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!


Wednesday 31 December 2014

The ultimate piss take?

The Chiffchaff remains around the garden, I had some nice views of it fly catching around our decking and another attempt at photographing it - didn't quite manage the image I desired, but still good fun all the same.

I'd been into Dragoncarp Direct over the holiday period and couldn't help myself - Chinese manufactured bite alarms for £1.99 each; reduced from £6! I had to buy three, just because they were there. That they are called "Ultimate" and labelled Redmire is an insult of such magnitude as to be brilliant.
Part of the front cover of the 1984 Beekay publication by  Kevin Clifford and Len Arbery
A venue of such historical significance to the pursuit of carp within the UK as to
be beyond a "marketing gimmick" of a discount tackle outlet - not so!
Redmire Pool (Bernithan Court) home of the mythical carp sought by Dick Walker and his pals. A venue so steeped in carp angling folklore as to be talked about in whispers - any angler who has set foot there akin to a devout Catholic visiting St. Peter's Square in Rome.

Nothing is sacred in marketing - three bite alarms for £5.97!
Three 9v batteries from the pound shop and away I go.
I'm taking them pike fishing tomorrow and will give my verdict afterwards.
Any way - all that remains is for me to wish everyone, who has visited this blog, a very peaceful, prosperous and nature filled 2015. It matters not a jot if you are a birder, angler, moth-er or pan-lister? I sincerely hope that the New Year lives up to expectations - good health and happiness to all - Dyl

Tuesday 30 December 2014

Beautiful day

Sometimes I have to wonder why I'm so bloody silly? This morning, after an excellent evening at Terry & Debbie's house celebrating our 11th Wedding Anniversary - I left home at 06.00 hrs to fish the RMC. The car display was reading -1C in Thanet, by the time I arrived at Folkestone it was down to -3C. Clear skies and zero wind ensured that the section I had picked was frozen over - what a prick? Plan B involved driving through Hythe to fish the Aldergate area, at least there is some flow on the water despite the low level. Wrong - it must have been right on high tide and the canal was static - the only area I could fish was where a large group of Mallards had congregated, thus keeping the surface ice free. I managed to get two baits out before the falling tide ensured that the surface ice started moving, catching my line as it passed. My ploy of sinking my rod tips countered that particular problem but did little to prevent a steady build up of suspended debris on my line. The net result being false alarms as the monkeys were dragged up the needles.
It was, however, a glorious morning - the predicted fog failing to materialise. So birding the canal became the main event, the fishing being little more than a joke! I recorded six Little Egret, 2 Kingfisher, 1 Little Grebe, the red-head Goosander, 2 Treecreeper, 1 Yellowhammer, 5 Fieldfare and a Merlin - not bad for a pike session. By 10.30 hrs I'd had enough - packing up was rather slow due to my hands being numb. The wind had started to pick up and wet hands quickly chilled. My long walk back to the car was enlivened by bumping into Brian Harper, who was standing in a gateway scoping a Little Owl. The conversation was pleasant, including confirmation of my gut feeling that the "grey geese" I'd seen on Sunday were, indeed, White-fronts.
The drive home was far safer than the outward journey, temperatures had risen to well above zero and the roads were drying nicely. Two Common Buzzards were noted, within the Thanet boundary, as I drove along the new by-pass, my only sighting of the day. I unloaded the car and was in the back garden putting my, un-used, bait back into the freezer when I spotted a Chiffchaff in our buddlieas. I grabbed my camera from my fishing bag, fitted the long lens and returned. Happily I managed a few shots in the bright sunshine - a good garden record for December.
It is a bit surreal - Brian and I were chatting about the scarcity of Chiffchaffs at the western end of the
RMC, he'd seen one on a previous visit. To discover one in my back garden was a real bonus.
The afternoon was spent over at my daughter's house playing with the grand-kids and generally getting up to mischief. So it was rather a surprise when Sarah said that she'd found something of mine - similar to that box of slides! This time it was a pin badge that I'd had on my old hat - an original Pike Anglers Club one. Result!
I put it on my current headgear, it really looks the part. I might look a complete twat, when I'm wearing it, but my head stays warm and the badges, Bev has sown on, speak volumes about the guy below.

There won't be too many of these badges still in existence?
I will wear it with pride - another symbol of my angling heritage.

Sunday 28 December 2014

Glory be!

I've only been and done it - caught a pike; that is. A scrappy little jack of about 5 lbs, I also bumped a second, smaller, fish which took a fancy to my 1/2 Herring. Once again I was out on the RMC, battling with a bone chilling, gusting 35 mph, NE wind as well as the slippery bank side steps of the cut out swims.
I had chosen a slightly deeper section than I normally fish - and bingo!
Same old kit - two Duncan Kay/Matt Hayes combos
Still not convinced that this particular area has all the right ingredients for a "big pike" but, I'll stick with it for the holiday period - I should get another three sessions in before 5th January sees me return to work? Had the very good fortune to get time for a chat with Brian Harper; he asking if I'd find a Smew along the canal during this campaign, just to complete the set of saw-bills.

The same swim - as viewed from my perspective, standing on the main footpath beside the canal.
Birding was rather slow, although the steady procession of gulls did include a high proportion of Great Black-backs (something that was also noted at Sandwich Bay) heading into the prevailing wind. Four Little Egrets (a group of 3, right on dawn, and a single around 10.00 hrs) followed the same route as did a skein of seven "grey" geese, high up and out over the adjacent shoreline - thus directly into the sun. My gut feeling is White-fronts - let's see if they got picked up at Samphire Hoe or St. Mag's - they passed my position around 09.15 hrs. Cracking views of a female Kingfisher and a surprise fly pass by a female Gadwall, there was always something to look at despite my silent alarms.
A magnificent, adult male, Sparrowhawk caused panic amongst the local Jackdaws as it sped over the surrounding gardens - a couple of Water Rails were scrapping in the reed bed opposite my position, quite often charging out into open water whilst engaged in their noisy dispute. A couple of Chiffchaff and a Cetti's Warbler about sums up my morning - it was good to be back out on the bank.

