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 29 November 2013

A bit of an up-date

It's been a funny old week in the simple world that I inhabit. We have a major problem with our car, a £3,500 type of problem and are in the midst of attempting to get Perry's (of Canterbury) to rectify this, just 14 weeks after they sold it to us. Trading Standards and the Ombudsman might well be required before the situation is ended satisfactorily - we'll see?

I had the good fortune to witness 5 Waxwings fly, SW,  over the yard on Tuesday morning and, today, have seen the first Merlin of the winter, as one flashed over the cauliflowers beside Pyson's Road. While I was on my main break, the largest flock of Golden Plover I have ever seen at Newland's, flew high SSW, en route to Pegwell? As the weather closed in, two Lapwings flapped lazily eastwards, dropping down onto the ploughed field behind our garden. Having been bemoaning the lack of birds recently, these encounters are instrumental in understanding the enjoyment that patch watchers are able to derive from seemingly ordinary sightings. Continental Blackbirds are very conspicuous at present and the evening flight of corvids, into their Ramsgate Cemetery roost site is spectacular; 400+ Carrion Crows and 250+ Jackdaws provide a wonderful spectacle as the light fades in the late afternoon.
Cynical and disillusioned I might be but, I am still able to derive immense pleasure from watching the wildlife that shares my world. I have seen todays' stats on my "blogger dashboard" and it seems that Mr Gale is, once again, responsible for the upsurge of interest in my nonsensical musings - cheers me dear! To anyone who has just discovered this silly mix of fish, feather and random thoughts (on subjects many and varied) please don't take offence at my opinions, as none is meant. I simply use my blog as a vehicle to place one mans' point of view into cyberspace. I don't have a monopoly on being right, or wrong, yet I do have the right to an opinion!

None of the accompanying photos are from this week, or even Newland's Farm - so are purely for effect; having been taken in years gone by - when birding was a bigger influence on my life than it is today.

Wednesday 27 November 2013

Some thoughts of a disillusioned, cynical, patch birder

Once again I have to thank/blame Steve Gale (Northdowns and Beyond) for the inspiration for this post. The catalyst is a very simple post; questioning the viability of sustained patch watching, at some high profile local sites, which caused a superb response (via the comments facility on Blogger). Young David Campbell, in particular, has made great efforts to explain his frustration at the perceived lack of coverage of his "patch" since he moved away in order to further his education. The last time I looked there were 24 comments, including one by me, thus an indication of the level of interest raised by this subject.
Now, whilst I have no right to make comment, based upon my recent activity within birding - local patch birding is the only way by which I retain any contact with what's going on. Newland's Farm is the land between where I live (West Dumpton) and where I work (Pyson's Road Ind Est.) As such, I am patch watching for the majority of my waking hours - if I am outdoors and not fishing!
For me, this form of birding is purely for personal fulfilment, nothing to do with BTO atlas work, county bird reports or self-aggrandisement. Very simply the enjoyment of being able to watch wildlife within a few yards of our bungalow is what keeps me enthused (plus the fact that I have got to walk back and forth between the two places five times every working week!)
In a reply to my comment, Steve says that there are many such individuals, who are out there, binoculars at the ready, enjoying their local parks, woodland, reservoirs and gravel pits, without feeling the pressure to become involved. Not, for them, the desire to become famous, to play any great role in scientific data gathering, just to derive the very simple pleasure to be had by looking at nature, in what ever form.
Where does the disillusioned bit come from? Well - and this is all in my past - there was a time when Planetthanet.org was a major part of my life. Gadget had the skills, and the contacts, to provide the Internet with an information resource that, at it's peak, was able to boast over a million hits per month! Spectacular success for such a simple idea. It seems, however, that despite this info being provided FOC, parasitic website (Birdguides etc) happily plundered the news. Not such a big deal until we realised that these pirates were then selling the information to their subscribers. Obviously there is the counter argument that this information was placed into the cyber system, therefore freely available to all to access. However, I am sure that this perception, of theft, is responsible for the demise in up to date "Blogs" - news release is delayed because individual bloggers have had enough of these thieving cyber entities!
I've had a gut full - Birdguides are a superb website, but if I want to report a sighting I have the option to send an e-mail (being a computer numpty) or can ring a phone "hot-line". I have used this facility to release "patch news" on many occasions. The last time was the Great Grey Shrike, but there have been Lapland Bunting, Red-backed Shrike, Ring Ouzel, and Pink-footed Geese (amongst others) that have been directly reported to the rare bird network. The fact that they see fit to take whatever they want, from wherever they want, does nothing to endear them with local patch watchers. The threat of "twitching exuberance" being imposed on your local patch is also a consideration. The crazy fall-out of "Dusky-gate" is testament enough to demonstrate why many "patch watchers" now steer well clear of publicity.
As an individual, I am probably better able to deal with this crap than the average patch watcher - factory life does that to a man - but I fully understand how much pressure can be exerted by these channels of influence. I find it so sad that Gavin succumbed to this pressure - he being a fine blogger and all-round decent bloke. Who's lost out? All of us  - that's who! Gavin was an angler before he moved to Devon, he enjoyed cycling but, he remained a staunch patch-watcher; posting some fabulous stuff about the birding to be enjoyed around his local area. I'm sure that he remains as interested in birds/natural history as he ever was. The loss of his blog is just another indication that the pressures of conformity are detrimental to involvement of those individuals who have more than a single brain cell between their ears.
I am not silly enough to think that every one reading this stuff is of the same opinion - but before you select the comment button - just think who else you have to convince with your view point? I'm going pike fishing, with Gadget,  tomorrow - so don't give a f**k !

