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!


Monday 27 May 2013

Long Shaw Driftings

Benno had rung me on Wednesday with his plans to get out for a session after carp on Sunday at Long Shaw Farm. I couldn't give him a positive answer, due to baby-sitting duties, Bev and I having custody of both Emily and Harry for Friday and Saturday nights. However, as it turned out, things fell into place quite nicely. Whilst Bev was being "Nanny" to our guests - they were both having a mid-morning kip; I managed to get down to the Ramsgate Sports Direct which now shares the building with a Dragon Carp Direct store. A whole floor dedicated to fishing tackle; heavily discounted fishing tackle! This is the stuff of Tom's (Bradbury) nightmares!
It has only been open a week and a couple of guys, at work, have told me that it was worthy of a visit; how right they were! It was like an "out of body experience" - really weird and rather pleasant. I had a decent chat with a few members of staff; each of which was polite and dedicated to their successful launch and establishment of the 14th Dragon Carp Mega Store. It wasn't anything like I was expecting - a fishing tackle version of Margate's Primark being my pre-conception.
End of the visit saw me £74.98 worse off (I also purchased some boilies and PVA), but the proud owner of a Matt Hayes (made in China) "Limited Edition" Centrepin reel; the first new reel I've purchased since 1991! Superficially it looks similar to a Match Aerial, although the build quality is nowhere close, but it is a very well made, fully functional piece of angling hardware. At £60, it was a gamble worth taking; my thoughts being that Matt Hayes wouldn't jeopardise his reputation by putting his name on a piece of junk? He hasn't - my session at Long Shaw Farm, this afternoon, has provided all the evidence I need to whole-heartedly endorse this particular item of Dragon Carp merchandise.

Not the most flattering of images but, taken with Benno's i-phone, it does show me
playing the first fish on my new reel. Beads and bangles, on one wrist, a Rolex "Daytona" on the other!
All is not as it seems - the Chinese are not just clever at copying fishing reels! 

The first "double - figure" carp of 2013
At 10lbs 6oz - hardly likely to cause much jealousy
I met up with Benno and Will, who'd been on site since 07.00hrs, at around 13.00hrs. They had taken a few fish, Will's being the best at 9lbs 8oz, but sport had been rather pedestrian. Within ten minutes I had a 9lbs 6oz in the net, but it was very much a false dawn. Mallard ducks and shoals of ravenous Rudd were to prove to be a constant pain; they homing in on any free offerings I introduced, hence my floating crust getting a hammering from unwanted sources. I ended the day taking six carp, two "scraper doubles", before the clock reached 19.00hrs and it was time to go home.

The second double of the session. 10lbs 2oz is hardly likely to impress the "hard core" guys?
A very welcome visitor, to my landing net, by my way of thinking?
Benno, like he very often does, hooked and landed the biggest fish that was caught during day; at 18lbs 4oz, it might very well be the 19lbs+ individual that he has taken on two previous occasions.

A superb subject for the camera -  fun in the sun! What angling should be all about.

We enjoyed our first session, of 2013, at this commercial venue. It is never going to produce "big" fish but, what it does provide is, the chance to have fun with a very large population of long, lean Common Carp which will test your tackle and your angling skills if fished for on sensible gear amongst the branches of the many overhanging bushes which surround the two main lakes. Not for everyone, I'll acknowledge that: yet I can't think of many better ways of spending six, sunny, hours than simply flicking small cubes of crust out into the shadows to tempt these fabulous creatures.

Friday 24 May 2013

Indigenous v's alien (only in the UK!)

Richard Benyon is a millionaire land owner who controls vast areas of the countryside where his guests are able to pay top dollar and shoot large numbers of Pheasants reared specifically for that purpose. So far, so good, the country sports industry providing gun wielding egotists with the chance to prove their prowess at mass slaughter. But see if you can spot a flaw?

The colourful alien who's landed masters are seeking to protect
in order to kill for profit at whatever cost to the indigenous species of our countryside.

