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 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!

Tuesday 25 November 2014

Dead baits only - it's my choice!

Some time, way back in the early 70's, I caught my first pike. It was a momentous occurrence and one that set in motion a series of experiences which have gotten me to where I am today - it really was that type of event! The venue was Pixies Mere, Bourne End, Herts and the pike a, very small, jack of around two pounds! The technique used in this initial encounter was the, then, accepted (barbaric) method of a free swimming live bait (a small roach) impaled upon a, shop bought, snap tackle, fished under a ridiculously buoyant "Fishing Gazette" bung - which was fixed in position by a wooden peg, trapping the line between itself and the float. Alfred Jardine would have been well acquainted with this type of gear, almost a century previous!
Thankfully, for the pike, as a species, and the sport in the UK, the embyo pike fishing group evolved into The Pike Anglers Club of Great Britian and as a direct consequence, angler education has run parallel with the promotion of pike as a quarry worthy of attention and preservation. If, for no other reason, this organisation deserves massive credit - my own confident un-hooking techniques being a direct result of my membership of the "Luton Region" of the PAC. Andy Windmill was our R/O (Regional Organiser) before Paul Elbourn took over - we spent some good times at these gatherings exchanging tips and tales - might have supped a few "light ales" whilst we were about it?
My individual progress was aided by my membership of The Tring Syndicate - some of the other members were extraordinarily proficient pike anglers and I learnt much by simply being in their presence. Lester Strudwick stands head and shoulders above all others - he was an obsessive "big fish" man with experience of many species. He was also a founder member of The Carpike Specimen Group and had spent a great deal of time on Loch Lomond - with some quality pike to show for it. I think that he is probably the most influential figure in my development as a pike angler - and that's saying something!
Eddie Turner, Bill Hancock and Vic Gibson (The original ET guys) were there in the background - they fished Startops (a weaning water) while we were tackling Wilstone (a man's venue!) I went to see Eddie give a talk at the Essex PAC a couple of years ago - it was a great night and we just didn't have enough time to fill in the gaps - he seems to be doing OK, or so he says!
So why this post? Where am I at today?
It doesn't require the detective skills of Inspector Morse to spot that the size of the tail and positioning of the fins on the elongated torso of a pike is the evolutionary design of a hunter. If the head end is included - a massive gape with two jaws full of needle sharp teeth - it's a no brainer! Pike have evolved to prey upon live fish - end of. If the species was primarily a scavenger, then surely, it would have evolved to look more like a catfish? Absolutely no requirement for explosive acceleration - eating carrion is an easy option - good return for minimal effort. But here's my slant on things.
Firstly - I have no great "need" to catch a big pike - I've caught loads over the years; so I'm no longer driven by ambition.
Secondly - my time on the bank is not solely for the purpose of catching fish - I still wish to be able to enjoy the encounters with other aspects of natural history that share the same environment.
Thirdly - by using dead baits, in their many guises, I remain confident that my approach will yield results but, by using the modern bite alarm technology, I am able to relax and enjoy whatever wildlife I encounter. I am not concentrated on an "orange" float - I simply wait for the electronics to alert me to a taking fish.
There is another reason why I have decided to stick with deadlies - I have made it quite plain, as a blogger, of my personal opinions as to killing life forms purely to advance an Excel spreadsheet list. It would be hypocritical, in the extreme, for me to then go using live baits purely to add to my list of pike that have visited my landing nets over the past 40 years.
When I'm outdoors, there are so many interests that are vying for my attention, that it would be foolish for me to focus all my efforts on a single float? I wouldn't be happy attempting to defend the use of a live fish, impaled on a snap tackle, to a dog walker, jogger, birder, etc - someone who was also enjoying the surroundings I am fishing in. So, for all these varied reasons, I am happy to use dead baits for 100% of my pike angling. I don't think that it will ever be described as hectic - what I can say is that is very satisfying. I've been extraordinarily fortunate to have landed some very big pike - the fact that dead baits have accounted for the majority (although not the heaviest!) shows that my confidence is not misplaced?
So whilst I am fully aware of how good a method live bait angling can be (for pike) I am, no longer prepared to use this technique simply to get a bite. If I were to locate a large pike in clear water where a free-lined live bait would provide the instant result - then I'd probably use the technique. As for tethering a live bait in an attempt at triggering a feeding response - not any more thank you.
I think the clever angler will never say never! As for me? I'll happily stick to using dead baits in conjunction with colours and flavours. I can buoy them up, I leave them flat on the bottom. I can vane them, hang them under a Dyson Rig. I could even try wobbling - I'd become tea-total first!
The satisfaction I derive from landing a pike, any pike, is no different from that initial capture some forty years ago. Of course I would like to remain a successful "big fish" angler - but the use of live bait is something that I have decided not to pursue. It is not a criticism of any other angler (individual or group) just a statement of my own current position - tight lines

Sunday 23 November 2014

It's not possible to blank?

