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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Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Blanking; I'm in good company!

It has been quite heartening to watch some of Alan Blair's recent Urban Banx underwater footage of how carp are able to feed over a very tight area of bait, yet avoid picking up his rig. This just reinforces some of the other underwater imagery, that Danny Fairbrass and the Korda Team, had produced a couple of years ago. These anglers are light years in front of me, carp angling wise, yet seeing their rigs being picked up and rejected, without any indication on the alarms, is rather reassuring during my current run of biteless sessions.
I was back out again, Saturday evening, same outcome - I blanked and not a bleep from the Sirens. I didn't stay late, and had packed up before 20.45 hrs, yet this is when the fun started. Head torch required for the tackle down process, I was able to examine the two spots. One remained untouched, so it didn't require a Mensa IQ to deduce that I hadn't been done over, the second however, had been visited and there was a rather sad-looking (badly deformed mouth) Tench feeding on my baited spot. Scanning around, there was a decent carp (a twenty possibly?) lurking at the back of the swim and then, all of a sudden, there it was - the big fish just drifted out from under my feet and melted away beyond the beam of my head torch. It's moments like this that define the emotions of angling, as a hobby, and exactly why I set myself these challenges. Had that fish been feeding on my baited spot, or just arrived? I'll never know, but that's not an issue. What's important is that it's still in the area and I am, therefore, in with a shout if I can remained focused. As I walked off, I checked another baited spot on which I have yet to cast a line, there were two carp feeding on a gravel run, one of which would beat my PB. This 2018 project is providing a fantastic test of my thought processes, yet also defines my very being - what I'm all about as an angler and the enjoyment I derive, from simply being outdoors, watching the natural world go about its' daily routine!
Didn't get to cast a bait on Sunday, having promised Bev that we'd attempt to get the bungalow back into some kind of liveable state and so it proved. I still got down to the drain and introduced a bit more bait, prior to me getting out after work on Monday. I'm not introducing huge amounts of free offerings, just a couple of handfuls on each spot, attempting to keep the fish accustomed to finding food in the vicinity. Four spots were prepared, although I didn't see any signs of the carp whilst I was getting the bait in. I did locate a decent fish, as I walked off, but it was well away from my target area and so not of more than passing interest. I'd carried my camera kit, in the hope of a Whinchat or Wheatear being present - nothing doing so I grabbed a few shots of the munga and what it looks like on the bed of these tap water clear drains.

Munga - my party mix plus halved 15mm boilies (through a Korda Kutter) ready to go.
Quite a lot of surface glare, I don't own a polaroid filter, and the water movement doesn't really
help my cause. The swim is nearly six feet deep and the freebies stand out like beacons. It's
no real surprise that the majority of fish activity is noted as the light starts to fade away.
There are exciting adventures ahead for Bev and me, so I've got just two, or three, more opportunities to visit the drains before this project gets put on hold for a while.
All the previous stuff was written before my Monday sojourn; what follows will bring you bang up to date! Work was negotiated, without to much grief, and I was able to get on my way prior to 16.30 hrs. In no great hurry to get started, I had a wander around the favoured area looking for signs, anything that might provide a spark of inspiration, something to go at. I eventually baited four swims, settling for a very familiar spot, one rod, and a completely new swim for the other. The distance between these two spots probably 15 m, at most! By positioning myself back from the drain, very slightly, I was confident that I would be able to get to the rods quickly, yet not be so close as to alert any fish to my presence. Traps set, I sat back and awaited events, it being now 18.15 hrs. A young Wheatear was flicking about on the field opposite and eventually came close enough for me to grab a shot, with the long lens, absolutely pristine in the late evening light. A couple of Kingfishers came flashing past, their piercing calls alerting me to their rapid approach. With the clock ticking past 19.15 hrs, the light levels started to fall away and I got myself ready for the main event. No, not catching a carp but, instead, the nightly swim pass by an adult Beaver. Tucked down in the bankside vegetation, I could see the bow wave as it powered towards me. Camera settings were ISO 1600 1/340th sec and thus the images weren't as sharp as I'd like, but I did manage one that is rather pleasing.

