holiday would be preferable to a party? £2,000 or £4,000 really simple we'll go for the most expensive option! Not quite as black and white, I happily would have paid more just to see the faces of Emily and Harry as they boarded an aircraft for the very first time. Bev's son, Darryl, and his partner Alix, also joined us on Mallorca. Fabulous memories of a, never to be repeated, wonderful family occasion.
In spite of some top notch birding and angling, later in the month, the image that sums up July must be of Emily, Harry and Debbie, their mum, enjoying themselves in the villa pool, during their first excursion abroad. (Although a Black Vulture over the road is a very difficult memory to eclipse)



AUGUST

Back to the grind, an almost seamless transition, the split cane "30" challenge continued to dominate my angling effort, whilst the building project ensured that nothing was ever easy. Carp were caught, although nothing close to the prize I was chasing, however, European Beavers were able to provide a distraction which, despite my angst, were a real privilege to spend time with - all up close and personal.


SEPTEMBER

A crazy month in which I caught my best carp of the season, got a "lifer" in the form of Lanner Falcon, yet everything paled into insignificance during our stay at Saoulas (Kefalonia) - Steve Godden got into the pool! Absolutely unheard of, just like the first moon landing! Brilliant times, spent in exceptional company, friendships such as these are a very precious gift. An absolute shining beacon amidst the nonsense of "Brexit" and our continuing bungalow rebuild! Malaka's ? - yes the whole crowd would happily take Elaini's accolade - fabulous memories of great times, people and places.


OCTOBER

There was no chance that this month could live up to the heights of September, but it still had its' moments. Sadly the one that sticks in my crop is that encounter with a half-wit gamekeeper. Walking with my grand-children, through some superb woodland habitat, exquisitely manicured and maintained, my exchange with that guy was a real kick in the guts - what a, one dimensional, loser!

The old "Ice House" - so much more important than the tosser we encountered along the way? Fairies live in here!

NOVEMBER

What a month? Probably the best of 2018, if such a measure is possible? Three double figure pike, to 18 lbs 4 oz, a perch project that had just kicked off then, to top it all a "lifer"! The White-billed Diver; what an absolute stunner! That I was able to enjoy my sighting alone just gave the encounter additional sparkle - how blessed am I? I missed multiple Pallid Swifts, but had seen loads, earlier in the year, so it didn't cause me any stress.

I have no shame! This was a "lifer" and I enjoyed my time with this Arctic stray.

DECEMBER

Work went crazy with, any amount of, overtime available for those of us within "Digital". As a consequence, I didn't get much fishing, or birding, done. I celebrated (no I didn't!) my sixty-third birthday and caught a few perch, including five two's in an hour on the 1st. No great fan of the modern Christmas spending fest, I still want my grandchildren to enjoy their holiday and, therefore, spend far more than intended, as we attempt to fulfil our role of Nanny & Grand-dad. Bev and I are in need of very little, so tell our family to concentrate on ensuring the kids are spoilt, yet my own kids, Sarah-Jayne & Benno, pulled off a masterstroke with their gift. I was absolutely blown away as I gazed down upon a pristine example of an Allcocks Match Aerial (circa 1969) - the real deal, not a Fred Crouch copy.


What we got up to this morning

Boxing Day is traditionally a date which, for an older angler, can only be compared with 16th June. Benno and I were on the Royal Military Canal just after 06.00 hrs and spent a very pleasant morning getting over the madness of yesterday. We both had a pike, for our troubles, mine a modest jack, Benno's tipping the scales at 13 lbs 4 oz. Around 11.30 hrs, we headed home, well I did, Benno went across to Sandwich Coarse Fishery where he added a perch of 1 lbs 14 oz to his day tally. Fabulous morning, out on the banks of this great pike fishery, we'll be back soon, certainly before the holiday period is over.