The same Richard Benyon is Minister for Wildlife Protection (within the David Cameron - "Greenest Government of all time") at Defra - The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
With only 40 million introduced pheasants released into the countryside, each year!, the shooters are rightly concerned that their quarry is in decline, thus more difficult to murder. The cause of this problem? Common Buzzards, of course (The best available data shows that predation by birds of prey accounts for 1.5 - 2% of all pheasant deaths in our countryside). Not road traffic, disease or overcrowding - oh no!
So our hero has decided that his role of Wildlife Protection should include making sure his mega-monied peers should be able to flout the Wildlife Legislation of our countryside and his department is issuing licences to allow the permanent removal of Common Buzzard nests, eggs and fledglings.
So after centuries of persecution, the recovery of the Common Buzzard will be halted by the actions of a lame-brained, arse wipe who has proven, once again, that politicians are only in the system for what they can get out of it for themselves - shameful.

Is it really that much of a surprise that the fate of such a wonderful bird is entrusted to a selfish fuckwit?
The UK Government is full of people in positions where they can best serve their own interests.
It isn't a party thing - it's a national disease, the system is rotten to the core.

Tuesday 21 May 2013

Pike angling thoughts - two years on

When Benno set the seeds for my return to angling, way back in July 2009, little was I to realise what a massive change would take place in my daily routine. Gone is the desire to trudge the same coastal path in search of the same seasonal visitors, on an almost daily basis. I now, instead, find myself concentrating my birding effort on the events taking place in the immediate area around our bungalow and am developing a growing interest in the "mini-beasts" which share my world. However, my life seems to have gone full circle and I have to admit that the majority of my waking hours are spent with fishing foremost in my thoughts.
The best fish from my first season back. She weighed 19lbs 5oz (the third time of capture) and was catalyst to
a number tackle changes, all of which were aimed at improving my bait presentation and bite indication.
I find myself analysing small details in my terminal tackle; seeking ways to overcome problems, improve bait presentation or bite indication. Although Carp, Perch, Chub and possibly Barbel will receive some attention in the coming season (June 16th onwards!) it is Pike that seem to be dominating my efforts. Since that fateful Loch Awe trip, in May 2010, I have managed to capture 32 "doubles" which, going by the other Canterbury & Thanet PAC members results, isn't too shabby. So I must be doing some thing right?

One of my favourite pike - a superbly marked individual from the small drain.
It weighed in at 14lbs 10oz and fought like a tiger (Feb 2012)

So what am I doing? Firstly, and in my mind a major difference from all my other pike angling mates, I don't use treble hooks! I used to be a Luton PAC member, way back in the 1980's, when Andy Windmill was the R/O. He and Alan Beat had developed a twin single rig, which they used free-lined, with amazing results. I used this set-up, but knew that free-lined dead baits were not particularly pike friendly and deep hooked fish could occur because of the lack of bite indication. It was, therefore, a great coincidence that Vic Bellars designed, and marketed (via Partridge Hooks) a double hook. A Japan Black finish, they were barbed and strong - with a couple of strokes of a file became razor sharp - perfect for casting baits with a lead attached. Hence much better bite indication, so it was this hook design that has shaped much of my current thinking. In 2010, I was unable to replace my VB doubles - I no longer lived near Amersham where a certain Fred Buller had his gun shop and these hooks were readily available. My brother Simon was to come to my assistance by purchasing some Pete Drennan "which-way" doubles in a size 6. Very similar to the VB, they are a barbless pattern - something that I was a little uneasy about. When I stick a hook in a fish, I don't want it dropping back out because it lacks a barb! (Shouldn't have worried - it doesn't happen if you keep a tight line)