Immature Wheatear in the late evening sunshine
I'm coming through! An adult European Beaver ploughing through my swim
Darkness fell and a second Beaver came through the swim, this individual one of the "kits" from the 2018 breeding season - it was very slight in comparison to the earlier adult. Golden Plover and Lapwing were calling out on the marsh when this evening ambience was broken by the scream of a Nash Siren R3 and the clicking of the ratchet on my Matt Hayes Centrepin. Bloody Hell - a fish!
Sadly not the one that I seek but a beautiful example all the same. A stunning little linear mirror came grudgingly to the landing net and ended a fantastic evening session out on the flatlands. I'm back out before Friday, that's a definite!

Under 9 lbs, but size isn't everything when they look this good?



Friday, 31 August 2018

(Wise) words?

Rod Hutchinson wrote, in The Carp strikes back, "Don't forget to taste the hops along the way!" (or was it smell the flowers?) Although I never got the opportunity to fish with this legendary carp angler, I did spend quite a few sessions, at various angling conferences, tasting the hops with him, Roger Smith, Bob Jones and Richie McDonald, amongst others. Happy, crazy days and nights. David Hall, yep the very same bloke who was proprietor of David Hall's Coarse Fishing Magazine, was also regularly part of this nonsense. I'm sure he was only there in order to keep "Snide Rumours & Dirty Lies" filled with angling gossip, the bigger the personality, the better the story. Copious amounts of "lunatic soup"; tittle tattle became less guarded and so the boasting began. Doesn't matter what you've done, we've done it better! David was never one to let truth get in the way of a good story; that column was a "must read" as soon as the new monthly edition appeared on the news agents shelves. I look back, with rose-tinted glasses, very happy that I featured regularly, along with the rest of the crazy gang from Hemel Hempstead. No publicity is bad publicity, and so it proved - I got invited to give illustrated (lectures!?) talks - slide shows - by various clubs and societies around the UK. Whether it was Newcastle, Devon or Thanet, I did the rounds, I even got invited onto the stage, for a NASA conference, at Loughborough, to speak about Catfishing the Leighton Buzzard AC waters. (Not my finest hour - but at least I performed and it's now part of the journey!)


I think it's important to understand that this was a period before "Speccy Hunting" got hijacked by Carp fishing, and, therefore, it was still OK to deliberately target a double figure Bream, without feeling inferior as an angler because of such choices. Fashion statements, via brand logos, meant "jack shit", so very unlike today's big fish circus. Many items of tackle needed to be homemade, as the commercial manufacturers were focussed on catering for the needs of the pleasure and match anglers. We had spods, hangers, swingers and rod pods (dam stands), long before the carp lads "invented" them and I'm fairly confident that we'd tweaked these concepts from items that Dick Walker and those other pioneering anglers had developed as Specimen Hunting slowly evolved/emerged from the general angling scene of the post war years. Every generation seeks to reinvent the wheel when, in reality, all they can achieve is to fine tune the design?
Original thinking is, by definition, a very scarce commodity. I am now seeking answers to the conundrum posed by the carp of the East Kent marshes. I've been royally mugged off by these fish, so much so that I'm starting to doubt if I'll ever get another bite? I've massively underestimated the challenge, stupidly assuming that these carp would be naive, due to not being fished for. WRONG! VERY WRONG!! Yes, I've located some carp, one of which is huge, they're readily accepting my bait but can't trick them into taking a baited hook. Just how cute these carp are has been demonstrated during my last three evening sessions. Not a murmur from the Siren's, carp all over my spots, the freebies all gone, the rig/bait combos totally ineffective. Quite how this is possible has pushed my boundaries way beyond any comfort zone - I'm way out of my depth, experience wise. The two carp that I've recently managed to tempt have been nailed, so rig mechanics is not the issue. My problems are far more basic. What presentation do I need to use that might tempt more of these fish into picking up my hookbait amongst the bed of freebies?

Ramsgate (Carp) Angling HQ - forget Amazon; support a local business! Use it or lose it; simple as that!
With all this turmoil going on, in my head, I drove down to Camo's for a chat, and a coffee! Alan "Camo" Turner has a wealth of knowledge about all things carpy and, I'm happy to say, will always try to offer sensible advice to those who seek it. We spent a good half an hour talking through the options he felt might assist my cause. I came away with a few new ideas and £9 lighter, as I purchased some rather radical hooks. I will disclose more once I've had chance to experiment with these new toys. They are an incredibly aggressive design, verging on insane. Will they provide, at least part of, the answer to my current demonstration of angling inability? If I'm totally honest, I'd be gutted if hook choice was the root cause of my failure - surely I've been angling far too long for this to be realistic, yet need to explore every avenue open to me? Camo suggested naturals, I voiced an opinion based around "matching the hatch". I'm attempting to catch a fish, not set foot on Mars! Surely I possess adequate brain function to outwit a carp, even in 2018?