Monday 25 November 2013

So who's teaching who?

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since 1993; when I packed up "mainstream specimen hunting" - it's fair to say that I'd enjoyed a decent level of success and my profile, within the circuit, was rather prominent during this crazy period of my life. Benno was born in 1984, and by 1988 had already spent a week at Kilchurn Bay, Loch Awe. Before 1992, he had three more Scottish trips under his belt, plus two 20lbs+ Catfish (from Claydon Middle Lake) and a 6lbs Tench (Emberton Park) and had also insulted Eddie Turner - quality memories of a freezing January morning on Wilstone Res.
Benno - 1990 - Kilchurn Bay has a lot to answer for!
Obviously, during these early days, Benno was learning the basics - in the company of some other, very high profile, anglers. Alan Wilson, Bob Henderson, Vic Gillings, Kevin Maddocks, Bob Baldock, Eddie, Vic and Bill and so many, many more (I was serving time on the Executive Committee of NASA and was the R/O for The Chiltern Region - where Warren Gaunt started out!)

Live bait from the Grand Union Canal
Benno; aged 6.
An apprenticeship which has resulted in a young boy evolving into a
fully fledged "big fish" angler - "That's my boy!" 
How things have changed; since that fateful day in July 2010 when Benno suggested that we go back to Scotland for one last session! Bev will regret that "Yeah; go for it!" for the rest of her days - what a turn around in my world. Before May 2011 - birding was my main reason for getting up in the morning. Kent, Thanet in particular, being very well catered for in this respect. I have seen 348 species (plus umpteen racial variants) within the county boundaries, almost twice as many as I've seen in Hertfordshire despite the fact that I lived in that county for over 30 years! Kilchurn Bay 2011, the water shed moment, when angling, once again, took centre stage in my enjoyment of being outdoors. Birds and insects can never be ignored but, all of a sudden, it was the pursuit of freshwater fish (big fish) that became the driving influence, once again.
Benno was always on a "hiding to nothing" - even at the age of 6 he was on the sauce!
Having Les "Cuddly" Dudley, the two Mitchleks and Sye & me, as tutors - he should really be
a statistic on the "care in the community" register!
This time around I am not as "obsessed" to feel that every second should be focused on the pursuit (although I do have my moments) - fishing is now something that I enjoy (something that dovetails into the other aspects of my life) particularly when I'm spending time with Benno. Our relationship suffering as a direct casualty of my divorce from his mum and when normality goes "tits up" at the age of 15 - it is no great shock that the fall-out is disproportionate, to the reality, in one so young. A decade and a half later - everything in the garden is rosy - Benno and Bev get on fine; there are no "hidden agendas/skeletons" lurking in the shadows.
Benno learning the ropes on Startops Res. Tring. (1992)
Now it is me doing the learning; so much in angling has developed/evolved since 1993 that I find myself asking Ben for his opinion/advice. Even my brother Simon now asks Ben for an opinion when he is starting upon a new angling challenge - Benno and his mates are first class anglers. Just because they are young doesn't mean that they have nothing to offer, purely because they didn't undergo the same apprenticeship as previous generations. An analogy that could surely be applied to the modern birding scene? Us oldens seem unable to grasp the fact that the "new generation" don't need Latin names or time at an Observatory in order to obtain a huge list of birds. Modern technology, instant news, and ease of travel, means that anyone with aspirations to join the birding circus can do so with minimum qualifications. And "why not?" These are the next generation of patch watchers, county recorders and environmental custodians. Does it really matter what path they choose to get into the wonders of birding/natural history - twitching is simply a phase that needs to be experienced before age and other influences play a a role in any individuals life. For a few adrenaline junkies - twitching is everything, but for the vast majority, who find birding the focus of