A Duncan Kay 1lbs 10oz T.C rod doing its' stuff out on the Worth Marshes

The second thing which I feel has some bearing on my results is the use of very soft, through action, rods. As the majority of my pike angling has been on rather intimate venues, I don't see any point in using powerful rods, i.e. 2 1/2lbs T.C and above. The maximum cast is less than 20m and setting hooks at that range is simple. Pick up the rod, let the line tighten - wind down if you need to, then strike, job's a good-un! My rods are 1lbs 10oz T.C Duncan Kay carp rods. With these I have landed Pike to 23lbs+ and Catfish to 25lbs 2oz, plus a few Carp to boot. I have never had hooks pull because my gear was over-gunned; something that Benno experienced earlier in 2013 using Hyperloops on the RMC - he also used braid, which couldn't have aided his cause.

So this, quite neatly, brings me to another factor that I think makes a difference. I use mono for this short range stuff. 12lbs b.s. is perfectly adequate for most of the venues I fish; I would have no problem stepping up to 15lbs b.s. if the swim/snags dictated it.  As mono has that elasticity, my soft action rods are never likely to exert the force to pull hooks out of a fish, should they make a powerful surge.

Primitive, yet perfectly functional, one of my, 95 decibel,
 "home made" back-biter alarms

Bite indication is always best if a float is used - I will not argue against that. However, my concentration span is limited and therefore I rely on technology to replace my failing eyesight and lack of attention (plus the fact that I'd rather look at the birds and bugs than a silly orange float!).
The two types of alarm that I use are very basic models of "Back Biter-type" or "Front Runner" design. Both have their faults, yet are certainly effective on these smaller venues. My confidence in my ability to remove any hook from a pike is a factor in my angling - it is something that comes with teaching and the reason why every angler who wishes to fish for pike should become a PAC member. You should have the confidence to take charge of the situation and not be afraid of the fish, teeth, trebles and all!
Not neccessarily the "perfect bait" but a factor in my confidence and that is a key factor.

My final thoughts are with my bait choice. I have made mention, many times previously, that I buy my bait from the Westwood Cross Tesco's fresh fish counter. That's all I'm prepared to tell you - that I then colour and flavour, prior to freezing, my Herring, Mackerel and Sardine baits (individually wrapped in cling film) is a factor in my success. There are very few other anglers prepared to go to this length of preparation. Those that do deserve their rewards; I'd like to feel that I'm one of them.

The best, so far, my RMC 20lbs 9oz pike taken on a dyed & flavoured 1/2 Herring.

Sunday 19 May 2013

Little things

Bev and I have had a very quiet day, today. We drove across to Deal, around 11.00hrs, for breakfast on the pier, before heading across to Goodnestone to visit Sarah, Berne & Bryn then onwards to Ash to see Dad. A quick dash around Tesco's at Manston (Newington in reality) before we called in on Gadget and Anne. Very quiet! We finally got back to the bungalow around 17.30hrs - job done!
I'd taken my camera with me, as I'd started the day in the back garden failing to get any usable shots of Swifts - the first time this year that I've heard their fantastic trilling scream as they tear about the skies over Dumpton. The Deal Pier breakfast was OK, but nothing better! I suggest you go there and make your own opinion - don't allow me to stop you from enjoying the experience. What was rather interesting was the fact that there is still quite a sizable flock of Scoter (Common Scoter) present off the end of the pier; I'm surprised that they haven't departed for their breeding grounds, further to the north.
It was in Sarah's garden that I had my first chance to grab a few images of the mini-beasts that share our spaces. The Hoverfly, Rhingia campestris, was a species that I'd seen here in 2012 - so I was delighted to get my first chance to get decent images of this very distinct species.
A distinctive hoverfly (Rhingia campestris) - the extended "beak" making it a very noticeable insect.
There were a couple of male Orange-tip butterflies around the garden, but they stubbornly refused to pose for the camera. Bryn, Berne and I went for a wander around the Fitzwalter Estate, a very short walk on this occasion, and I found many more subjects to point the lens at. The Nursery Web Spider was sunbathing on a track side leaf. I'm sure that I've seen the species before, yet this was my first chance to get a photo - this being a female (if my ID is correct?)