You could put a saddle on it! The fish of my dreams.
Two and a half months into this campaign and I've taken just three fish, one double! Hardly a definition of success, or even a project that's on the right track. The weird bit is that I'm rather enjoying this test, so very unlike the barbel campaign of 2013/14. I'm being forced to stray from my particle approach due to circumstances, ie the building project, but also the knowledge that Tom is having moderate success using modern baits (boilies, pop-ups and dumbbells). I'm experimenting with my tactics, if not my tackle, which can only assist with my learning progression. Of course it's easier now we have access to infinite opinions, via the wonders of Youtube, but none of that can replace actually going out and trying stuff for yourself. Obviously there is another way; I could adopt the time bandit approach and revert to my selfish, and totally pointless, behaviour in an attempt to compensate for a lack of angling skill within the smoke screen of rod hours. Bev and I would part company very quickly if it were an option I was prepared to explore. No point getting old if you don't get crafty (artful) - too much good stuff going on in my world to ever consider a return to a pathway of lunacy and single-minded obsession, just to place a wet fish in my landing net. If/when I catch a fish then I would like to think that ability had far more to do with the capture than the simple equation of time spent on the bank, times three, because that's how many rods are allowed! My use of the rod hours statistics as a measure of how talented an angler really is due to Jim Gibbinson. He was a fabulous angler, a great writer and also a great thinker; he first raised the awareness of eutrophication to the ecosystems of our freshwater fisheries, way back in 1983. Jim always placed ability, above time, in all angling situations. He was the first speccy guy, that I ever heard, to praise match anglers, and their methods, in the respect that they had to perform within defined time barriers. If they fail to catch within the designated time they couldn't compete, thus angling ability was a key factor that couldn't be disguised by extended time on the fishery. (Still can't) Jim's wisdom still holds firm in my own approach to "big fish" chasing. I think that the real skill is "Know when you're beaten!" - there's always another day!

Sunday, 26 August 2018

A strange week

Last Monday I overlayed and, as a consequence, was late for work - the first time in fifteen years! I got ruined by the other lads on my shift and my supervisor. Still I'd expect no less, it being part and parcel of factory life. What goes around, comes around; my turn will surely come? Still the building project drags on, although it's certainly starting to take shape, at long last. Being on earlies meant I was able to get a few evening sessions in, if I didn't actually fish, I still kept the bait going in.
I'm slowly unravelling the puzzle posed by this population of carp, although I still am unsure of my presentation in this tap water clear environment. Rig mechanics are something I love to tweak, and tank testing provides many solutions, although the true test is when the rig is in the swim. I have been playing around with Ronnie and Blowback rigs, plus I use Nash Pinpoint hooks. If Youtube is anything to go by I'm on the right track. Only one fish landed, from three bites (all on the same evening), saw a chunky little common of 13 lbs 10 oz grace my landing net, absolutely nailed in the centre of the bottom lip. Three further trips has seen me blanking, although I know that there were carp feeding on my baited spots. I'm finding this a very stern test of my technical angling ability, yet in a very weird sort of way, rather enjoying pushing myself to think outside the box, looking for that spark of an idea which just might unlock the code.


Still it's great being outdoors as the evening light starts to fade. Kingfishers are a regular sight along this particular stretch. Two young Buzzards have taken to roosting in a small copse, nearby, and they call to each other as darkness approaches. Yesterday evening a juvenile Marsh Harrier came floating along the reeded fringe of the drain, completely oblivious to my presence until it was right above me.
Strangely, I haven't recorded a single owl or fox this past week, yet conditions looked bang on and there are lots of Short-tailed Bank Voles (food!) around the marsh at present. The one species which is guaranteed, however, is European Beavers. Not a single session passes without these creatures putting in an appearance. I think that they might be beginning to disperse, as I'm not seeing as many youngsters as I have previously, but the adults are still in residence. Yesterday evening I sat waiting with my little Finepix and managed to grab a few images as one swam up the drain, and right past me.




Not the purpose of why I'm, alone, out on the marsh, sitting on the bank, but an entertaining distraction nonetheless. As Derek pointed out, in a recent comment, I should consider myself very fortunate to have such wonderful wildlife encounters as part of my hobby, there are many others who will never experience such intimate views of our natural world and, in this instance, I find myself having to agree!