Saturday 27 December 2014

A challenge to "blog-land"

It was some time back in February 2013 that I originally  made this post - wow! Time flies. My stats suggest that very few people have ever seen it, so I am re-blogging it as a challenge for others (of my vintage) to attempt to recall the events of their life's journey via the choice of just 10 pieces of music? They can be singles, album tracks or any other derivative - just limit your choice to 10 and try to explain your way along life's pathway by the power of the memories that music can conjure!

Life's soundtrack - Re-posted! (Originally written in Feb 2013)

I received a nice comment from Richard Naylor - about my top 20 album post; but unable to relate to the Level 42 choice. Benno had told me, on Saturday, that he wouldn't have chosen one of those albums in his his top 20 - and I brought him up listening to the best music available anywhere in our house!
How can this be? It's very simple if you can accept that music is able to conjure memories that are irrevocably linked to times, people, places or events, that have shaped the way our lives have turned out. It doesn't need to be "the best" to be capable of such a trigger. I am under no illusion that Retroglide is the best album that Level 42 have made - it just fitted the bill at that particular stage in my life! Therefore, those twenty albums were not meant to be the best albums of the period, just those that had the power to recall the most significant events during my life! As we were at the RMC, Benno and I had a conversation about how difficult it would be to pick your top 10 tracks (not singles) that would represent the journey from school to adulthood - if there is such a thing?
I don't think that it is possible, but will make a stab at it (with reasons) in the knowledge that it will be unique - as was my journey to where I am today. So, if you don't agree with my choices, don't get mad - just see if you are able to summarise the journey with 10 tracks? (They are not in chronological order)

1. In a Broken Dream - Python Lee Jackson (featuring Rod Stewart) Back in my "skin-head" days, of time spent at Gadebridge Youth Club, this track is one that is able to recapture the essence of that period of my youth.

2. Ride a White Swan - T. Rex : It contains the lyric "Wear your hair long and you can't go wrong" I've stuck by this ever since - much to my cost! To my credit - I've never sold out and am so much happier for it.

3. Tracks of my Tears - Smokey Robinson: More memories from my youth club years (Where I met my first wife!)

4. Fascination - The Human League: The signature tune for the craziest period of my entire life. Big fish, massive bouts of lunacy as reason was swept aside in a bid to become the best! Mad times and mad memories!

5. Seven Seas of Rye - Queen: I've probably drunk them! I am fortunate enough to have seen Queen perform on many occasions - Freddie Mercury was the greatest showman of his era, Robert Plant a close second!

6. Whatever's Written in Your Heart - Gerry Rafferty: This track sums up everything I feel about being an individual. (Gerry was a troubled soul and died a lonely and bitter man - such a pity for a wonderful lyricist and musician)

7. I Believe - Joe Satriani: Everything I need to say is encapsulated in this track - not the best that Joe has produced; he is a better guitarist than song-writer - this just fits the bill!

8. For the Love of God - Steve Vai: A musical treat without equal - if you appreciate genius?

9. Errin Shore - The Corr's: Music that is the foundation of Bev and my relationship - it is a lasting memory of our early time together - magic stuff.

10. Avalon - Roxy Music: In my opinion the finest  "pop" song ever produced - Bev and I signed the wedding register to this.

So the question is "Is it possible to summarise your life with 10 tracks?" These are in no way the best examples of the song-writers art that I could recall, just music that fits the situation as my life moved on. If you want a bit of controversy? The finest example of the singer/song-writer's art whilst I have been on this planet - try "A Different Corner" by George Micheal (he was just 17 years old when he wrote this)

Friday 26 December 2014


A great Christmas Day in, and around, Dumpton Manor - the morning spent with Debbie, Adam, Emily and Harry - chaos reigned; the kids high as kites on chocolate and fizzy pop! Back home, six of us for lunch, my Dad, Bev's parents and brother - pleasant enough and the day passed quickly. My brother Simon put the cherry on the cake - his present, to me, is an angling icon! A Mitchell 300A fixed spool reel - a proper blast from the past! This reel is a piece of angling history - as a young man; if you were a serious angler you used Mitchell  - basically because there were no other manufacturers of high quality reels. It wasn't until the 70's that ABU, possibly Shakespeare? were to offer a realistic challenge to the market dominance of this French manufacturer. ABU won that particular battle before Shimano appeared on the scene, in the 80's. I'd replaced my Mitchell 300's with ABU Cardinal 44X, 66X and, much later, 55's and had forgotten all about them until seeing this item in my hands.

An angling classic - it's in such good condition that I don't think it's seen much action?
One thing is for sure - it won't be sitting in a collectors cabinet.
Simon said that when he saw it, in a local tackle shop, it had my name written all over it! I'm now looking for a glass fibre MK IV-type rod to use it with. I'm definitely going to give it an outing, it wasn't built to be an ornament - Long Shaw Farm should fit the bill nicely?

Grey Wagtail along the Little Stour - ISO 800 - 1/250th sec
I've had a walk out around The Little Stour valley, this afternoon, and very enjoyable it was too. Binoculars and camera gear for company, I wanted to have a look for owls - it has always been a very reliable site for Barn Owls. In a couple of hours I had a nice list of birds for my troubles - 6 Marsh Harrier (including two splendid adult males), 1 Sparrowhawk, 1 Grey Wagtail, 1 Stonechat, umpteen Fieldfare and Redwing, numerous Blackbirds, a Kingfisher, Cetti's Warbler, a single Barn Owl with a calling Little Owl in the background! As darkness fell, a Green Sandpiper flew overhead - calling loudly. All the usual suspects, in all the expected places - great to be out birding.

Around the pumping station - a smart little bird.

Wednesday 24 December 2014

Christmas wish list

This isn't the silly Miss World stuff - wide-eyed bimbo "World Peace!" crap - although I would find it impossible to offer a counter argument! No - my wish list is of far more mundane fare - realistic and achievable (a throw back to my Unilever days) - what would I like for Christmas and beyond?
If this format looks familiar - blame Steve Gale!