A female Nursey Web Spider (Pisaura mirabilis)


The day continued to provide photo opportunities - there was a very confiding cock Pheasant in the church yard and I grabbed a few images of a "Cerceris" wasp sp. (?) when I found one enjoying the warmth in the lea of some dense track side vegetation - wasps are certainly a fascinating group.

Multi-coloured Bush Chicken - the alien species which allows many UK estates to
ensure that native species are able to remain in viable habitat. If we stop "country sports" then many of the
habitats (woodlands) will be lost as the landowners seek to replace this shooting income with agriculture.
Wasp sp. - a Cerceris sp. ? - I have photographed a very similar insect in Turkey (Oct 2012)
The lack of simple id info is a frustration, but not the end of the world!

My search hadn't yet ended; I finished with the discovery of a small fly sp. My best efforts are that it is a female Bibio hortulanus -  a close relative of the St. Mark's Fly. The image is a little grainy as it was taken in shadow - my camera skills are very basic.

Saturday 18 May 2013

More from the patch.

I've probably endured my worst week, at FSIS; it's  of no importance as to why, just my time in ILC was time wasted! There have been significant changes at Pyson's Road; since we ventured up to Loch Awe, not the least is the departure of Steve Jones (my guvnor). Time moves on and there is no point in looking backwards - what's happened is now consigned to the history books! ILC will only be a "tidy-up" requirement - so easily dealt with? The inability to cope with an alternative opinion is not restricted to birding/pan-listing, so it would seem!
Dusky Thrush at Margate Cemetery! In the "old days" this would have caused major panic - today; I couldn't give a monkey's! Fantastic find by Steve Tomlinson and enjoyed my many others - so good stuff!
One, of three species, that I recorded in the garden today.
My day has revolved around the demands of Emily, so I've been unable to get away from the garden. Not such a bad thing; the sun shone for brief periods and I managed to grab a few images. I fitted the extension tubes, so was geared up to get some photos of insects. At 11.50hrs; the gulls went nuts - whatever the cause being missed by me. Loads of mini beasts around the garden; so I wasn't bored!

This tiny wasp appears to be a "spider hunter" - it is smaller than the Green Bottles and Flesh Flies that were
enjoying the sun bathing provided by the yellow Buffalo Farm manure bags.
The moth trap produced very little overnight - 3 Shuttle-shaped Dart, 1 Common Quaker, 1 Early Grey, 1 Dark Spectacle and 1 Bright-line, Brown-eye. Hardly worth the price of the electricity!

Friday 17 May 2013

Kilchurn Bay Top 10 - May 2013

Our week at Loch Awe produced a fantastic catch of Northern Pike (Esox lucius) with a total of 38 fish over 10lbs (doubles!) Of these fish, there were 10 that weighed in excess of 15lbs. They, being from wild stock, are a very good result. I will use the Steve Gale template to reproduce the the May 2013 ten best pike.

1.-) Simon with a fantastic specimen of 20lbs 8oz; it looked bigger!
Why we travel the 600 miles to Loch Awe
2.-) Simon with a 19lbs 12oz pike

19lbs 12oz - pike fishing perfection?

3.-) Benno with his 19lbs 4oz beauty

19lbs 4oz - Benno's 2nd heaviest fish, both of them from Kilchun Bay, Loch Awe!

  4.-) Benno with a 16lbs 15oz

The heaviest pike of a three fish haul - taken within 20 minutes!

5.-) Me with a 16lbs 5oz fish (exactly 1lb heavier than my previous Scottish PB!)

31 years after I caught my first (15lbs 5oz) Scottish pike - this fish is a personal milestone!
I've taken my Scottish PB to 16lbs 5oz.
6.-) Benno with a 15lbs 15oz pike

A bit of "photo-shop" technology to remove the "red-eye" problem with Benno.
It doesn't work with fish?
7.-) Simon with a 15lbs 9oz fish

8.-) Benno with a 15lbs 9oz pike

9.-) Simon with the first fish of the trip - 15lbs 6oz

10.-) Me with a 15lbs 2oz fish - on our first morning.