their interest, time will be the major factor. The simple process of getting old, the law of diminishing returns, all influences on an individual and are to be judged, as such, by that person. As a young man, married with two kids, I walked away from a £400/week job so that I could go fishing. Idiocy, irresponsible to a degree that I cannot explain, so I am in no position to offer advice to anyone - but I still do it! As I get older the crazier the world appears. There are some things that my head will not allow me to understand - bloody computers for one! In this digital age I am completely out of my depth, I lack the basic understanding of what it's all about - how it works? In "Blogland" I am not alone - the vast majority of the inhabitants are of my era, unable to keep up with the speed of technological advancement. Many of us guilty of nostalgia posts and intolerance of the "new kid on the block". Just as when I walked away from Kodak, in 1985, it is no point in me attempting to tell someone that "it's not important" because I now have that gift of experience. What is the point, what would I be attempting to do? Stop someone else learning the same lessons, enjoying the same crazy days as I enjoyed. Nothing is simple - getting old means that every funeral you attend you are closer to the front of the queue - now that is something that's worth remembering! Live every day as if it is your last - try to enjoy it in whatever manner you see fit! If someone asks your advice? Give it, but don't seek to impose your opinions, however valid, upon those less fortunate souls who have so much more time to experience - they'll get there in the end, although I probably won't be around to see it!
Here endeth the lesson.

Wednesday 20 November 2013

The natural world - an open book?

This post must come under the heading of "musings" - there being so very much, thought provoking, stuff circulating Blogland at present. Once again I find myself trying to come to terms with mind set of some of those "Bloggers" whose opinions I greatly value. My post title is purely for effect! Books; what use is a library to a guy who can't read? Yet, on the other hand, do all books require words to be of value?
A relatively common insect in Turkey (?) - I haven't got a scooby as to what it is!
A blue and black wasp - fascinating.
Inspirational teachers produce inspired pupils - in my lifetime I have been fortunate to come into contact with many such people. Within a birding context I can count John Hollyer, Dave Walker, Ray Turley, Tony Greenland, Jack & Phil Chantler, Andy Hamby and many, many, more - Kent is very well catered for where birding skills are required. Tony Harman and Andy Johnson helped fire my interest in moths and there are many other individuals who have played a part in my appreciation of the "bigger picture". However, none of this would be possible if I lacked the basic ability to look! In the same way that a book can only be read by someone who can read, the ability to get the benefit of confident identification is by being shown how to do it. This doesn't mean that simply seeing is without worth.
Clouded Yellow - a butterfly with which I am familiar.
I can't be over confident with my id, as there are many similar insects within the region.
I still enjoyed the encounter.
I have chosen my areas of interest, based purely upon the fact that my teachers were similarly enthused, the other aspects of our natural world are not lost, just don't play such a significant role - a bit like looking at a picture book - can't read but then I don't need to? If I'd gone to school and had Fred Dibner as a teacher, I am certain that engineering would have been my passion; Professor Brian Cox - then all of a sudden I'd have been inspired to look at the stars. I can only thank those teachers who ensured that my grasp of reading and writing meant that in my later years I could go to a library and find the information that "lights my candle"
My best guess is that it is a "Conehead Grasshopper" - it matters not a jot!
The pleasure came from the sighting; not being able to put a label on it.
My images, that accompany this offering, are from October 2012 whilst on holiday in Turkey. I hope that they convey all that I feel about my enjoyment of looking at our natural world?