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Centerpins - why?

It has been quite an eventful week, here in the darkest depths of our Dumpton abode. The bungalow refurb is gathering pace and there's definitely "light at the end of the tunnel". Finished before September? I/we can but hope. My new study is up, the plasterer is in on Monday to do his thing and, with luck plus a following wind, I might be in there by Bank Holiday weekend?
On Wednesday, around mid-day, I received a phone call from Tom Lane, he'd just taken his first twenty from the East Kent drains and was absolutely buzzing. He tried to make sense, but adrenaline had turned him into a gibbering wreck; I was absolutely thrilled for him. Every single fish is a battle won and much deserved. 22 lbs 9 oz - of wild common carp, they don't get much better!

Tom poses with his first "flatlands" twenty - well done mate! Absolutely magnificent.
It didn't end there, however, as I accidentally stumbled across a website Fred Crouch Reels and I found myself engaged in an e-mail exchange with a guy called Paul Whiteing. The outcome of our correspondence is that I might just be able to get my Match Aerial (Fred Crouch copy) a complete service and some, much needed, TLC. It turns out that Paul, and a friend Roger Keys, still produce these iconic reels, although not as a business, just a hobby. Paul is an admin member of BFW (Barbel Fishing World) and has posted loads of articles on this website. I found myself reading one of his offerings about why go (barbel) fishing with a centrepin. I found myself in total agreeance with all he had to say on this subject, although I had to remove myself from this single species perspective. Fred Crouch had introduced me to the joys of using these reels, way back in the early/mid 1980's and yes, at that time, barbel were the catalyst.


With my return to the hobby, I find that much has changed in what I expect from my time on the bank. I'd be a complete fraud if I ever suggested that "big" fish weren't my target, although pounds and ounces aren't everything involved in this complex equation at this juncture. Enjoyment is now the number one factor in all my angling projects and this manifests itself in many guises. Centrepins are, to me, a key part of my search for that spark. They allow direct contact with your quarry, a rod comes alive without requirement of gears and drag mechanisms. You're on one to one terms with the hooked fish, your rod, line, hook and reel reliant on the pressure of your thumb to keep a tight line and the reel in check. It's up close and personal, the very essence of the man v's fish challenge. My use of centre-pins is, therefore, not a fashion statement, just a quest for fulfillment in the enjoyment stakes. The Match Aerial is an iconic part of angling history, and my own reel has even more going for it as I actually went round to Fred's, Enfield home, to purchase it - all £25 worth!

An absolute brute of a barbel. 11 lbs 4 oz of Kentish Stour magic.
Made all the more special because it's the heaviest barbel I've caught using Fred's reel
Thirty- odd years on and the old girl is looking a little jaded so, hopefully Paul & Roger will be able to give it a makeover and extend her usable life?  I have taken many decent fish using this reel, my River Thames PB (equalling) 9 lbs 2 oz barbel in September 1985 is probably the finest capture of that period, an 11 lbs 4 oz from The Kentish Stour being the heaviest and sternest test in 2014.
I still hanker after a "twenty" (carp) off the top, using a pin. If/when the Match Aerial gets sorted, then I've already got another project to pursue.

Please don't get the impression that my use of old reels is the only way I can have fun. I also own three modern Chinese centrepins, which have accounted for many of my recent captures. Matt Hayes Limited Edition models, marketed by Dragoncarp, have been a mainstay of my pike angling since I purchased my first in 2013. I own three, numbers 54,55 & 56. They do exactly what it says on the tin! They have accounted for many decent fish, amongst which are the two "thirteens" from the Stour and my Scottish 24 lbs 10 oz pike. It's without question that they lack historic significance, tactile grace and the build quality of the Match Aerial, but they still have plenty to offer when enjoyment is the overriding factor. I readily accept that casting 150m plus is way beyond the scope of a centrepin, well use a bait boat, as we do at Loch Awe, and Bob's your uncle; anything is possible. However, my angling roots and, the present challenge have me creeping around very intimate venues, attempting to outwit my quarry at very close quarters. Under these circumstances, casting is of no importance and even the most basic of centrepin techniques will see my baits positioned where I want them. It's not about the cast, it's the battle with a hooked fish which ensures I get the maximum adrenaline fix each time it occurs. A split cane rod and a centrepin becomes a part of the angler, such is the ability of this combination to transmit the feel of the fishes actions as it lunges beneath the surface. I'm in no doubt that many modern day fishers will pour scorn on these whimsicle notions, but each to their own and I shall continue in my quest for enjoyment unswayed by modern thinking and associated high tech tackle.
This Kingfisher has been very active along the section of drain.
I'm sure it just uses the perch to show off his fishing skills to belittle my own efforts.
I will finish this offering with a little up-date. I'm getting closer to that carp. I have been within touching distance of a huge common and have got two spots on the go. I will get a proper post sorted out when the time comes. In the mean while, here's a little scamp that sneaked into my swim yesterday evening and spooked the shoal as it battled in the tiny drain. A beaver ploughing through the swim, some ten minutes later saw me pack up early and head for home, my head awash with ideas and plans.