As a specimen hunter, the term "to blank" is used to describe a session when no fish are caught; it is similar to a "twitcher" dipping"? Each, individual, setting out to achieve a target, neither successful. However, when a twitcher "dips" - they have failed to see a bird that someone else had found. An unsuccessful speccy hunter has failed to locate, use the correct techniques, and/or baits, to temp their quarry. Either, which way, both have failed!  If, however, I'd used the terms "pleasure angler" and "birder" the scenario would be rather different?

Dawn over the East Kent marshes

I was out of the bungalow before 05.50hrs and on my way across to the Worth Marshes. I'd not been there since Feb 2012 and I had no information on the current state of the venue - call it "blind faith"?
There is no direct road access, so I had to make my way, on foot, for a two mile hike - so when I arrived at the venue, it was no great surprise that there had been very little angling pressure.
I chose to start my efforts in the area where I'd enjoyed the majority of my successes three seasons ago - with a plan to leap frog the rods every 45 minutes. So it was - just without the slightest indication that there were any pike still present in the drain.

Looking out across the Worth Marshes - straight into the rising sun!
I have to accept full responsibility for the failure of my efforts, today. I only had three Mackerel - which had been hidden at the back of my freezer for 12 months - so was unable to ring the changes. I used tail sections on both rods, one dyed red, the other yellow. There was no effort made to add flavour or bouy the baits up - so I got just what I deserved.

I was equipped with two Duncan Kay's and Matt Hayes centre-pins.  I was there to enjoy myself!
If catching fish was the only reason that I got out of bed, then I would have returned home very disappointed. But no; I really enjoyed my time out on these desolate marshes. There was a massive arrival/movement of Fieldfares - I'd counted over 4,000 in the first 20 minutes; swirling in huge clouds over the adjacent marshes. An imm Marsh Harrier, adult male Peregrine, Stonechat, Water Rail, at least 5 Cetti's Warbler and a huge southerly movement of Wood Pigeons ensured that my time wasn't wasted or boring!
A Great White Egret was seen, in the company of a Little Egret, thus allowing the opportunity to compare the two species - not something that often occurs in the UK? Of course I'd have loved it if I could have put a pike in the landing net, but it didn't matter that much when there was so much more going on within my conciousness. How could anyone describe this as a "blank"?

Friday 21 November 2014

Happy Daze!

This nostalgia fest continues, unabated - images, which I had long forgotten, transporting me back to some mad times. I've received a couple of very pleasant comments from David Ralph (I don't believe we've ever met?) ref my "Wilstone Finale" post - it would seem that I am not unique in my enjoyment of that era!

October 1985 - My PB Zander
It wasn't just the fishing - the music was outrageously good and I was part of a very special group of mates. Chalk and cheese for the most part, our common denominator being "specimen hunting" - fishing for big fish! It will never be possible to recreate those times, or even attempt to come close - so much has changed! I have to be grateful that I was party to a very exclusive journey - there were a few casualties along the way (literally!) - Cuddles, Vic Gillings, John Foster just the tip of the iceberg. (Departed this world, but each for very different reasons)

Phil Mitch - a big bloke with a big zed!
We caught some good fish, listened to some quality music and drank Stella when it was 5.2% ABV and called it "weaning water" - Tennant's Super was proper "lunatic soup" (no change there then!) and my peers were well capable of doing a case per day - no wonder I recall them as "Happy Daze"?

Ron Thomas returning a 23lbs+ pike to Grebe Lake at Emberton
I certainly wouldn't recommend that this route is a template worthy of copy - I'm still here despite, not because of, my adventures. A lot of good men have fallen by the wayside, lost interest in the hobby or simply been unable to continue due to other commitments - life does that to people!
The photos I've used are purely for effect - I have guys in the FSIS IT dept. trying to sort out my ex-hard-drives and get my Adobe photoshop back! Hopefully; normal service will resume shortly?

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Wilstone finale

This nostalgia gig is a crazy trip - at a very personal level. The images that are contained within that "box of slides" are a link back to some of the most irresponsible/selfish times of my life! As I've blogged in the past, it's no good looking back and regretting anything - it's happened and, therefore, cannot be changed. If you are able to use those experiences to help shape the rest of your life, thus avoiding the same mistakes and learning the lessons, then it is possible to derive a positive from a negative? With one marriage down the tubes, due to my obsessional behaviour, there is no way that this second chance, with Bev, will be subjected to the same pressures. All about growing up and learning lessons - we're all different and no one of us is perfect (fact!)