No. 1 - Health and happiness - the continued love of all things family orientated - already got it!
No. 2 - A secure and enjoyable job (I can't use the term career at my age) - already got one!
No. 3 - To continue to be amazed at what is to be discovered, sharing my space, whenever my eyes are open - never gonna end all the while my grandchildren play such an important part in my life!

In May 1982 -  this pike was photographed at Loch Ascog - Isle of Bute
Why do I go pike fishing? If this image doesn't do it - then it shows why you and I are so very different!
No. 4 - To land a Carp and Pike which are bigger than my present PB's - Carp should be relatively straightforward - the Pike will have to be very special; given my current attitude toward "Trout Lake" fishing.

If a pike, of this length (47 1/2 inches) was taken from Chew Valley - it
would be the UK record. However it wouldn't be this shape, or this fit!
Wilstone Res. - Oct 1990
No. 5 - I'm starting to stray into the realm of fantasy here - understanding the Barbel of The Kentish Stour - nowhere close, as yet!
No. 6 - Make more time to go birding - it has played such a vital role during my time in Kent - It doesn't need to be as "full-on" as it once was, but I shouldn't ignore the opportunities?
No. 7 - Get back into moths and mothing! It is a very "in vogue!" hobby in 2014 - I started 20 years ago and, back then, we were considered freaks. There is an awful lot to be said about turning that last egg box - adrenaline moments aplenty.
No.8 - learn to use my digital camera gear properly - nuff sed!
No. 9 - To discover a pike fishing haven where my vintage gear is fully able to demonstrate its worth. Where pike remain unmolested/un-educated by modern angling pressure - Worth Marshes II ; highly unlikely in 2015?
A Steve Neville prototype bite alarm.
What a piece of luck? I got two from Bob Henderson in 1993. Angling history - pure quality!
No. 10 - To see an end to the crazy intolerance of extreme political, religious, racial or sexual orientation viewpoints - on a Global Scale! Wide-eyed, blond, bimbo, so am I! If you've made it this far - Happy Christmas. I'll be back on Boxing Day - God willing?

Tuesday 23 December 2014

"The Goodwill Gig" - Merry Christmas

The table is set - Christmas 2012
Just a quick post to wish everyone, who's bothered to log on to this nonsense, in 2014, a  Merry Christmas. I am very grateful for, and extremely humbled by, the staggering numbers of visitors that have viewed my ramblings. I wish you all that you wish for yourselves over this festive period - Have a good one - Dylan

Looking across to the Flint Barn, from our kitchen doorway!
Sadly there will be no snow this Christmas at Dumpton - this was January 2013
It must be the only time that our garden looks as tidy as everyone else's!

Sunday 21 December 2014

What price being an individual?

A guy that I know - Mark Chidwick (Chiddy to his mates!) - has recently taken the nocturnal photography of owls (in Kent!) to another level. He's learnt the photographic techniques and has patience, venues and equipment to capture images that were un-imaginable pre digital. If you need further evidence have a look at his blog  - http://chiddysbirding.blogspot.co.uk/ (or the image that I've nicked - below!)
I was rather disappointed, although not surprised, that he was being targeted by cyber criticism - these images have been obtained under "artificial" circumstances? Long sessions, in a car, in lonely surroundings are hardly the "tame bird" scenario that is being suggested? But there you go - if you want to live out the "blogging" dream - this stuff comes with the territory.
There is no easy answer to this problem. Some of the flack is a direct consequence of jealousy - I don't have the time, skills, equipment, venue or funds - so tough shit! Others feel that they have the moral "higher ground" - the use of flash photography causing problems with the owls "night vision" - they hunt by sound for fucks sake! A flash-gun doesn't render them deaf!
Mark is out there, pushing the boundaries of what he, and his equipment, can deliver - "always learning" If it was Martin Garner taking these photos no-one would make a murmur? No; you're quite right - Mark hasn't discovered anything that wasn't already recorded in the 1982 Poyser Monograph - The Barn Owl - (ISBN 0-85661-032-1) Bunn, Warburton & Wilson. However, what he has done is found out stuff for himself and, as a result, used the experiences to record some outstanding images.
You can tell - straight away - that I didn't take this photo.
Chiddy recorded this superb shot, of a free flying, wild Barn Owl, somewhere out in the
East Kent farmlands.
Copyright : Mark Chidwick 2014
There is a post on The Hairy Birder http://fleetwoodbirder.blogspot.co.uk/ which bemoans the recent camera wielding antics of non birder - bird photographer - a quality rant! I don't know the details of what Mark has been subjected to - my only advice is to go your own way and enjoy the journey. Whatever criticism is on offer - it surely is not directed towards Mark - a guy prepared to go it alone in order to discover new opportunities? If blogging becomes a chore - stop doing it; simple but; please don't stop enjoying your wildlife encounters because of this cyber poison!

Saturday 20 December 2014

Another blank and another red-head

Back down the RMC for pre-dawn; three rods out by 07.00 hrs with Mackerel (Yellow + flavour), Bluey (as it came) and Herring (Red + flavour). I stayed until 10.30 hrs but, wish I hadn't bothered! The water level on the Aldergate side of West Hythe dam is at least three feet below normal winter levels and the Environment Agency are still running it off. With yet another demonstration of my consistency - I blanked; not a sound from the alarms all morning.
Maybe I should go birding and just take my rods for decoration?
Once again it was left to the birds to provide any interest. A pair of Tawny Owls were duetting from the woodland adjacent to the car park and, as daylight broke, two Common Buzzards were running about on the stubble behind my swim - not something you see every day? Uncountable numbers of Wood Pigeons headed out across the marsh, I don't think they were migrants, just feeding flocks dispersing from their roost site. A few Redwing and a lone Fieldfare were the only notable thrushes, whilst Kingfisher, two Grey Wagtails and a Little Egret were the best of the supporting cast during the first hour. Scanning along the canal, as the light intensified, I was amazed to see a female-type Gossander associating with a small gang of Mallards. This week I did have my big lens with me and set off to grab a few token images. It was quite flighty, yet never went more than 300 m either side of the dam - dog walkers flushing it back and forth as they went about their task of exercising the mutt!