Saturday, 11 August 2018

Fate or luck?

All my life I've been a great believer in an ability to determine your own luck, yet recognize the role fate plays in how things pan out. Never has this been more apparent, than now, as I look back at my angling journey and the quirks that have occurred to allow me to reach where I am today. I do not have the time or space, in a simple blog entry, to recall my entire life story so will attempt to cherry pick the bits that shape my thoughts. Why produce this post now? (Ever?)
Well, as regular followers may be aware, I've been threatening to write a book for quite a while and, with all the mayhem and disruption caused by our bungalow redevelopment project, I have found myself going back over old photo albums and diaries with renewed enthusiasm for such a venture. Where it ends, is anybody's guess but, at present I feel ready for the task and the recollections of a very individual journey are right at the forefront. A journey where luck has played a significant role, although fate always dictated the route, if not the outcome.
Born in London (Dec 1955), my parents were both school teachers and it was my father's goal to become a headmaster and the new town of Hemel Hempstead was to provide his first position in this role. Hobb's Hill Primary (JMI - Junior mixed and infants) was a brand new school and the reason why I, and my two younger brothers, grew up in the Hertfordshire town with the surrounding countryside our playground. Dad's tenure wasn't long as he ambitiously pursued his career with a move back to a London school. Home remained in Hemel Hempstead and he became a commuter as St. Mary's, in Kilburn, became his passion as he grew in stature within the teaching profession. The school was a credit to all those members of staff that rallied around Dad's vision of how education should provide stimulus to develop individuals to become decent citizens, as well as providing the basic skills associated with everyday schooling.
So it was my father's work that is responsible for Dylan Wrathall being in pole position, when the Tring tench revolution kicked off. I had no ability to have influenced the journey through my childhood, although fishing was a hobby that was a direct spin off from my school friends and nothing to do with parental guidance. Thus far it had all been fate involved in my road to Tring, in June 1981. Already married, with a young daughter, I was working shifts at Kodak, the ability to exploit this extraordinary event was slightly compromised by my circumstances, yet by using my time wisely, I was able to amass a very enviable list of big tench from the Wilstone depths. My involvement in The Tring Syndicate ensured that I met with many other, like-minded, and far more talented, anglers which, in turn, got me involved with The National Association of Specialist Anglers at both Regional and National Executive level. Exposure of my angling exploits became a very entertaining side show for me and the regular gang of misfits. If I wasn't being invited to do a talk, somewhere or other, then the Mail and Times were asking for news, whilst David Hall was always happy for an article or, better still, a story of our collective lunacy for a, distorted, mention in the infamous "Snide Rumours & Dirty Lies" column in his Coarse Fishing magazine.


If I rode my limited talent close to the edge, at Tring, then I pushed new boundaries with my luck, as Kevin Maddocks and Bob Baldock (RIP) set about launching The Catfish Conservation Group. Too good an opportunity to ignore, the gang surpassed all previous exploits when we set about the Lieghton Buzzard AC waters at Claydon, then later, Tiddenfoot. Our behaviour was riotous, but we were regularly catching catfish and that really pissed off the big noises and raised our profile even higher. NASA conferences, be they national or regional, were a mainstay of the angling circuit during the 80's & 90's and our photograph board was proudly on display next to those of the established oiks within the specimen hunting clique. My links with Kodak were fundamental in the quality of images we were able to display; these were the days before the digital revolution and Kodak's film quality and print production was unsurpassable. Was it luck, or fate, that I worked for them, therefore had access to this technology, during this period? I care not, they were fantastic times when fishing and fun took my life to another level. Not a particularly good advert for me as a parent and something I will return to later, although probably in another post.