Red-veined Darter - how dirty does the camera sensor need to get?

Back within my "comfort zone" - Even in Turkey juvenile Red-backed Shrikes
look like (Kent) juvenile Red-backed Shrikes

Monday 18 November 2013

Life - a conflict of opinions?

I find myself in somewhat of a quandary. Steve Gale and Gavin Haig (two very fine "Bloggers") have recently posted stuff in defence of Jonathan Lethbridge (another excellent Blogger and exceptional photographer - some guys just can't help themselves!) because some spineless cyber warrior made comment labelling said "Wanstead" icon as an "Internet birder". I don't quite get it? Apparently this comment was meant as an insult - how spiteful! If that is the best this guy can do, then he obviously doesn't work in a factory. If I am going to offer an insult you can count on it to be rather more colourful than this pathetic jibe.

Steve's piece is a nicely worded, thoughtful post in which he addresses much of what he feels is wrong with modern birding. Gavin, likewise, does similar, but with a slightly more personal spin on things (well he did used to be an angler!). I have now just read Jonathan's latest post - his right of reply - and the words "Storm" and "Tea-cup" spring to mind. The freedom of communication that "Blogging" allows is, as Steve rightly points out, for all participants to live out their lives in glass houses. We write our posts, based upon experiences and opinions that are moulded by our own unique lives. It cannot be too much of a shock to an individual, of even modest education, that there will be other inhabitants of our world that don't see things from the same perspective.
Was the trigger for this anonymous outburst a deliberate attempt at insulting an individual (hence the response) or a simple expression of an individual point of view. Either, which way, it matters not a jot; Yes it is nice to be nice but, if Mother Teressa herself had a Blog, you can guarantee that some clown would feel the need to "piss on her party". Individuality, the right to an opinion - the very fabric of what democracy is all about?

So what have I been up to? This past weekend has been an absolute blast - family and friends gathering at the Pegwell Bay Hotel in order to celebrate Denise's (Bev's mum) 80th Birthday. It was a great success, everyone enjoying the evening which was a very simple gathering for a meal and a few "light ales". Four generations in one place - it doesn't happen often enough in these hectic times. I didn't get out fishing, although Friday and Saturday nights were perfect for the RMC - in my opinion. Last Thursday (14th Nov) I spent a very chilly three hours on the banks of the River Stour - a complete blank! - before attending the Canterbury and Thanet PAC meeting. I couldn't stay too long but was able to enjoy a quick pint and a chat with the guys - good luck with the coming season!
In our little corner of the UK, 20lbs + pike are a very scarce commodity, thus a worthy challenge to seek and, very much more important, to protect! Now whilst I have just been spouting on about the individuals right to an opinion there are times when it might be better if they kept them to themselves? Steve says something about a wider appreciation of the Natural World - I'd go one step further - a wider appreciation of our World! Age = experience; the very reason why the greatest minds are those of the older generations - that idiot Tony Blurrrrrr being a prime example of youthful exuberance - plenty noise - no substance!