Friday 19 December 2014

Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics!

I first became aware of Statistical Process Control - the use of data correlation to produce figures to assess the efficiencies of a business - during my time with Unilever at their Ashford factory. Number crunching was a part of my role - to produce KPI (Key Performance Indicators) figures to demonstrate how well (or badly) our department was running. Some businesses will use production figures - tonnes through the plant; some will choose to indicate their prowess by costings or machine production efficiencies - the list is endless. However, these basic techniques are used across industry to attempt to ensure the best return on sales profit for the owners/share holders. FSIS is currently reaping the rewards of a great deal of time invested in "Lean Manufacturing Techniques" and is getting over 10% ROS profit - World Class! Statistics and their use, have a definite purpose within this sphere. It's part and parcel of the whole industrial ethos and I am perfectly happy to play my part under these circumstances. It's little more than an elaborate game - and I've become bloody good at it!
This numerical juggling doesn't have to be restricted to industry; if you so desire you could apply similar techniques to running your home or quantifying your hobbies, amongst myriad other applications. As unlikely as it appears, I love maths and what can be done with numbers yet have to draw a line as to how, when and where these techniques have any meaningful purpose. I did spend a while, attempting to quantify my angling by the use of these methods. I quickly realised that statistics have no place as a measure of success or enjoyment within this context. It is easily possible for me to have a fantastic day on the bank, without getting a bite. To become engrossed by the sight of a pair of hunting Peregrines is superb entertainment - can't put a number to it? To see a Grass Snake swim across the drain, watch a Grey Heron wrestling with a lively Eel - not why I go fishing but, excellent value all the same. It is the unpredictability of these side shows that makes my time at the waterside so rewarding. Of course the fish are my primary target, yet again, I cannot make a direct correlation between size of my latest catch and the enjoyment I derive. Who was I with, where was it, was it on a Centre-pin or a Fixed Spool? The variations are as endless as the definitions themselves.

Out on The North Stream - fish on
I'm using a 40 year old ABU Cardinal 66X fixed spool reel - a joy

Same venue but this time it is a 1920's wooden centre-pin!
Is it possible to quantify the pleasure I was experiencing between these two events?
Any old excuse to re-use some pike photos - I would like to attempt to explain why what I, so happily, embrace as part of my employment does not transfer to my life beyond the factory boundary.
Success or failure?
I'd set my heart on a twenty pound plus fish from the venue.
As it turned out this was the best pike in the drain - it weighed 19 lbs 5 oz on this occasion.
You can't catch what isn't there!
Pike are magnificent fish, physically they are big creatures. As a measure pike anglers use the term "double" to define their targeted quarry - in simple language it equates to fish in excess of 10 lbs. Yet I am happier with a fish of 8 lbs which fights like a tiger than one of 11 lbs which comes to the net like a wet sack!

19 lbs 0 oz - number one

19 lbs 0 oz - number two

19 lbs 4 oz - number three

20 lbs 9 oz - a RMC twenty - a rare beast indeed
Benno and I were to experience some of the best pike angling that we'd ever had during a four week period in Feb/March 2013. A very short section of the RMC was to see us land just a handful of fish - but what fish they were. Three over 19 lbs (one taken twice - 2nd time at 18 lbs 15 oz) and a 20!
The above selection of images make very impressive viewing - they are also very powerful memories, but what would you make of them if I reduced the photos to a set of numbers? Each session was six hours long and involved the use of six rods (three each) thus representing 36 rod hours per trip! We were averaging 1.3 fish per trip, thus a bite every 27 rod hours - hardly hectic fishing? That we were able to watch hunting Buzzards, Barn Owl and Marsh Harriers, we bumped into Brian Harper and his Dad - they were great days and statistics can never be used to define the experience. I hope that this makes sense? Natural History and numbers - not happy bed fellows!

Thursday 18 December 2014

My photo of the year?

Cameras have played a vital role in my life's journey - I suppose that working for Kodak in the 1970's/80's has much influenced my route? Photos have always been an accepted part of the daily process - not something which is always a good thing?

A Canon EOS 400d , 18-55 mm lens with 14mm extension tubes!
I have no more idea about digital photography than I do the feeding pattern
of the barbel in the Kentish Stour. - Happy with the result though.
It was whilst Emily and Harry were in our charge that macro photography came to the fore. I couldn't do much, beyond the boundaries of our garden - so a photo of a Zebra Spider, with prey, is an image of which I'm rather proud. I have no idea as to the technical side of the effort - what I do know is that it gives me great pleasure when I look at it!

Wednesday 17 December 2014

2014 - as I saw it

It's that time of year again - all "Bloggers" will be doing it? A review of the past twelve months. Some of the finer exponents of the art will have logical and eloquent sequencing, copious supporting images of stunning quality - but not here! This is an "as I write it" sort of effort - cobbled together as I attempt to look back through the jumbled mass of ramblings that make up this nonsense. So here goes......!

The blog stats went off the radar right from the off. The cause of this interest was a small bird which took up residence (over 14 weeks!) in Ramsgate Cemetery. That I had the audacity to question the id was akin to kicking a wasp nest. I didn't like it then - I liked it even less when it started singing in late March! But there you go - if Hume's Leaf Warbler is what you wanted then Hume's Leaf Warbler is what you got - no one died and it really doesn't matter. That one, highly intelligent, birder made a statement that there were no inter-grades between Yellow-browed Warbler and Hume's was of such staggering arrogance as to beggar belief and keep me out of the fray from that moment onward.

This is the cause of all the fuss! Call it whatever you want!
Instead of providing a learning opportunity - it became a battle ground - such a waste!


Benno and I had been on a mission; we went in search of perch at Sandwich Coarse Fishery. As seems to be a recurring theme these days, Benno gave me a lesson in "how to do it" with a series of decent fish to a top weight of 2 lbs 11 oz (he also fluked a 15 lbs carp whilst he was about it) I had one moment of glory when I captured a specimen of 2 lbs 6 oz - well pleased with the fish. They are a wonderful species which I have not spent enough time with.