Claydon "Middle Lake" was catfish central during the mid-80's.
The scrapes we got in to and the strokes we pulled are the stuff of legend.
Didn't go down too well with the mainstream speccy boys - the papers loved it!
I'd left Kodak and started working for Brooke Bond Oxo, which was destined to become part of the Unilever empire during my employment. Something which played a part, much later in this story! My involvement as R/O of The Chiltern Region of NASA was to see me come into contact with Chris Scott, who was a local specimen hunter with a very enviable PB list and, better still, a good mate of Fred Crouch, the best barbel angler of that period. Once again, I ride my luck and am taken under the wing of this wonderful man. Fred was to teach me many lessons about watercraft and tackle control, which included the mastering of centrepin angling, plus a wider appreciation of the wildlife that anglers are able to share these environments with. Fred Crouch is, without question, one of the most influential anglers of his generation and I feel unbelievably privileged (lucky?) to be able to call this guy a friend.

A barbel from the "Compound" on The Royalty Fishery, Hampshire Avon.
Fred Crouch was so generous with his advice and knowledge. I owe this guy so
much more than "thanks" - he was a visionary angler who I am so lucky to have spent time with.
Pike fishing was very much a part of my annual cycle and because Tring was central to much of my winter pike efforts it is no surprise that I crossed paths with Eddie Turner, Vic Gibson and Bill Hancock, the original ET gang. Eddie was/is a great pike angler, extraordinarily generous with advice to anyone who asks for it. I have fond memories of time at Wilstone, vane floats drifting across the vastness, banter incessant as we sought ways of winding each other up - happy days! I can't claim any part in my birth date, but am able to say that I've been incredibly lucky that so many others have crossed paths and made my angling adventure such a pleasure.


The adventure continued, unabated, until that crazy trip to Madeira and the events of July/August 1993. Nothing had prepared me for the impact that Atlantic Blue Marlin can have and I returned home completely blown away by what what I'd witnessed and been subjected to. Once again fate intervened and my Unilever connection allowed me to move from Hertfordshire to Kent, payed for by the company, and I spend the next eighteen years birding the Garden of England, setting new year list total figures for the county, as part of my involvement with the Kent birding scene. But that's another story, for another post?
It was May 2011 that I, once again, pick up the rods and find myself on the banks of Kilchurn Bay, Loch Awe, in search of the, hard fighting, pike of these wild waters. Just like riding a bike, the ability to cushion the lunges of a spirited pike returned as soon as the hooks went home and, once again, I'm on my way. Why was I there? Bloody Benno, my much maligned and neglected (not!!) son, recalling the childhood adventures when he had accompanied the crazy gang to this magnificent fishery wanting "just one more chance".  That first trip was to see Benno achieve something which had eluded me since 1982. He landed the first "twenty" that I'd ever seen in Scotland and the seeds were set for a return to angling as my primary hobby.


Since my return, the adventure has been incredible as I've targeted various species. I have had dalliances with perch and chub; both species providing new PBs despite my lacklustre approach. It was a desire to remedy my lack of a Scottish twenty that drove me on. We've had six more trips to the fabulous Loch Awe resulting in my capture of a superb pike of 24 lbs 10 oz - a new centrepin caught PB and the end of a thirty three year odyssey.


Along the way, Benno and I had embarked on a barbel project which proved to be the hardest angling challenge I'd ever undertaken, until then! Everything Fred Crouch had ever taught me was pushed into service, plus all I could glean from the grapevine. I'd like to think that Fred would be happy with my efforts. Five doubles, to a new PB of 13 lbs 14 oz,  out of seven fish caught over two seasons - six taken using centrepins, just like I'd been taught by the master.


It hasn't stopped there, however, as my winter eel project was to provide a challenge unlike anything I'd previously undertaken. That I succeeded, at my first attempt, is testament to my stubborn drive to get a result, despite my inabilities as an angler. The realisation that it was now, or never, that kept me focused on the project when the weather suggested failure. The fact that I got my result is an example of how I feel able to influence luck in my favour.

One of the "threes" taken during the pike season eel challenge
So back to reality, and where I'm currently at. My split cane thirty project is stumbling along, without any real chance of success, but the basis for the challenge is once again a demonstration of fate intervening in my personal angling journey. I'd captured my first twenty pound carp, since Feb 1984, on a remote marshland drain because Benno had alerted me to EA weed cutting on The Stour, thus my original barbel plans were scuppered. That accidental capture of an eighteen pound wild common carp has set in motion a series of events which cannot end until I capture a thirty pound carp, or die trying! I know what result I'm hoping for!