In the Angler's Mail, recently, John Bailey has published an article in which he promotes free-lined live baits under the heading of "Deadly". It was John Roberts who alerted me to this article, now whilst I have the utmost respect for John Bailey, as an angler, (he also takes a mean photo!) I cannot find the words to describe how irresponsible this particular article is. Ever since 1977, the Pike Anglers Club of Great Britain has striven to make pike welfare a priority amongst those anglers who wish to seek these magnificent fish. Bite indication being at the forefront of their efforts. To have a well-respected angler promote a method which does nothing but set back the clock by over a century is crazy. Was it editorial pressure or deadline fever? I will never know - the resultant article is an insult to the PAC and the incredible efforts that they have made. John Bailey - "The Thinking Angler" - I think not and I don't think Colin Dyson would have allowed it to appear during his editorial reign!
There I go again - opinions! It's what makes the world go round?

Monday 11 November 2013

Time for reflection?

The eleventh hour, on the eleventh day, of the eleventh month - the alarm sounded the start for the two minute silence at Fujifilm SIS, Pyson's Road factory. It was observed immaculately by the guys with which I work, not that all agree with this symbolic ritual (at least they have the decency not to spoil it for those, of us, who do.) It was equally respected at all of the sporting fixtures which took place over the weekend - the religious services were well attended at various memorials around the entire UK - We will remember them! Next year marks the centenary of the start of the "Great War" - what has humanity learnt in the 100 years since this conflict? - not a great deal in my view. Civilisation might have created some basic standards of behaviour - as a species we're still way off the mark of civil respect and co-existence (Axyl Rose - "What's civil about war anyway?") I wear my poppy with great pride; I have several friends who have kids serving with the armed forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, plus one who saw service during the crazy days of the "Irish" un-rest (Civil War in everything but name) I have never been brave enough to take up arms in the name of King or country, but I am forever indebted to those who have taken the King's shilling and placed themselves in danger in order to protect the very fabric of the UK. Those things that I hold dearest to my heart. My ability to speak freely, to think as an individual, to be a non-conformist without fear of prosecution or demonisation. Take a look at the situation in North Korea - 80 people executed for watching South Korean TV!!!!
In this "green and pleasant land" we have an awful lot to be grateful for - none the least; our freedom of expression. "GET OFF THE SOAP BOX YOU HIPPY TWAT!!!" (Factory speak!)
Always a nice distraction whilst awaiting a bite from the pike of the RMC.
More often heard, than seen, Water Rail are a very welcome sighting.
My postings have been conspicuous by their absence recently, purely because I've nothing to say. I've been back down to the RMC a couple of times, getting some action - although nothing big - on both occasions. Birding around my Newland's Farm patch has been dire. The garden feeding station has also been a struggle - a day list wouldn't reach 10 species! I suppose I should be grateful for what I've got - not envious of what others have? 
A Rock Pipit in Ramsgate Harbour.
An example of "A. petrosus" - as to be expected given the location?

Rock Pipit at Dumpton Gap
An example of "A. littoralis" Scandinavian Rock Pipit?

How many guys can claim such an image from their workplace?
One, of hundreds, of Waxwings that were present around the Fujifilm SIS factory, during the 2010/11 winter
 period - this individual taking a drink from the water contained within the lid of a 200 ltr drum inside the yard.

I am very happy with the way my life is evolving - being a grand-dad has some sobering downsides, but many more ups! Bev and I are in the middle of arranging her mum's 80th birthday bash - Pegwell Bay Hotel (watch this space) So many things that I once thought to be important have been given a reality slap. Rememberance Day - time for reflection about so much more than war!!

Thursday 7 November 2013

Self take photos

Many years ago I wrote an advertising feature for Kodak (UK) Ltd which was published in the "Specialist Angler" magazine of the National Association of Specialist Anglers. It was aimed at helping non-photographers to understand the fact that wet fish are similar to mirrors when a camera is involved, therefore, it being very important to getting decent images if the angler thinks about how the fish is presented to the lens.