Ten magnificent fish from our 2013 Loch Awe trip; all taken on dead baits, some fished at 150m+.
Fantastic memories which will remain for the rest of my life - I don't think that any of us will ever experience this quality of pike fishing again. Proper piking, for wild fish, in a wild and wonderful place.
What are we going to do next year?

Monday 13 May 2013

Kilchurn pike fishing thoughts

Simon and I with a couple of modest pike from Loch Ascog, Isle of Bute.
Happy memories from our first trip to Scotland in May 1982
It was in May of 1982 that I made my first trip to Scotland in search of the legendary, hard fighting, pike that are inhabitants of the, peat stained, waters of many lochs and rivers. My memories are happy ones, yet we (I) weren't particularly successful in the quest; we caught plenty of fish, some quite large, but never really got to grips with the challenge of these wild places, despite 12 other trips up to the May of 1992. Fast forward to 2011 and, after an 18 year break from angling, I took up the challenge again. Older and considerably wiser, the chosen venue being Kilchurn Bay, Loch Awe. A superb trip, culminating in Benno landing the first Scottish "twenty" that I'd ever seen - the best fish from a 50+ pike total that included 10 other doubles. In 2012, the same venue was again the scene for our efforts. Gale force winds, driving rain and sleet/snow providing the challenges for our equipment, Tom bagging our heaviest Scottish pike, to date, with a magnificent specimen of 21lbs 2oz. (there were 6 other "doubles" taken during the week)

De ja vu - older and uglier, once again, Simon and me with a brace from a Scottish loch.
So now we are back in real time and the events of the past week. I have had a couple of days to try to get to grips with the incredible success we've just enjoyed. What have we done so differently?

Dawn on Loch Awe - looking up Glen Orchy
Firstly, there can be no getting away from the role that the crazy weather has played - so our chosen dates were a very lucky coincidence. The numbers of big pike in Kilchurn Bay is without doubt the main factor behind our incredible catch. However, none of this would have been possible if it were not for the detailed planning that had taken place during the preceding three months. Bait supply was arranged, Simon had built a "bait boat" which incorporated a "smart cast-type" fish finder and we were all geared up to use braided lines on the reel. This stuff is the only line to use when fishing at distance - it has no stretch, so very unlike mono filament nylon, and allows direct contact with a taking fish. All very strange to me!

A very familiar scene during our trip - Benno bent into a hard-fighting Kilchurn Bay pike.

With the aid of the bait boats (we had three), baits could be fished at ranges in excess of 150m. This caused a few problems with boat anglers who couldn't believe we were able to cast(?) that distance. A little demonstration of radio controlled casting was enough to highlight our technology and the vast majority were perfectly happy to give us a wide berth. Quite why boat anglers, on a loch that is 26 miles long, need to fish directly opposite a bunch of guys who are bivvied up on the bank is a mystery; but that's another post!

Loch Awe magic - Simon with a superb pike of 19lbs 12oz.
It doesn't get much better.

Our use of fish oils and colour dyes, ensured that we were fishing baits to a population of pike which hadn't been caught on this type of presentation with any regularity. One of our blue dyes is unique to us, of that I'm 100% certain. We dyed baits, we flavoured baits, we "popped" them up, we fished them flat on the bottom; whatever we did, we did it for a reason and regularly ringed the changes as the week progressed. One thing that became increasingly obvious, as the days passed, was the fact that our baits were losing their attractiveness. We don't, yet, have the ability to keep baits frozen - our Norwegian Army cool boxes are excellent, for a week - something to work on during the next twelve months! My Yanmar generator kept the batteries for our bait boats, cameras and phones well charged, so there is a possibility that we might be able to utilise this technology to keep our baits frozen in the future?