A superb fish in wonderful condition
The ridiculous amount of rain that had fallen over the winter period ensured that the RMC had been, for the most part, unfishable. With the season almost at a close, and access restored, I had one last attempt for a decent pike. I came up with a low double (11 lbs 12 oz) for my efforts and the English pike season was over for yet another year.
A pleasing way to finish the pike season

My personal life had been turned upside down by the temporary custody of two grandchildren. I am happy to report that the situation has been resolved and the future is looking bright for everyone involved. However, it took its' toll on my mental health and I am forever grateful for the support I received from the guys at work.
Having Emily on hand, 24/7 meant that we spent a lot of time together - it was her ever inquiring mind that got me into looking closely at some of the invertebrates we found. Using the extension tubes on my camera resulted in a nice collection of images of insects that would have normally been overlooked.
Incuvaria masculella - a micro moth which Emily and I discovered beside the playground in Ash

A month where only one thing matters - Scotland and pike fishing! Once again Benno, Simon, Luke (his first trip!) and I sallied forth to do battle with the fish of Loch Awe. The weather was horrendous, the fishing and company first class. Davie Robertson joined us for a couple of days, but his time cut short by a family bereavement. As usual, we caught a few pike, drank loads of "tinnies", watched Red Deer, Ospreys and Black-throated Divers and generally chilled out - just what a holiday is all about?
I can't help myself - the CK logo of Dragon Carp speaks volumes about my
utter contempt for the modern angling "fashionistas"
Angling is about method and approach - not what is on display on the bank!
The end of the month was to see me capture the largest carp I've taken in 30 years. A magnificent old warrior, of a Common Carp, which tipped the scales at 18 lbs 2 oz. Taken on a Tring Tench rod, Match Aerial Centre-pin reel, 7 lbs b.s. line and a floating crust - angling heaven!
Longshaw Farm - happy daze
This was the month when Anne Sawyer passed away - a sad loss to all that knew her. Gadget was knocked sideways and struggled, big time, to accept her passing. Forty years is a long time in any relationship!
Bev and Anne at a BBQ in our garden.
10th June - Anne left us to embark on the next stage of her journey - she's left a huge void

The trials of barbel fishing continued to cause me intense frustration - the fish in The Kentish Stour have proven to be the toughest angling challenge I've ever faced. I have no idea as to the hours per fish ratio that I could use as a measure of success - it would be in the 100's? Yet, if I were to use the bare facts, it appears that I am very successful - 7 barbel; 5 doubles! Between the four of us (Benno, Tom, Luke and myself) - 17 fish; 9 doubles - incredible stats which distort the whole picture and demonstrate just how unreliable such measures can be. My seven fish have taken three seasons to catch - I blanked for the first year!
27th July 2014 - a year to the day that I caught my first Stour barbel, I landed my first fish of the season.
At 12 lbs 10 oz it was a fish which I can finally claim to have taken by design. Everything that I did, on that particular session, was done for a specific purpose and that barbel is the direct result. Silly me - I thought I'd cracked it!
A barbel which I feel that I had deserved - how wrong can any man be?

Gadget suffered a stroke - almost certainly a direct consequence of the stress of loosing Anne? Fortunately, the swift medical attention he received ensured that it had minimal impact on his long-term health. He remains independent and mobile - much is owed to the medical staff at QEQM Margate. Anyone who needs proof of why the NHS is the best in the world need look no further - go have a chat with Gadget!
A month after my first - I land my second barbel of the year! 11 lbs 4 oz! 

Probably the hardest fighting barbel I've ever taken?
A short, stocky, incredibly powerful, fish - I had to drag it out of a weedbed using the full
test curve of my 1.75 lbs t/c barbel rods. Even better because it was taken on the Match Aerial!
It was also the month when we saw an incredible arrival of Humming-bird Hawkmoths. It was in the summer of 1995 that I last remember them in such profusion?

Being the dumbo that I am - I thought that given a week on the river I'd catch more barbel - I had a three day blank before admitting defeat and heading for the relief of Sandwich Coarse Fishery. Kevin, the fishery owner, allowed me to spend a couple of nights, carp fishing. What joy - seven carp to 17 lbs 4 oz!
It wasn't, however, to be fish that made my month so memorable - patch watching during this autumnal period was to produce two new bird species for my list! Grasshopper Warbler and Osprey (which I managed to photograph)
A species which I'd long predicted - it came during a large scale movement of
 Common Buzzards and was very nearly missed!

More of the same at Sandwich Coarse Fishery - carp fishing made comfortable! I caught a few, nothing big, but enjoyed myself all the same.
A bent rod at Sandwich Coarse Fishery - why else would you bother?

My laptop finally gave up the ghost and I was unable to blog for much of the month - how sad? It was a period of great relief - un-burdened by the desire.requirement to make the effort to contribute to blog-land. I found myself writing a diary again. A fantastic experience which makes me very happy. I also lost the biggest carp I've ever hooked - a feeling akin to swallowing a whole orange! Gutted - and it was all of my own making. I used the wrong knot on my Kryston hooklink - that simple! (Although I'm confused as to how I've managed to land so many barbel using this same rig?) Salvation came in the form of long lost box of slides - a nostalgia trip of epic scale.
Sye with a Tiddenfoot catfish - so many happy daze relived via this surprise discovery!

My birthday bash in Manchester - who'd have thought it? An experience that was completely beyond anything I could have imagined!

Something beyond my wildest expectations - and I was getting paid to attend!
How good is that?

Christmas is fast approaching - I'll make that post in due course. Until then, many thanks for making the effort to log onto this crazy journey. As Vinnie Jones said, at the end of Lock Stock - "It's been emotional!"

Tuesday 16 December 2014

Is there any point in planning?