A 5lbs Chub from the R. Stour - the unique scale pattern making this individual easily

The original image - two rod rests marking the outer limits of the frame. With 10.1 million pixels to play with,
it is an easy job to produce a completely different portrait using photoshop software.
It was a lengthy piece and well received by those guys I came into contact with. I was working for the mighty Kodak at that time and, as such, had contact with some very clued-up individuals. The demise of 35mm photography and, with it, my former employer, has coincided with the mercurial rise in digital image capture. Such is the speed with which this revolution has occurred, it is now a fact that more images are taken with phones than cameras! Some of the images that Benno has recorded, using his i-phone, are stunning. Why is photography so important? Well, angling has moved on from the days of "trophy rooms" and taxidermists - modern angling is a catch and release hobby, unless you fish for the table (something which is still particularly associated with game fishing - trout and salmon, but not solely) so the photo is the obvious means by which any successes are recorded.
Where does this leave me? I am still, very much, living in the past - reluctant to let go of the technology with which I am comfortable. Yes I own a mobile phone (a basic Samsung with neither camera or internet access) with which I am able to converse with Bev and others when required. I also use a digital SLR Canon camera - film being replaced by a memory card. The basics between film and digital remain constant, however, the modern photographer has one great advantage - it's called photoshop (in any guise it can be purchased). It is the photography version of the Monopoly "get out of jail free" card. Images that would have been useless, in the days of film, are now given a new lease of life by the ability to manipulate light levels, colour saturation and any number of other details using a computer program.

Yet still, in 2013, I get asked how to get a self-take image - it would appear that I'm not alone in being left behind in the void of this technological whirlwind of digital progression. Jim Gibbinson devoted a whole chapter, in his 1983 "Modern Specimen Hunting" (ISBN 0-9507598-7-2) to the importance of photography, and how to do it, in big fish angling. On Saturday afternoon I picked up a copy of Angler's Mail, in Westwood Tesco's, while I was waiting for Bev to sort herself out and am amazed at the lack of progress that image quality has made since the 1990's - there were some absolutely shocking photos of wonderful fish. With so much technology readily available, it is a question for the individual as to how much effort they want to focus into the recording of any fish that they are fortunate enough to catch; this must also be in the context of how much effort they made to be fishing, in the first place?
The other flank of my 18lbs 9oz pike - nothing close to the original image; the glare of the reflected light
from the flanks of the fish has been manipulated by the wonders of Adobe 7.0

As an individual, I have detailed records of every "double" carp, pike and catfish that I've ever taken - all very anal, but purely for my own reference, not a bunch of statistics by which I can compare/compete with others. I also, since my return to angling, have made the effort to capture an image of every "double" - just because I think it's important. When I hear of 30's returned without a photo, I wonder what has happened to angling? Such an event is, in my experience, so special that the very least it should require is a record image. If I catch a "30" I want a full size poster!!
So how do I manage when I'm on my own? Firstly, not all fish captured require the effort involved with getting me in the frame - simple portraits of fish laid on a mat/sling with a rod and reel for scale. However, if the fish is of "specimen" size, I do like to get a record with me posing, holding the catch. I do this with the most basic of techniques, using the time delay shutter release facility on my EOS and a simple modification to my Camlink mono pod (complete with Jessop's ball swivel camera mount) I attach it to a bank stick, by the use of insulating tape, thus making it free standing. The camera is focused on the position, where I am going to present the fish, then the edges of the frame are marked with two bank sticks. Only when all of this has been done will I get the fish from the water, where it will have been recovering in the landing net or an ET Pike Tube (why can't we get these superb items any more?) With a 10 second shutter delay, I only have time to get six or seven images before the fish must be returned to the water - the welfare of the fish being of greater importance than a photo. Pike, in particular, are not as robust as their appearance suggests - 90 seconds is the maximum time that they should be kept out of the water - no exceptions for photography; it doesn't matter how big they are! So while I'm on the subject, if there is a problem with un-hooking, get the pike back into the water immediately - retain it in a tube/sack or net if you must, but ensure that it has a chance to recover fully. "Big pike don't get clever, they get dead" a quote from Jim Gibbinson. Bad handling is as much a cause of pike fatality as deep hooking and inept anglers. I know this is true because of my own experiences; back in 1982 - the pike that adorns my study wall is a direct result of my own short comings, particularly the removal of treble hooks - the fish died as a direct result of my actions and I am ashamed to admit it. I suppose I'm a bit like a reformed smoker, in this respect, I am now highly critical of pike anglers and their treatment of these wonderful fish. I won't stand around and watch a guy struggle - I'm straight in there;"let me do it!" Very rarely do I get a negative reaction. It is one of the main reasons I am proud to wear the Pike Anglers Club of Great Britain logo on my body warmers - I look like I should know what I'm doing.
So back to the photos, and what I do. Once the frame has been decided, the bank sticks in position and an unhooking mat laid on the ground, I will get the fish and go through the ritual of pressing the shutter release and rushing back into position to pose with my catch. If I get one, out of six or seven, then I'm happy. They are never as good as images that have been taken by Benno, or others, but under the circumstances, they suffice. The added benefit of being able to manipulate the results, is a real bonus - cropping and sharpening - playing around with the contrast; all things which can enhance the image. I still place great emphasis on the choice of background. My desire to keep the exact location a secret is as much a consideration as any other factor. (If I was to learn how to fully utilise photoshop then none of this would be of relevance - I could pose anywhere and use Deal Pier as my backdrop!)