July 1992 - A cracking tench of 8lbs 14oz.
Sorry about the picture quality - I'm pratting around with a silly
program on Bev's PC then transferring the images across.
Adobe Photoshop will be installed shortly

So back to the Tench of Tring Reservoirs - Wilstone in particular. I'd joined the syndicate in 1981 and enjoyed 12 very happy, and successful, seasons on the banks of this fabulous fishery. At this time there wasn't another venue in the UK which could match the quality and quantity of the Tench that inhabited the waters of this, concrete-sided, bowl. Over those intervening years I'd like to think that I took more than my fair share of "big" tench - looking back through my diaries suggests that over 100 7lbs+ fish graced my landing net. My final session, on Wilstone, was in July 1992 and produced a catch of 10 fish, six over 7lbs, with the best going 8lbs 14oz. Not my final Tring tench - I had a couple of 7's from Startops in March 1993.

7lbs 6oz - the final Tench that I caught from Wilstone Reservoir.
I look back at those images with great pleasure. That I was there, part of a very "important" period for Tench fishing, within a UK context - it was a privilege that not everyone will understand?
The venue, the characters who came to take up the challenge, it was a wonderful, crazy, part of my life - Happy Daze Indeed!

Monday 17 November 2014

Pike Fishing in the 80's

It would probably be more apt if I'd entitled this post as "Pike Fishing Anarchy/Lunacy in the 80's" - because that would be a far better description of what went on whenever we went piking! Living in Hertfordshire is nothing to boast about, but the central location of the county (OK! - Hemel Hempstead to be exact) was a fantastic base from which to travel to some of the most prolific fisheries of the period. The gravel pits of Oxfordshire, the drains and rivers of Fenland, the reservoir complex at Tring, the River Thames around Sonning and Mapledurham, the brick pits of Bedfordshire and the lakes of the Northamptonshire parks - all within a couple of hours driving our this position.
Just to set the scene - this shot is of yours truly playing a pike of
18lbs 10oz whilst drinking a "dumpy" of  French lager.
Mick Shaw is holding the landing-net whilst the guy on the other side has come to
see what was going on?I suppose he thought he would be of assistance
 when he asked "if he could hold my bottle?"
Mick replied "Yeah; you can, but not until it's fucking empty!"
Cuddles, the Mitch's, Simon and myself were all working, we had money (although none of us were wealthy) and the desire to catch "big" pike. These venues were to see us achieve our dreams, as we travelled around. What we also did, which was the major problem, was consume copious amounts of alcohol whilst about our business! How could a bunch of "Piss Heads" be so successful? We caused chaos wherever we went - although hindsight (that gift again) would suggest that jealousy had an awful lot to do with the issues? Misbehaving was perceived to be in the syndicate rites of most of the major carp fisheries - The Savay Looney Rota being a prime example, however, none of them could compete with us - we even gate crashed their Annual Carp Society Conference and I came away with the, much coveted, "Larger Lout of the Year Award!" - something no other specimen hunter had ever done.

One, of many, good pike that we caught from Grebe Lake at Emberton Park

I would like to think that our detractors were unwilling to work as hard as we did. Every aspect of our approach was meticulous. We had live bait tanks in our sheds, we were amongst the first pike anglers to get onto Sardines, we were already using colours and flavours on our dead baits courtesy of one Eddie Turner! (He actually caught a few more fish than us - but his big problem was that he didn't drink; well not at 07.00hrs - poor lad! I wonder what ever became of him?)

A cracking "upper double" from the British Aerospace Pit - London Colney
It might have appeared, to the outside world, that we were just a bunch of clowns - nothing could have been further from the truth. Our attention to detail was verging on madness; never happy with "that'll do". If it wasn't right we'd change it. We were obsessed with bait presentation and the mechanics of our terminal tackle - to solving these pieces of the pike fishing jig-saw, we placed all of our combined effort. I would think that the presence of three guys (gross weight being close on 70 stone) was one of the reasons why we never actually had much aggro on the bank? The banter was constant and usually degenerated into utter nonsense, the longer the session lasted. But, when all said and done, we did catch an awful lot of pike which included a good sprinkling of upper doubles and twenties. We had no secrets between us and jealousy was never a factor in any aspect of our shared lives, be that social, work or fishing. They were great times and the slides that Sarah-Jayne has unearthed contain some fabulous memories - many which had lain dormant until the image re-ignited the madness of those crazy times.
A decent twenty from Pixies Mere, Bourne End, Herts.
Ron Thomas came down to take the photos - happy memories.
To Phil Mitchalik and Ron Thomas (a late arrival in the gang - he drank Skol, Carlsberg or Fosters (?) "weaning water" as Cuddly called it!) - I've got some cracking shots of you both. Once I get a decent photoshop installed, I'll get a whole load of images processed and posted. There are images from Emberton, Lynch Hill, the Fens and Tring - some good fish as well!

Sunday 16 November 2014

I might be winning?