A recent announcement in "Blogland" is the 2015 Northumberland v's Surrey pan-listing bout. Gloves are off and the two adversaries have declared their intent, drawn up rules and defined the boundaries of the respective battle grounds; should be a good clean contest with a few surprise twists along the way. I await events with much anticipation.
As opposed to the league tables and officialdom of the natural history societies, this is a light-hearted way of ensuring that there is a reason for venturing outdoors, even when the signs are not so good. I wish both Steve and Stewart well in their quest. Now; whilst I have no desire to engage in such activities myself, I do find myself somewhat envious of the fact that these two guys are able to formulate a plan to enable them to get the most out of their outdoor efforts. I'd love to make similar arrangements, yet I know that my willpower is lacking and I can easily become disillusioned or distracted by other things.
As Benno and I were chatting, on Sunday morning, we were both bemoaning the situation and our total lack of planning as we drift through each calendar year. 2015 will, God willing, see me reach 60! Quite how I've managed to survive, thus far, is a mystery, but one for which I'm very grateful. Grandchildren, a second marriage, a great job, a nice home, decent motor and a return to angling - it doesn't get much better for a simpleton.
I can only make plans for myself; Benno, Sye, Tom and Luke will have their own agendas.

Birding : Yeah; it'll still be there - mostly as a secondary interest, although I'm sure that there will be occasions when I feel the need to simply get outside and look at the birds which share my space.

Moths : A group which have fallen out of favour just recently. Having Emily in the mix might mean that I rediscover some of the enthusiasm and fire up the 125w MV in the garden on a more regular basis.

Newland's Farm : My "patch" - no getting away from it? It remains the nucleus of my natural history encounters on a daily basis - long may it continue. My own space, shared with dog walkers, school kids and very few others - it is where I am able to enjoy the simple pleasures of looking at the ordinary without any outside influence.

Butterflies, Dragonflies and other invertebrates : In the past I have deliberately sought these creatures, in 2015 I will happily enjoy the encounters with those species which cross my path. The continued use of my primitive macro gear might help elevate some of the sightings with the benefit of a photo or two?

Angling : It's what I do with the greatest of passion. January - mid March will see me back down on the RMC in pursuit of another 20 lbs+ pike. I have no idea as to how realistic this plan is - if I don't go, I'll never find out?
I've used this image several times in the past.
A pike from The Thames - 19 lbs 11 oz - 16.11.1982
They are magnificent fish and more prone to exaggeration than any other species?
April - back to Sandwich Coarse Fishery in search of that PB carp.
May - only one thing planned - we're back in "Jock-land" for one last bash!
June - September : Despite my better judgement, the barbel of the R. Stour will feature again. I took great heart from the chat with the guy in Fatfish and the similar experiences of many other anglers who have pursued these enigmatic fish. What I'm not prepared to do is blindly continue to chase these fish - if I need a break then the local commercial fisheries will see my money as I seek to bend a rod and rekindle some enthusiasm. One session per week will be quite enough for me, so that will be no more than fifteen in total.
October - November : not quite decided, but I would like to try something different. Might have a bash at the chub or roach in the river, might find a fishery where there are a few rudd worthy of a try?
December - pike or perch? It's a long way off and who knows what can happen in twelve months?

So there you have it! Absolutely no idea as to how 2015 will pan out - the weather might impact on my plans, personal circumstances will always play a part. Yet, until things dictate otherwise, these are my guidelines. Benno has spoken of catfish and zander, so there's a spanner in the works before I've even started!

Sunday 14 December 2014

Session on the RMC

The Royal Military Canal is a twenty-seven mile long pike swim - or rather it has pike swim potential along its' entire length. This morning Benno and I were on the bank by 07.00 hrs - it was the coldest dawn of the winter, thus far, the car display showing -2C as I pulled up next to his Transit parked in the pre-arranged area. We fished two rods each; with dead baits - Mackerel and Herring in various colour/flavour combinations. Benno took the only fish, of the session, within thirty minutes of our arrival (although he did winkle out a couple of micro jacks on a soft lure later in the session - they count for nothing!) - about 5 lbs and that is a very generous guesstimation.
That's it - flying past our swim!
I would have been very happy if it'd been a Goosander - a R-B Merg is a much better record.
If Brian Harper is reading this stuff? It was just further east than the Goosander with which you
won POTW  - could be worth a punt during the week?
Birding was far more rewarding; there was a Cetti's Warbler belting out its' signature tune as it started to get light. At least three different Sparrowhawks were hunting the canal hedgerows and a Water Rail strutted across the bank side track - not a care in the world? A Kingfisher brightened the dawn with a series of spectacular views and Chiffchaffs were noted at several spots (possibly five individuals?). Gulls were as expected, yet no sign of any Meds this morning. Bird of the day was a most unexpected appearance by a female-type Red-breasted Merganser which landed on the canal twice. I only had my 55mm lens and, as such, was unable to get anything other than a pathetic image as it flew past our swims after being flushed by dog walkers. A good local record, of that I'm quite confident.