The opening page of Jim Gibbinson's masterclass. Everything that needs to be said is encapsulated in this quote!

Sunday 3 November 2013

Off the mark

I was down at my chosen swim, on the RMC, by 06.00hrs - fishing with two rods within 15 minutes. The swim was chosen for several reasons, none less important than, it is in a very productive area, as discovered late in 2012; Benno had taken several doubles, including two "sixteens" in the run up to Christmas. The presence of obvious features also give me the right signals, pike are habitually drawn to reed beds and overhanging branches - this section being particularly well catered for in this respect.
Unorthodox use of my back-biters - the superb construction of the reel ensuring it gives line very freely, despite the fact
that I'd tightened the clutch as much as I dared.
Matt has advertised these reels as being suitable for Barbel, Carp and Pike - I'm unable to argue against this claim.
My gear was the same as my previous 2013/14 visits - two Duncan Kay's, coupled with two Matt Hayes centre-pins loaded with braided main line and twin double-hook rigs. Bait choice was fairly predictable, if I'm honest, a sweet green Sardine and a dyed/flavoured 1/2 mackerel. My only bite came at 06.40hrs - the spinning centre-pin giving the signal as the clip on the back-biter failed to release!
I'm not particularly happy with this shot; it makes the pike appear quite skinny!
The truth is that the fish was a chunky-looking beast with a very broad head/back, however,
as it is a self-take effort, I've got to live with it..

I picked the rod from the rests and watched the line peeling steadily off the centre-pin. Clamping my hand over the spool I lifted the rod and, as I felt the line tighten, lifted the rod over my shoulder. The fish boiled on the far bank and the line fell slack! "Bollocks" or words to that effect - I was sure that it'd come off but quickly found that it was still on and my strike had done nothing more than lift the lead. The fight was a dour, although powerful, affair - as the fish cruised up and down the centre channel. I think that the carp lads call them "growers" - fish that initially feel small and increase in weight as they near the landing net. The sight of the fish, swirling on the surface, allowed me to see that I'd hooked a "double" and the more the battle ensued, the larger the fish felt. When I finally got the fish to the net I was looking at the head slipping over the draw string thinking that it was going to go close! The width across the skull and back was impressive, it was a very happy Dylan that lifted the net and peered into the folds at what I'd had the good fortune to catch.
The ritual weighing followed, the scales revealing a statistic of 18lbs 9oz, and the fish was allowed to recover in the safety of a ET "Pike-tube". My first "double" of the season - a very nice start - any pike, over 15lbs, is special; I'm very happy with this result and my angling skills which led to the capture. I then had the problem of the photos - my self take results being a little short of the mark in comparison with those taken by Benno (who understands the requirements of a decent fish portrait)