10th July 2015 - my first "twenty" since Feb 1984
Once this building project has ended, and it will, I should have opportunity to get back on track with my pursuit of that carp. In the meantime, I happily seek minor challenges as I continue to look for adventures and experiences which provide a distraction from reality.



Sunday, 5 August 2018

Searching for an edge

Benno, Luke and I had a short evening session, out on the marshes, today. None of us caught a fish, although I got turned over at least three times! Small fish - big hooks? We were at a new venue; one which offers much scope for exploration and experiment. What little information we have been able to glean suggests that there is a decent stock of carp, maximum size unknown, but also healthy populations of bream and tench (and some decent pike! - so something to think about later in the year).

Only room for one rod in this tight swim
My desire to use the split canes has ensured that these iconic pieces of angling history were pressed into service and, once again, became central in the conversation with two other anglers we encountered. I think that we all agreed that this particular drain system isn't capable of providing the carp I so desire, but has plenty of scope to offer a challenge worthy of pursuing. Wild carp, of these wilderness sites, are so much more attractive than the boily munching "mud pigs" of the commercials and club waters that provide the sport for so many of today's carp anglers. There does seem to be a common mind-set amongst the anglers fishing these remote drains. It is about unlocking the code, overcoming the obstacles, to finally land a fish that has probably never seen a hook before. This is Marco Polo carp angling - going where no man has been before. Not, for one minute, do I think that I've actually cast into a virgin swim, but feel pretty confident that I'm part of an extraordinarily small number of anglers to have placed a bait in such positions.

Not too much scope for misplaced bait positioning - any surprise I get pissed off when a
Beaver wipes me out?
Location is key, always has been in every angling challenge I've ever been involved with, and this new system is no different. However, as it does hold a decent stock of carp finding them isn't as much of a challenge as locating the better fish. The recent weather has done little to assist our cause, as abundant, thick, rafts of floating algae and weed are present along the entire system. Brilliant for fish to skulk, undetected, under, but a right pain to discover places to present a rig with any confidence. Chods and Ronnie rigs are the way forward, although there might be scope for some surface action given  the right conditions?


Friday, 3 August 2018

Hot August nights

Sincere apologies to any Neil Diamond fans who have been tricked into viewing this nonsense, it wasn't my intention to deceive. I have very fond memories of that 1972 double LP masterpiece and the incredibly powerful voice of this legendary singer/songwriter. I digress, however, as my blog title is applicable to the present heatwave that we are experiencing in this part of the UK and nothing more. I've now had plenty of time to think about where my angling is headed whilst I await the building project completion. I'd scanned diaries and blog entries from previous years and memories came flooding back of my time in quest of chub and barbel in the Kentish Stour. There is definitely selective memory playing a role, as I recall the barbel challenge with much pride and yet, never ever felt that I'd started to unlock the code of these fabulous fish. Is going back such a great idea?
Fortunately salvation has appeared, in the letter box today! My Wantsum AA membership has been confirmed and I am now fully paid up, free to visit the club fisheries at Reculver, Sarre and Pluck's Gutter on a whim. Tomorrow will see me exploring the potential and visiting the venues with a view to having a session, or two, over the weekend. I'm finding myself particularly drawn to the river - we'll see?


The Kentish Stour has provided me with many great highs, yet I really don't feel like I've scratched the surface?
Top photo is my PB Chub - Lower image my first "thirteen pound plus barbel" from the river - Aug 2013
So what has the Neil Diamond stuff have to do with it? Let's spend a nano second and think it through. If anyone is silly enough to sit out on the bank when the sun is blazing down from an azure blue sky, they certainly ain't doing so because they want to catch a big fish. It's called pleasure fishing and has no place in my own involvement with angling. You're dead right, I say that enjoyment is my main goal, but sitting in the brilliant sunshine, getting a fantastic tan, without any chance of a bite isn't a definition of pleasure that I can relate to. If I'm to give myself the best chance of a result, then I need to be on the bank when the light levels have faded and temperatures dropped away to a more comfortable level. I have an idea to get set up with a very generalist approach and simply see what occurs. Chub, barbel and/or carp are all a realistic possibility. Probably get plagued by eels, just to piss me off and remind me why August 2013 was such a pain in the arse! Always look on the bright side; eh?