Sunday 7 December 2014

Niggling doubts

It was 6th November 2011 when I made my first cast into the "North Stream" (I don't actually think that this is the correct name for the venue - but it is how we have come to know it) out on the Worth Marshes. It was a wonderful venue, clear, clean water, obvious features and, most importantly, neglected. Almost the perfect combination for any pike fishery.
My efforts over that first season were to confirm that pike did, indeed, inhabit this wonderful little drain but, also that, the "apex" predator, during that period, was a specimen of 19 lbs 5 oz (max weight over the five visits to the bank, she made, during this campaign.) After a two year lay-off, I have made the decision to give the fishery another go - after all my first experiences were very positive and enjoyable. My thinking being that the venue requires effort to get there, the access road is now closed, thus requires a hike of nearly two miles. The only pike anglers likely to visit the fishery have got to be serious about their sport - not a goon with a set of trebles and a, shop bought, dead bait.
This approach is also based upon the fact I knew that (in 2011/12) there were five pike over 10 lbs in the venue; there were also several fish, in the 7 - 9 lbs class, with potential to grow bigger given the right conditions. Nothing is better, for pike growth, than neglect - and my return to the venue has provided very encouraging signs on that front. My first session was a 100% fish free event - although I happily accept that my approach had more to do with this outcome than any other factor. Back again, yesterday morning, this time armed with three Duncan Kay rods fitted with Matt Hayes centre-pins - fully braided up; with newly tied traces and Drennan/Vic Bellars double hooks. My bait being mackerel and herring (Tesco had no sardines on Friday?) - coloured and flavoured to my own recipe.
I leap frogged my rods every 40 minutes to cover as much of the drain as my limited time allowed - I had just one take. Inspecting the bait after the event showed that a small pike had picked up my 8 oz mackerel tail section and rejected it at the first sign of resistance. The fish in this particular drain were always rather tentative feeders, although the larger fish tended to be a little more tolerant of my "big" baits and line clips, than their smaller brethren. However, small pike are not why I make the trek across the marsh - I am really looking for one of the fish that had provided me with such a learning experience during my first season back in the hobby. I will only need to get one to be able to gauge whether or not, this is a project worth pursuing.
The growth, or lack of, will easily be calculated by the use of photo matching the fish - pike markings are like human finger prints; each individual having their own unique pattern.
So why my "niggling doubts"? In the back of my mind is the knowledge that I'd achieved almost instant success during that initial campaign - the pike responding to my dead baits from day one. I also know that the fishery took a bit of a hammering in the following season - something to which pike are particularly unsuited - to quote Jim Gibbinson "They don't get clever, they get dead!" So the fact that there were some very dubious pike angling techniques being used, there were also Eastern Europeans on the venue. They were there to fish for the table, not something with which I agree, but can't argue against. The removal of coarse fish is theft, not poaching (that banner only applies to game fish - members of the "Salmo" clan) and there is very little that can be done about this particular issue. Proof of ownership being the first, of many, flaw in any prosecution attempt.
So I am wondering if the main reason for the neglected state of the venue isn't so much to do with access and more to do with the fact that the guys who'd previously pike fished there now know that there are very few individuals remaining in the fishery. I am going to give it my attention until the end of the month - then it's back down to the RMC to look for that most elusive beast - another canal 20!

Friday 5 December 2014

I've been on an adventure

I have just returned from a two day sojourn to darkest Manchester - courtesy of my employers, Fujifilm Speciality Ink Systems. What a blast! We, a group of eleven members of the workforce, travelled from Ramsgate to Manchester Piccadilly by train. We stayed in the Ibis Salford Quay (very basic - and not somewhere I would recomend to anyone other than a student) but it was only for a night and the hotel isn't going to detract from a great trip.

This is a building wrap, right outside St. Pancras Station.
It is FSIS technology - machinery and inks; that make these things possible.
We were there to participate in the inaugural "Manufacturing Champions Awards" - an event set up to celebrate the success of UK manufacturing and recognise individuals whose efforts make such things happen. It was held at the Midland Hotel - why didn't we stay there? - which is a very grandiose building in the heart of the city.
Why didn't we stay here?
One "Quality Street" venue - if I'd have turned up in my usual attire I would have been referred
to the tradesmen's entrance. It is very posh.
I've never been to anything like this before and admit that I was a little apprehensive when asked if I would attend? I'm so happy that I said yes - it was bloody excellent. Graham Poll, that dodgy ref, was the guest speaker and also presented the awards. He was great value with stories of various incidents within his refereeing career - he's also a QPR fan, so there were two of us in the building.
Scott and Eric - what a pair of "Champions"
Only after working for them can you appreciate what they are
actually doing?
Great organisers, great motivators, great man-managers -
apart from that they are a pair of twats!

The time passed quickly and, much to my amazement, my two supervisors (the guys that I'd nominated) won the "Manufacturing Team" prize, so time to go on the lash! It was my birthday, to boot, and the whole day was one of enjoyment and new experiences. I sincerely hope that everyone else gained as much from the experience as I did. We were up against some real big hitters - so any award has to be deserved and is, therefore, hard earned.
In all our glory - "The FSIS guys and gal"
As you will notice, I'm beside Graham Poll with my hair in a "ponytail"
because if I'd looked anything like normal I'd have been
politely asked to stand behind one of the taller members of the group, just so
I didn't spoil the photo. What a fantastic way to celebrate my birthday!
Work in a couple of hours - I'm rather looking forward to it!