Like all blokes, I'm not one for reading instruction manuals - so unsurprisingly; my traumas of yesterday could have easily been avoided by a few minutes perusing the "destruction's" that came with my new toy!
I've made Google Chrome my first choice - replacing that Microsoft/Bing collaboration, thus solving most of my unwanted intruders (adverts!).
Bev and I took a drive over to Thannington, this morning, so that she could do the Garden Centre "Christmas" thing and I could spend some time at Fat Fish - a tackle shop whose main visitors are devout carp anglers with loads of money and little sense! Don't get me wrong, the venue is a proper tackle shop - brand names adorn the vast majority of their wares, as do the associated price tags. Only a complete lame brain could fail to spot the major flaw in all this carp-driven commercialism. Carp still eat bread, sweetcorn, chick peas and worms - why does anyone need to spend £13/kilo on boilies when it is possible to produce your own for less than £4? Some of the gear in the shop was so far beyond my experience as to be in the realms of fantasy - proper "out there" shit! A chat with the (very knowledgeable) guy behind the counter was a pleasant exchange. He spoke of other anglers who'd experienced  similar trials, to my own, with the barbel of the Stour, he was also able to go back into the early 80's, when he had started his own carp fishing journey.
We'd stopped off at Dad's, en route, just to make sure he was OK? Benno was also there, so it was a nice family gathering. The major outcome of this visit was the fact that my daughter, Sarah-Jayne, had found an old box of slides in her attic - my fishing photos from the mid-80's and beyond. There were also a few of my old vinyl LP's to add to the surprise. Bloody brilliant - all I had to do was endure a trip to Thannington and a meal in a local eatery before I could start to explore this newly delivered treasure. The music ranged from Sabbath, via Queen, Rush and Saxon, to David Bowie and Rod Stewart - absolute quality sounds. Just a shame that I no longer have the equipment to enjoy these discs! But, in reality, it was sod the discs - what was on those slides? Memories - so many memories - of people and places; times which now seem like forgotten school days, but now came flooding back as each image was seen. I have absolutely no idea as to the number of images I have looked at? I do know that 240 of them have been projected onto the living room wall - and I've only scratched the surface of the mad times which are contained within these items.
I've picked out a few photos, but they are a very random choice, to try to illustrate the period - retro blogging - just the job?
This is summer of 1991! (20.09.1991)
Benno, aged 7, with his second 20lbs+ Wels Catfish.
Claydon Middle Lake
25lbs 2oz of Claydon Wels Catfish
It remains my PB and is a fish of which I am rather proud to have caught.
It is one of the original stocked fish, from Woburn, that the Leighton
Buzzard AC placed into Claydon Middle Lake
My brother, Simon, with a Tiddenfoot Wels Catfish of 22lbs 14oz

A Claydon Middle Lake 18lbs 10 oz Wels Catfish
11lbs 2oz of Brogborough Bream!
My PB, as it remains to this day, taken during a series of "guest" sessions at this
Bedfordshire venue

There are so many other images, I need to go through, that this project has the potential to match that of "The Steve Gale Diaries"?

Saturday 15 November 2014

Back up - hardly running?

I finally made the purchase of my new laptop, a Toshiba - as was my last one, now find myself in a battle of wills with cyberspace. I had only just switched it on and was attempting to connect to the Internet when my McAfee security system was warning of major problems! I had all sorts of insurgent issues - how? A computer; but it doesn't come with the ability to compute and carry out the functions that I consider to be standard - a bit like buying a new car then having to pay extra for an engine and transmission system. I paid for the new Microsoft 365 Office, but was blissfully unaware that this new Microsoft 8.1 didn't have any form of photo editing capability - silly me!
I cannot get into Birdguides due to the ridiculous level of associated advertising that this system is able to generate. Getting onto my blogger dashboard was like a walk through the red light district of Amsterdam! Crazy stuff and a situation that is compounded by the fact that I've really enjoyed my time without a computer. All of these issues are doing nothing to assist my enthusiasm for getting back into the groove.
Hopefully, as I start to get to grips with modern technology, things will assume some form of pattern and I'll find myself a little niche where I am within my comfort zone? Until then, I am rather dissatisfied with the situation - I have also lost all of the data that was stored on my external hard-drive and the old lap-top. Clever techno-bods tell me different - but as a complete numb-nut I fear the worse.
Benno with a 2.08 perch from Sandwich Coarse Fishery
Debbie and Emily at the Halloween Party
Yes, there has been loads going on whilst I've been unable to blog. I'd thought it would be rather straightforward to resume the project. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I've got masses of diary notes and the draft for a rant (rather a good un) but am not sure that anything will come to fruition until I've mastered this new toy?

Thursday 6 November 2014

Light at the end of the tunnel!

It seems quite likely that I'll be purchasing a new computer / laptop in the near future, so I should be back up and blogging very shortly. loads of snippets in my diary, thus quite a bit of catching up to do.
Many thanks for keeping the faith - Dylan