Simon admires a nice mid-double, taken by yours truly.
We promised Davie that we'd keep the venue secret (not) - so an undisclosed southern still-water!
We had the good fortune to bump into Davie Robertson, the guy responsible for the Central Scotland Pike Anglers forum. A wealth of information about the pike of Loch Awe and other venues, we enjoyed a very pleasant couple of days in his (and Neil's) company - good luck with the wedding!
I have to end this post with my heart felt thanks to Alan Gray, the sprightly 84 year old land owner, who has made us so very welcome during the past three years. His hospitality is only matched by his wry humour and ability to spin a yarn - a wonderful man - many thanks Alan, it was some holiday!

Another nice brace - 13lbs 9oz & 14lbs 14oz

Sunday 12 May 2013

Wee beasties

Kilchurn Castle - the most photographed castle in Scotland?
I think it would be fair to say that our Scottish trip was a resounding success, however, this was because we were as well equipped/prepared as we have ever been. When travelling 600 miles in order to spend 8 nights under canvas (well nylon actually) it pays to be very attentive to detail. We took the finest baits, hook rigs and bite indicators that we could possibly use. The weather we endured was to test us; any weaknesses would be quickly highlighted. My camera gear was found wanting, it letting me down in these continually damp conditions. Not an issue with the EOS, I lack the waterproof storage facilities, so several fish were returned without the photo to do them justice. It appears that the auto-focus has problems when the lens is fogged up!

As for the rest of it, the bait boats (more of them in a later post), alarms, bivvies, rods, reels and other assorted items, they came through the test with flying colours. As can be seen from my opening image, it didn't rain all of the time, well not quite. Glimpses of the sun were rare, but it was often still and dank, with heavy leaden skies, so the threat of rain was always there. Ospreys fished the bay in the most horrendous wind and rain - I have absolutely no idea how they can see their prey. I grabbed loads of record shots, none really doing them justice. A male Redstart set up territory on "Fraggle Rock Hill" and a female Wheatear was a regular sight around Benno's swim. Our bivvies provided shelter for several species of beetle, spider and other assorted creepy crawlies. I got a decent image of a Water Carpet (Lampropteryx suffumata) when Simon disturbed one from his bivvy and it settled on his coat. Short-tailed Field Voles were common, their regular patrol routes very obvious in the surrounding vegetation.

A pair of Ravens were seen daily, they seemed to be nesting on one of the islands to the west of our swims. Siskin, Bullfinch, Coal Tit, Willow Warbler, Common Snipe, Canada Goose and Black-throated Diver made for a very strange "dawn chorus". I recorded 4 Whooper Swans flying down the loch, on 4th May, and a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers were the first I'd seen on Loch Awe. So I didn't get to use the cameras as much as I'd like, but there were plenty of chances to grab a few shots when the rain abated.

It was always destined to be about more than just pike fishing. The singing Tree Pipits; parachute displaying, on the loch side slopes. Common Sandpipers and Oystercatchers involved in their noisy flight displays. Common Buzzards, Hooded Crows and Goosander providing us with further distraction while we awaited the next bite - magical memories from a very special place.

Saturday 11 May 2013

Loch Awesome - unbelievable!

I have just got home after an eleven hour drive from the banks of Kilchurn Bay, Loch Awe. There are hundreds of images to sort through and so many tales to recall. However, as I've been very lacking (on the blogging front), I will share a few images. The fishing was the stuff of dreams; I've certainly never experienced pike fishing of this quality previously.

Looking at the business end of a twenty!
Three doubles, taken within a few minutes of each other - Benno's was the heaviest at 16lbs 15oz
So there you are! A quick post to whet the appetite - it really was the most fantastic trip. We ended up with 38 doubles from a total catch of 48 pike. The heaviest went 20lbs 8oz, but that isn't of any great significance, it was the quality of the fishing and the shared experiences - quite simply the best holiday any of us can remember.