Monday 1 December 2014

A jaunt down the M4

Bev's son, Darryl, lives in Bath and, due to the fact it was his Birthday and the remarkable coincidence that the City of Bath was also holding its' annual Christmas Market - off we went. We didn't leave until midday Saturday, seeing a few Common Buzzards and a single Red Kite (Nr Theale, Berks) en route.
Arriving just in time to see the footie results appearing; I have to admit to being amazed by the QPR result - we had just conceded an equaliser as I parked the car outside Darryl's house!. We spent the evening enjoying a meal in The Hop Pole, in Weston (I believe) - all very pleasant and highly recommended.
Smoke on the Water!
Looking out, across Chew Valley,  from between the two picnic areas - just before noon
Sunday dawned quite bright yet, very quickly the landscape became enshrouded in a thick blanket of fog. Bev and Darryl headed off for the delights of Bath City centre, whilst I took a drive - "sat nav" dictated - through some of the most ridiculously narrow lanes I've ever negotiated before arriving at Chew Valley Lake Visitors Centre. I've been to this site on several previous occasions and always enjoyed the experience - as there is nothing like it, habitat wise, in my part of the world. However, the morning fog was very slow to clear, it being around 12.00 hrs before it was possible to see across to the opposite bank. Despite the conditions, I did my usual thing and walked the route to The Bittern Trail following it until you can go no further - there is an elevated viewing area under construction and a singing male Cetti's Warbler in the adjacent reed/scrub.
The birding was OK, although I failed to see anything particularly unusual, I did discover a couple of Chiffchaffs amongst a large mixed flock of Long-tailed, Blue and Great Tits which also had a few Goldcrests tagging along. Winter thrushes were all but absent - I saw four Redwing and a scattering of Blackbirds, despite the hedgerows being heavily laden with berries. A pair of Bullfinches, feeding high up, provided a nice distraction - their soft whistling contact call being a sound of which I'll never tire.
That was about it, in all honesty. A few Goldeneye amidst the regular Tufties and Pochards; a pair of Egyptian Geese along the shoreline between the two picnic areas - Mallards and Teal, Great Crested Grebes and plenty of Cormorants and mixed gulls - so always something to look at.
Looking along the dam wall, the famous tower in the foreground, with
the Visitor Centre complex on the far bank
On my return, I took a walk along the dam, just to be able to get a shot of the aeration tower. There were a couple of Little Grebes working the dam wall and a small flock of Pied Wagtails were on the freshly disturbed ground right in front of the Cafe building. With the sun now shining brightly, I scanned across the surrounding countryside looking for raptors - none seen! This was not a wasted effort, as I was able to watch a pair of Rooks engaged in some courtship display - the male (?) cawing loudly as he bowed and fanned his tail; not what I'd expect at the end of November, but Rooks aren't a species with which I've spent much time. An adult Black-headed Gull, on the car park fencing, was also showing signs of Spring with the full breeding hood already apparent.
There's something not quite right when an adult Block-head (not a spelling mistake; Thanet slang!)
can acquire its' breeding plumage in November. Are the birds as confused as some plants by these conditions?
I do have a couple of issues with the facilities - the superbly constructed (from a building point of view) new viewing facility (I refuse to call it a hide) which has replaced the Bernard King hide is an opportunity wasted. The material used for the windows is completely unsuited to the purpose - it is optically flawed and thus impossible to use binoculars/scopes/cameras through it. There were two C-R Cormorants and a C-R Lesser Black-back on view, just in front of the hide - I might just as well have been using lemonade bottles - the optical clarity through this material is hopeless. And whilst I was in there, the poster, depicting an American Coot (a photo!) as an aid to beginner bird identification is another indicator of how far removed from reality these PLC bods are. Still, if that's all I could find to moan about - there's not too much wrong?
What about my views as a Pike angler? As aware, as I am, as to the history and potential of this fishery to produce a pike of mammoth size - it doesn't do it for me. It's not the size of the venue, it would fit into Loch Awe or Loch Lomond without anyone noticing the difference, so yes it's big, but not massive. I don't find myself enthused by the prospect of short, fat, unhealthy pike, whatever they might weigh. If pounds and ounces are the key factor, then Chew Valley Lake every time - for me it is about so much more, thus I seek my challenges in different arenas - thirty years ago it would not have been so and I would have been as keen to fish Chew as I was Llandegfedd, Rutland and Grafham - weird how time can change a man?

Friday 28 November 2014

Someone old - something new?

The more familiar I get with my new Toshiba laptop, the more I discover about what I've actually purchased. It is a very basic system (so perfectly suited to my computer ability and requirements) and has associated, base level, programmes as standard, I have to admit that they are not what I'm used to, but will suffice until such times as I can get my "lost" hard drives reinstated.
I didn't stop living, just because I'd lost the use of my lap-top!
Emily and I had a walk out on Deal Pier where she could feed the sea-gulls
Standing on the wooden benches, she threw the bread, I clicked away as three Mediterranean Gulls
came to enjoy the freebies.
That I enjoyed the period during which I was without the capability to blog - a direct consequence of my lack of computer skills ; and in no way a reflection upon any internet provider, computer company or individual techno bod. - would suggest that my dabblings with cyber activity are nothing more than a game? (Not a sport!)
I continue to look back at some of the crazy times of my past yet, it seems, there are new, unexplored, opportunities opening up for me? It's my 59th Birthday next Thursday - time flies - and Fujifilm Speciality Ink Systems (FSIS) are taking me up to Manchester for a "jolly" - Oops! - Sorry, we are attending a "Manufacturing Champions" Award gig. I've already gained permission to take the camera gear - top management in action is my desire - seeing my supervisors pick up an award would be just about perfect. (It was, afterall, me that nominated them - bloody creep that I am!)
I am hoping to get a record the events and "the event", as it will be a completely new experience for me, and a post will appear some time next Friday (5th December) all being well. FSIS are up against some proper "Quality Street" opposition - Bentley, Land Rover/ Jaguar (I wonder if Jeremy Hicks is involved with "Strictly MK" 2014? - 13th December; Bury Farm Equestrian Centre, Slapton), Siemens and BAE Systems to name but a few. Whatever the outcome; I will have experienced something that I hadn't in the previous 58 years and 364 days and I'm really looking forward to it.
An 18.12 from Lynch Hill, Oxfordshire
Best of a five double haul, all on trout live baits!
The wonderment of the initial "box of slides" rediscovery has been replaced by an appreciation of just how great that period, of my life, was and the fact that, as a group of mates, we caught an awful lot of very big fish. I think, that above all other factors, is our lack of desire to go carp fishing which makes this journey so different. The period, post Carp Fever (Kevin Maddocks), The Carp Strikes Back (Rod Hutchinson) and Casting at the Sun (Chris Yates), spawned a huge demand for carp and carp angling opportunities. That we steered clear of this and continued to fish for "less fashionable" species allowed us to experience a wide variety of venues without too much competition.

Dawn at Three Holes - deepest Fenland
It is impossible for me to look at this image without thinking of "Cuddles"
He loved this place
The Fenlands of the Cambridgeshire/Norfolk border region provided us with some of the best Pike and Zander angling available, at that time. The Bedfordshire "brick pits" were home to some huge Bream and Rudd - so we gave them a try with very pleasing results. We had no tickets, but they had no bailiffs and no carp - so who gave a f*ck? We travelled far and wide in our quest for "big fish" - yet kept returning to Tring, just 11 miles up the A41 from Hemel Hempstead, a group of reservoirs where many dreams were realised.
I've spent hours looking at images of our combined successes - we had a blast! Between us we landed some huge fish, of various species, and despite the obsessional desire to catch these fish, we had a laugh - nothing was sacred, no-one too important that they couldn't be insulted! Great times - relived through the discovery of a forgotten box in an attic!
Three Holes - 23rd December 1984
A nice, yet modest, Pike of 10 lbs 12 oz  which fell to Sardine.
Captured using a Duncan Kay rod, an ABU Cardinal 66X reel and 8 lbs b.s. Maxima Line
Yet another demonstration of the benefits of detailed personal records!